Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Choice and Opportunity Costs

Wasn’t sure I was going to be able to have an online session tonight. Was afraid of that when I decided to stay up this morning to work on that book review and make another stab at posting. I was so wound up by the projects I’d worked on and others I was planning that I had a hard time winding back down. Sleep was the last thing I wanted to be doing. It was noon before I lay dwon and I made myself lay there without a book too. But I couldn’t sleep. It was after two the last time I looked at the clock. And it was still a good while before I got to sleep after that because I was willing myself to keep my eyes closed and my head and limbs still so I wouldn’t keep startling myself alert again every time I tried to see the clock or my watch.

My husband called me at five-thirty with the news that his mom wanted to go out to dinner. It took me over an hour to get ready to go. I needed a shower and shampoo. I slept-walked through it, several times almost applying the wrong thing to the wrong place--hair gel to my face, shaving gel to my hair, shampoo to my loufa. There isn’t enough light for me in the bathroom and I need to be organized to compensate. Imagine trying to shower by a nightlight or candle. That is about the effect that anything less than a hundred watt bulb has for me because of my RP. (WOW. I had not heard about this. Found that link on the Wikipedia RP article. I may not be doomed to ‘reading’ audio books for the last decades of my life after all.)

When I had my own home and didn’t have to worry about being called to dinner at six every evening, I didn’t even fight times when sleep wouldn‘t come. I went with it. I stayed up and read or wrote or cleaned house or whatever else struck me. I would stay up way past 24 hours on a regular basis. It was quite common for me to stay awake for 30 to 48 hours and there were more than a few times I was awake for over 70 hours. More common still would be for me to cat nap around and around the clock for weeks at a time--fifteen to fifty minutes asleep followed by six to sixteen hours awake. Four hours of sleep would be enough to carry me through another twenty plus awake. When I went on the anti-anxiety and anti-depressant meds in the late nineties my circadian cycles evened out some. There were fewer two plus days awake, I would sleep longer than a couple hours without waking and be able to drop back to sleep when I did wake. But along with the anxiety and the interminable alertness those meds took away the energy and pizzazz that often accompanied those marathon sessions.

I haven’t been on meds for several years now but they must have reset my body’s chemistry in some fashion because it is rare for me to go beyond 24 hours awake while maintaining real productivity. When I started working seriously on my writing again after the two year hiatus that followed the loss of my manuscripts, my computer and its files, my notes, and my personal library in 2001, I was grateful that I was able to maintain a fairly regular 24 hour circadian rhythm because without that I could not have hung onto my graveyard shift at the computer and for the first two years--January 2004 thru September 2005--those were the only hours my computer files were available. Since I got back from Longview following my father’s death last fall, I was still tied to the graveyard shift for Internet access but I had my laptop and all of my files available around the clock. And yet I seem to use them less now than I did when I could use them only between 9pm and 5am.

I know what to blame too. The online pages that I save by synchronizing, leaving them open in browser windows or saving to file each night are one big factor. Another is the DVDs I’ve been checking out of the library. Another is reading books. Yet another is the fact that I feel I need large blocks of time set aside for serious writing. Two hours and up for anything more than a few paragraphs. And when I don’t anticipate such a block of time, I won’t even open the files. Earlier this summer I made a conscious decision to give up TV for the rest of the summer re-run season. This included Dr. Phil and Oprah. I expected to make that block of time in the afternoon available for writing. Instead, I started stretching out my time in the mornings, visiting with my husband until he went to work, going back online, watching DVDs, doing laundry. A number of times in the last month my husband has had to come wake me up for dinner.

I also gave up eleven prime-time TV series that I’d been watching. That amounted to twenty hours a week freed up. You would have thought I would have found a way to apply at least half of that to writing projects. But instead, I’ve been hanging out on the porch with my husband and mother-in-law or in the back yard with my cats and either visiting, reading, or staring into space through those hours. And my husband and I have taken to spending about an hour give or take visiting one-on-one after his mom heads to bed about nine. This shaves off a large chunck of my work session since it then takes me another hour to get my stuff moved out to the living room and set up and my head back into the projects and plans. The new TV season is fast approaching and I find myself dreading it. Because I know that given a choice between a readymade story acted out on a bright screen and one in which I have to struggle to keep bright in my mind as I search for the right words to realize it on the page--I know that the quick fix is very hard to resist for this story addict.

Another major factor preventing me from writing in the afternoons and evenings is the condition of my writing space in the bedroom. It would take another thousand words to explain. The short version is it is messy, too much stuff, not enough light, no desk for spreading out papers and books, no place to sit but the bed which puts my legs to sleep up to my tailbone. Oh, and two cats on leashes who simply must sit on whatever my eyes are trained on. And in their jockeying for position will twine their leashes together and around my toes and ankles and then blame each other when they can’t get where they want to go--one is a screamer the other a boxer. Yikes. Breaking them up is hard to do even without a lap full of computer and cats in a fisticuff. I had hoped to be able to take my laptop out to the lawn chair or pic-nic table in the back yard during the good weather months. But I can’t see the screen when it is on battery power unless there is less than the equivalent of a sixty watt bulb worth of light. So I don’t even bother.

Once I am online, I don’t write on anything that I can’t knock off in about fifteen minutes because if I let the Internet go inactive for longer than that AOL will sign me off and just the anxiety of that makes it hard to focus on serious writing. Sometimes I’ve made myself stay offline until I have something ready to post. Sometimes I get a whole slew of pages set to synchronize and that will give me upwards of thirty minutes free to write.

This past week I’ve learned a new trick. I can start one of those You Tube videos downloading and that will give me upwards of half an hour. Last Saturday morning it was the one with the cat flushing the toilet. I left a link to the blog post where I found it in one of my three posts that morning. Tonight it is this slide show of Orcas with Orca song on Dave Neiwert’s Orcinus. I am doing it as much for my husband who is besotted by Orcas as I am for myself. I found it just before I had to get offline Monday morning and intended to download it Monday night. But I told in my last post what happened to last night’s session. The cat video took half an hour to download. This one has taken nearly two hours. But it is done now so I had better be wrapping this up soon. Or finding something else to keep the wires hot while I write.

I’ve been putting a lot of effort since April in trying to figure out why I’m not getting more accomplished and applying solutions to the problems I identify. I know that I would be envied by many writers whose impediments to finding time to write is a day job or homemaking for a family. They have a lot less flexibility than I do and must think that I’m just a whiny baby and not serious about my writing if I can’t make time available for it when all but about two hours--6-8pm--are mine to do with what I choose. I keep choosing different for whatever reason. Once again I am reminded of the economic principle of opportunity costs.

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