Let the Sun Shine

normanrockwell-4Among genre fiction authors, there’s a phenomenon known as “second book slump.” It’s the writer’s equivalent to sophomore slump. That first book was a Big Deal, and because you were a debut author, the publishing house (if you had one), the review sites, and your writin’ buddies all made a bit of a fuss over you. But that after the first book hits the shelves, its rankings usually drop steadily, while your deadlines pile up.

As book one drifts from its opening day heights, you’re probably reading galleys (final proofs) for the next book. You might be grinding through copy edits on book three, and you’re probably writing book four. Some bright-eyed bushy-tailed publicist wants you to write fifteen happy blog posts about book two, and get them to her by Monday. You were thrilled to even have blog posts to write for book one, but now?

burning-the-midnight-oilWhat was great fun six months ago, has turned into… a job, and it’s a lonely relentless job at that, and a lot more work than it appeared to be while you were waiting for book one to publish.

It’s also a sedentary job, and–usually–inside work. I think that contributes to second book slump, and to a lot of other slumps for those of us who don’t get outside much.

blogXheatherIn one recent study, bright light early in the day was found to be significantly more effective than antidepressants in treating major depression (both together were more effective still). We also know that sunlight activates the production of serotonin, which in addition to boosting mood, suppresses appetite, and improves the pancreas’ ability to both regulate insulin output and reduce insulin resistance. One form of vitamin D (the stuff we make when sunlight hits our skin) also aids in the absorption of thyroid hormones and that boost energy too (I’m looking at you, Grace Burrowes).

morningHmm. We also know that schools that add outdoor classrooms show gains in just about every aspect of academics, from grades, to standardized test scores, to critical thinking and problems-solving skills. Even something as minor as increasing the amount of natural light in a classroom strongly correlates with improved academic results. Engaging with nature reduces the symptoms of ADHD in children as young as five.

You don’t have to be a garret-dwelling author to see where I’m going with this. Spend hours and hours and hours hooked up to that computer, watching Netflix, googling Regency underwear, or cruising Facebook and you could be cheating yourself out of a lot of goodies waiting on your own back deck. I’m not suggesting you swear off SPF protection–far from it.

heir_audio-450x450But summer’s almost here. Time to indulge your inner wild child in a little walk to the mailbox or first cup of coffee on the back steps. Picnic in the backyard one night a week. Grow a few porch tomatoes. Move your desk nearer to the window. The results might surprise you in the best possible way.

To one commenter, I’ll send an audio version of The Heir, a story about a guy who needed to Get Out More. How can you add a little green time or safe sunshine to your routine?


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19 comments on “Let the Sun Shine

  1. I have always been a morning person. I function best (physically and mentally) in the morning. I love when it gets warm enough to have my coffee on the porch – even if I have to wear a jacket.

    I live in a suburban area, but it is an old one with lots of huge, well established trees. I have a tiny back porch but a large front porch. Love to sit on my front porch surrounded by my flowers, watching the squirrels, rabbits and birds and waving at the early morning joggers.

    It’s all good!

    • In that study I mentioned, the 30 minutes of bright, full spectrum light was shone early in the day–before 8:30 am, I think. I know on the farm, you often get outside chores done early, before the worst of the heat, and I think you establish a cycle. Get up and out, get a boost to mood and energy, and you’ll sleep better, so getting up the next day isn’t so hard. Maybe?

  2. I have watched two of my friends corgis this week. Paige is a six month puppy full of energy and I have gotten up early each day to walk her. It’s been fun to see my every day surroundings through the eyes of a puppy. She has sniffed each flower, tree and bush on our walk. Met my neighbors and the school children. Every thing is new and everything is positive. Paige loves to listen to the birds sing when we are on the back deck. I have enjoyed walking, seeing the flowers, meeting new neighbor’s and appreciating my neighborhood.

    • My sister recently joined my dad’s household, and brought her cat, Luciano. The grumpy old man gene is not species specific, and Dad and the cat get such a kick out of each other. Luciano is a new friend, and Dad is somebody else who can pet the cat and enjoy his purring.


  3. In just a few minutes, I will be collecting the magazines (“Victoria,” “Cottage and Bungalow,” and a few others)I have been collecting since January, get a cool beverage and head toward my patio. I’ll bring my sunhat but just may put out the awning…..depends how bright the sun is.

    Several years ago, we installed a motorized awning…and now wondered why we waited so long to do it. It’s given us another *room* and all of us enjoy sitting out there, eating weekend dinners under it on the patio or reading. I enjoy the occasional weekday morning coffee/newspaper and Hubby sits out there in the early morning before heading to work and bird watches. But Sundays, well Sundays, I read the magazines I love…especially “Victoria”….and chill out. Makes my week go so much better!

  4. The first cup of coffee outside, looking at the light and some view of nature, is definitely the right way to start the day! I like your suggestion of porch tomatoes – even city dwellers with a little porch or balcony can do this. If you have a backyard, there is no excuse not to commune with nature for reflection and your own well-being. Good points!

  5. This makes a lot of sense to me. When I quit my job as a police dispatcher, to write full time, something that had been my dream forever, I sank into a deep depression. Writing stopped being fun, and I even went back to work after about three years of writing full time, because I was so lonely and sad. I am now writing full time again and forcing myself to go outside a few times a day and also make lunch dates at least once a week has made a huge difference. 🙂

  6. I can imagine that 2nd book slump — and it is probably similar with book 2 in a series. I’ve always thought sunshine was very important to me — after all — I was born and raised in Florida. Nothing can lift the spirits like a sunny day and the sound of waves breaking on the shore.

    What I love about your books is how inter-related everyone is. When I read a book, I’ve already met many of the characters in other books. You must have a wonderful memory or a whopping big database of some sort to keep them all straight. I loved the heir — and all of the others!

    BTW, I don’t have a website, so I put my Goodreads profile page down.

  7. Hi I have a nice big porch to sit out on and write or read, or both lol. I also have a big living room which I also have my laptop, tv for background noise and two Eskies (American Eskimo Dogs) who keep my company and can divert me for a few minutes while they beg for treats, lol.

  8. After I got divorced, I bought my own house. I have been in it about 6 months and I find that it easy to just lay around inside, especially now that summer is here. I went out and bought some stuff to work out in my yard. Now I go out and rake my yard and listen to an audiobook while I do that or weed my flower beds. I will even take my Kindle outside and read on my porch.

  9. Early morning is the best time to enjoy my outdoor time!
    Especially watching humming birds, woodpeckers, finches and quail feed. Listening to birdsong just lifts my spirits to welcome another new day, before the summer heat chases me back inside.

  10. Arguably, given this second-book slump concept, you bucked the trend, big-time. I would argue that Dev’s story was much the better of the two. Of course, you already had a dozen or so “in the can,” so by the time you had written “The Soldier” you had already worked out most of the kinks.
    “The Soldier,” with its treatment of PTSD and with Winnie the Wonderful, remains one of my three favorite of your books.

    • My early mornings are, unfortunately, tied to I-684 and the Hutchinson Parkway, trying to maintain my sanity amid the NYC commuters (soon to change).
      However, I do start the morning walking Gilly the Unruly, enjoying the pre-dawn loveliness of the horse farm. It has its good points.

  11. Hmm… I think I’m pretty good about getting sun. Today, I went for a walk during lunch. I listened to A Little Life by: Hanya Yanagihara. I am better about exercise, if there is a little treat involved. On a different topic on the radio this morning they said women in their 40’s have trouble making friends. I am quite blessed. I went to a surprise birthday party. My girlfriend turned 50. We did Karaoke. It was fun.

  12. Two years ago I was taking antidepressants and slowly turning into a slug. Out of the blue, this giant box shows up from somewhere I’ve never heard of. I open it and find 2 tripods, 2 light octopus things and a dozen really big, full spectrum light bulbs, with a cover and a white screen. My dear friend, who I talk to every day and who has suffered from depression himself, had sent me a care package. I tagged him… “Photography lights?” He said “Indoor Sunshine. Every morning with coffee.”

    Since then I followed his prescription (he’s a psychologist and should know what he’s talking about, right?) and this past year I made it thru the winter with no antidepressants. I know that it’s not for everyone… but it certainly helped me. Also my parrot, who joins me for coffee and Indoor Sunshine every morning.

  13. Walk in a garden with a hat of course. Walk the beach as the sun is starting to come up or rock in a rocking chair on the front porch as the rises or sets.