Relax!

It is one of the interesting variations between humans that we find different ways to relax – or perhaps more precisely, that we relax in different ways. What produces the effect of relaxation in one person will have a completely different effect on another.

Case in point: the Caped Gooseberry finds strategy games a fun unwinding leisure-form, while I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about them.

Playing go

Contrariwise, I find few things more relaxing than curling up on the couch watching a DVD, but for the Caped Gooseberry it’s more an energy-user than an energy-giver. And so it goes.

When we were preparing to marry, our minister suggested that we might need to put some effort into finding ‘mutually enjoyable leisure activities’, and how truly she spoke.

This is one of the reasons why we so often read aloud to each other: it’s a leisure activity we both enjoy. This works in well with another favourite form of relaxation for me: handwork (as long as it’s going well and I don’t have a deadline hanging over my head). It is particularly handy as I am not yet skilled enough to knit and read at the same time.

Albert Anker - Strickendes Mädchen beim lesen (1907)

My favourite form of relaxation, however, is strictly solitaire: chain-reading. Generally I chain-read books I’ve read before, or books of a genre I am familiar with – nothing that requires too much focus. I do of course read mentally stimulating books, but not when I’m tired and stressed. Then I read to relax: Christie, Marsh, Wentworth, Sayers et cetera.

When I’m really stressed, I can feel the itch to sit down with a book almost as a physical symptom – unfortunate if the stress is due to the old problem of So Much To Do, So Little Time. Addict? Perhaps.

Isaac Israels meisje lezend op de divan 1920

Perhaps I should consider other ways we can combine our relaxations. The pair in the first photo inspired me to consider strategy drinking games – tea drinking of course. Except the Caped Gooseberry doesn’t care for tea at the best of times, and adding the bitter taste of defeat would probably not improve the flavour in his eyes.

Who am I kidding? The game would probably end with him triumphing by strategy while I drown my sorrows in tea, as yet untasted by the gentleman in question.

Any other ideas? And how do you relax?

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Good News, Bad News, Good News

Dorothy Sayers did it, but for some reason it never occurred to me until a friend of mine suggested it. It’s a truly brilliant idea.

Lightbulb and performer over the Emirates Stadium

Instead of waking up each morning going urgh, another day at the Dreaded Day Job, why not wake up saying ooh! I wonder what new material for a novel will be presented to me today?

Brilliant!

Dorothy Sayers worked in an advertising agency for many years and subsequently wrote Murder Must Advertise – a murder mystery set in an advertising agency. Satisfyingly, the fact that it’s an advertising agency is important to the plot. Any Old Office would not do.

Naturally, mine will be a murder mystery too, and in honour of white-collar wage-slaves everywhere, the boss will be the victim. (The first victim, anyway.) Everyone has a motive – but whodunit?

For the first time I see how much difference attitude makes, compared with circumstance. Now when my long-suffering colleagues pour out some new frustration, I don’t get worked up any more. I smile a secret inward smile and I make a cryptic little note.

I Have Discovered The Physiological Source of All Happiness!

On the Bad News side of the ledger, I was informed this last Tuesday that my next Monday was cancelled. High volume of work + low volume of staff = we’re unilaterally changing your hours this week (don’t even ask about my contract).
Generally the DDJ and I would go head to head on a thing like this, but not this time. This time it’s to cover bereavement leave, which is something I wholeheartedly support, so I’ll do my bit. And hopefully I’ll do my bit of writing during the Christmas holidays.

On the subject of writing, I have received some more good news. My patrons have generously decided to provide me with a small fund toward the costs of my presently unpaid job as a writer. (Paper, pen, ink, books on the craft…) On my shopping list at the moment are Kristen Lamb’s book Rise of the Machines, Jeff Gerke’s Plot Versus Character and Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering. Happy as a pig in muck!

Mr Pig aka Rasher!

What are your favourite workplace novels – murder mystery or otherwise? Do you have must-read recommendations for books on writing? Have you always dreamt of keeping pigs? Your comments welcomed!

The Artist’s Way: A Sense of Catching Up

Covering July: a Sense of Connection, August: a Sense of Strength, and September: a Sense of Compassion.
Lightly covering – a crisp linen sheet, say, rather than a fat and puffy quilt.

July revealed such gems as “I believe I am getting better at socks” (knitting them, not the Pratchett kind) and “I feel more possible” (although the Caped Gooseberry assures me I am not only possible, but actual – I think my meaning may have escaped him).
Also “As a kid, we never had enough: books” (whether you can have enough books is debatable; our perceived lack drove me to read encyclopaedias and Agatha Christie at the age of six, so it’s not all bad).

Reading the encyclopedia

August asked me to complete this sentence: In a perfect world I would secretly love to be a…
All right, there’s not much secret about it, but I want to be a full-time writer.
In five years’ time, I’d like to be writing full time with one novel published and two plays produced.
What can I do now to help make that happen?
Write hard on Mondays. Make the most of morning spaces. Get to bed on time.

I was also invited to select a role model. The three women who sprang to mind are not only among my favourite writers (international women of mystery) but are also all three writers who balanced novels and the theatre in some way or another: Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy Sayers.

mystery of marie roget set

The one woman who sprang to mind whom I most certainly do not wish to take for my pattern is P.D. James – at least having a DDJ until reaching retirement age. In the areas of literary achievement, faith and perseverance (not to mention the life peerage) I’d be most happy to follow her example.

Also, if I was a colour, I’d be russet: colour of earth and blood, rich cloth and poor, and the bindings of old books. The colour of autumn leaves, the colour of rust.

September brought an insight – I should stop calling myself lazy. I wrote “you may be scared, self-doubting and self-flagellating, feeling tired, heartsick and guilty – but you are not lazy.”

Procrastination isn’t the result of laziness, Cameron says. It’s the result of fear.  “Fear is what blocks an artist. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of not finishing. The fear of failure and of success. The fear of beginning at all.” (p.152)

There's no fear in love.

Another insight: “Over any extended period of time, being an artist requires enthusiasm more than discipline. Enthusiasm is not an emotional state. It is a spiritual commitment…” (p.153).

Much like marriage: you can’t stay in the same emotional state for 50 years, you need commitment. But commitment shouldn’t be replaced by discipline (hug two three! kiss two three!) because discipline isn’t rooted in love – except perhaps in love with how wonderfully disciplined we are!

The trick is to find our enthusiasm for the task at hand – and how to find it quickly in the pre-dawn dark when getting out of the nice warm bed seems like a particularly sadistic rebirthing technique.

As always, your wisdom welcomed! Or witty folly (better a witty fool than a foolish wit) – we’re not fussy here!

Sinistra Inksteynehand250