I’m not sure which came first, the realisation that I hadn’t been eating or that I had been writing far more than is common.
I’ve got a relationship with food that mostly focuses around excess. When you’re down a lot of the time, sometimes embracing the fact that mudpie and cheesy crisps exist can be a lifesaving thing. When you’re experiencing the joys of a chronic physical illness, the fear of eating too much is overridden by the desire to eat enough to be strong, to have enough calories to get through the day and not be in pain. And when a person with this mindset and these needs is put on antidepressant medication that is also used as an appetite stimulant, the results can be gastronomically apocalyptic. I’m off those pills now, but years on it’s still hard for someone who already had a stimulated appetite to wean themselves off the urge even further. Not that I need to reduce this habit too much – I’m a healthy ten stone, which is a perfect weight for a bodybuilder and amateur runner, and I still would rather get through a day being strong and able enough to walk the five kilometres into work than worrying about getting a beach body. Put it this way: some people want to be gazelles and that’s totally cool. I, on the other hand, want to be a hefty horse.
But that aside, the point is that the excess around food can only be replaced by a few things. There’s not much that can make me feel satisfied enough in such a sustained way aside from when the creative urge takes me. And while the eating is taking stuff in, the creating is more throwing stuff out. Usually my creativity is a nice backbeat to my life, but every so often the urge grips me and it feels almost self-destructive because it threatens to make me stop anything else important I might be doing.
I noticed recently when I had foregone meals in favour of getting the next chapter down, without even thinking about it.
If I’m having a solid writing day I get through about a thousand words at best. The number is higher for non-fiction – that I can do two or three thousand. I’m a slow writer either way. It takes me years to write a novel. Sometimes I speed-write in a frenzy but usually I try to avoid it because I feel like I’m not doing the words justice by hurrying it up. I take my time.
So the fact that I’m almost twenty thousand words into Trees in November in the very first week of writing it is something that has caught me off-guard.
I had even gone out and bought food, but it had been laying around the house for days.
It was just far more fulfilling, no, necessary to write.
I can feel the urge to return to the novel now, scratching just behind my eyelids, promising fulfilment.
And these are the things that make me take a step back and promise I’ll keep a close eye on it. I’ll make sure I’m eating what I need to while I get this demon purged from me and onto the page. I’ll try and cultivate some kind of way to not constantly swing from excess to excess (even though I’m conflicted by the fact that this behaviour seems to unlock creativity). I’ll get my projects done and I’ll do them well.
The bottom line is, it’s interesting that it’s not necessarily the thing I’m doing to excess that’s the problem, but the fact I’m getting some kind of feeling of necessity, of absolutism from it. I thought that was worth a mention.