Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Virtue of Vice

Sitting down to write a blog post today, I had to blink at my screen and figure out what I wanted to write. Not because I didn’t have anything to say—on the contrary, I feel like I have too much! First, there’s a list of “Blog Post Ideas” on my Todoist for those times that I can’t come up with anything. Second, there’s the fact that I just finished editing Novel 7. Third, there’s finding out, 5 months into my boyfriend’s deployment, that it’s getting extended. Fourth, there’s the holidays coming up. Fifth—well, okay, you get the idea. I have a few things on my mind!

So I’m going to say screw all that and write a totally different post. Just something that I’ve been musing on lately.

We are subjected to a constant bombardment of advice and exhortations regarding our health. Exercise 30 minutes a day! Eat your weight in vegetables every week! Don’t drink! Okay, drink a glass of red wine, but other than that, don’t drink! Don’t slouch! Don’t sit! Don’t sleep too much or too little! And each of us, according to our ways, either ignores this or strives for it or, most likely, a little of both.

But what are we really chasing? A few extra years of life in some distant future? Looking better naked? Perhaps even, somewhat sheepishly, happiness? I don’t know. Somehow it’s all just considered self-evident. You should do this, because it’s good for you. The definition of “good” is left as an exercise for the reader.

Which brings us to me. I’d imagine that I am somewhat of a health professional’s dream. I do not smoke. I do not drink (usually—every couple of months, maybe). I do not consume caffeine. I exercise regularly. I count calories and watch what I eat. I floss and mouthwash every night and use an electric toothbrush twice a day. I take walking breaks during the day at work. I get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. I rarely wear makeup or use heat on my hair and wash my face twice a day and use anti-wrinkle cream at night.

But at some point, I began to wonder, why? This was brought to a point yesterday when I had a dental checkup and they found two cavities. Not me! I am diligent about my oral hygiene! They smiled and said it could be worse, and I made an appointment to give up my MLK day to fillings. And as I lay in bed last night, trying to fall asleep when I wasn’t particularly tired so that I could ensure I got my 8 hours, I wondered why I bother.

I am not, it must be said, a particularly happy person. Many of the things I listed above I do to help self-treat my depression, but it doesn’t really seem to be working. I don’t particularly want to live a long life, as the idea of 60 vs 63 more years seems small and, in either case, exhausting. Sure I want to be physically fit, but the world doesn’t end if I don’t maintain my 18.5 BMI. Maybe, just maybe, I would be a little happier if I let loose a little. If I stocked my fridge with wine or stayed up until 1 AM or drank my coffee caffeinated.

Maybe. But…I don’t really want to. So for now I’ll keep being my boring self. But because that’s me, not because I’m following someone else’s dictates. I like the way my mouth feels after a good flossing, whether or not I still end up with cavities.

And as much as we all receive life and health advice, so do writers receive writing advice. Constantly. Conflictingly. Write every day! Outline! Don’t outline! Butt in chair! Character worksheets! Discovery writing! You could go crazy trying to follow it all. So don’t! Find the pieces that work for you, but don’t be afraid to mix a little vice into your virtue. Maybe you write only one day a week, but it’s better writing than you’d produce every day. Maybe you make half an outline but pants the rest. At the end of the day, following all of the writing advice isn’t going to make you happy/a perfect writer/published/whatever. So you do you, writers. You do you.


  1. It's so perfect! The best advice any of us can get is to ignore all the advice. It's our life. Why does some stranger get to dictate it? They don't.

    And as someone who regularly stays up until 1 am or later, I've often wondered if it would help my depression to get 7 hours of sleep at night. But I know that won't help anymore than exercising 6 days a week did. Writing helps. So I will just continue to do what works. Writing as often or as little as I feel like. :)

    I like brushing my teeth. I think the dentist people were surprised I didn't have any cavities at my last check up. I was too though to be honest! Cavities don't make any sense to me. Like why do some people get cavities despite great habits and others who don't floss every day never do? #lifequestionthatwillnevergetanswered

    1. Writing DOES help! We just gotta keep on trucking. =)

      Apparently dental health is really variable from person to person, some people can do everything right and still have a ton of decay and some people never touch floss and never get a cavity. Probably most of us are in between! Maybe it's a genetic thing?