Writers are erroneously linked to all kinds of vices and crutches… alcohol and various types of drugs at the seedier end of things, with cigarettes, chocolate and coffee at the more acceptable end of the spectrum. It seems we all have something we lean on, especially when push comes to shove. At the end of last year I decided it was time to lean on something other than chocolate, alcohol and tea.
In 2009 I kicked sugar for a month, cold turkey and kept it to a bare minimum for most of that year. That single change alone shaved 10kgs from the scales. Then the sugar crept back in, not as a treat, but as staple and then back to the high volume addiction levels. In 2010, in the three weeks leading up to the Byron Bay Writer’s Festival I pulled the unholy trinity of sugar, caffeine and alcohol from my diet and watched as my digestion began to function effectively again, I had more energy, I went to bed earlier, and was generally a happier person not at the mercy of rollercoaster moods and energy levels. But of course, it didn’t last. Byron saw to that with its orgy of beer, cake and short blacks.
Today I clock in four weeks without alcohol and sugar (a visit with my sister-in-law just after New Years ended with me quaffing G&Ts – at her insistence –and enjoying Italian gelato) and almost five weeks without caffeine. It is the longest I have ever gone without the unholy three.
Come the end of 2010, I knew it was time to give my body a chance to rest, recoup and re-energise. The final months of 2010 were busy, stressful and included far too much caffeine, sugar and alcohol. I thought I needed them to keep going. At the end of it, my body needed a break from it, so I decided to go without from the 1st January through to my high school reunion in late February. It wasn’t just the health angle, it was the hope some of the kilos might drop off before I met up with my old school friends.
January is normally a laid back month, given over to reflection, planning for the coming year and the summer school holidays. It seemed to be the best possible time to try to give up, given the excess from Christmas and New Years, and the fact it is usually a quiet month.
This year nothing could be further from the truth. This month has been my busiest on record, as I’ve juggled three active projects (From Dark Places, Nothing But Flowers and 100 Stories for Queensland) and three ‘inactive’ projects (Chinese Whisperings Red Book, and Yin & Yang Books, Write Anything Website)
I have discovered the fourth thing I can go without… sleep.
When 100 Stories came on line, and my sleep slipped down to around 10th priority, I wondered how the hell I’d go without caffeine, especially. But it turns out, the thing I miss the most is not chocolate, is not my cup of tea, but a cold beer or G&T – especially since the weather has amped up in line with what is meant to be like during Summer.
What has surprised me the most… the sleep deprivation doesn’t seem to hurt so much, it doesn’t seem to drain me like it has at other times, because I’m taking care of my body in other ways. It has been a real revelation. This is a good thing, as I’m not sure when sleep will return to normal transmission again.
Yes I will drink while I am away in Victoria next month, I’ll enjoy a pot of tea and a slice of cake, but I know I won’t return to the unhealthy levels of last year. I have proven I can weather the worst of any storm without them. No need to go back.
What are your crutches? Is there something you absolutely must have when writing? Have you ever tried to go without?
Image: the first cuppa at Byron, 2010