Venn You Vant to Get Better at Vone Thing
I’m attempting to write this while sharing my headphones with Wee Dave. He seems to like metal. This does not displease me. Thing is. The thing is. I’m kinda contorted, here. He’s just a bit under four feet tall, and with him standing and me sitting in a chair, I have to bend sideways. In order to type, I have to reach my arm around him. And I have the background noise of the house in one ear. In all, it’s a pretty awkward way to write, despite the pleasant proximity to Wee Dave.
My mother-in-law has likewise made our time here more pleasant for my by taking the littles. They’ve run from the puppy, helped with the farm chores (YMMV on whether that’s been more help, or more “help”), gone to various activities, and generally been occupied so I don’t have to be. It’s been marvelous, and I’ve gotten a few more chapters written on the WiP. My original schedule was … optimistic, shall we say. On the upside, I’ve followed the characters to the point where they can start interacting with the rest of the universe, and get in some real trouble. Should be fun.
I’ve written before about how breaking up routine can be useful to the writer. Go somewhere different to write, use a different medium than usual, work in a different subgenre as an exercise. That kind of thing. I’ve also talked about how vital a routine is for creative types. Work about the same time every day (he says, resolutely not looking at the clock which would tell him he isn’t), get solid sleep, decent exercise, make sure your bills are paid up, etc. Boundaries (the best kind are often self-imposed, though I know I’m not the only one who has trouble with this) are what give us the space to create.
I’m thinking along these lines a lot as I travel. I’ve tried something completely new to me (hunting: nothing yet, but I’ll add an addendum when this publishes), as well as a major trip with the littles but sans Mrs. Dave (not my favorite method of travel, but needs must), and trying to make it a working gig (success! I’ve written a chunk for the WIP, and plan to write more). I even fixed my voter registration, so I have the privilege to exercise my rights and duties as a citizen, which is a goodness thing.
The flip side of the coin from the boundaries we set or accept to work is the tendency toward homeostasis that’s part and parcel of human nature. If we don’t have something to grab our attention and energy, we tend to coast. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors would work like demons when there was both need and opportunity, and then laze about. Especially the hunters, those lackadaisical good-for-littles. This seems to be the basic human pattern. It just doesn’t work terribly well to build productive, mature human creatures in current society. We seem to have a drive to do. We pour enormous amounts of effort and time into leisure. Into what is nominally relaxing.
Forex, I’ve been looking into what it would cost to be a better hunter next year (I suspect this is going to become a thing, not that I’m upset by this) and it’s a bit daunting. My physical preparations were about as good as I could manage, for my circumstances. For next year, I’d like to increase my cardiovascular endurance by a good bit, in order to counteract the BBW effect of moving from sea level to a mile plus in elevation (all that huffing and puffing), which will require a good bit of rucking (walking with a weighted pack) and Death By Prowler. In addition, I’ll be looking into more gear. I’ve been doing the research. My rifle is acceptable, though on the weak side for elk. But I — like most people who don’t do so regularly — am pretty lousy at estimating distance. I’ll need a rangefinder. And a pair of binoculars, as well. I can scan through my rifle scope, but the loss of depth perception is a difficult challenge to overcome, for someone who can’t do this all the time. Finally, I’ll be looking into membership at a local rod and gun club that has a long distance shooting range. While it doesn’t truly simulate hunting conditions, I’ll be able to become far more familiar with my rifle this way.
All of that, simply to get marginally better (I’m hoping for more than simply marginal improvement) at something I may get to do a few times a year. Is that rational?
Not on the face of the thing, perhaps, but let’s look at it like this: I’ve injected a major bolus of novelty into my life in this one week. In addition, I’ve learned some things I’d have trouble getting from a book, or even from in-depth interviews with a hunter. Walking the land, as I mentioned last week, I’ve got experiential data (anecdata, at least) to write better characters and descriptions. I can now more accurately extrapolate from my own experiences to craft a better story. (I mean, that’s ultimately why I’m doing this, right?) Similarly, the experience of setting goals (I’m going to exercise between now and hunting season) adds to the self-discipline I can call upon when I need to apply will to backside and get work done.
Finally, I become a more balanced person, myself, by not spending all my time sitting in front of a screen. I’ve been there. It’s exhausting AND numbing, in a soul-killing manner that costs me the most creative parts of my existence. Which is decidedly not healthy. Of particular personal importance, I’ve found another means of bonding with my father-in-law. And Wee Dave has already expressed interest, as well as disappointment that the legal hunting age is a good many years beyond his current age.
Dave, I hear you asking (and I’m glad you asked) what’s this got to do with your title? Well, I’m sure you have a suspicion. All of the experiences I’ve racked up this week are going to improve several aspects of my existence. In some ways, one could say I’ve leveled up in a couple of major ways. I’ve definitely gotten some points marked on the ol’ Man Card. More seriously, though, I’ve accomplished a goal in a satisfactory manner. That’s always good, and doubly so for those of us who occasionally struggle with such things as Imposter Syndrome. All the bits and pieces are going to strengthen other parts of my character, and so every part of my life will benefit. Homeostasis may be our natural bent, but it behoves us to periodically raise the floor of what constitutes out baseline in such a way that the new normal is better for us and those around us. It’ll improve our writing, too.