In Which The Writer Takes A Curtain Bow.
You’ve probably noticed a marked lack of updates on the getting healthy in thirteen weeks post. At least I hope you did, because otherwise I’m going to go in the backyard and eat worms.
Okay, let’s suppose you did notice I was gone (“How can we miss you, if you just won’t go away?) and were wondering where this series had gone.
First let me explain how things have been going: we’re three weeks in. I’ve lost six pounds, slept better and not gotten sick. The last is a bit of an achievement.
I’ve cut down on carbs, except for today (there’s a long story behind that, but let’s just say today was a bad day. Tomorrow is not defined by today and I’ll get back on that horse.) I’ve taken a walk every day that’s been at least 20 at a time I can walk (unfortunately, that’s about 3 days in the last three weeks.) I have tried to do stuff around the house that can be considered “exercise.” This has not included formal exercise, more’s the pity. And I’ve done exactly zero relaxing/fun activities, though I’ve tried to persuade one of my best friends that doing covers actually falls under that category. It does, I think, or at least it “pulls from the same side” and is fun – sort of – because I’m learning so much new stuff. It’s not exactly or fully relaxing though, because it’s stuff that must be done.
And here we come upon the purpose of this post.
I’ve mentioned before that when my husband and I were first married, we were so ridiculously, so profoundly broke that we couldn’t make a budget. Whenever we made a budget we always came to the same conclusion “there’s no way we can survive this month.”
But we always sort of did. Because one month when we’d hit rock bottom, had an empty fridge and $5 in the bank, they had a sale on chicken in the nearby supermarket. We bought two chickens, roasted them, and lived on chicken for a week. Another time Dan’s company had a party, and he brought back enough sandwiches to last us for two weeks. (They’d seriously overbought food.) Another time the store I worked for threw away a whole bunch of candles and knick knacks while clearing a back storage room. So, I told Dan to drive around back, and we had a garage sale, which allowed us to replenish food AND (very important and how you know we were newly weds) toothpaste until the next pay check.
So we coasted from pay check to pay check, dependent on miracles, until we started making a little more, and we could survive without these harrowing incidents. Then we budgeted, but it was so tight that if we had to buy saline solution one week, it threw us off.
Anyway, I’ve jokingly said that’s how tightly budgeted I am on time. This is part of the whole “Taming the workmonster” thing with Charlie.
The problem was I was tight on time before I added indie publishing (with its load of learning, as well as doing) and working for PJM.
Throwing those two things in would have been fine, had we downsized in house, as we intended to, by now. We haven’t. And this is still a household of four. And before you say “Oh, good, so you have more helpers” yeah, but as anyone who’s been “household manager” (which is a little different from just housekeeper) for a whole house will tell you, the work multiplies exponentially as well. Particularly when all four people are about as busy as I am and spinning in different directions. Four people under those circumstances generates the sort of incident when you find a shoe in the freezer and a partially frozen chicken on the shoe rack. This means the Household Manager, ie. She Who Keeps Track of All the Rings in the Four Ring Circus, must be on the case. (Pulls fedora over eyes. “They call me… Mother.”) If she isn’t, that chicken will be nosed out when it starts to smell and the cats have eaten part of it. And then the cats will have got sick all over the floor, and then… Yeah. Like that. Every day. Of every year. (Though rarely with chickens.)
Plus the Household Manager keeps track of the Social Secretary stuff. “Didn’t you have an appointment with your advisor?” and “Didn’t you have a story due today?” and..
And often the things that fall off my brain are my own appointments/duties. Or, as my grandmother used to say “the ironsmith uses a wooden spit.”
Anyway, to get back on track here, the problem is that I added two more jobs but nothing got subtracted. Which, when you look back, explains the sheer suckitude that was 2013, where I returned to my childhood pattern of having two days of good health between weeks of being too ill to function.
But see, I was looking at it the wrong way. I was looking at it as I looked at our budget back then, when some minor miracle always rescued us at the last minute.
The weird thing is that in a society as abundant as ours, “minor miracles” of the material kind do happen with relative regularity. For instance, last year, dead broke, I needed a publishing desk. I cruised the free section on craigslist and lo and behold. Yes, I’ll need to replace it when I can (it’s fine, it’s just not the best thing for organization) and then I’ll pass it along for free on craigslist. In the same way, being young and stupid as we were back then, we were engaged in enough circles that someone somewhere was always giving away food. Fine. We survived.
But material abundance doesn’t stretch my time. I don’t suddenly find I have an extra two hours in which to write an article or research a topic.
A neighbor doesn’t drop by out of the blue to straighten the shoe rack and cook the chicken with lemon. That’s not how life works. (Yes, I realize I’ve had several fans offer to come and clean my house for me. Uh. No.)
In the end, in this time of transition between technologies and ways of doing things, some of us find ourselves straddling three worlds and working in all three of them. As I pointed out in one of my posts in my blog, Atlas would love to shrug, but Atlas is in point of fact juggling. (Three chainsaws, one egg and a live seal, why do you ask?)
In fact, everyone who is still employed is either doing the work of three employees (and no, let’s not talk about greedy companies. The cost of doing business has gone up exponentially. I should know, I work for myself) or has two part time jobs in addition to the full time one. The last pattern is common in my field as those who like exploring new stuff are working indie and traditional at the same time, or sometimes function as support personnel for other’s indie ventures: accounting, cover art, proof-reading, editing, or in the case of my household “yes.”
It’s common in other fields too. Geeks are doing reviews, designing games, helping friends who are designing games, and in general up to their necks in stuff.
Right now, only about 1/4 th of my friends have only one job. And that’s just if you don’t count some of the stuff they do “not for pay.”
And time isn’t elastic. And some of the work is just starting and not paying off, yet. And we’re trying to give our 100% to everything and not drop anything on the floor and—
And no miracle happens.
Day after day, month after month of the last year, what happened was that I’d get to a point where… there’s no other way to describe this “writing hurt.” It’s like I was literally pulling from an empty place. But I thought that was “just one of those things.” No, seriously, it never hit me that this meant I was seriously tired/burned out. I thought it was “one of those things that happens.”
It wasn’t till I was talking to Charlie the other day and he described this condition in himself and said he was “burned out” that a lightbulb went on.
See, I routinely pushed on, past that stage, hefting each word up and onto the page, with a feeling like lifting mountains. Day after day. And then I got very ill. And then I recovered, and had more to do. And then—
We call that 2013 and we call it over.
So, when I was examining what I could do to stop getting ill – yes, I still need to exercise, and eat right, and all that other stuff – I realized a great part of it was hitting that mountain lifting stage and keeping… lifting. Eventually it comes back on you, and you collapse.
And yeah, part of the issue is that I don’t consider typing, inside, in the warmth, real work. I saw real work growing up. Grandma used to clean the entire house, look after “the creation” (cats, rabbits, chickens, usually at least one dog, pigeons and whatever weird pet she had on deck at the time: hedgehog, turtle, whatever. No, we didn’t eat the cats, the dogs or the other pets. But the animals, collectively, were referred to as “the creation.”) kept a backyard farm, washed clothes by hand, cooked and looked after grandkids, and… In all weather, day in, day out, from sun to sun, and then mending or knitting or whatever late into the night.
I don’t do that. I work at a comfy desk, in a heated/air-conditioned room. Surely, it can’t be serious work? Right?
Turns out apparently it is. Serious enough that if I push beyond my strength I get as ill as when I used to clean house while nursing a bad cold, or when we moved and I carried boxes eight am to four am for three days, and then was ill for a month. It’s very weird for me, but apparently mental exhaustion also can get you sick and writing can cause mental exhaustion. Who knew?
And so, having looked at everything, I realized something had to give.
I had a conversation with my editor at PJM. I didn’t want to have to leave. Apparently they don’t want me to either. (Who knew?)
However, to make this job survivable, and allow me to finish the novels that account for most of my income, we’re cutting me down to one post a week. (Yes, I’ll still do book plug Friday and Taming the workmonster with Charlie, as well. Frankly, that’s easier, because he reminds me.)
So I’m cutting the “getting healthy in 13 weeks” experiment short. I’m still going to be trying the strategies, and I might – MIGHT – report on them, if the mood hits me. But I’m not doing this every week. At least not till the novels are delivered and my backlog of reverted works is up on line for sale. And maybe I have some more time to catch up…
Because otherwise, I won’t stay healthy.
(Exits stage left. Then comes back and exits stage right, because dang it, she hates doing anything on the left!)