Now, it is true that I am tough as a junket sandwich. Anyone telling you otherwise has never met ‘real’ tough. None-the-less I do some fairly hard and energetic things, somewhat erratically. I wouldn’t know a gym if it jumped up and bit me on the leg, and I always wonder how the energetic people who do get to regular gym sessions find the time. I admire them for their dedication, but between writing, failing to grow my garden (well, for certain values of ‘fail’) and harvesting our own seafood and wildlife, and processing them same, Ambos, trying to get the new farm sorted, not to mention the wasted time on such essentials as facebook…
Yes. Well I really have to cut back on the last one. But what I was talking about was the dive-trip I left for at around 5 AM on Saturday. I ended up spending around 5 hours down at 40 feet, swimming against the current, which is pushing my body and 29 pounds of lead around, into caves, cracks and crannies. I’m a fat old man, but I can still do this…
I used to be able to spend 8 hours in the water, clean the boat and catch, and still have energy left, and do the same the next day. Or to go rock-climbing. I must have been a nightmare to live with.
I probably still am, the only difference being if you asked me to go to and dive or climb or do anything more energetic (even mentally) than stare at facebook the next day… the spirit is willing, but the flesh ought go to the gym more regularly. Actually, to be truthful, I don’t know how much that would help. Despite not following a planned and regular regimen – which would be good – the sheer amount of physical labor I do keeps my pulse rate somewhat below 60. It’s not just needing to be fitter and less fat.
It’s just the grim fact that the older you get, the longer your recovery time is.
It’s kind of like why raising infants at 25 is physiologically easier than at 45 – although your maturity and experience may make the task easier – the interrupted sleep, or straight lack of sleep is easier to cope with when you’re 25, to say nothing of the hyper-awareness and constant running, carrying, soothing etc. that energetic toddlers add to your life.
So what does this all have to do with writing?
Well, especially if you want to write for a living… it’s honestly a young mug’s game. Success definitely comes at the cost of a huge amount of hours and work (unless of course you happen to be a favored darling getting an easy ride) plus a lot of stress.
Not that older writers can’t work, or can’t produce – but look at the lag phase between books. There is a clear linear relationship with how long and how much a writer has produced. It affects different people differently, obviously. Some are harder and slower to break down than others – we’ve seen that here on MGC – where several authors have come… and gone – at very different rates. And the old warhorses plod on. But it is harder yakka than it was all those years back when we started.
Look, we speak of an inevitable reality here – whether I speak in terms of diving, or writing. It’s going to happen.
What cannot be cured… must be coped with as effectively as possible. I’ve been going through a very rough patch, with writing myself – a lot of stress with Barbs being sick (and, um, she’s sick again. I am in fear of starting this all again. Fear of worse.) and my old dog… well, the vet and I not sure what the hell is going on there – but she’s waking me 2-3 times a night. She doesn’t appear in any major distress, or have any real reason. She just barks or cries until I come. just… I don’t know. Maybe she just wants dad. She likes attention and she sleeps most of the day. She’s old, loyal and… well, what else can I do? I sit with her, pet her and she goes back to sleep. Or she wants me to go out with her – the door is open the night is mild. She’s 18 and labby. That’s old and deserving of my care, and she’ll have it as long as she is comfortable and still enjoying her food and life, regardless of me losing sleep. But the broken sleep isn’t a help with writing – as most young parents with kids will tell you.
When I add Australia’s ridiculous-for-remote-rural-bureaucratic nonsense that I am wresting through with trying to build (almost entirely expensive and worthless rent-seeking) and the usual other joys of publishing (the endless waiting, the late payments etc etc.)… well, I’m fairly frazzled. Serious escapism has been very occasional. I’ve actually taken a day fishing and a day diving in the last 3 months – the freezer is getting low.
And my writing has slowed to glacial crawl. It’s good… when it happens. But it’s blood from a stone. And yes, I need to write – because that at least helps the finances, which add stress.
So: it’s what to do to try and get the writing going and flowing?
I can’t really alter the stress factors. Taking a major break, with lots of sleep and no worries – well, Hell might freeze over regularly first. I can’t relax while these things hang over me.
The best I can do is occasionally indulge in counter-stress (diving or climbing are both good. I don’t think about writing, or Barbs, or the dog, or the #$@ing bureaucrats then.)
But I have decided on three other steps.
- I’m going to take a week’s break from the internet.
- I’m going to try and read a few novels, and not in snatches.
- I’m working on a disciplined ‘writing time’ again.
I’m up for any other ideas.