Sweet Concentration

(May 2017)

WRITING WEDNESDAY: Writing as a long fulltime profession is exhausting. Mentally as well as physically. The latter may come as a surprise, because aren’t we just sitting in a chair typing? But the thing is, when you write you have to be 100% engaged in your work. If you’re not, it shows. Without exception, when I’m a bit confused about some historic event in my nonfiction work and try to gloss it over, the editor swoops in with her green TrackChanges comment bubble (this has replaced the red pen) with questions. I can’t fake my ignorance. And in terms of fiction, you have to completely inhabit the point of view of your characters. Whenever you take a slight misstep and merge in outsider mode, the curtain is torn open.

This required mental concentration affects our bodies, not to mention all the promotional traveling after our work is published. So we have to take care of health, which means regular (now daily for me) exercise and eating well. These days, I’m discovering cooking and eating simple foods at home is the best. I’ve fallen in love with apples — not with the cheap kinds because something with the wax and pesticides makes me feel ill, but with the kind of fancy ones. I’ve graduated from the Fuji to the Honeycrisp and then the queen of them all, the Envy. They cost, but are cheaper and healthier than a $7 cone of handmade ice cream. I roast a whole chicken once a week and spinach, not lettuce, is my go-to for all things, including salads, because it holds up well and is so versatile.

And sleep. Sleep is so important, too. I’m one of the lucky ones who doesn’t usually have insomnia problems. Sleep eliminates the junk in my brain’s trash folder.

My writing process starts with good food, exercise and sleep. Writers have produced masterpieces while abusing their bodies, but that kind of output usually can’t be sustained in the long run.

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