When asked to write about how acupuncture affects my writing, I had to think long and hard on the matter. The two seem like strange bedfellows, and yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how they go hand in hand. Both are such a part of me, that they seep into all aspects of my life.
Oddly enough, I started writing novels around the same time I began acupuncture school, in 2012. Both were new and intriguing and overwhelming to me. In the beginning, I wondered if I would be able to master writing well enough to land a traditional publishing deal, and I worried that between the Chinese language and memorizing hundreds of acupuncture points and herbs, I might not be cut out for Chinese Medicine either.
Too much for one little mind to handle. But what I began to learn as I went along, was that acupuncture was the perfect remedy for someone in the throes of writing novels. My several-times-a-week treatments in our school clinic at the Institute for Clinical Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Honolulu had a calming effect on my nervous system and opened channels for the free flow of energy, also known as Qi. Not only that, but acupuncture releases endorphins which help with focus, a feeling of well-being, and enhanced creativity.
Without even realizing it, I was boosting my own brain power! A similar effect is caused by exercise, which is why we tend to be so much more productive with regular workouts.
Looking back, those years were the perfect cocktail for a fledgling writer (I still think of myself as a fledgling writer and probably always will). In the mornings, I would wake up early to write and then take a walk in the forest and let my mind wander and drift off on story ideas. Later in the day, I would head to school for class and clinic, and return home for a peaceful night of sleep––one of the wonderful side effects of acupuncture. Then, I’d wake up and do it all over again. I’m not saying it was easy, but I credit the regular endorphin release for helping me maintain a high level of creativity without burn out that I might have otherwise encountered.
The Chinese believe that the Heart is the house of the Mind, and also of Blood (a similar but broader term than what we think of as blood, Blood in Chinese medicine is a more dense form of Qi and flows in the channels and nourishes the body). When we think too much, ruminate, worry, or have large amounts of focused mental work, we tend towards Blood Deficiency, a pattern of disease that results in general fatigue, weakness, dry skin, eye floaters, difficulty focusing, a hard time falling or staying asleep, among other things.
I’m guessing Blood Deficiency is common among authors, and foods I like to eat to treat this are dark green leafy vegetables, beats, dates, figs, kidney beans and eggs.
Now that I am finished with school and have my first novel, Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers, releasing on February 13, life has not gotten any easier. I have the pressure of marketing and publicity, deadlines for my next book, and a long road of revisions ahead of me. All exciting, but also a huge amount of work. Which is why I still get acupuncture regularly –– even if it’s putting a few needles in myself, often in yintang, the point between the eyebrows that calms the spirit, also known as the third eye –– and take Blood tonic formulas when I feel depleted.
I was first drawn to acupuncture about eighteen years ago when I witnessed my paralyzed dog, Hina, regain use of her legs over the course of nine months. A big part of her recovery was due to her weekly acupuncture treatments that I had to drive an hour and a half for, but they were worth it. The difference was obvious right away.
I then tried it for myself for a back injury, bronchitis, and stress, and decided that attending acupuncture school was on my bucket list. When the timing was right, I took a break from counseling and teaching and hit the books again. Learning such a sublime and profoundly effective medicine, art, and science has given me a new appreciation for traditional medicines of the world.
In addition to all of this, as a writer, I am a sucker for the Chinese flair for descriptive and flowery language. Patterns of disease have names like Running Piglet Syndrome, Plum Pit Qi, or Sudden Turmoil Disorder, and herbal formulas are called things like Sublime Formula For Sustaining Life, Free And Easy Wanderer Pills, or Greatest Treasure Special Pill. Far more telling and appealing than say, Tylenol or Valium. Reading their ancient medical texts was often like reading a classic novel. I loved it.
Finally, in every single one of my books, I incorporate acupuncture or herbal medicine. In one story, my main character is an acupuncturist, and in another, she happens to have a penchant for herbs. It’s not even a conscious choice. As in much of my writing, the characters just show up one day and tell me how to write the story. It’s all part of the magic.
Born and raised in Hawaii, Sara studied journalism and later earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine. Prior to practicing acupuncture, she worked as a high school counselor and teacher on the famed north shore of Oahu, where surf often took precedence over school. She blames Hawaii for her addiction to writing, and sees no end to its untapped stories.
A few of her favorite things, in no particular order – hiking, homemade pizza, a good thunderstorm, stargazing, books, craft beer, her wonderful boyfriend, surfing, mountain streams, friends, and animals. In fact, animals inhabit all of her novels in some way, shape or form – dogs, donkeys, sea turtles, a featherless chicken, endangered Hawaiian crows, horses, and even a lion. When she’s not writing or practicing acupuncture, you’ll find her in the mountains or in the ocean.
Follow her on Twitter @sarahackermanbooks
About Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers
Hawaii, 1944. The Pacific battles of World War II continue to threaten American soil, and on the home front, the bonds of friendship and the strength of love are tested.
Violet Iverson and her young daughter, Ella, are piecing their lives together one year after the disappearance of her husband. As rumors swirl and questions about his loyalties surface, Violet believes Ella knows something. But Ella is stubbornly silent. Something—or someone—has scared her. And with the island overrun by troops training for a secret mission, tension and suspicion between neighbors is rising.
Violet bands together with her close friends to get through the difficult days. To support themselves, they open a pie stand near the military base, offering the soldiers a little homemade comfort. Try as she might, Violet can’t ignore her attraction to the brash marine who comes to her aid when the women are accused of spying. Desperate to discover the truth behind what happened to her husband, while keeping her friends and daughter safe, Violet is torn by guilt, fear and longing as she faces losing everything. Again.