Something you enjoy doing should be relaxing and a stress reliever. Right? You would think so… so would I. But I was recently thinking about suffering musicians… not emotionally from lack of money and the struggle of the game, but physically. I play trumpet. I take great joy in it, but jamming my lips in between a piece of steel and teeth has never been pleasant. I play with a bass player who has to wear a back brace because of the weight of the bass. And he is constantly shaking his hands to try and wave away the pain. Bass players play every measure of every song. And the guitar player has to build up tough calluses before the pain of pressing down on a steel string ends. Being a musician involves pain.
But writing is different. I enjoy writing. When I get up in the morning I wonder what my characters are going to do and what new characters might drop onto the page seemingly from out of the blue. I don’t know if James Joyce had fun writing and rewriting Finnegans Wake. By the looks of his manuscript, maybe not. But for me, the challenge of putting together words to make a story is fun… or so I thought until recently.
I have been checking my blood pressure periodically after finding out a few years back that it was high. Under normal circumstances, a magic pill brings it down to normal, in the 120/80 range. And exercise brings it down even lower—imagine that! After an hour workout it can be 105/65. One of the hats I wear is editor for my publisher, Calumet Editions. I correct a printed copy but then spend hours at the computer transferring the corrections to the file. It is a tedious and painstaking process. One needs to be careful not to miss anything. After a recent two-hour session, I checked my blood pressure and was surprised to see 185/90.
Editing is stressful, so I decided the raised BP was from the stress. But then I tried an experiment. I spend time at the computer doing other things, one of which is working on Spencer’s next mystery. So I sat down and wrote for two hours. I expected a much better BP… after all, writing is fun! My BP was 178/88. I tried a few other things, like email and Facebook and Twitter (not that I expected those to be relaxing) with the same result. So it evidently doesn’t matter what I’m doing while sitting at the computer… something about it has very bad results. And what will be the result of those bad results? Who knows?
If I were to listen to my conservative thoughts, I would shut down the computer in favor of longevity. But living without computers these days would be tough.
Perhaps the thing that we can’t live without these days is something that I can’t live with. Just checked my BP – 165/85.
The latest Spencer Manning mystery: Death’s Door