Tuesday, 2 June 2009

A tale of cocktails, marathons and intense suffering

If truth be told, I've been struggling for the last eighteen months since the publication of The Manx Connection. Sure, I've been writing. And some of it might even be halfway decent. I'm one draft away from crossing The Manx Giant off the to-do list, and Quackenbush is a few solid weeks of head-down-no-distractions away from being a completed first draft, albeit one that needs major rewrites. I've knocked out some freelance stuff, and started this blog. So it's not as if I've been sitting under a palm tree drinking Douglas Town cocktails (two ounces of kahlua, one ounce of tequila, half an ounce of lime juice and stacks of ice, first sampled in Galva, Illinois).

But the bottom line is, I've not been anywhere near as productive as I should have been. There are reasons for this - wedding, honeymoon, baby, sleepless nights - the kind of thing over which you have little control. There's one other factor, however, which I could have done something about.

I'm a great believer in the whole healthy body, healthy mind way of thinking. Seven years ago, I could barely run for five minutes without risking coughing up several internal organs. I was a regular at the gym, but I've always been short and stocky and not built for running. After a particularly heavy night on the juice, I informed everyone that I was going to run the New York marathon. Cue much hysterical laughter.

Six months later, after one broken collarbone and some intensive late training, I completed the marathon in an okayish time of 4hrs 4omins. It was painful, but not an experience I'd swap. I don't think it's coincidence that in the two or three years that followed, when I was running fairly regularly, that my life kind of fell into place. My career developed, my writing improved, the idea for the Manx Connection was born and the research carried out. Everything came together.

Yet since December 2007, I've been somewhat slack. Or downright lazy, take your pick. Exercise has had to be shelved, with so many other commitments on my time. I've put on a stone since the wedding, and I was still a tad overweight then. It's not all my fault, mind you. Mrs Quirk is such a damn fine cook, that some of the weight gain has been out of my hands. When she works her magic, the angels drop their harps and gather round, wishing they were mortal. How's a bloke supposed to stay in shape?

However, I know that my disillusionment with my output during the last eighteen months, and in particular the last five months - when I had so much planned - stems largely from the fact I'm unfit, out of shape and developing bulges in places which I've been informed become increasingly difficult to shift once you hit forty, which is now just ten months away.

So, it's time to kick my arse into gear. I went for a run tonight, the first one in a long, long time. Three miles, over the steam railway line and down to the eerie, tree-veiled and walled estate near the beach at Gansey (I've got to get that place into a book one day) and back up in a loop. If I hold on to something, and avoid sudden movements, I can still stand up. But I feel exactly how I did seven years ago when starting out on the marathon training - damn sore, but determined to get back in shape.

All this is not just about providing the inspiration to write, although that's a major aspect to it. It's also about the quality of the writing I produce, which I know is reflected in how I'm feeling health-wise. Now, if I can just cut out the chocolate. And the cake. And the beer. And not forgetting the pasties...

PS - next blog post should be a review of Born Under a Million Shadows, the debut novel from Andrea Busfield. Well worth a punt.

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