Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Week Three

Some bad advice I used to give my Fiction II students at Grub is now coming back to haunt me.

I liked to share my half-baked theory that every writer needed one indulgence. I'd say, glibly: "Maybe you drink a lot. Or watch too much TV. Or overeat. That's fine! Go for it! Live it up! But you get only ONE of these indulgences. For everything else, moderation rules. Every day, you have to write a little, eat a little, exercise a little, read a little, make a little love, and sleep a little - not necessarily in that order. And somewhere in there, you find time to binge on your indulgence."

It made sense at the time. I must have been reading Ben Franklin or something, and thought how perfect that man would have been if he'd admitted to at least one of his vices in his *Autobiography.*

My vice at the time? Can't remember. Honestly. But since then I've learned that, in order for me to get *anything* done, I can't succumb to the big indulgence. Once I do, I get greedy. If it's baseball, I want to watch 6 hours of it. If it's food, I want to eat an entire pan of lasagna. The baseball cuts into my writing time; the lasagna cuts into my exercise time; soon, the entire regimen falls apart. I can only thrive when, like Franklin, I build my indulgences into that regimen. I will watch 2 hours of baseball; I will eat a small slice of lasagna and chase it with a handful of carrot sticks; I will read for 2 hours; I will answer emails and surf the web for 1 hour, etc.

For my first two weeks here, you see, I stuck to this regimen. Every day, it was a little this, a little that. And it worked beautifully. Balance. Order. It was gorgeous! I was renewed! It was like writing an excellent sestina -- art within order. Then I allowed myself to relax a bit. I took the day off from the gym. Instead of writing my 1000 words, I watched a day baseball game. Now I'm playing catch up -- I have to write 3000 words tomorrow, which means I'm setting myself up to fail -- and everything's out of whack.

I think this is especially true when you live alone, or have a career that forces you to be solitary. You have to be hard on yourself. No one's there to hold you to your schedule and your goals. And let's face it: writers thrive on self-sacrifice, martyrdom, etc., so we really should be able to handle this.

- Christopher Castellani


Travis Erwin said...

Chasing bad money with good. I think we all do that in some way.

Great post.

Michael said...

Carbs, baseball, loafing at the gym. It's all needed. You work hard and you need to relax, um, hard.

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