Deb Erika Thinks Cabin Fever Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

It’s that time of year again. The calendar promises spring but many of us are still in winter’s grip. (Thanks for nothing, Punxsutawny Phil!)

Credit: Corbis, from DiscoveryNews

For a writer, being unable to get out of one’s house can be a good thing. (Except in the case of, you know, him.) Especially for a writer like me who hasn’t got cable and a marathon of Food Network and HGTV shows to distract her from the task at hand. (Help me out here, it’s been a while. Is HGTV even still on?)

So when I was thinking about this week’s theme, it occurred to me: Do/Can writers really get cabin fever? In some ways, aren’t we always stuck indoors? Instead of cabin fever, do we get manuscript fever? Because I don’t know about you, but getting out of my house/cabin isn’t the problem, it’s getting out of my head when I’m head-long into a story.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s a wonderful condition and not one I’d trade for anything—but more often than not, I can’t blame the groundhog for my melancholy. I get a little too comfy when I’m stuck inside. Put another way: if my brain wore clothes, it would be dressed in yoga pants and my husband’s cable-knit sweater.

So what to do when the “cabin” of our writing brains won’t let us out to play?

Admittedly, this can be an easier problem to solve when the weather is nice. A long walk, a hike, even a half-hour in a park watching people file by, can provide the perfect diversion. Reading, of course, is another great way to force our too-cozy, too-hunkered-down brains out of the house. And by reading, I don’t even mean you have dive into a whole new novel (but do, by all means!)—sometimes just a few chapters, even from a book you know and love, can be a wonderful vacation from the same four walls of our WIPs. (Or is that what people now call a staycation?)

We all know how easy it is to stay put. Especially when the wind is bitter and the grass is brown and the sky has that steel gray color that looks (and smells!) of snow. But I think we can all benefit from a little break.

Take it from Kurt Russell who knows a Thing or two about cabin fever, endless winter, and the pitfalls of early computer chess (a wee bit of language at the end):


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So what do you all do to fight the threat of “writers cabin fever?”

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11 thoughts on “Deb Erika Thinks Cabin Fever Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

  1. LOL! I’ve never seen The Thing, so this is the first time I’ve seen that scene. It’s priceless!

    I know exactly what you mean about being stuck in the ms in your head. I reach a point with a book where it follows me everywhere. Kind of scary, really, because I’m not at my most graceful when I’m distracted. I’ll trip, run into doors I thought were open, drop things…you name it. Apparently I worry my husband. *grin*

    What do I do when it hits? I try to finish the darn book as soon as possible, because nothing else seems to work.

    • Linda, isn’t that a great scene? (And of course, I don’t think I’d complain of cabin fever if I was stuck in the Arctic with Kurt Russell for a while. Just saying!)

      It’s true–finishing the MS is really the only way out! But of course, the break is brief–because I’ve come to realize that we writers aren’t happy if we don’t have a story simmering/boiling/burning in our heads–not that we could even keep one out if we tried!

  2. We’re on the same wavelength, Erika. My post this week was a little more literal – about taking the actual writing PROCESS outdoors! But the processes that go on behind the eyes — ah, yes. Important to take a break from that, too. But, honestly, I’d rather be in that zone – because it means words and ideas are making their way to print and I’m on a roll! I haven’t had many of those extended-periods-of-inspiration in my writing life. I seem to sputter and start, sputter and start again.

    I do agree, of course, that an outdoor walk can cure any ailment :-). Great post … and great humor, as always. I’m particularly fond of “If my brain wore clothes, it would be dressed in yoga pants and my husband’s cable-knit sweater.” Heh heh.

    • Hi, my dear!

      Melissa, your blog is the ultimate inspiration for what can come of stepping out of our “cabins” and exploring the natural world. There are many times (and I know I’m not alone on this!) when your breath-taking photos, so rich with color and so exotic, were the perfect balm for a cold and dreary winter’s day.

      Of course where you are, the opposite problem might occur. You might wish for a little cabin fever to keep you INdoors–your landscape and all its bounty are so tempting!!

  3. Wait… first of all… no cable?!?! But then how do you watch Top Chef???

    When I’m writing I do feel sometimes that I need to get out of my own head sometimes… but then I also worry when I dive into another book for a refresher that somehow I’ll inadvertently “borrow” that writer’s style or tone. It’s tricky! You want to take a break without losing your flow, or without letting too many outside influences infiltrate your work…

    • Rachel, would you believe the last Food Network show I watched was the final episode of Celebrity Cook-off while I sat in the waiting room of the Urgent Care with a ruptured eardrum for two hours. I was very grateful for the distraction–and it did make me miss cable!

      You make a good point about distraction in small doses. The “flow” is so important and what we strive for, really, so yoga-pants or not, it may make the most sense when you’re on a roll to keep rolling until, as Deb Linda says, you just get it done!

  4. My thought too: no cable! That’s amazing, so amazing I’m a little in awe. Last night I stayed up way too late watching “Intervention.” It’s a train wreck, but I couldn’t stop myself. So now I’m groggy this morning…

    What saves me when I have cabin + manuscript fever is taking my laptop to a cafe. I find that the restless part of my brain, the part that likes to gripe about everything I’m writing, gets distracted by the noises. It can’t bother me while it’s trying to eavesdrop on others’ conversations!

    • Hi, Lisa!

      You know, it helps that Netflix has a lot of TV shows on their download catalog, so I guess I do have access to some shows (unfortunately not the cooking ones I love!)

      Off to write in a cafe is a great solution to breaking up that stir-craziness, yes! Now if only I could resist the five lattes I’d be all set! 😉

      • I know what you mean about the lattes. I recently gave up caffeine, even decaf coffee. (Talk about a withdrawal headache!) We’ll see how long it lasts. Cafes are coffee triggers the way, I don’t know, bars might be cigarette triggers for nicotine addicts. 🙂

  5. My brain needs breaks. When I am drafting (like I am now) I seem to be able to write big chunks and then it’s like all the stuff I wrote piles up into a creative log jam, where I can’t go any further. I think part of this is because I’ve usually forgotten when I’ve written and I need to go back and read what I have so far, but I also need to take a couple of days off and allow my thoughts to land and the story to percolate some more before I can dig back in.
    And wow, I’m in awe of you for being able to survive without cable, Erika. I try not to watch a ton of TV, but I needs me my Food Network and the Amazing Race and even the odd sit-com.

    • Joanne, at the risk of using a bad pun, we are TOTALLY on the same page. I am right at that very spot in my WIP–around page 200 and realizing I have to stop, go back and re-read to get my bearings again. It’s like I go and go and go and then, Boom! The dreaded jam.

      Glad to know I’m not alone in this.

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