Monday, November 28, 2011

Researching Relaxation

Today I welcome guest-blogger Amber Polo. In her fictional life, Amber writes fun, quirky romances and fantasies, such as FLYING FREE and ROMANCING REBECCA, but her latest publication is a welcome nonfiction book, RELAXING THE WRITER: GUIDEBOOK TO THE WRITER’S HIGH, and CD and MP3, RELAXING THE WRITER RELAXATION CD: A POWERFUL 20 MINUTE RELAXATION METHOD, which provides specialized, much-needed relaxation techniques for writers. 

Sounds relaxing? Well yes and no.

About 5 years ago, I self-published a relaxation CD, Relaxation One Breathe at a Time, a how-to-do-it with a track guaranteed to put you to sleep. I had only a few copies left and the packaging company was out of business. I decided to re-record and make a few changes. And, by the way, why not write a book about relaxation for writers. I imagined a book that would be useful for anyone, but with special stuff for writers who spend a lot time reading and writing.

Six months later I have a beautiful self-pubbed book, a POD, CD and MP3 download, plus a 10-minute MP3 download of a hand meditation that helps you focus and relax without leaving your computer.

Full disclosure. I am a librarian and a yoga teacher. I love research and I’m good at teaching people to relax. I’ve read widely and studied under many teachers, so plunging into research sounded like a wonderful break from writing romance and fantasy. (It did work. I’m now so ready to step back into my fantasy worlds.)

I decided to include over twenty major areas and hundreds of suggestions. I checked each topic for new material and narrowed the best ideas down to the most useful suggestions for writers. I kept it short and light, and hopefully fun to read.

The hardest section was what I first called “Drugs.” I thought it was a cute title to write about the legal “drugs” found in your neighborhood health food store, that manipulate moods would be fun. My editor really didn’t like that, even with comments like “do your research” and “every body is different.” I then interviewed an expert in herbal remedies and alternative practices to be sure I wasn’t going to get anyone one in trouble and changed the chapter title to “Teas and Tonics.”

Two of My Most Interesting Research Topics –

The Writer’s Fork: Since the hand was one of the book’s themes. I read up on palmistry and found references in two books to a “writer’s fork.” I included what little I learned to the book and later found an expert to interview for more information.

Shaking: The practice of shaking has become one of the most popular chapters. (Remember the Sufi’s – one of which was named Rumi and wrote a lot of good poetry still read today) Shaking can be both meditative and also a nice joint loosening exercise to free tension after lots of sitting and hunching over a computer. Anyone can shake without special equipment, cute outfits, or joining a club.

I added an appendix of teachers and their books and videos that I found especially helpful, some who work primarily with writers and other creatives. I even reviewed some iPhone and iPad apps that might be useful in relaxing a writer.

Over all, the project was perfect for remembering good advice and new research. It made me rethink practices I teach in order to present them simply and safely in print. The downside was that with every relaxation technique I studied, I felt I should be doing more to relax MYSELF. I found myself saying, “Writing a book on relaxing is really stressful.”

Relaxing the Writer: Guidebook to the Writer’s High and the audios aren’t just for writers, but stressed readers and writers will especially enjoy the tidbits and quotes from authors. Great gifts for your favorite writer, too. Check them out here: and here:



  1. What fun! I checked out that Writer's Fork -- and I definitely have one. As to the relaxation business, I'm a retired massage therapist, with neuromuscular therapy training. As much as I KNOW what to do to relax my back, shoulders, and hands, the problem is remembering to DO it. I'm sure your book will help a lot of people. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

  2. Yes, we writers and readers know a lot but remembering is most important. I was thinking for having bookmarks that said "Remember to relax." Would that help?

  3. Great post! Ive had the privilege of reading Relaxing the Writer and really enjoyed it. Its full of helpful hints. I even recommended it to the elderly who live in my neighborhood --because the exercises can be used by anyone. Amber has a very relaxing voice on the Audio and walks you through the exercises very precisely.

    Kewl idea about the bookmarks, Amber! Do it!

    Holiday HUGS, Kari Thomas,

  4. Kari, I agree both that these exercises can benefit lots of people, not just writers, and that Amber's voice on the CD is relaxation-inducing. It's a well done set.

    Fran, we all need reminders to do what we know we should for ourselves.

    Amber, I think I'd have to paper the walls of my office with those bookmarks to remember it consistently!