Hidden Dangers of Being a Writer

Over the weekend I had a number of health scares.  I began experiencing some pain in my right shoulder and arm.  This eventually escalated to waking yesterday morning to extreme pressure on my chest.  It felt as him something had been sitting on my chest.  I tried to dismiss it (mistake number one) and attempted to go to work.  But, my wife (who is clearly much smarter than I) insisted I go to the emergency room.  They rushed me back, fearing I was having a heart attack.  Lucky for me, my EKG was “unremarkable” and my later blood tests dismissed the cause as being my heart.  But, it really had me thinking.

There are a lot of hidden health danger to being a writer.  It is a stationary job.  With the exception of your fingers moving across the keyboard there is little movement involved.  Add to this the fact that my job also requires I sit at a computer all day.  And, like most Americans, I tend to work right through my breaks and lunch.  I sometimes sit 16 hours a day, with only a quick break to walk to my car and back.  This all adds up to the risk of a blood clot.  That lack of movement can result in deadly clot that can eventually break free and travel its way to my heart or brain.

But, this career can also trigger weight gain.  And a lot of it fast.  I won’t pretend I was skinny before I took up writing.  I’d say I was probably down to about 240 (from 270) when I took up writing seriously again.  I am now 285, gaining about 10 pounds in the last month and half.  This is directly related to when I started taking on editing too and increasing my sitting time.

Another thing that writing can cause is a lack of social activity.  I’ve heard it argued that writers are anti-social anyway.  But I can’t believe that.  Writers are diverse.  Sure some may be more social and others may be less social, but we all need to spend time with our friends and family.  Being a recluse will not help you.  It can hurt your writing and your health.  I’ve found myself locked away in my office or at work for weeks on end.  With Facebook and Twitter being my illusions at a social life.

So with all this doom and gloom, you might be thinking I would suggest giving up this lifestyle.  But, I won’t stop writing and creating.  The creative aspect of your mind needs stimulating as well.  Writing is good for you too.  But perhaps we all need to strike a balance.

I’m not a Doctor, so you should always consult one before making any big changes.  But here is what I am going to do to protect myself from more health scares:

First, I am going to limit myself to two hours of sitting at anyone time.  After that I will take a break and walk around for ten or fifteen minutes.  My work has a trail outside I will use, and when I am at home I’ll walk around the block or something.  But I need to get myself moving from time to time.  Get the blood flowing, literally.  Eventually I hope to work myself up to actually exercising for weight loss and not just movement, but this is a start.

Second, I need to give up the junk.  Not completely, but moderation is the key here.  I tend to go a bit overboard with the fast foods.  This is for two reasons:  One, it is just good.  I like it.  So I eat it when I can.  Two, I often write right up to when I need to leave for work.  Leaving me little time to make lunch, resulting in hitting the drive-thru on my way in.  I’ve already started bringing more lunches and keeping them in the work freezer.

Third, I need to socialize more.  Despite the name social networking, Facebook and Twitter are not a satisfying social experience for me.  My work co-workers (well most of them) are a lot of fun to talk with too, but it isn’t the same.  Time with my family and friends is important.  I need to take time from everything I am doing to spend some time with them.  I’ve also been keeping very active in my community.  This has allowed me to meet with and socialize with a group of people for a little bit.  It is also a commitment that requires me to break away from my writing for a minute and get out of the house.

Writing is a fun activity, but too much of anything is bad.  I need to look for a change in my lifestyle so that I can continue writing for many more years into the future.  I think I’ll go for that walk now.

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Missing in March

I need to start with an apology to my subscribers and regular blog readers.  You may have noticed I have broken my own rule on successful blogging.  Blog on regular schedule.  While I am sure none of you have been waiting to make life altering choices because of my lack of posts, I feel as though I have some how neglected my responsibilities here.  It’s not just here, I have not been very active on Twitter or Facebook either.

Frankly I hate this month.  I have seen a lot of commercials for Buffalo Wild Wings about “What month would you give up for more March?”  It makes me cringe just thinking about have to do March twice a year.  It seams I have terrible luck in this month.  Last year, I lost my job in March.  Years before that have been even worse.  Well, this year my own personal March madness continued (see even my puns are bad in March).

It started off well enough.  As some of you know from my previous posts, I started a new job.  It doesn’t make much but it gets me off unemployment.  Of course I started this job in February along with a move back to my hometown in Vacaville.  All great ways to end February and start off March.  Of course, they all led to me neglecting my blog.

In the middle of March, my wife’s employer decided to make a sudden drastic schedule change.  This caused me to have to beg and plead with my boss for a schedule change.  My employer was very understanding, unlike my wife’s, and they made the change.  Only three hours later, my wife tells me they changed the schedule again.  My wife asked to remain at the same schedule, but she’s the forth most senior dispatcher there and they wanted a senior person on each shift (four shifts).  Never mind the fact that the person she was switched with, didn’t want to switch (and is more senior than my wife).  Well we got through that.  My employer was understanding and made some more changes.

Things got better, because immediately following that I got to attend the wedding of a friend of mine.  They will be a great couple and the wedding was outstanding.  It was a lot of fun and I was very happy to share this event in their lives.  I extend my congratulations to Logan and Tessa Bryce.  I hope you enjoy life together.  There is no greater journey in life then marriage.

Right after that I attended my first San Jose Sharks regular season game.  I am a huge hockey fan, and an even bigger SanJose Sharks fan.  After so many years of wishing I could go, it was great to finally be able to go.  The arena is great and while we had great seats, there probably are not many bad seats at HP Pavilion.  I got to meet Randy Hahn and Brodie Brazil from Comcast Sportsnet.  I have been listening to Randy Hahn call Sharks games for as long as I can remember and to meet him was great.  Brodie Brazil is new to the CSN team, but he provides great rink side commentary and he is very interactive on Twitter.  So meeting them both was a great start to the game.  Everything about attending the game was great, accept the final score.

Left to Right: Brodie Brazil, Me, My wife, Randy Hahn

Two days later my wife started her new schedule after her days off.  The unnamed local ambulance company she works for did not schedule enough ambulances to adequately cover the area.  As a result an ambulance was late to a call.  And my wife was fired the next day.  She has not had an issue there for over nine months, but they were quick to terminate.  I can’t believe a company that puts “Family Values” on their letter head, would fire the main provider of a family of five on an issue that is ultimately their own fault.  This company has little regard for their employees and has created a hostile environment, in which most all mistakes result in suspension and/or termination.

In any case, her income was three quarters of our family income.  I don’t even make enough to pay the rent.  Fortunately quick thinking will likely help me keep a roof over our heads for the next few months.  But, we pray that either her union comes through for her (though that is not likely) or that unemployment kicks in quickly.  God willing, she will find work before this really matters.

As a result I have been trying to pick up extra hours at work.  I’ve also been burying myself in my office so that I can try to get this novel out for all of you.  And, hopefully if you folks like it, I can sell a few copies.  I also had a great idea for another story, with potential for novel length.  So with any luck you may see a few novels from me this year.  Of course, I prefer quality over quantity so we will see what other tricks life has in store for my timelines.

So, March is my least favorite month.  And despite my wife and my Irish heritage, we can can’t see to find the luck of the Irish.  They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  But I am so sick of drinking lemonade (This cliche brought to you by Country Time Lemonade, which I am drinking as I write this).

But, while March is typically a rough month.  I have many blessings in my life.  I have a lovely wife, who loves me for richer or poorer.  I have three great boys, who could care less about bills and just want to play with their Daddy.  I have great family and friends who have put my family in their thoughts and prayers.  I have a job, the start up of a successful writing career, and I volunteer free time to my community.  So while March has got me down, I have 11 other great months to enjoy.

So, you can take my face off the milk cartons of the blogging world.  Though I was missing in March, April is just around the corner.

Writing and Family Life

I didn’t write a blog post yesterday.  I had every intention of doing so, but I also have a great family and they needed my attention yesterday as well.  My two older boys had their first ever soccer practice, the wife and I had to meet with some people to talk about Life Insurance.  Then of course I had to have play time with the kids and cook dinner, and on and on and on.  Not exactly exciting stuff but it all piled up into a nice pile of excuses (valid ones) to not write anything.  No blog post and no story work.  Opps!

My fellow writers out there with kids know exactly what I mean.  So last night as I was laying in bed, kicking myself for not writing, I thought this would be a great topic for today’s post.

Writing with Kids!

When I first started writing for my own fun, I had no kids.  I would write for hours into the wee hours of the night.  I would put down thousands of words a day, easy.  Then my first son was born.  Having a child is one of the best things that can ever happen in your life.  My beautiful wife did all the hard work giving birth to all three of our children.  I was working so she even took care of most of the late night needs of a baby each and every time.  She is an amazing woman.

Well something else happened with the miracle of becoming a Dad.  The days suddenly got shorter.  There was not longer 24 hours in day, I am pretty sure time accelerates.  I would wake up in the morning with every intention of getting all my daily tasks done, including writing.  And then I would eat breakfast, and just like that it was time for bed.  I am sure something happened in between breakfast and going to bed, but it was all a blur.  Two years later, my middle child was born, and two years after that my youngest.  Time had now sped up exponentially with each child.  I no longer ate breakfast.  I woke up, did a bunch of things all related to child care (none of which I remember) and then I went back to bed.

Needless to say, writing never seemed to happen.  Days turned to weeks, weeks to month, and next thing I knew my oldest son was five years old and going to Kindergarten.  I know what you are thinking, I thought it too.  I can write while he is in school!  Well I have a two other sons, who need my time.  And you would be amazed how much of my time they need.

But I needed my writing time too.  My craft was for me, and I needed some me time.  At the same time I had some other epiphanies at the same time and really began to look into writing.  My passion for writing had bloomed, but now I needed to find the time.  The great people of my writer’s group has a lot of great ideas.

Some get up early before the kids and get an hour in that way.  The problem is, I am just to damn lazy to get up any earlier then I have to.  In most cases, laziness beats determination especially when you have three young boys who never stop sucking the energy from you.  So that option was out for me.  It may work for you, and if you want to try it… go right ahead.  I will pass.

Some suggested waiting for the kids to go to bed for the night.  But my wife works twelve hour days and the only time I get with her is after they go to bed.  Did I mention she is a beautiful woman?  So the last thing I want to do is spend time with my keyboard over her.  She is fully supportive of my art and would likely let me write to my hearts content, but I am a man too.  And as a man I want to spend time with her too.

Others simply wrote while their kids play around them.  I am a paranoid Dad.  The second the house in quiet, I panic.  My house is never quiet.  And as soon as they see me distracted they find something they should not have and they get quiet.  They think they can get away with it because Dad is busy.  Well when I write, I can’t have distractions.  The words come to mind far faster then I can type them (and I type at a decent speed).  Stopping every few minutes to put on the black and white stripes to referee the latest toy dispute distracted me to much.

Of course there was nap time.  In the early years that did not work.  When all three kids are asleep I was playing catch up on the house work.  The stuff you don’t want to do around kids because the seem to some how ruin it.  You know the toy the never play with so you pick it up and now they want to use it.  Or the dishes they see you doing, and now they need a snack (three boys always need snack).  And now, my two older boys don’t even take a nap.  So, that takes a lot of work.

Any of these tips may work for you, but not for me.  But I still needed to write.

So what did I do?

The idea actually came from my mom.  As she so often does, she has ideas for everything.  I suppose its her nearly thirty years of Mommy experience.  She suggested that when my little one goes for his nap, I impose “Quite time” to help the older two relax.  So we did that.

It wasn’t to long into this that an idea came to mind.  I should share my writing time with my kids.  I hear you all yelling at me right now.  “YOU IDIOT YOU JUST SAID YOU CAN’T DO THAT!!”  First, don’t yell at me.  Second, I mean to actually share the quiet time as art time.

So, I put my little one to nap.  Then I start the two older children on their homework.  This is when I work on picking up the house, doing the dishes, and helping with my kids homework.  After that we continue quiet time with “art time.”

They color, draw picture and read books.  I write.  For two hours we do this.  We stop and share with each other.  Mostly they show me what they draw or tell me what they read.  But sometimes we work together.  My oldest boy and I put together a children’s story.  And I am working to have it published very soon.  Its like a writing group with my kids.

Share in the passions you have with your kids.  Art is to important and too many kids don’t get it in school anymore.  I have completed a lot more writing sharing the time with my kids, and they are enriching their minds with books, arts, and crafts.  They need the time away from the TV.  You never know what they may become in the future and the art time may be what they need.

Family is always first, that will never change for me.  And it should be the same for you.  But, family time does not have to trump writing time.  It can be shared.

Does this work for me?  Yes.  Your results may vary.

If you have kids you have to fit your writing (or other art) around, please comment bellow on how you do it.  I would love to know.