After six months failing to cure a pinched nerve, I told the physical therapist I was ready to graduate or flunk out. The therapy was wearing me down. He approved and brightened my summer with a lighter, maintenance routine.
There’s always more you could add to your life for self-care and self-improvement. Exercise, learn a language, eat right, meditate, and on and on. Trouble is, we all know there is a limit. If it isn’t hours in the day, it’s the stress of being more and more on duty, even if the duty is to oneself. Where’s the self-care in beating up on ourselves for all the self-care we aren’t doing?
Maybe if I’d gone further with physics or calculus, I could devise a formula to calculate the turning point between worthwhile and obsessive self-care. Perhaps economics offers a clue in the concept of marginal utility: the diminishing benefit gleaned from adding one more unit of whatever.
Not having mastered any of those disciplines, I give a lot of weight to trial and error. What leaves me sluggish or tense? What refreshes me? I used to journal three full pages a morning, come what may. Being more flexible about it improves my spirits, but skipping it two days in a row throws me off balance. There’s nothing like personal experience as a guide for where to draw the line.
Journalism, detective work, biography, historical fiction: Investigation is basic to them all. Fellow authors ask with a grimace, “But doesn’t your writing take a lot of research?” Absolutely! That’s much of the fun.
Where to begin? Instructors warn students not to use Wikipedia as a source. It’s unreliable; anyone can write anything there. On the other hand, anyone can correct errors and add new findings. It's often a great starting place. The guidance should be, don’t trust Wikipedia or cite it as an authority.
Anonymous tips give detectives and journalists essential leads for where to search and what questions to ask. The anonymous source carries no weight in a court of law, nor should it make news headlines outside of the tabloids. Like Wikipedia, it’s a beginning, not a conclusion. For any form of reputable research, we get pointers where we can. Then we set about the hard work of ferreting out the facts.
Click here for Wikipedia’s tips for using its site for research.
Job displacement, loss of privacy, climate change, radiation, cyberbullying: New technologies disrupt lives for better and worse. Tempting as it is to trace the shadow side of progress to the Digital Age or the Industrial Revolution, change has always wreaked some degree of havoc.
Take printing. Welcomed by all? Thanks to Rev. Scott Prinster for this quote from Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2, which the Bard puts in the mouth of rebel Jack Cade:
“Be it known unto thee by these presence, that I am the besom [broom] that must sweep the court clean of such filth as thou art. Thou hast most traitorously corrupted the youth of the realm in erecting a grammar school; and whereas, before, our forefathers had no other books but the score and the tally, thou hast caused printing to be used, and, contrary to the king, his crown, and dignity, thou hast built a paper-mill. It will be proved to thy face that thou hast men about thee that talk of a noun and a verb, and such abominable words as no Christian ear can endure to hear.”
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.