In the immortal words of Rebecca Glasscock, “today is just a funky day for me”. Despite talking a lot of bravado about reading a few days ago, shifting reading to before my meditation and writing routine did not bring about the instant level of enhanced craft and enlightenment I’d hoped for. When I was working on fiction today, the words came slowly and painfully, and I fell back into that writing mood of tabbing away from my novel to google Why is writing so exhausting?
But then I had a reality check. Today is just a funky day. Normally, it’s not nearly this hard. I reflected a bit, and then I hit upon the obvious culprit.
Food. Food, food, food. I’ve always had a complicated relationship with food. I’ve had a sweet tooth as long as I can remember, and if anything it’s gotten bigger over the years, along with a penchant for junk food and eating large bags of crisps in one go. I can’t be sat near chocolate without instinctively reaching for it. Sometimes I hide it under the sofa to avoid temptation.
After some serious dental issues, and bouncing back from my major depressive episode, I’ve gotten a lot better. Even when I’m not doing my best, I at least eat a fair amount of healthy food to balance out the crap. But bad habits always come back, and the last few days I’ve been particularly indulgent.
Somehow, I’ve made it this far on the blog without mentioning that I have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is shocking considering I go by “IBS Shitposter” on Twitter. Every time I raise the issue of IBS, whether IRL or online, I risk alienating and disgusting people who are invested in the taboo of talking about poo. But it’s very diffucult not to mention it, given how big an impact it has on my life. It can drastically affect my mood, force me home early from social gatherings, and complicate any kind of shared meal.
To spare the gory details: I had Indian food last night.
Of course, the junk food would’ve made me feel bad, even without the IBS. But they have a dastardly compound effect, making me irritable, sluggish and forgetful. Somehow, the first thing I always forget is that bad food = bad mood, and so I sit around wondering why writing is suddenly so hard.
I want to be a clean eater. I really do. I was succeeding for a while when I was living alone. But community breeds temptation. Now that I live with a friend, there’s always the offers of takeaways; the pressure to not be a culinary outlier who’s obsessed with kefir.
Then, even worse, are special occasions. Me and my housemate had our birthdays fairly close together. I got given two birthday cakes, she got one, and she also baked me a bunch of cookies. You’d think that would be enough sweets to last for months, but the machinations of the reptile brain are such that we started to worry about running out, so even with half a cake left uneaten we bought cookies and sweets on our way home to supplement the hoard.
And from cake it all went downhill again, and I find myself here, chugging family-sized packets of crisps, popping into Sainsbury’s for sugary top-ups, and generally feeling a haze of discontent.
The thing is, for most of life’s vicissitudes, I can ignore the food fog. As long as my sleep and exercise aren’t also impacted, I can teach fine, socialise fine, and complete most tasks. But not writing. The creative process is endlessly draining, and when there’s a toxic cloud of poor nutrition to break through, the seeds cannot take root.
So I’m here reminding myself, and maybe reminding you too: we eat well to feel well. Not to lose weight, not because we’re supposed to. Because we want to, we need to, have the creative energy we deserve. When we decide to be writers, and are relatively serious about that aspiration, we are making a deal with ourselves. We will get the sleep, do the work, and eat the goddamned celery, because otherwise, that novel will be drawn out of blood and tears instead of gossamer leaves blossoming from a well-planted seedling.
Happy eating and happy writing!