I have, as many of you know, had time enough the past six weeks or so to contemplate many things. Apart from sealing wax and string, there has been mortality, patience and acceptance. I have had time to reflect and rethink the entire structure of The Ancestor’s Tale and also to introduce a completely new storyline. The hours of drifting in and out of sleep and my absence from my beloved keyboard has thrown up small random thoughts of no importance except they have entertained me. I share one today, as we are all writers.
Is writing fiction hazardous to our health?
I ask because one type of scene I could not physically write, in the few precious hours I was fit enough to do so, was the emotional. Be it sad, forlorn, angry or exciting I could not write it. Of course, I have known for a long time that thinking about an emotional subject can become physical. When I report shamefacedly that I have cried buckets over the trials /death of one of my characters, I laugh at myself but the tears a real. When I construct, create an angry scene, a temper tantrum, there is definitely an adrenaline rush as I plot in my head.
As I lay there, not being able to write these scenes because of the effect they had on my heartbeat and breathing, I am ill because of a faulty heart and breathing function, I got to wondering. If we perpetually write these entirely imaginary scenes with convincing effect, creating stressful responses in ourselves are we in fact overloading our system, and harming ourselves.
Stress as a word means to draw tight. The body is always attempting to maintain equilibrium, and fights to contain destructive elements such as stressful incidents and conditions. The bodies attempt to restore conditions to normality consumes huge amounts of energy and natural resources as for example in the fight or flight response. The flooding of the body with hormones, neuro-transmitters and proteins, sent to prepare and to help the body to fight whatever the stress, is helpful, as long as the duration of the stressful period is short and the flood is able to dissipate and equilibrium in homeostasis is restored.
We know that prolonged stress is bad for the immune system and causes all kinds of physical manifestations, such as high blood pressure, heart attack and strokes, anxiety and depression, infertility and an increase in the ageing process and has an effect on wound healing. Some of these are life threatening, some just lower your life quality.
1) As we are all of course perfectionists, and labour, hours sometimes, over a particular scene. Searching for just the correct words and ordering of said words to create the right amount of tension.
2) As we all wish our readers to suffer this stressful turmoil that we are creating, as much or if possible more, as we are ourselves, (we are also a little sadistic!)
3) Because, come on, a lot of you cry over your characters even if you don’t admit it.
4) As many of us walk around all day in an alternative world inside our heads, planning and plotting our devious ways.
Are we are adding an extra burden the stress to an already stressful life? Are we in fact harming ourselves in the doing?
Personally I enjoy reading a book which pushes/drags me through an emotional mangle, which leaves me feeling elated, drained, or exhausted at the end of it. A real page turner, a roller coaster ride. As writers, we read quite a lot I suspect, is this a double whammy, is our escapism into other worlds adding to an already overloaded stress level.
When we speak to youngsters who tell us they would like to write a book, they would like to be an author, we smile and encourage them, say yes, go for it. It is a great thing to be able to do. But warn of hard work, disappointments. Should all our advice also come with a label stating that the actual creation of the fiction can be a health hazard!
Just a little whimsy!
ROW80:I have managed to keep up with some of my goals while I’ve been ill.
1) My book of folk tales is almost complete, the last couple are at my friend from the ever/editor/beta reader at this moment. Titles have been thought out and I am beginning to arrange them on the page now.
2) I have managed to write a few thousand more words of The Ancestor’s Tale. First draft.
3) I managed this week to get Jo Linsdell up on my blog two days in a row to
a) Showcase her new children’s book.
b) Guest post how she created the book, on A Red Carpet Day
And I have written a couple of blogs for next week.
I do not have goals for each week any more. I have my eye on my yearly goals and a couple of those have had to be moved but I have actually accepted that. I am enjoying life again. And hopefully will manage to catch up on my networking.
I’m not well yet, as the doctors still do not know what happened, or whether it is likely to happen again. I have a battery of blood tests and scans and more ECGs to do in the next couple of weeks, but I have been given medicine which has seemed to stabilise me and allowed me to climb slowly back up to something approaching normality. (However I went shopping yesterday for an hour and have spent most of the time since, sleeping. So anything physical is still a long way off I’m afraid). But I have stopped sleeping most of the day and my brain has started to clear. Thank you everyone for your good wishes.
I hope everybody has had a good week, and that the week to come will be productive and happy. Keep smiling everyone.