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Seasonal Writing Disorder

If you read my previous post, A brief bio, you’ve probably realized that I’m an addict. An exercise addict.

When I resigned from my teaching job to write full-time I thought the long Alaskan winters would be perfect for writing.

Well, without the morning bike rides to work and then being blinded by fluorescent ceiling lights all day at school, (and participating in gym class), I got a little groggy. And then more groggy. In the middle of the morning (my most productive time), my eyes would just start closing. And my head would fall forward.

I was still managing to write some but my productivity was sinking like a scuttled ship in the Mariana Trench.

I’ve lived in Alaska for almost twenty years so you’d think I’d have noticed that it’s dark for twenty hours a day in the winter. And I had noticed, but it was usually with awe as rode my bike to school at thirty below under a full moon, or cross-country skied under the aurora.

After all these years I finally understood what the winter blues were—officially known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I don’t know if I suffered from genuine SAD. I mean, I wasn’t I-wanna-kill-myself-depressed, and I could still get out of bed in the morning. But I wasn’t my usual, chipper-self. More like, a lethargic, almost-hibernating grizzly bear.

DSCN0702To deal with the problem I rubbed a mixture of shaved ice and cayenne pepper on my face. Just kidding. What I really did was sit in front of my wife’s light box, a sunlight simulator, for a half hour a day, and made sure I got outside in the middle of the day for a run, walk or ski. And, I took frequent breaks just to walk in circles on the deck, even if it was twenty or thirty below, to keep myself awake.

What does any of this have to do with writing? I could’ve used the winter blues as an excuse to slow down, to stop writing. To crawl into a hole, or under a rock. But I didn’t. Instead, that winter, I wrote a book. And that book, Placement, will be out on submission soon, thanks to my wonderful agent, Jennifer DeChiara.

So yeah, you’re gonna need breaks from writing. Take a week off or a month or a year. Do what you want to do. Excluding emergencies, physical limitations, and other commitments, you decide when to write, or not.

What I do is make it a conscious choice: Not, I can’t write today because… instead, I am choosing not to write today because. . .

Sounds pretty basic, I know. But it’s easy to make excuses not to write. This winter will be my first on the treadmill, writing. I suspect I’ll have more energy. But if not, I’ll sit in front of that light box, and periodically walk around on the deck to freeze myself awake if that’s what it takes.

treadmill

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