And so it goes: writing is hard work!

A black locust tree photographed against a deep blue skyThis writing business is hard on a person. The hours of sitting is hard on my back, focusing on the screen for so long messes up my neck and shoulders, typing and typing and typing—or, worse, not typing, but cursing instead. Writing is hard work!

But really, the truly hard part is the act of focusing. Using my brain to think, to come up with ideas, figure out the best way to present them, and then writing it down.

Long stretches of intense mental focus is hard on my brain. My neurons start whimpering pretty quickly. After a couple hours, they’re whining. And then they just go on strike. I gotta get up, walk around, get the blood recharged with oxygen, and deliver that oxygen to my poor brain cells. Unfortunately, that’s all too often a matter of walking to the fridge to see if anything new and interesting has miraculously appeared in it. Thankfully, when I’m at the grocery store I rarely indulge in junk foods, so my kitchen isn’t as much a danger zone as it might be, but that doesn’t matter. It’s the getting up, taking a break now and again that’s important.

Until I realize how many breaks I’ve indulged in, and how long they’ve been.

I’ve read that if a person could focus on one desire for just 17 seconds of time, that person could change her world. Of course when I read that I scoffed. I mean, I can focus on reading a good book until my eyeballs refuse to work anymore. I did that just last night reading Dreaming in Color: An Autobiography, by Kaffe Fassett. According to Amazon, Fassett is “a world-renowned artist, textile designer, and author, and his use of color is widely regarded as visionary”. I can’t remember why I asked the library to get the book for me–Kaffe Fassett isn’t a name I’m familiar with–but hey, it turns out to be a fascinating read. Kinda makes me want to pick up where I left off. Like right now.

Oops! It’s so easy to lose focus! Not all the time, though. Not when I’m taking in information, like reading a good book. Or researching. I can go down the time-sucking Rabbit Hole of Googling at the snap of a finger. That’s what I mean by taking in information.

But when I’m putting out information—creating with words, fabric, photos—somehow focus takes way much more energy than it should. When I’m done with four or six hours of sitting at the computer, I’m exhausted. When it’s over it feels like four or six  hours of life has been sucked out of me. I guess it has, in a way.

The brain is an energy-sucking organ. It uses up about 20% of a body’s energy every day, 25% of what the brain uses is for physical maintenance, whereas a whopping 75% is for information processing. And active attention—focusing—takes up more of our brain’s information processing systems than passive attention does.

Creativity consumes even more brain function. It engages the sympathetic nervous system, meaning activating the automated part of the brain that responds to excitement. Okay, there’s no dire wolf on my heels and part of my mind does know it so the engagement is small. But when I’m imagining, when I’m creating, that small bit of brain is still there, doing it’s thing and sucking up the energy.

So yeah, it’s exhausting.

Here’s the thing about focusing. I’m supposed to be working on the sequel to Dark Green. Because creating something from nothing is hard work, it doesn’t take all that much to be distracted. To be lured off the tough uphill path, seduced by the many easier and seemingly more enticing alternatives that are right at my fingertips.

Twitter is one of the worst. Just typing that word resulted in my checking to see what’s new, only to discover Jimmy Buffet has died and President Biden was even moved to declare that Buffet was a poet of paradise. Okay, I’m not a great Buffet fan, but I wanted to see what other people had to say about the man. Then I saw a tweet from a photographer I follow, so I had to post a couple photos of my own. Not photos I’ve posted before, of course, photos had to be messed with first.

During which time I came across the perfect photo of a tree that I took early this summer. Aha! It’s just what I was looking for to base a fabric wall hanging on. So I had to save that to a new folder, and then I had to crop it a little to make it more appealing, and then…

Then I realized what I was doing. Instead of returning to this little essay, though, I got up to check the fridge, happened to glance over at the kitchen counter, and realized I hadn’t finished my breakfast smoothie.

I rinsed out the blender and almost started washing it before I finally remembered I was writing this. Honestly, I had planned on just a few brief comments before getting back to the sequel to Dark Green.

Geez Louise (and where did that come from, maybe I should Google it real quick), but darn, I haven’t even opened the Scrivener app and I’m already tired and want to take a nap.

Writing really is hard work!

Cover of the novel DARK GREEN

It’s not always darkest at night.
Guardians are not always pure.
The powerful are not always the strongest.
Evidence may not mean what it seems.


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About lifstrand

Lif Strand began writing fiction when she was a kid. Nobody read her stories. A former Arabian horse breeder and endurance racer, then reporter and freelance white paper writer, Lif lives in a straw bale house off-the-grid and writes fiction once more--or at least whenever she’s not scooping horse poop, taking photos, or playing with fabric art.

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