Writers are very odd creatures. Not just speaking for myself. I mean, look, I’m quirky enough on my own, unless there is something that explains why today, in between doctor visits and a problem with the installation of the new toilet upstairs, I had an absolute need to gold-leaf the walls of the downstairs bathroom. No, don’t try to explain it. There are things even I don’t want to know.
However, compared to other writers I’m a piker. I know, in my relatively small circle of writerly acquaintance a man who has a morbid fear of bananas, another who has an elaborate routine before he can sit down to write. Being afraid of driving and an avid reader of omens and signs is not even an oddity. Every other writer I know has this issue. Other characteristics that seem way out of proportion among writers but are less alarming are a passion for cooking, working in animal rescue and oh, yes… a relative disconnect between mind and body.
Perhaps all humans to a certain extent have a dichotomy between body and mind. I know this is the theme of several myths – Eros and Psyche, for one – and it seems deeply ingrained. But for writers… well, we take it to extremes. And then we leave it all alone in the extremes with no bus fare home.
Writers, perhaps because we spend so much time inside our own heads, talking to people who don’t exist (not that I discriminate on the basis of non-existence. Some of my best friends are ontologically challenged) tend to forget that the body is there and that it’s important.
I say this as today – after several months of increasing discomfort, I sought help for a skin problem that most normal people would PROBABLY have tried to get treated within a week. You see, I didn’t think it was important compared to the stuff inside the head. Mind you, this skin issue is probably causing my frequent respiratory issues, since the two are tied in. But I just tried to bully my way through the colds and flus and I ignored pain because it wasn’t important.
The thing is that what goes on with the body affects the mind. Time and again, I note something off in someone’s writing and then find out they had a heart attack while writing the book; or they were undergoing chemotherapy, or even they were losing or gaining a lot of weight or something was going on with their sugar chemistry.
Of my own experience, there was the hormonal problem that flattened me for almost a year, in which I couldn’t muster the interest to write and deadlines made a lovely sound as they wizzed past. And there was this swine flu thingy, when I’d find myself crying because no one wanted to watch “Walking with dinosaurs” with me – for the tenth or so time. During this time I wrote an outline I can’t explain. Seemed perfectly logical at the time. Fortunately the editor is giving me a second chance.
Apparently we’re not like unto the angels, all flying-free minds and souls.
So… How do we keep mind and body in balance? Should we watch the mind when the body is slightly off? And other than eat right and exercise – which can be iffy when you’re typing for eight hours a day – what can one do to stay healthy? And more importantly, how can one develop enough self-awareness to know when he/she isn’t.
(And I leafed about an eighth of the wall, thank you so much.)