Bucking the Trends

Wee Dave turned five, recently, and I’m still not recovered. Small creatures are exhausting, regardless of how many legs they have (Wee Dave only has the two, you’ll all be happy to know), but we herded a ramble of nearing double digits for the natal anniversary shindig. I’m awfully glad that’s only going to happen a couple of times a year. Early to bed for a while, I’m planning. Still, only a couple of minor incidents, and the paint (Mrs. Dave is a courageous woman, let me tell you) stayed almost entirely contained, and off all the clothing, as far as I know.

That was the start of our week, and things don’t look to be slowing down any, either. So I find myself asking my … self, “Dave, buddy, can you do anything to make this all less onerous?” And I cross selling the Wee Horde off the list first, because there’s no way I could get away with it. After a pleasant daydream or two, I start to actually think about what’s coming up in the Dave Schedule – which is like a calendar, but mostly kept in the think meats of my head – and see where I can buck some trends.

No, not grimdark “epic” fantasy, nor waif-fu urban fantasy. Not even Strong Female Characters doing Strong Female-y Things (I confess, I don’t know what that looks like. Holding down a job and being an active parent without trumpeting about things that should be considered baseline for a functional human?) which seems to be all the rage (rage-y rage) today. Still. Always? Anyway, I’m talking about self-care (again. Sorry. Kinda) and thinking about my patterns and habits, and those of my writer friends. You see, I’ve taken to listening to youtube videos on lifestyle and how to improve various and sundry personal metrics. What has been called lifehacks, and has gained quite a lot of baggage around that term.

Here’s the thing, though. We all tend to examine our routines for things we can tweak in order to do better. At least I do. “What if I get up earlier? What about eating less more often? At different times? How about writing in bursts? What about taking more frequent breaks, but putting them on a timer? How about more sleep and less caffeine?” That last is heresy, I know, but it’s also one I’m contemplating.

I’ve been looking into what encourages productivity, and more and more, it seems to be coming down to emotion. Which, for those of us enamored of the exercise of will, and the cool architecture of logic, is vexing. Still, we’re rationalizing apes, and logic is more often used as a prop for beliefs, emotions, and intuitions. Even then, even when we (I) know what we (I) want and how to get it, dredging up the motivation seems well-nigh impossible many days.

So I’m going to make a suggestion. First, get the basics down. Sleep, diet (which is to say nutrition, rather than caloric or nutritional restriction), a modicum of physical activity: get those into your routine in a healthy manner. Then, assuming you’re having trouble with your work – whether that’s a matter of butt-in-chair time, or a specific project, or specifics of that specific project – and do a little digging into the emotional hooks around that spot of difficulty. I’d like to be able to give you an example from my own life, but this is a new thing for me, and I’ll be taking my own advice just as soon as I find an hour to shoe-horn it into. Once you’ve got the sticking point more or less mapped out, see if there’s a way you can attach better, more encouraging emotional responses to whatever’s keeping you from succeeding.

I have done a bit of this. When I recognize I’m getting bored with a passage, I go back to where I wasn’t bored and rewrite from there. Probably the biggest reason I’ve continued to exercise is a matter of finding things I genuinely enjoy doing, and doing them. The base reality is that we do what we want. It has ever been thus, and we can use this to our advantage when it comes to our writing.


  1. Mine is ridiculously easy. I need all my braining for the Day Job. There is almost no energy left for writing. Which sucketh megaliths through coffee stirrers and requires a major blast from ye vacationing muse to get through.

    1. I hear that. For some reason (here I scowl Heaven-ward) I somehow didn’t think of parenting as a full-time job. Or military spouse (HAH! HAHAHAHA!!!1) and I keep thinking wistfully of writing. Still don’t know how it’s all going to work out. There are days (about one in three, really) where I don’t think it’s actually going to work out. And, well, I can’t stop being Daddy or Mr. Petty Officer…

  2. I’m bouncing after hitting the mental and physical wall. Happily for me, this coincides with the end of the semester, so I can stay home for a week before launching once more. I know I cannot write in June. No internet, no computer, no worries, so I will just rest, walk, absorb a new-to-me area, and let everything lie fallow. It’s a luxury and I intend to wallow in it (metaphorically speaking.)

  3. More sleep, less caffeine? In some unthinkably remote quarters, that’s orthodoxy.

  4. I got a dog. Then I had to Dogify the entire Phantom Redoubt. And walk the dog. It’s kind of like having a baby, but with more hair.

    Oddly, with all this exercise writing has improved. More wording in less time. Yay! ~:D

    1. Having a dog improves cognition. Having a cat improves writing. Having both does both, only more so, in addition to providing infinite examples of humor and conflict. Sorry, the only evidence I have is anecdotal. Doesn’t mean it’s wrong though.

  5. Nix on the giving up caffeine! Gave sodas up for Lent (yeah, I’m agnostic, so what?) Got _very_ little writing done, managed to not go overboard on chocolate in compensation. Lost 5 lbs. But it was not good for the writing.

  6. I’m the least trendy person I know. I only got a Blu-Ray player two years ago. Still haven’t seen Titanic or Avatar.

        1. One of Sib’s friends was working at a video rental place when “Titanic” was THE thing. He wanted to get a tee-shirt saying “The boat sank. Get over it,” because he was so tired of all the tween girls swooning over Leonardo DiCaprio. The boss sympathized but vetoed the shirt.

        1. Yep, big a$$ed flying gunboat with a bomb. It’s all a matter of viewpoint. After all, didn’t a bunch of native Americans think the European ships were islands that moved when they first saw them?

    1. Plot synopsis of Avatar: Apocalypse Now, but in SPAAAACE! They even have helicopters.

      After watching all the Marvel movies, Avatar is going to look very dated and dorky. CGI has moved on.

    2. Read the two Midworld books by Allen Dean Foster. Amazon search is so helpful: Midworld and MidFlinx. The latter won’t make sense if you haven’t read the other Flinx books. Same story, much better telling.

      The scene in Avatar with the military guy (general? colonel?) posing with his coffee cup as the ship flies to destroy the home tree was hysterical. The rest of the theater did not respond well to my laughter.

  7. I know lists aren’t new, but they work for me. I get a certain level of satisfaction when I am able to cross something off my list. Also, when I find myself stuck with my writing, walking a couple of miles will often allow for inspiration. I’ve forced myself to just two cans of Dr. Pepper a day, and while that has been hard, I think it’s been good for me overall.

  8. assuming you are diurnal or mostly so, rather than nocturnal then slowly phasing out caffeine can work. I’ve done it a time or two (count ‘doses’ – cups coffee or tea, cans soda-pop) and go from X-per-day to [X-1] per day for a week, then [X-2] the next week, etc. until zero is reached. You will feel a bit tired in the process, and for a week or maybe two after reaching zero. After that, however, the energy level comes back up without the caffeine and stays thus – and one tends to feel better overall. And, in the odd times (not regularly or it all has to start over again) it’s really needed, caffeine will be Very Effective Indeed rather than something that merely allows you to get by without committing Acts of Intense Violence.

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