Step Away From the Computer By Debbie Swanson

Since I try to get most of my work done during the school day, I tend to feel pressure to stay at my desk the entire time. Last spring I hit a dry spell. I kept sending out queries and checking in with my contacts, but nothing materialized. Anxious to make some sales before school let out for the summer, I remained fixed at my computer each day. By day’s end I’d be drained and irritable, but nothing was turning into cash.

One morning I couldn’t help but notice the gorgeous spring day outside. I gloomily poked through my emails and queries in progress and decided to do something I rarely do: take a break.

I rounded up my dog and we headed for the park. As soon as I arrived I could feel the tension leaving me. A few times around the park and I felt better than I had in weeks.

Leaving, I noticed a dog following us to the parking lot. It seemed he had no owner, until finally the owner materialized. I kept musing over that dog. What would I have done if no owner showed up?

Back home, I typed up a query on lost dogs. I spent less time on it than all the others I’d been laboring over the past few weeks. Within a month, a national dog magazine accepted it.

I decided to try my luck again. This time I visited my daughter’s school to see a chorus performance. The rambunctious behavior of a few of the students gave me a great idea for a parenting magazine. I went home and typed up a query based on what I observed. Again, a sale followed.

I’ve since found that sitting and forcing queries to come alive out of nowhere doesn’t work for me. Now, when I need new inspiration, I go out. I focus on relaxing, enjoying myself, and making note of what’s interesting along the way. It doesn’t always work, but I’ve sold more queries by leaving my computer than I have by sitting, stressed out, behind it.

Debbie Swanson contributes regularly to many national and local publications. Visit her website at