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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Illness in The Empire Strikes Back

Last week, I started taking naps in the afternoon, and experienced difficulty writing.  I don't think I got much done on my novel.  My blog posts grew more expansive, and required more time to compose. I also had to abandon one post, as the topic resisted all efforts to wrestle it into shape.  

This weekend, I bottomed out.  I had no energy, and lacked the mental focus to write or even read much of anything. A plugged-up nose made it difficult to breathe, which led to tightness in the chest.  None of the medicines I took helped me unplug.  One--ironically, the one I thought might do the most good--only made breathing more difficult.  

Thankfully, yesterday I was able to focus on my novel, and met my normal writing target.  The effort left me mentally drained, and incapable of doing a blog entry.  I apologize for the latter, but hey, as much as I enjoy blogging, I need to keep my writing efforts in perspective, right?  

Since I was having trouble focusing on a sustained narrative (whether that meant writing one or reading one), I returned to The Making of 'The Empire Strikes Back' by J. W. Rinzler.  This coffee table-sized book is packed with information and photographs on all the behind-the-scenes minutia I would have killed for (figuratively speaking) while growing up.  I was able to sit down, concentrate on a section, and enjoy the pictures, without having to remember anything I had read before, or invest in a fictional character.

Of course, big productions such as "Empire" involve hundreds of people, none of whom stop getting injured or sick if you're suffering money woes.  And in July 1979, the production was significantly over-budget and behind schedule.  One day representatives of the financing bank showed up at the studios and announced that they were calling the loan, which meant they were demanding immediate repayment.  This forced George Lucas and his financial officers to scramble.  They had to find another bank willing to assume their current debt, and underwrite the remainder of an already expensive production.  And all that without letting anyone learn of their financial difficulties, which could cause cast and crew to walk away, or halt production entirely.  

That month, a key member of the cast, Peter Mayhew, the actor who played the Wookie Chewbacca, got sick.  One crew member noted, "Working in 90-degree heat wearing a 15 pound costume of yak wool and mohair would be fatiguing in itself.  If you also have to carry 35 pounds of metal on your back, it becomes a test of endurance.  But not having Peter here has meant running further behind schedule."  

There's a reason Chewbacca had to carry around 35 pounds of metal. The droid C-3PO has been shot by Imperial Stormtroopers.  Although the Wookie manages to get C-3PO functioning again, he's not yet had the time to fully repair him.  Therefore, he must carry him into the carbon freezing chamber, where he learns his friend Han is about to become a human-popsicle.

Needless to say, Chewbacca doesn't take the news well.  

Lando manages to free the Wookie later, but by then it's too late for Chewbacca to rescue his frozen friend from the galaxy's most feared bounty hunter, Boba Fett.  Worse, Chewbacca has to put up with C-3PO's whining. (Note: being partially assembled can make your droid crotchety).

Given that I was having trouble breathing, and lacked the ability to focus on much of anything, this section of the book spoke to me.  While I'm not at my best, I don't have to wear a heavy, uncomfortable suit, or carry 35 pounds of metal on my back.  I'm neither drowning in debt, nor faced with making payroll for hundreds of people this Friday.  I don't even have to put up with C-3PO's whining, or devote several hours each day to an extensive grooming regimen.  

Of course, I always carry a burden around: my desire to finish my stories, and to establish myself as a published writer.  But for a few days, I can afford to set that down, relax my mind, and let my body recuperate.  Then I can pick up the burden again, and renew my storytelling and publication efforts.  

Oh, and C-3PO, you can power down for awhile.  

Dragon Dave

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