Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Circadian Rhythms

You know, I'm not a touchy-feely, New-Age kind of person, but there is one thing I firmly believe: you have to listen to your gut. Sadly, by the time a kid learns to talk, s/he has generally started to learn not to listen for whatever reason. We're taught to ignore our cravings and our feelings. Too bad.

How Not to Get Fat
Eat what your body wants. That's right, just eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full. Eat what your body wants. If you ignore your cravings, you will end up eating more of what your body doesn't want because you keep trying to assuage that craving, but it won't work.

When I was a kid, whenever I started feeling a little sniffly, I had sudden, almost overwhelming craving for grapefruit (I know--the image of a 4 year old kid wanting grapefruit is weird, but true). Who knew that years later, doctors would discover that vitamin C is good for colds and that my craving for citrus fruit probably prevented most of the colds I "almost got."

For years I was also thin, until I "learned" to ignore cravings and eat what I was supposed to eat, when I was supposed to eat it. Mistake. Now I'm trying to unlearn bad habits and go back to eating what I want (really want) when I want it. If I want to just eat yogurt, then why shouldn't I just eat yogurt? If I want a steak, why shouldn't I eat a steak, particularly when I'm feeling run-down (well, duh, iron!)?

If you just listen to what your body wants instead of listening to what your head says you want, we might see less obesity. Or not. Let's not forget that you also have to exercise. The human body was not built for sitting around all day long.

How to Maximize Your Writing
Naturally, this ends up coming back to writing, although this advice will actually be true of any endeavor you wish to pursue. Write when you want to write. Pursue your activities when you want to pursue them.

Now, I'm not saying to just be a lazy bum and never write, or skip work to go fishing. We all have to earn a living.

However, I am suggesting that you look at the rhythms of your life. Is there a time when you are burning to write? Certain seasons of the year or times of the day? Then work out a way to write as much as you can during that period. During "off times," switch over to other writing-related activites. When you are in the writing doldrums, do your editing, judge writing contests, send out queries, plan out future novels, whatever.

For a long time, I struggled against the flow but after a couple of years, I've realized: I have a sudden surge of energy and desire to write in the fall. I can write perhaps two or maybe even three rough drafts during the fall. Then, as the weather turns warm in the spring, I struggle to write even a sentence. That is when I switch over to editing what I wrote in the fall, or even, the previous fall. I judge writing contests during the summer, as well, and attend writers' workshops. I take care of the business side of things.

True, I can do this because I'm still awaiting my first publishing contract from Cerridwen Press (my agent is reviewing it right now) and I don't have anyone breathing down my neck to meet deadlines, but here's the thing: I know my rhythm. So, I can write ahead. During the fall and winter, I can frantically write as many manuscripts as possible, knowing that I will then have something to edit and submit when requested. I can build up my "stock" of manuscripts. By doing that, I'm hoping to stay ahead of the game so that I can work in harmony with my cycles.

Ultimately, it is less stressful and more productive. I don't feel like I'm struggling for each word.

This takes some thought and trial-and-error to figure out. You have to relearn things that you may have repressed for years, but if it helps you, perhaps it is worth it.

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