Monday, October 15, 2012



Yesterday, I stopped work about 7.00 pm, which is pretty normal for me, and wandered into the kitchen to see what I might need to buy for supper. There, sitting on the counter, was my uneaten breakfast. I had apparently forgotten – yet again - to eat both breakfast and lunch.

Don’t misunderstand me. I enjoy my breakfast, and get hungry like anyone else; but I enjoy writing more, and, if the words are flowing, I have a very hard time tearing myself away from whatever I am working on.

Similarly, when I get up in the morning, I don’t automatically go to the kitchen to make a mug of tea (as would have been my custom in the past). Instead I go to may computer to check my e-mail and read over my previous days work. Then, the chances are good that – sparked off by something I have read – I will start writing. And the next thing I know, half the day has passed. And I haven’t even had a single mug of tea (I hate cups). As to why I drink tea rather than coffee, I guess this is my Irish blood. We are a tea  (and alcohol) drinking nation. Where writing is concerned, such propensities seem to have served us well. We have an astonishing literary tradition for such a small nation

I don’t know exactly how I learned to focus with quite this intensity, and for such sustained efforts, but I guess it boils down to sheer will-power. For years, I tried to focus, and again and again would be distracted by something or other, and my attention would wander. Next day I would try to focus all over again, and once more would fail. And that wretched cycle of failure would persist for decades – though I still managed to write. Then suddenly I achieved the ability to focus with the intensity that I had always thought writing both deserved, and required; and I was ecstatic. This business of being ‘in the zone,’ as far as writing is concerned, is about as good as it gets. The rush and the peace and the satisfaction and the joy defy adequate description.

It strikes me that writing has an effect beyond the obvious. Though clearly it is primarily concerned with conveying one’s innermost thoughts to words that can be read and understood by others, I have the notion that the effect of this process has enormous, life-enhancing, significance in itself. It improves your cognitive abilities.

“You’re mad!” I hear you say. Could be. By definition, how would I know otherwise? But, if I am, all I can tell you is that there is a great deal to be said for the condition.




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