I’m in the throes of edits right now. Lots to do and never enough time. However, I can’t simply sit at a desk and work. I need breaks to clear my head or to think through a problem. For this I turn to yard work. I’d like to call it gardening but that would imply knowledge beyond “the grass is too high”. My yard is large enough that it takes a couple hours on a riding mower, plus there are always sticks to pick up, along with other ‘non-thinking’ but productive activities. My mind can wander and at the same time I can stop at any moment and run back inside and work on writing (the neighbors are used to seeing my mower sit in the front yard for a while in the middle of the job). I should note that taking baths is another favorite break/dash right back to work ploy. You would think that walking our Jack Russells several times a day would do the trick, but it’s not the same. They demand my full attention and I can’t drag them back to the house on a whim when inspiration strikes. Same thing with my other real hobby – painting. Stop at the wrong point there and the brushes dry, the paint sets, and you’ve ruined the piece. My question is: what do you do in these moments when you need to write but also clear your head? Paula Munier – I walk the dogs, I garden, but for me the most important way I recharge physically, mentally, and emotionally is yoga. Yoga clears my head, it keeps my shoulders and neck and arms and hands and fingers flexible and pain-free, and it gives me the emotional ballast I need to face the page. I do yoga at home, and I go to yoga classes at my favorite yoga studio whenever I can. My latest plan: A long weekend at Kripalu, a yoga and wellness retreat in the Berkshires. My reward for turning in my latest book to my publisher. Namaste! https://kripalu.org Susan Breen – I find walking my dogs a great way to clear my head. I walk the same path every day, twice a day, a circle through my woods, so because the dogs and I know what we’re going to do, it frees me up to look around and see how things are changing. Particularly this time of year, I’m always on the look out for things blooming or sprouting or erupting. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve pushed a story forward just by rambling around. I also love doing jigsaw puzzles, and I find watching HGTV very soothing. A half an hour of Lottery Dream Home and I’m ready to go. Michele Dorsey – Simple repetitive tactile tasks like weeding, chopping for a recipe, even folding laundry help me quiet my mind and sort through my thoughts. To lose myself physically, like Paula, I practice yoga. I’ve discovered doing yoga in the ocean is even more soothing than on my mat. I love to walk the paths through the Audubon Sanctuary near my home. I can also sit quietly in a church, a museum, or a library and distill the clutter in my head. The key to any of these is solitude. I remember my mother imitating Greta Garbo saying, “I want to be alone.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tojjWQvlPN8 Now I get it! Robin Stuart – What you describe happens to me all time because I’m either so excited about what I’m writing that I can’t get the words out fast enough or I’m stressed because the words won’t come. Either way I need a physical outlet to release the pressure. What that looks like depends on where I am and time of day. I write at all different times of the day or night because of my schedule. If the option is available I’ll go for a hike or bike ride. Mountain biking, especially, commands full attention which is great for a mental reset. If those options aren’t available, I turn up the music and dance it out. If it’s late at night or too early in the morning for a dance party then I meditate for 5-10 minutes to clear my head and get my butt back in the chair. Cate Holahan – I go out with my girlfriends to de-stress and get out of my head. Alexia Gordon – I go for a walk. A meandering stroll through town helps clear my head. Sometimes I stop in at a cafe or coffee shop so I can people-watch and eavesdrop (I admit it). Eavesdropping often provides material. If the weather (or the fact that I’m still in my pajamas) precludes going out, I find a British mystery to read or watch. Midsomer Murders, Poirot, and Marple are my go-to sources to put me in a homicidal frame of mind.