David C. Hughes, Writer

“For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your JOY will be complete." –Deuteronomy 16:15

Archive for the tag “thinking”

Head Games (2014-09-09 Daily) [2 of 2]

Alcohol is another offender.  I recently read that, contrary to popular belief, Ernest Hemmingway did not imbibe while he worked.  “Hemingway was notoriously fond of drinking,” wrote Chantal Martineau in an article about Papa’s drinking habits on the Food Republic website, “but he refrained from indulging while writing.”[i]  I also refrain from it while working because, frankly, alcohol and coherent thoughts don’t mix.  And the aftereffects of alcohol, at least for me, can sometimes hobble clear thinking for days after, even if I’ve only drunk a single glass of wine.  Alcohol has a tendency to suppress creativity and spread a pall of flatness over my mood like a three-day marine layer over a southern California beach.  So I strive to keep the cork tightly inserted into the bottle, only popping it when I know I’ll be taking a sabbatical from creative or analytical thinking for the next day or two.

I’ve also found that over-the-counter medications like diphenhydramine can upset the hay wagon of creativity.  When I take two Benadryl at bedtime, I may wake up the next morning with what Mary and I call a “Benadryl hangover,” the lethargy and heavy head left over after the medication has done its job.  Antihistamines and other cold-fighting medications have the same effect.  I now refuse to take any medications whatsoever unless I’m dying from a sinus infection and my snoring causes Mary to consider shutting me up with a pillow placed strategically over the offending soft palate.  Not good news.  Speaking of which . . .

I also had to give up listening to the news on the radio and watching it on TV.  For me, no news is definitely good news because I focus much better without the constant barrage of negativity, stupidity, and petty judgmentalism so pervasive in today’s news outlets, especially around election time.  One day, as I helped my father-in-law in his shop, he turned on the radio to the local talk radio station.  Hour after hour the hosts flung insidious poo at my addled brain.  The incisive language, the ruthless attacks against the Administration, and the fear-based ads for gold, identity theft protection, and male enhancement products did little to encourage my hope for a kinder, gentler America.  Quite the opposite: it made me want to escape to an undisclosed offshore tax haven in the Caribbean where grace is easier to come by.

Now I get my news by reading it rather than listening to it or watching it, a throwback to slower, more reasonable times.  In that way I can moderate what goes into my head so as to enhance what comes out through my fingers.  The noise issuing from the electronic boxes is nothing more than just that: noise.  William James once said, “Why should we think upon things that are lovely? Because thinking determines life.”  And what’s more lovely than thinking about the glory of God rather than the baseness of man?  A calmer, more rational mind makes for focused, more inspired writing.  I may not be totally up to speed on current events, but my life is definitely less frenetic and more focused on what really matters: loving God, loving others, and playing Parcheesi with my six-year-old daughter.

“Thinking is the hardest work there is,” said Henry Ford, “which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”  Because my life now requires me to be constantly on my game—to engage in it, as Henry Ford said—it’s become imperative for me to start the day in communion with God in His Word at the breakfast bar, transition to communion with God and His words breathed through me at the computer, and end the day in communion with God and my family playing ladder golf in the back yard.  And if staying on my game—remaining sober and vigilant—means becoming a teetotaler, then so be it.  The devil’s in the details.  And in the stimulants, the over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, the talk show drivel, the news, and the byproducts of fermentation.  By staying clear-minded, I get into the adversary’s head instead of him getting into mine, and there’s no better way to subjugate a roaring lion than to yank out all of his teeth.

 

Copyright © 2014 by David C. Hughes

[i] Chantal Martineau. “7 Things You Didn’t Know About Ernest Hemingway’s Drinking Habits.” Food Republic.com. 30 October 2012. Food Republic. 3 September 2014. http://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/10/30/7-things-you-didnt-know-about-ernest-hemingways-dr

Head Games (2014-09-03 Daily) [Part 1 of 2]

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

—1 Peter 5:8 NKJV

 

I contend that no other artistic medium is as intensely cerebral as writing.  But then again, I’m a wee bit biased as I continue to perfect the vocation that chose me rather than the other way around.  No other endeavor so intensely integrates my head and my heart, and no other aspiration is as sensitive to the well-being and constancy of both.

Because of the emotion spent during the writing process, I’ve discovered that recklessly depleting the reservoir of creative energy by partaking in fleshly indulgences is not only unwise, it’s potentially self-destructive.  Granted, there’s nothing like a jot of angst to coax out some good poetry, and there’s much to be said about a restless night resulting in an inspired essay, but over the years I’ve learned that writing is indeed a joust between me and the devil in the arena of intellect, and there’s nothing Satan would like better than to knock me off my horse.  I cannot afford to participate in his head games, so I fight on.

Before I dove into full time writing, I eased into this lifestyle by first transitioning to part time status at my former place of employment.  I have a degree in electrical engineering, and for 27 years I plied my trade in the defense industry as both an electronic hardware engineer and as a system integrator.  This profession exercised my intellectual capacity, but I fought to merge the logical with the creative throughout my career.  As I moved into part time engineering mixed with part time writing, I discovered that switching between logic and creativity was more challenging than I’d imagined.

At first I fixed my schedule to work at the company two 10-hour days per week, Monday and Tuesday.  But to accommodate my manager and the company’s desire to retain the best use of my services and capability, I had to settle for working shorter hours on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.  I reserved Wednesday and Friday for writing.  Each week I’d start out fresh, working my engineering job with as much energy and focus as I could muster.  Because I had to work efficiently to squeeze in practically a full week’s worth of effort into 20 hours, I knuckled down, rolled up my analytical sleeves, and focused.  Leaving work Tuesday night each week was like stepping out of an August afternoon in Texas and striding into a walk-in cooler—the relief was palpable as I looked forward to Wednesday morning’s writing session.  But after a few weeks on this schedule, I realized something: my left brain stubbornly resisted my right brain’s necessity to take over for the day.  Like two bickering siblings, my logical mind wouldn’t play nicely with my creative mind, so writing became a wrestling match.  Over time my ability to switch from logic to creativity and back again improved, but this experience opened my eyes to the dependence of producing good work on the clarity of my mind.  Writing full time magnified this reality even further.

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers,” wrote Isaac Asimov, but if the thinking part is compromised, the writing part will reflect the weakness, and the devil wins the match.  Oddly enough, caffeine is my worst offender.

One Sunday morning, as we finished breakfast and prepared to replace rusted-out body panels on my father-in-law’s 1926 Model T Ford Coupe, my wife’s cousin, Dane, said something that resonated in me.

“If I have too much coffee,” he declared, “all I want to do is organize things.”

Ha!  I couldn’t believe it—I’m the exact same way.  After my first cup of coffee in the morning I can think.  After my second cup I can no longer think, but I can do.  After my third cup I organize.  But I can’t organize my thoughts at all after the first cup.  My mind buzzes, scattering any contemplations to the four corners of the office.  The writing sucks as I struggle to tie points together in a logical progression to form a blog post, a chapter, or a short story.  If I’m doing research, the information I’m reading goes in one eye and out the other; nothing sticks.  Over the years I’ve been forced to give up soda and energy drinks because the stimulants upend my thought process.  Energy shots wreak havoc with my creativity.  Even vitamin B supplements designed to boost energy derail my thinking. They also make me twitch.

 

(continued)

 

Copyright © 2014 by David C. Hughes

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