LET ME LIST THREE SECRETS OF WRITING
DEPT OF: “Of course, if I tell you, I’ll have to kill you!”
DIET, EXERCISE, & SLEEP
I’m very far from sure education is all it’s cracked up to be. Here, I’m not questioning the innate value of education, as such. However, I do wonder greatly about what I was taught—let alone how—and, even more, about what I wasn’t taught.
For instance, I wasn’t taught about sex at school. Good grief, if practical experience is as important as its cracked up to be, why didn’t we have a school brothel? The French Foreign Legion has one—and it bears more than a passing resemblance to a British boarding school. (though not quite as tough).
The French Foreign Legion is better at teaching French.
I was taught to kill people in a useful variety of ways—with lots of hands-on training—so why wasn’t I taught how to make them as well (in a similarly practical way). What is with these curriculum people!
My children are damn lucky they ever got conceived. Fortunately, I ran across an informative fortune cookie (complete with diagrams) just in time. No wonder there are so many Chinese. They know how to make them!
And I say that as someone who received a very good education (relatively speaking) at one of the UK’s better known public boarding schools (which are expensive and private).
Few things could be more important that what, and how much, you eat—yet school food (like most institutional food including hospital food) is notoriously mediocre. How does that make sense? Why is it considered appropriate to give bad food to the young and the sick?
Frankly, it took decades before I started to take my diet very seriously—but now I do, it has transformed my life. It’s absolutely amazing—and simple. Yet we allow Big Food to poison us day after day.
Where exercise was concerned, the focus was on rugby and cricket—and both were compulsory. Neither were really adequate exercise. Rugby seemed to be nothing but scrums—which is infuriating if you like to run—and cricket (not the worst of games) is based upon most of the players being virtually static most of the time.
I used to volunteer to bat last, lie down in the bat box out of the chill wind (we are talking English summers in Yorkshire here) and read. Very educational. Not much exercise.
What these bozos missed out on was educating us about exercise as such. If I hadn’t just plain liked walking as much as I do, I hate to think! And I am talking about reasonable to serious distances. I used to walk six miles every morning. Serious would be double or triple figures.
In fact, it was walking which brought me my first writing breakthrough—when I encountered a freshly hanged body (and no, I’m not making this up).
Let me tell you there are few things better than a hanging to get your creative juices going. Writer’s block hasn’t a chance under those circumstances. So, if you are an aspiring writer, go walk. Who knows what you might encounter!
We now come to sleep. We treat sleep as crazily as everything else. For instance, teenagers notoriously like to go to bed late yet needs lots of sleep. The obvious solution would be to let them sleep in.
Do we do that? Not a bit of it. We kick them out of bed at the crack of dawn for school and then wonder why they behave weirdly.
Later on, even though we know perfectly well that your judgment goes to hell if you lack sleep, we expect soldiers to function on almost none. In fact, the U.S. Army has made not needing sleep practically a qualification for fast-track promotion and senior command. It is considered macho and tough!
What else would you want from a leader? How about clarity of mind as a consequence of a well developed mind—and plenty of sleep!
If you want one simple explanation why the U.S. has fared so badly in numerous wars since Korea, look no further than their sleep policies.
I have this private theory is that one can do remarkably well in life if you know only a relatively small number of fundamental truths.
The most important is of course that hot air rises—a fact that has more influence on life that you would think. The fact that things fall—as in gravity—is also good to know, together with the fact that, if you are a human, falling from a height does nothing for your day.
The latter is not the kind of thing best learned from experience.
I have already passed on where to find out all about sex. Apart from understanding the relevance of diet, exercise, and sleep, there is almost nothing else to know.
Glad to be of service.