Sep 30

The Writer's Hangover

Writing 13 hours a day indoors during this oppressively hot summer and enjoying it, I knew it was technically unhealthy not to do anything else, so decided to drive 500 miles for a trip north to get out, take a break, cool off and see family. Started up through Illinois and for the first two hours could not stay awake. Stopped for coffee, stopped for lunch with coffee, stopped at a rest stop for 40 minutes and did jumping jacks and yoga, and stopped at another rest stop and splashed and slapped my face and lay down on a stone bench gazing up at fizzing summer trees, thinking, What's the matter? Illinois I-55 is not a challenging drive, it's a long straight line!

Then it occured to me that driving is a linear, objective task, a left-brain task, and for weeks I'd been waltzing in a right-brain ballroom of swirling words and limitless inner pictures and ideas. Even taking daily walks, very early or very late in the day, I didn't "do" straight lines; mostly I took gorgeous photos of gorgeous summer butterflies and wildflowers, and did only the barest minimum of anything else. Too swirly even to follow a DVD; Lost in Translation sat on the top of the player for three months and when I watched it, it made no sense. House was a wreck. I tried to construct and sew a simple skirt: disaster, thrown in trash. Presence in one place meant absence in another. Then I wondered if it was just the way things are for writers. Most of us have had a writing hangover. Binge on writing and you get a skull-buster of a writing hangover. It's not a joke; it can really impair you.

The problem was the transition from one type of task to another, and given one day and one night I got better at making the switch. I read an article that said it would have helped to do crosswords, Sudoku, or math problems. But I'd really like to live the high life in that right brain all the time.
Jan 20

If I'd Known I Was Going to Live This Long...

Doc looking at MRIs of my spine said, Do you over-sit?

I once had the Romantic notion that I wouldn't live beyond my thirties, but I did, go figure, and accumulating hours upon hours, year after yeachairr in a chair, as writers do, ultimately wrecks your spine. Doesn't matter if you sit straight or on an expensive task chair or a medicine ball; bodies weren't made to sit for hours. Ergonomic gear is designed to make workers more productive, not healthier. And spinal degeneration doesn't go away. I've taken to spending half my writing day standing up, my computer on the dishwasher top. It's just the right height.

Seeking prevention advice (my favorite here), I find unanimous agreement on this: Get up and move, hourly. Stretching arms upward and back while still seated is ineffective; you must rise from the chair and move, or at least touch your toes. I know it sounds like a pain to get up every hour, but just as you wouldn't smoke because it's bad for you, or read in poor light, you wouldn't want to oversit. I know how it is when we're on deadline or pursuing a big inspiration.  But be aware. "If I'd known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself." - Eubie Blake