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Like the Wallpaper Sticks to the Wall

May 25, 2010

I used to wait tables, and it used to get super hot behind the scenes.  My feet inevitably throbbed at the end of every night even with my special, padded industry shoes that were as ugly as sin. My back hurt all the time from carrying heavy trays. It was a physically demanding job. However, the whole time I was waiting tables, my mind was blissfully blank. My thoughts, such as they were, were simple and unmuddied. “Get 20’s dessert order, Coke refills for 21, make change for 24, bus 25.”  Easy.

Now I have a job that requires almost no movement at all (I get up and walk to the living room, which is about ten feet away from where I sleep.), but also requires a great deal of mental activity.  While I don’t move around much or do a lot of physical labor, I find that I’m even more affected by changes in my body now than I was when I was doing a job that had me running around all night, every night. Then I was too busy to think about anything but the job. Now my job is thinking, and anything that interferes with that is a problem.

Too hot (like today)? I slow waaay down and have trouble focusing on anything besides my boobs sticking to each other (seriously, girls, this needs to stop). Sick and pumped full of cold medicine? Gee, I better sit down and write this articl- oh, look, a yellow hippopotamus! Itchy, tired, muscles aching…suddenly my characters are also covered in hives, yawning, and in need of a massage.

Now the reason I bring this up (beyond wanting to whine about how hot I feel, with the 90 degree weather and no air conditioning or fans in my house), is that I always have been fascinated by the perception of writing as a purely cerebral activity. Even I tend to think of it that way. When I come across exercises in writing books that tell me to write by candlelight, or write with the “wrong” hand, or go to a place I’ve never been before and write, I smirk and roll my eyes and think, “How would those things make any difference?”

As it turns out, however, body and mind seem to be linked. Who would have thought? Just as I can be so stressed out by something that I begin to feel physical pain, when I’m suffering physically my writing also suffers. The only time I’ve been asked to do rewrites for my editor is when I was sick.  I don’t think this was a coincidence.  I think I made a lot of errors that I would never make while well because I was rushing to get the work done so I could go back to bed. And then there were the yellow hippopotami. Those bastards.

For the record, however, as much as it is true that my body affects my mind and vice versa, the only result I get from switching the pen from my left hand to my right is bad penmanship.  Not all writing exercises are as brilliant and inspiring as others.

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