“Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition…”

Or hitting a wall across the road when the road appeared to be wide open except for that very distant wall.  But I have.   It’s not a fatal crash, and not a fatal wall, but it sure was a wake-up call.   It had actually been there all along, but what I saw (thought I saw) was a mere line of bricks some idiot had left in the road, and over which I would bounce with only, perhaps, an uncomfortable little jolt.  Alas, it was a big fat wall, and after I lay there awhile thinking about it, I realized, in a Lady of Shalott sort of way, that the Doom Had Come Upon Me….that is, I really AM no longer 24, 34, 44, 54, 64, and no amount of “willpower” is going to restore the ability to work on 3-4 hours of sleep for a month and then recover with a few days of 10 hours/night.  Or the ability to subsist on whatever food happens to be around while still maintaining physical and mental vigor and acuity.

This has come as a shock, since MY life plan was to stay a virtual 34 or 35 (a particularly healthy year) until, at some far-future point, I simply died.  In fact, having had a talk with a medical person, and come up with a Sensible Plan for reconstructing what can be conserved of the physical vigor,  my immediate next thoughts were aimed at filling in the space left by reducing the load (and getting more sleep, to start with)  with other things that would have been an equivalent load.  (This was pointed out by Helpful Friends, two of whom, recently retired and younger than I am, made it clear that just switching from one kind of overwork to another was not, in fact, a good idea.  Oh.  I thought it was.)

A short period of attempted adjustment to the Sensible Plan has ensued.  I have done restructuring before (after adopting an autistic kid, for instance, and retraining for particular athletic things) but “Sensible” means different things to different people, and I have a strain of wild mustang that makes me buck, kick, and fling my head around at the notion that I should be a sweet little show pony with a braided mane and glossy hooves,  docile and willing to walk, trot, and canter in the ring in a line of other show ponies.  (In other words, don’t even try to suggest giving up chocolate.)

On the other hand, being a sick mustang is no fun at all; the point of the mustang strain is being able to run wild and free doing all sorts of things people think I shouldn’t be able to do.  Writing books people want to read.   Riding my bike farther than a few blocks.   Climbing things.  And that means regaining strength and endurance.  And that means…well…work.   The work has begun, but at my age it takes longer.  The bike has, as of yesterday, a new front tire and a new chain.  (The front tire wouldn’t hold pressure for even an hour.  Pumping up a bike tire from dead flat, when you’re not used to it, and suddenly do it multiple times a day (four or five)  for a few days, creates problems in the lower back.   The old tire and tube had to go.)  I’m riding again (not that fast, not that far, but within the limits and nudging them.

What this means for readers of said books is that beyond Cold Welcome, the books may slow down.  I had been able to write a book a year only by sacrificing a lot of sleep and many other activities.  I can no longer write 5000 words/day in emergencies, or even 2000 words/day reliably, in a reasonable working period per day.   I write better when not short of sleep, short of food or eating the wrong foods for this body because I don’t have time to fix the right ones.   When I find out what is possible now in a schedule that makes time for sleep, cooking, eating, exercise…then I can set a new publication schedule.  But that will probably take a year or two to come clear and in the meantime I can expect some further loss to simple aging, especially in vision.    I have many more books and stories I want to write, sitting there in line in my head like train cars on a side track.  But they’re not going to be written fast, because trying to write fast now means The Wall.  Not hitting that wall again…being as sick as I’ve been the last four months, one thing after another, wears me down.

So…nothing to see here, really, except an old (grump!) woman who has picked herself up again, and is moving forward again, and will continue to supply you with stories if you stick around.  Today, for instance, I hope to finish up the new revision requests that came in last Thursday afternoon.  But I won’t stay up late if they’re not.



11 thoughts on ““Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition…”

  1. I am so sorry, that you were hurt, that you can’t do what you used to be able to do, it is a hard thing to have to learn and to keep learning.

    I have a chronic pain problem that in combination with the drugs necessary to keep it somewhat controlled leaves me with limited mental and physical energy to do the things I want esecially on top of the things that must be done. When you add in the brain fog that accompanies the less well controlled days I get very frustrated. This isn’t something that is going away, but that is difficult to accept, to believe, so every good day part of me thinks ‘Oh I can do this and that and the other’. So I have empathy for your situation although I am only in my fifties. However I think now would be a good time to say that your books are among the few I turn to at my worst, I can trust your characters to keep me absorbed even when in a lot of pain, and I can return to them again and again. Thank you so much for that, it is an incredible gift and I am so grateful for what you have written.

  2. Jazzlet: Thank you. That helps. Sometimes a writer can get “dissociated” from her work and begin to think of it mechanically or arithmetically (how many words, how many books) and not in terms of its (hoped-for) effect. Publishing, with its emphasis on sales, sell-through percentage, rack space, etc. tends to push us in that direction: contracts are based on prior sales, not on how much the book affected someone who read it.

    So being reminded that the effect of the book is not about “the numbers” but about the individual needs of the individual readers who then have individual responses to it (it worked for them or it didn’t) is important in keeping a good attitude toward the work. If I could not write another published word, but what I’ve already written has helped people in difficulty cope, or be comforted…that’s like a farmer knowing that the wheat and potatoes and squash and so on from these fields have fed real people who needed that food, not just produced so much in tons and so much income for farmer, trucker, supermarket. It completes the circle. The purpose of the crops is not just to make money but to feed people; the purpose of the books is not just to pay the electric bill and the taxes (though those are important) but to connect with the readers through the story–to do for them what others’ stories have done for me.

  3. Getting old sucks. My mother, who is 88, says that if I think that being old (I’m in my 60s) sucks, then “wait until you’re in your 80s!” And my father, who always hoped he’d fall apart physically rather than mentally is wishing he’d been more careful what he wished for….

    I’m sorry we won’t have so many new books to look forward to, but glad that you’re being sensible so that there will be some!

  4. Welcome to the club – I am 71 and my body has been telling me to slow down.

    So far as the books are concerned – no rush. Your health and well being are far more important. No Mt. Mcgreggor for you al la US Grant thank you.

    You do the work and there is a sufficient body of good work so we can easily get an Elizabeth Moon fix when needed.

    Happy Mother’s Day,

    Jonathan up here is rainy New Hampshire.

  5. Still at the denial stage myself but I can see that wall coming (only 62) my hobby being sailing it’s less painful to hit the water in a capsize than hit the ground coming off a horse. Your books have for a long time been comfort reads for me – that doesn’t mean they are easy or don’t (still after sooo many re-reads) bring tears to my eyes, but that I can escape into a story – much as some people would play a favourite piece of music, or go for a favourite walk that they’ve done hundreds of times.

    The first time I read the Paks trilogy I missed a lot of sleep because I couldn’t put down. Now I sometimes read sections almost as short stories within the stories.

    Take the time to refresh and renew and then find the pace that works. Slow and steady might sound boring but going off too fast usually loses the race. There will still be spurts of excitement when the muse flows and the story races on, but you don’t have to force them and you need the breaks in between. Maybe technology can help in some areas (voice rather than type maybe but I suspect that brings its own frustrations and problems though some authors use it) .

  6. I’m sorry that you hit the wall but very happy to hear that you are taking care of yourself (frustrating though it is). You may not be a pony that fits in well with the polished hooves and glitter stars on your hide, but you may find yourself happy moseying down the trails. In other words, I’m not going to suggest giving up chocolate (perish the thought) but happy to hear that you are working towards health and happiness and good food. Maybe we can chip in for a freezer for you to store smaller chunks of food that can be thawed and heated for a nice solid meal without the hassle of cooking every day.

    I second the enjoyment of reading the wonderful worlds you have already released into the world (I am partially through No Pain No Gain and loving it).

  7. So sorry to hear you’ve been ill and so glad to hear both that you’re feeling better and taking care of yourself. I know from experence that learning to take care of yourself means doing less than before of some things and more of others and its really tough.

  8. I’m glad to hear that you have a plan the future. Getting enough sleep and eating properly are important as is taking care of yourself in general. I’d much rather get books on a slower schedule if it means you’ll continue to be around to write more of them.

  9. Well, I’m just getting caught up here as my computer at home has died a quick, unexpected death. So it’s been a while since I’ve checked in.

    Dealing with walls (parents’, mine) myself of late. Life gets to us all–and you’ve been writing about the effects of those who live reaeeaaallll long (elves, mages, two SF universes) time have on those around them–so I was wondering when you’d notice it yourself.

    Write what you can, when you can. I’ll keep looking for more to purchase. Thank you, again, for what you’ve written already. It’s helped a lot over the years.

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