Friday, March 22, 2013
Please Pass the Carrot Sticks
I'll put it out there - the writing life can make you fat. There, I've said it. We even have an acronym: BIC. Butt (or bottom) In Chair. You're supposed to put it there and keep it there until you've reached your word count for the day or you've finished the chapter or you've exhausted your scene ideas. Granted, it doesn't mean that a writer should sit for eight hours straight. But I've already spent eight hours in an office chair at my job by the time I sit down to write at night. If I take time to make dinner for my family and go for a jog or stop by the (imaginary) gym for exercise, it's nine o'clock before I even get to my manuscript.
Seriously, I love writing. I'm willing to forgo the jog or the (imaginary) gym to either write until midnight or go to bed early to write at the crack of dawn. True confession here, from that kind of writing over the last few years I've added two-count 'em-two dress sizes. But I've discovered that it's not just about BIC and ignoring my need for exercise that packs on the pounds. I'm also a stress-eater, the stress of working under a deadline, the stress of juggling job/writing/family, and most importantly, the stress of story.
American screenwriter Syd Field says to get our protagonist up a tree and throw rocks at her. Raising the stakes just makes a better story. But when the story's really coming together or I'm in the throes of an intense scene, I feel the palpable stress of the heroine or the raised stakes she's not yet aware of and I want chocolate. Oreos with milk. Something with sugar. I want to pat the seat beside me and say to her, "Sit here, honey, I've got something for that." She might even thank me - until I tell her to get back up the tree.
I've always wondered about heroines who, when confronted with a major crisis, 'simply couldn't eat.' It just doesn't ring true to experience, but I suppose the alternative isn't very ladylike. No one wants to imagine the protagonist settling in with a gallon of rocky road and a serving spoon. I understand being so engrossed that you look up and wonder where the time went, that yummy feeling of accomplishment and flush of satisfaction. I've enjoyed that on occasion. But stress only makes me seek the respite of comfort food, not turn away demurely. I should be so demure.
So, I hear ya. Stop whining and figure it out. Planning ahead helps, and I have made progress. Not purchasing Oreos (grumble) or chocolate is a good idea. Keeping low fat, low carb snacks on hand is also a step in the right direction, as is the MyFit phone app which helps me keep track of everything I eat. Walking on my lunch hour would be a great habit to make. Lowering my protagonist's stress level so I'm not tempted to cheat would not be good planning, I'm very sorry to tell her.
Maybe I'm way off base with this and I'm the only one who wrestles with writerly stress-eating. Perhaps it's the bane of the writer who still has wee ones underfoot or must punch a timeclock to pay the bills. But if I'm not the only one, and you find it challenging, too, please share your wisdom with us. We'd love to hear!