Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Physical Toll of Writing

      A somewhat jealous fellow writer constantly asked me how I "cranked" out several full-length books a year. What was my secret? First of all, I don't crank out anything. It takes me three or four months to write a book. Secondly, there is no secret.  I spend four hours each day writing-with social media turned off-and try to achieve one-thousand words at a sitting, which I usually do. I take a break halfway through, walk around, watch Jeopardy, have a snack. I don't write at night as I have a hard time sleeping if I do since the imagination is hard to turn off. Just TV and reading for me in the evening, or going out for a lecture, movie, or play.  But if I keep at it, by the end of three months, I have a 90,000 word book. Of course, I then do a rewrite and will have to do two or three edits after that. It works for me. Others will set a different schedule.
     I began this routine in 2004 at the age of 57 when I started to write in earnest after retiring from a career as a librarian. Now, fourteen years later, I have twenty-three books in print and two more in the works. I have also developed back and hip problems and have difficulty walking. On the way home from a long road trip, one of my favorite things to do, I failed to keep another rule to stop every two hours and walk around. Usually, my consumption of tea and coffee on these trips demand these stops for restroom purposes, but this time I skipped those because I had no thermos with me. I ended up with blood clots in one leg, not the serious DVT ones, but several superficial blots on my leg and some tenderness and pain. Three months on a blood thinner dissolved the clots, but the pain persisted. Why?
      My GP didn't know. My orthopedist said some arthritis of the spine that can't be helped and a hip going bad from age, but he didn't want to operate yet. Desperate for a solution, I hobbled on over to a chiropractor hoping for some help. He placed the blame squarely on the amount of time I spend on a computer writing. I admit, I'd rather be writing than do most other things, the reason why I set aside mornings for errands and chores or nothing would get done around the house. I do try to do water aerobics twice a week but will slough this off if I am deeply in my writing groove. It's not a good idea to ignore exercise no matter how much you hate it (though I do like water aerobics and swimming but not much else).
     I think writers are naturally sedentary. They exercise their imaginations rather than their legs and biceps. My best intentions to get up and stretch usually fall by the wayside, though I do find myself circling my neck when it tightens up from staring at a screen too long. End result of all this is I am being stretched and pummeled by a chiropractor--and it does hurt during and afterwards so I sit writing packed with ice bags on my back and thighs. I am not going to give up writing when my typing fingers, brain, and highly active imagination are still good. I have an excellent incentive--a long planned trip to Australia, bucket list epic, and would rather not be pushed around in a wheelchair.
     So, in addition to having shared my "secret" to "cranking" out books which is basically place butt in chair and write every day, I do caution other writers. Don't skip whatever exercise routine you have. Do get up and stretch. Don't write eight hours a day unless you are really driven (four is plenty), and try to stay healthy.