Body and Soul…

No, I’m not talking about a new buddy-cop story featuring a ghost detective and a zombie beat cop (even though I would totally read that).  I’m talking about the way our (my) bodies affect our (my) cognitive, emotional, and social states … especially with regard to writing.

Writing The Red Lands has been really interesting, because the characters are all learning to deal with physical deprivation.  As they cross the darkness between worlds and try to survive the dead world, hunger stalks them like a wolf.  They, like me, have really only ever had to deal with “First World Troubles,” what De Graaf, Wann, and Taylor call “Affluenza:” our inability to cope with the stress of our own affluence.

Well, I’ve been fighting a bad case of affluenza myself, and it’s been hell on my writing.  Distracted by, well, everything from Arkham City to my Kindle to 100 cable channels (I never thought I’d watch a fishing show on TV, but Jeremy Wade’s River Monsters changed my mind) to I Can Has Cheezburger, I haven’t been getting enough sleep.

Of all the things not to get enough of, sleep is the dumbest.  It’s free.  All I have to do is get my shower and go lie down.  Of course, playing one more game  of Pandemic with my wife is always worth it 🙂

I’ve also been fighting a battle with food.  For any of you outside the U.S., let me explain how this goes: around here, it’s about ten times more work to eat healthy than it is to each good-tasting-but-bad-for-you food.  It’s also significantly cheaper.  I can get a lot of low-grade meat for $5 – hot dogs are 99 cents a pack, full-fat sausage is almost as cheap, bologna is the same.

I can get a large, fresh, pepperoni pizza for $5.45, tax included, without calling ahead.  I just show up, give them a trivial amount of money, and go home with a meal that should realistically feed four … and it tastes so good.  Frozen vegetables cost more, to say nothing of fresh.  Cooking at home costs more, to say nothing of the time and energy required.

Seriously, did Jabba the Hutt design this country?

Well, there’s still nobody to blame but myself.  I have more than enough money to eat healthy foods, if I’ll just suck it up and do it.  And I know I’ll feel better if I do.  High glycemic index (sugary/starchy) foods make me feel like hammered mud.

Needless to say, I don’t get much writing done when I feel like hammered mud.  And whose fault is it?  Mine.

So, for the sake of my overall productivity (at work, writing, and in my studies), I’m going to try focusing substantial energy on increasing my physical well-being.  I’m betting it will pay off big time.

I can guess what you’re saying: “Yeah, right.  We’ve all heard that before.  The same old New Year’s Resolutions aren’t any more realistic just because Brent’s making them in July.”

Well, you’re right.  But I have a plan.  I recently read The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.  He describes habit loops, consisting of a cue, a behavior, and a reward.  He digs into the science behind them, which I don’t have the space to get into here, but, to make a long story short, it’s entirely possible to replace the behavior portion of an existing habit, especially if you keep the cue and reward portions (totally breaking habits is extremely difficult, but breaking the parts that hurt us is less so).  It’s also possible to create new habits.

I’ll be working on doing both.  As a matter of fact, I’ve already created a new habit of getting up 15 minutes early and working out on a punching bag before I get ready to go to work.  It’s helped me feel better, but it hasn’t been enough to overcome my other bad habits.

My concentration is definitely suffering, along with my motivation to do anything difficult.  I’m hoping that changing a few habits will fix that, and maybe even let me shed a few pounds (my wife things look great the way I am, but my knees beg to differ).

Wish me luck!