|No one thinks bigger than Kevin J. Anderson|
In Kevin J. Anderson’s new book Clockwork Angels, we meet Golson, a strongman in a circus. He pleases his crowds by loading every weight he owns except two onto his barbell, and then lifts the immense load above his head. But he never adds those last two weights. Instead, they rest off to the side of the stage, bound with a chain and a padlock.
While he’s far stronger than most everyone else, and feels like he should be able to lift more, Golson is afraid to push himself too hard. For the last time his mentor tried to beat his personal best, he couldn’t handle the weight. Instead, he was crushed on stage, while the audience watched.
In the early 1980s, author Piers Anthony experienced a series of excellent three mile runs. Previously, he had never strung together more than three twenty-two minute runs in a row. Suddenly, he found himself running faster. Each thrice-weekly run was under the magical twenty-two minute mark. As months passed, his speed increased further. After seven months, he was beneath the twenty-one minute mark.
Concurrently, Piers Anthony's regimen of Japanese pushups, done on alternate days, decreased in time. From his normal seventy-five in five minutes, he brought the time down to four minutes-and-seven seconds. Both remarkable streaks ended when physical pain landed him in the hospital. Although it turned out that he suffered from nothing more than a kidney stone (mentioned in “Dreaming of Kevin J. Anderson”), I have to wonder: was his body signaling that he had stressed it too far, and he had exceeded the limits of his physical capabilities?
Like Piers Anthony during the 1980s, Kevin J. Anderson completes several books each year. How much he pushes against the upper boundaries of his capabilities, or how regularly he exceeds his previous limits, I don’t know. But I do remember, in his memoir On Writing, that after Stephen King reached each day’s word count goal, he took the rest of the working day off. He also gave himself time after completing the rough draft for his mind to relax, before he launched into the process of revision.
This week I finished the rough draft of my second dragon novel. My rational mind tells me I should immediately leap back into the first one, and start revising it, but experience has taught me that when I push my creative muscles too far, they give up, and leave me unable to focus on any writing for a while. Given how difficult I found it to concentrate this past weekend, I’m listening to experience for the rest of this week. Hopefully, I’ll be ready to hit the first novel hard next week. At least that’s the plan.
I was recently shocked to learn that an acquaintance, someone who’s always worked harder than me, had a stroke. As he's in his twenties, it seems a little too early for that to occur naturally. Golson’s decision reminds me that, while every day I should do what I can, I cannot do more than I can, for a long period of time, without facing the consequences of excessive physical and mental stress. In a country where productivity and efficiency seem like gods, his example may strike some as foolish, but to me it seems wise.
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