Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I Don't Want To Be A Fat Writer: The Locomotion Promotion

    We all know that you must make sacrifices to write. And I have finally accepted that I will never get away from this computer long enough to do more than minimal housekeeping and to ensure my teenager doesn't starve (not that she ever would; she learned to forage for herself from an early age which, come to think of it, could be why she was so enthralled with The Hunger Games series).
     She will cook for the both of us now, with the downside being that I get to do the dishes--we both hate doing dishes. It also means we eat a lot of French fries and pasta dishes with the occasional salad thrown in to stave off rickets. It doesn't save me a lot of time.
     Or lose me any weight. My immediate goal is to make enough so I can buy a treadmill to walk/write on. By the by, I have a couple of horror short stories just out this week, one to read free on Wattpad and a more adult-oriented one available as a 99 cent download on Amazon. Just sayin'. Getting back to the topic, though, I don't mind staring at a computer screen all day, but what I really don't like is all this sitting down business.
     I have always been fascinated by the writing habits of great writers. Balzac, an archetypal spendthrift, turned night into day to ensure none of his creditors could interrupt his train of thought; numerous romantic poets, including Byron, kept a skull or two on their desks. Hemingway in particular has always interested me because he wrote standing up at a drafting table. I am also intrigued by his nervous habit of coring the rot and bruises out of apples with a penknife as he wrote. It would certainly beat devouring jelly babies or pulling out your eyelashes while you polish your language. And if you were feeling particularly dark that day, the knife would be handy.
     Back to the standing, though. As I've mentioned before, I worked for years as a daily newspaper reporter. I never wanted to become an editor, though it meant more money/status/job security, for one reason: every desk editor I ever met had a bad back or was working on one.
     It would be fine if you could go directly from reporter to managing editor (those guys got to take lunch; the desk editors worked straight through due to newspaper deadlines), but that never happened at any newspaper I ever heard of, not even if your relative owned it.
     Sitting still has repercussions. My only exercise this summer has been mowing the lawn once a week. I went to great lengths to explain to the wide-eyed neighbors yesterday that my sudden weight gain was due to working hard sitting on my ass. For some reason, they didn't get it.
     The general perception out there, however untrue, is that fat people are lazy people. Writing may be the only profession whereby rapid weight gain is a sign of success, not laziness. It means you've been socking away 12, 14, and 16 hour days to keep up with your clamoring fans.
      I don't know why more writers don't mention this instead of relying on head shots only: really, we should be equated to leaders of primitive cultures where your status is dependent on the girth of your waist. A fat writer is an affluent writer. The more you weigh, the more you can afford to eat. The more you write, the more you weigh, the more readers you have. It's revolving karma. But no one appreciates this.
      It's a shame that being overweight carries a literal increase in stature, but not status--otherwise, we could have writing contests based on our weight. Indie writers have it the worst, too. The necessity to sit still for long periods of time is accelerating. You can't get away with just writing anymore, not even if you're the genius your mother always said you were.
      You have to blog, reblog, tag, twitter, retwitter, follow; leave hearts, stars, and messages with that hideous smiley face some disco-trotting joker turned computer nerd decided to resurrect from the 1970s--it doesn't end. Writers devote up to four hours a day doing promotional stuff on line. To become a successful writer in the new sense means social media of all kinds is mandatory. Mandatory.
     When you combine this with "just writing"--a seven-hour day at the least if you plan to do it full time (and if you want to really succeed, those regular writing hours are more often 10 to 12 hours a day)--that's a lot of sitting still.
     Remembering the '90s, when workaholics with no time to spare wandered gyms at lunch with work they'd brought from their offices (I myself cruised about in those days carrying weights; my idea of a good exercise was one where you got to sit down), I've realized I need to maximize my time.
     Hemingway the athlete had it right. Back in the 1930s, as a reporter himself, I'm sure he took note of all those groaning, moaning, bad-back desk editors at the Toronto Star. And it's amazing how fast you fall apart when you do nothing but sit. Four months ago, before I returned to fiction writing in earnest, I was in great, if not excellent, shape for my age. Four months. That's all it took for me to bloat up like a dead thing left sitting in the sun. Now I need to lose weight or buy a new wardrobe. And while I've never had a bad back, I surely would if I kept on without making some changes.
     I've rearranged things so I can write à la Hemingway, standing as I type. It's a temporary fix for now. I've worked at jobs before where you must stand in one spot. I've never liked standing still. And I've always thought it would be lousy for your knees over time. Walking on a treadmill, however, sounds ideal.
     So this is a locomotion promotion. I'm interested in hearing from anyone else who is coping, or thinking of coping, with a similar problem.
     But please don't suggest a head shot. 

Copyright © 2014 Marilyn Storie

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