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You Really Should Take it Slow While Recovering

Have you no mercy?  I've just written 100 pages of relentless action! Have you no mercy? I've just written 100 pages of relentless action!

Organizing your Creative Life in Thirteen Weeks -- week 12

One of the things that’s hardest to remember is that you don’t get over illness like switching a light off.

At least it’s one of the hardest things to remember for me. And it’s really hard to remember – or to believe – for any writer how… physically demanding writing can be.

I remember a time, when the kids were still very small, and I was writing a military fantasy novel.  It involved a series of battles.  I’d spend the morning writing and afterwards I’d be exhausted and so hungry that the only thing I could do was call for pizza.  And I don’t like pizza. But there simply was no way I could cook after – as it felt – spending the morning slogging through hip-deep mud, and crossing ravines on suspended ropes.

Of course, in real life I hadn’t been doing any of that, but my body seemed to think I had. And the funny thing is I never gained weight from all those pizzas.

Perhaps there is something to research which seems to indicate that imagining something in extreme detail has the same effect on the muscles.  (And yes, I’ve tried to convince myself I can just imagine walking three miles a day, particularly in the middle of winter when imagining it is less likely to give me hypothermia.  Unfortunately imagining something with that kind of detail means almost living through it… which pretty much means writing it.  And writing a walk of three miles a day might get a little tedious for the reader.)

Time after time, when I’m mentoring writers, I come across this effect.  The first time they have a breakthrough in writing action, and write a big fight scene or dangerous slog through the wilderness, they are surprised at how tired it makes them.  I tell them it’s perfectly normal.

But I forget it is perfectly normal when it comes to my being able to write for long periods of time, or in a very focused way when I’m just recovering from illness.