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How Writing Made Me Fat

I called this blog "Movies or Minutes" because I thought it was a halfway catchy name to sum up the two major topics I write about, but the "Minutes" part implies that I would be writing a lot more about time management.  Sometimes I tackle that topic, but not nearly enough.

So today I thought I'd share a... story? anecdote? complaint? series of observations?... about how to fit writing into my schedule.

Arbitrary picture to avoid having my portrait appear on the Google Preview page.  Image stolen shamelessly from either www.snipview.com and/or craigatkinsonlaw.com, whichever one is correct.

I've written here and there about how it can be difficult to find time to sit down and write, especially in light of the other obligations I have in my life.  The trick, for me, anyway, has been a simple matter of math.  You take a day, block it out into hourly increments, and subtract from 24 the number of hours you need to spend on things, then the number of hours you should spend on things, and whatever's left is what you can spend on the things you want.  If you don't have enough hour blocks left over on what you want, then you just prioritize your activities or set a rotating schedule to fit in all of them.

For example.  On any given work day, I need to block out nine hours for work, two hours for transportation to/from work, about two hours to get ready / decompress, and at least six hours for sleep.  So right off the bat, I only have five free hours to work with.  I really should spend at least one of those hours preparing meals, another hour on chores, and two hours hanging out with my kid.  So that really only leaves one hour to do things that I want.

If I had the energy, I'd always spend it on writing, but the sad truth is that I'm usually too exhausted - so that hour almost always goes to some combination of watching movies and hanging out with Lulabelle. On weekends, I get more flexibility, but that's another story.  The point is, I have to be strict and analytic with my time or else I'll never get anything done.

The great thing about approaching my day-to-day life this way is that I feel like I always have a good sense of what I'm doing and why.  The bad news is that it means there are times when I have to make hard choices.  For example, about two years ago I swore off video games forever for the explicit reason that I simply cannot budget any time for them.  I looked at my average daily schedule and realized that there was simply no way I could maintain this blog and write novels and watch all the movies I wanted if I was also playing video games.  Any games.  I haven't touched a controller since.

But the reason I'm explaining all of this today is because of a health issue: my weight.

I've always been a fat guy.  I've always been bigger, rounder, and clumsier than my siblings, my classmates, and my coworkers.  For the first eighteen years or so, it was a major source of shame, but sometime in college I realized I had to get over it.  Somehow, embracing the fact that I was fat made it easier for me to dedicate time to working out - so I dropped a good fifteen pounds in my freshman year of college and kept it off for a little while.

Later, in my mid-twenties, Stephanie and I bought an elliptical and I committed to a regular daily routine with it.  Thirty minutes every day, followed by thirty minutes to recover and take a shower.  I dropped over fifty pounds and was in better shape than ever before.  I had no problem budgeting an hour every day back then - I didn't work very far from home, I didn't have a kid, and I didn't have too many work-related obligations.  Also, I wasn't writing.

You can see where I'm going with this.

In recent years, I've recalculated my daily budget and realized that I simply have to make a choice.  Do I work out, or do I write?  I don't really have time for both unless I start pulling away from something else.  Add to that my tendency to shove snacks and candy in my mouth while I'm banging away at the keyboard, and the result is that I've gained over twenty pounds since I started this blog, and over forty pounds since my regular workouts stopped.  I'm practically back at my pre-elliptical weight.

The good news is that I'm starting to be able to telecommute more often, and I'm getting better at reserving blocks of time on the weekend.  There's a decent chance I'll get into a halfway decent groove in the next few months.  But even if I can fit regular workouts back into my schedule, they probably will not be every day - and more importantly, I'll always have to cut something else out to make room.

So what gets sacrificed?  Doing the dishes?  The laundry?  Fixing the house?  Reading to Lulabelle?

I resolved to myself at the beginning of 2013 that the answer would never again be "my writing." Hopefully the answer will also not have to continue to be "my health."  I've been a fat guy all of my life except for a few glorious years in my twenties.  It would be nice to get another break.