Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Keeping those brain cells hopping

Barbara here, posting late because I neglected to enter my posting dates on my 2012 calendar. What a slave we are to these things. As I gallop towards old age, I’m not sure I’ll remember my name in ten years’ time, let alone all my appointments and commitments.

This was going to be yet another post about resolutions, but first let’s get this memory thing out of the way, because they’re connected. When I worked full time as a child psychologist, I traveled to about ten schools, interacted with hundreds of different people, had to remember hundreds of names, deadlines, meetings and details that could easily overload a computer, let alone a middle-aged brain. At the same time I raised three children, all of them with numerous appointments, soccer, ballet, music lessons, etc.

I managed all this, after a fashion, using an extremely full daily planner, which I carried in my purse and checked at least four times a day to see where I was supposed to be next, what was upcoming, who I had to phone, and so on. All of this was very good for my brain, if not my blood pressure. Now that my children are grown and I write full-time, I still keep a day planner, but two problems arise. First, I forget to write things in it, and second, I forget to check it even if I do. Without the pressure of outside deadlines and obligations, I drift along happily in a timeless void, spending hours researching for my book, or lost in the characters and story of that book, or even browsing the web in a random fashion as I flit from one interesting writer link to another. I forget what day it is; indeed I would forget the outside world for hours if the dogs didn’t insist on a walk or a meal.

My father, who taught philosophy at McGill and was the quintessential absent-minded professor, used to keep a little black agenda book. When he retired from teaching, he spent much of his day in his book-lined study in a cloud of pipe smoke, reading, writing and critiquing fellow philosophers. This is about as other-worldly as it gets. I remember being astonished when I happened upon his black book and it contained a to-do list for the day which included “brush teeth”. I am not at that stage yet, but the future looms.

I like to think that creative writing itself, especially plotting mysteries, exercises the brain and thus should stave off my dotage, but the truth is I think we all need structure, deadlines and outside pressures. I do impose structure – write at least one scene a day – and I do have deadlines, albeit far away (May 31 for the submission of the next Inspector Green manuscript, for example). Outside pressures include book clubs, talks, conferences, and other writer commitments. But I think I need a few more New Year resolutions to help me get out of my writer’s cocoon more regularly. I resolve to work towards my younger dog’s therapy dog qualifications so we can volunteer as a therapy dog team. I resolve to take a fitness class. I resolve to see my friends and entertain more often.

And I resolve to write it all down in my day planner so I don’t forget.


Vicki Delany said...

I am wanderng the Internet even as we speak and came across your blog post. I genuinely wonder what we did when we didn't have the Internet on which to waste time. Clean the house? Bake muffins?

Rick Blechta said...

Write books?

Donis Casey said...

My brother-in-law, a minister and speaker in some demand, decided a few years ago not to be a slave to schedules and even stopped wearing a watch. He said he is now free to live in the moment. Fortunately for him, my sister wears a watch, keeps a planner, and gets him where he's supposed to be. What we all need is a wife.

Barbara Fradkin said...

Absolutely, Donis! And my father had a wife, who not only kept track of life for him, but also taught high school full time, wrote books, ran the house, and raised us kids. She's still alive at 93 with all her marbles. so maybe there's hope.

Barbara Fradkin said...
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