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On dealing with exhaustion and its causes

I've been feeling dull and low on zing recently, and looking back over the past few months' of blog entries I note that a certain predictability has set in: I'm not playing with ideas enough, there's a certain lack of joy. I've also been having senior moments — poor short term memory, irritability, difficulty concentrating, that kind of thing.

I'm pretty sure I'm not succumbing to mad cow disease: I'm just suffering from chronic exhaustion, because I've had a bad year.

Confession time: in the past eight months, two members of my family — one of whom is my wife — have had cancer, for which they've undergone surgery. (The prognosis is for a complete cure in my wife's case, and a high probability of a complete cure in the other relative's case: we got about the best outcomes available.) Another of my relatives has just had major orthopaedic surgery, and one of our two elderly cats developed high blood pressure resulting in a variety of symptoms including blindness.

This has not been a stress-free period.

I missed a couple of conventions last autumn, due to the first cancer surgery. If you were wondering why I missed Minicon and DORTCon this spring, that was the second one. (This is a "the dog ate my homework" excuse that I don't want to have to use ever again, and I'd like to thank the respective convention committees for their patience and understanding.) If you're wondering why this is coming out now, it's because I hope and trust it's all over (apart from the cat).

The stress of trying to remain creative and productive with all this gnawing away at the back of my head has been damaging. My job relies to a very large extent on my ability to use my imagination constructively, to take a scenario and turn it around in my head, examining it from all angles. The last year would have been a lot more bearable if I'd been able to turn off that faculty for the duration — or at least keep my imagination away from the mirror. If I had a day job that caused this kind of stress, I would quit. But I'm not able to quit writing fiction: it's how I define who I am.

Work doesn't go away just because you're distracted by medical crises. However, your ability to cope with the work may decrease somewhat. While all this was going on, I wrote the first draft of the fourth Laundry novel, "The Apocalypse Codex", and processed the copy edits and page proofs of "Rule 34" and "Scratch Monkey". I managed to fit in one convention guest of honour slot (of the four originally scheduled), and a bunch of meetings with my editors and agent, and a couple of other SF conventions because they were a good place to go to escape the contents of my own head.

Then this week I pivoted onto two new projects in parallel — the collaboration with Cory Doctorow, and my 2013 SF novel, "Neptune's Brood" — and I just hit a brick wall. If there was time in my schedule to cancel everything and lie on a beach for three months, that's what I'd go and do right now. Alas, while the time-clock punching requirements of this job are a lot more flexible than in most other lines of work, I don't have that much room.

My usual form of relaxation (in the absence of a month on a beach) would be to read a novel. I've never been much of a TV viewer and most current cinematography is unwatchable — I have damaged retinas and can't see rapid pans and zooms or shaky camerawork as anything other than a blur. But while I'm writing a novel, I find it difficult to relax with a good book; one of the sad side-effects of getting to write novels full-time for a day job is that it takes a lot of the pleasure out of reading fiction. Over the years the amount of time I spend at the keyboard, staring at text on the internet has increased. I did notice that I'm spending a lot of time reading these days: news items, essays, journal articles — just not novels. Novels come after sitting at the keyboard for a day in the office, and it's just not fun.

That's wrong, and I need to change it. So I think I'm going to take as much of the rest of this month off work as I can. I don't really have time, and some chores are unavoidable — sending the annual end of year stuff to the accountant, turning around my end of the collaboration, anything that can't wait. But in principle, I'm going to hole up with an elderly cat and some books, switch off the internet, and try and regain my energy.



Sorry, that sucks. Here's hoping you can relax enough to enjoy the (mostly) downtime, and yourself make a full recovery!


Have a good rest, man. You deserve it. All the very best for you, your wife and your relative!


Not much else to say other than all the best for you and your family. By the sounds of it you definitely deserve a break!


And beer. Don't forget the beer.

Have a good rest. You deserve a break.


Enjoy your month. I hope everything continues to improve. I like your fiction, and thoughts here on this blog, and the quality of the comments.

Thank you for making me think, even when it hurts my head.


Hope you get the rest you need.


Best of luck to your family, and take it easy on your Internet break.


Glad to hear about the good prognosis for your loved ones. It sounds like you've been through an exhausting ordeal, and so I wish you a relaxing, rejuvenating break.


"rapid pans and zooms"

I prescribe a dvd of Tarkovsky's Stalker.

Take care.


All the best Charlie. Enjoy the vacation, such as it is, and my full sympathies on the health issues (from someone who has also had a spate of bad health luck with family members, and just wants to go lie on a beach with some great novels).



I have a sort of book club with my best friend. I read and suggest books to him. He listens to them. He's almost legally blind and fairly deaf in one ear. But he loves his audio books. He actually 'out-reads' me when I get busy, as he listens to books while working on a car production line, letting him finish 3-4 a week. I match that when I'm between projects, but right now I have three companies asking for program updates, all of which are late.

Personally, can't listen to a book to save my soul. But there are those out there who emulate my friend, including one of your fellow writers of imagination. Not much of a fan of his, but he does tout audiobooks any chance he can get.

Just a thought.


I just finished reading Accelerando (for the nth time) today; thank you for all your work. 'A Colder War' made me pick up Lovecraft for the first time, and I'm going to be eternally grateful for that introduction. I hope you have a stress-free holiday, and a peaceful year ahead.


Geez Charlie sorry to hear all that

Take some time man, find a book and a beach somewhere...


Be well, Charlie. Rest like thunder. I know what it is like to need a break after a period like that. In my case, however, it tends to involve hiding under my bed until the twitching stops.


Glad to hear the good news about about your family members. I just lost a parent to pancreatic cancer, and it's an exhausting experience to deal with that bitch of a disease. We also lost two of our elderly animals with similar health issues to yours, so I feel you there.

Hopefully the worst is over, for a while.

Rest up, and keep the wife and cats in good company.


From experience I wished I had never made, I can tell you that things can get worse than that - but that doesn't help.

Dealing with that kind of stress is a full time job, so take your time, you'll need it.


things can get worse than that

I know it; I'm just grateful they didn't, this time.


You're astonishingly strong to have kept everything together so well in the face of such events, and I admire and respect you for it. I hope you can find the time out you need. My warmest regards to you - and of course and especially to Feorag.


Best wishes to you both, and sympathies for having such a nightmare of a year. Here's to rest, relaxation, and recharging, no shortage of 'em. Take all the time you can get. Iechyd da!


Sorry to hear that so much piled up on you this year.

My Rx would be to go somewhere and get away from the routine of life at home. And when you go somewhere, don't just lay around, but do something active or stimulating that will take your mind away from your usual thoughts. 2 weeks away from home, doing something different and interesting and not having time to doing anything regarding work except make notes and jot down ideas, might make a world of difference.

Best wishes.


Exhaustion: Giving your all for weeks or months on end only to realize that at best you've only not lost any more ground. Soul-sapping stuff.

You're a better man than I am, mein host - though you've got more than enough reason to be, I've not detected the slightest bit of crankiness or ill-temper in your demeanor here. Go and enjoy what you yourself have given to so many others. I'll keep the synchronicity rolling and make a plug for Gene Wolfe as an old favorite :-)


Sorry to hear of all your troubles, Charlie. I hope they are truly at an end now and that your loved ones are well and safe.

I don't get to read as much fiction as I'd like, so I can only imagine the limits being a writer of fiction must place on your reading. I hope you get to entertain and rest your mind with some good books.


Hi Charlie, Sorry to hear you had troubles, glad they've turned as positively as they have. Have a good month in powersave mode - I won't say 'off' as you have enough stuff going on to keep me busy for two. Wishing you a change in the prevailing Wind, may it blow you to more pleasant climes and fairer weather for the unforseeable future.


Damn, Charlie, that's a whole long list of bad shit; I'm glad to hear you've come out the other side of it. Congratulations on getting through it and getting your writing done on schedule. So kick back, have the landlord draw you a pint, and enjoy someone else's writing for awhile.

If you haven't yet read the first two books of Patrick Rothfuss' King Killer trilogy, I recommend them highly. There's a lot of intricate plotting and structuring going on, but if you don't want to worry about that there's some really good writing and characterization as well, so plenty to keep you occupied without running your brain too hard.

Also, you might want to find a webcomic or two you haven't read and follow them from the beginning up to current. I find that's a great way to get involved in a story without having to think too deeply. And the visuals don't move around on you.


Sorry to hear about your troubles - those are pretty inarguable dog/homework scenarios. Glad the biggest things are gone, and I hope you manage to get the down time you need.


Just to add my best wishes to you and family.

I can somewhat relate, having spent much of the last year and a half looking after my mother. A little more than a year ago she had major liver surgery. The surgery turned out to be the least of the troubles, when the MRSA hit a few months later and she was back in the hospital. That seemed to be healed up then came back a month later. Fortunately the wound care specialist did a good job, took a few months though. Things are well now, though I learned my way around too many hospitals. Sorry, that's too much 'me', anyhow...

Lesson learned: make sure all sutures are removed from the ends of incisions. They're a bacteria haven.

As I was often told, be sure to take time for yourself.


Hugs, I hope the time off helps you recharge.


I'm sorry to hear those worries were that bad and I'm happy for you that the prospects are good.

If you need something to take your mind off things for a while with limited spare time on your hands I find listening to baroque music a pretty rewarding pastime. It's complex enough to keep you focused while not overly complicated. It just so happens that I only recently discovered a particularly fine if a bit languorous arrangement of Pachelbel's Canon in D on Only strings, the way it's supposed to be. I hope I'm not totally off the mark regarding your taste in music, but I find it very relaxing even if (because?) it isn't my everyday evening entertainment fare.

If you've been swamped with this kind of stuff during the last couple of weeks I apologize. I tried to avoid any coverage, even meta, of "The Wedding" and almost completely succeeded.


All the best, Charlie. Get lots of R & R (resting and reading).

Thought I'd mention that I bought The Trade of Queens last month. I enjoyed it a lot.


Write some code.

Find a small problem that niggles at you on your desktop/laptop, choose a programming language you don't know, buy the O'Reilly book and write a solution.

Getting 'in the zone' working through something totally divorced from everything in the rest of your life can be extremely therapeutic.


If your reading this I hope you stop, and that my posting is not adding to any stress. The thing is I, yes I, was into Zin before Zin was in. May I suggest you look up the Harvard Medical Schools way of fast meditation. No perfect masters, No funny clothes. It works. Good luck.


Mazel tov, and I hope you can get mentally situated easily.


Sorry to hear things have been bad for you, but it's great news that the prognoses are looking good. From personal experience, having been a bit ill myself - when you are lying in the ward late at night and the machines are beeping noisily, you realise that its all about the people you love. I'm sure your love and support will have made a big difference to those concerned. As for recharging the batteries - for me a good walk seems to help, Arthurs seat this time of year is always worth a look, the pentlands also. Or maybe a bit of adrenaline - unsure of your tastes in that regard. Anyway I hope you manage to find something that will do the trick for you, and that your family continue with full and speedy recoveries.


Sorry to hear that, I hope you get better. I would suggest curling up with your cat and listening to some good music, rather than trying to read. And definitely lay off the blogging. The weather is reportedly good in the UK, so going to relax in a park may be just as restorative as going to the beach.


Good to hear you might get a break. I'd say middle-age has its sucky side, but then how would we describe old age? Better to say entropy is overrated.

Hope you're getting sleep and exercise in the healing mix. It's hard to get the former straight without the exercise bit.


Sorry you've had such a rough year and thanks for all the thoughtful and interesting blogging that you were able to do. My wife and I have been through something similar (death, cancer, illness, work stress ...) and one thing thats helped restore some equilibrium has been short travel breaks, even just to places within the UK. Getting out of the everyday routine seems to resets something internal, at least for a little while. take care.


Best wishes to You & Yours, Get Well Soon...

ps: DON'T get the viral bronchitis that's going around-- It converts victims into shambling, phlegm-coughing zombies for several weeks...


Add more peanut butter and bananas to your diet.


I just wanted to add my voice to the crowd of well-wishers. I hope your next eight months goes a lot better than the last, and I hope you have a thoroughly relaxing month "off" - the blogging world misses you already.

With no Stross blog to read, I'll need to buy some books! But whose...? ;)


I'm glad to hear that your family are progressing well, but sorry to hear how stressed you feel. I am in a somewhat similar state myself at the moment, and hoping I can get back onto an even keel before too much longer. I find that getting out of the house a bit is necessary for me to unwind. If I'm at home, the weight of all the jobs and chores that I haven't done yet hang over my head and I can't just chill. I hope you have a better regulated mind than me, and can just enjoy your books.


Recommend "Bridge of Birds" and "The Story of the Stone" by Barry Hughart as two of my top non-Strossian reads, to chill and relax with.


Good luck, Charlie. Actually, I hope you DON'T read this statement. If you are reading it, turn off the blog already and get back to something important!


That would require him to eat more!


If relaxation is needed then I would suggest a regular dose of audio books...either the BBC Lord of the Rings or their Hitchhiker's Guide might suffice.

I found that audio books allowed me to get into genre's that I had avoided/ not attempted in plain text. In particular I found that Le Carre is excellent if you simply plough on through the first ten chapters...and that Raymond Chandler has a voice that speaks across the generations...

All the best,

-- Andrew


Your writing is a kick in the pants...a wake up call for anyone not up to speed on the exciting and/or scary future possibilities that lie in wait for us.

Take all the time you need to rest, but as soon as possible do something physical. Preferably something totally different from your normal routine. Exercise can do wonders, and when your body feels better, your mind will follow.

We love you, metaphorically speaking, and we want you to be healthy and strong and focused on the future, so that you can continue to both entertain and warn us about some of the piss-your-pants scary booby traps that lie in wait for us unsuspecting but ever evolving, and possibly about to be post, human readers.

P.S.- What do you think of these massive data centers going up all over to service our 'cloudy' future? Potential incubators for SkyNet? Only instead of killing us off or turning us into batteries, the 'vile offspring' bottles us up and turns us into one massive, eternally recursive page rank system, crawling, classifying and ranking all of our own personal info, in some hopeless attempt to make sense of "It's" horribly confusing supported, of course.



You are right, you have had a stressful year. Good to hear things turned out for the best regarding your families health issues.

Rest up good, your adoring fans will wait :)


IF you catch "Cancer" easrly and quickly enough, then you stand a much better chance of getting it, before it gets you. Talking long and daftly to the cat(s) is a very good therapy. As you know we have two cute fluff-piles, though Sir is showing signs of finally learning "fierce", after bring a very dead squirrel back last week (!)

I know walking isn't your bag, but might I suggest a stroll along parts of the banks of the Forth? And (of course) sampling one or two of Dun-Ei-Dinn's excellent hostelries?


Thanks for being so open - it's helpful in general to see behind the facades of seemingly pure-bliss-jobs (like being a SF writer), and confessions like this one help to tear down this facade, and show the stress, the risks and difficulties.

All the best, and enjoy your time to relax, take it as serious as possible.

I goes others have put this suggestions up already, but audio books and walking/hiking come to my mind, too, as possibly relaxing activities.




Whilst I agree absolutely with the sentiment of the last sentence of Phil's post, I strongly suspect that writing code shares too many features with OGH's day job to be a good R&R project.

When working an author is generally desk-bound, solitary, intellectual, verbal and detail-oriented; so I would suggest an activity that is the opposite of as many of these things as possible ie. physical, communal, intuitive, non-verbal and broad-brush.

Regards Luke

PS Hearty congratulations to Charlie and Feorag on weathering the recent turmoil in their lives.


What a huge amount to deal with in a short period. I'm glad to hear that your loved ones are out of the woods. Best wishes for continued good health to you all.

If you're thinking of relaxing things to do, I just took a stained glass course, and I found it was really fun and stress-free. Once you get your design done, you can just "switch off" and cut glass/solder until you're done. Also, the results are aesthetically pleasing! Maybe you could try a new hands-on type of craft?

I've also found that swimming laps is good for stress. It's easy on the joints, you can turn off your brain while you do it, and it gives you a good, muscle-tired workout with concomitant increased energy and feelings of well-being.

Here's to a relaxing and restoring month for you and yours!


Good wishes to you, Feorag, the kittehs and your family and a big Huzzah for all that is conquerable in your life.

When I get to this point, when not another physical therapist or doctor can touch me without me going absolutely insane, I take to a special spot in our home: my library. I pile up 5-6 books (gee, Stross, yeah, let's read him), and I just take to the bed and zone out. Although, for you, this might be a busman's holiday.

So, hold your kittehs, as they are the best therapists in the world, have your favorite meals, walk when you can and breathe deeply, knowing that we are here, awaiting your next words.


I can't do hands-on crafts: eyesight isn't up to it. (I can't thread a needle or focus on small stuff in front of my eyes -- I've got no binocular vision. Can't watch 3D movies or TV either.)


You mentioned in one thread a while back that you were looking for a hobby... sounds like it's time to take it up, and to rebuild your mojo.

Tai Chi / Shorinji Kempo? Target air pistol? Archery? Balance based, low cardio requirements, forces focus on the mind, always a useful skill for your Hero Protagonist, etc, etc.


Very happy to hear about the positive outcomes for your wife and your relative.


I'm sorry its all piling up on you at once Charlie. And if you can find a way to deal with it while working, let me know, OK? I could use it as well.

I also just read your bit about hands on crafts to Maria - bummer. And I'm very embarrassed for ever having suggested sleight of hand to you back in late 2010, early 2010.

Still, destress as best you can.


I hope you find your space and time. The world can wait.


From personal experience I can affirm that the "senior moments" will disappear, the feeling of being stressed will ease as your brain stops holding its breath waiting for the next shoe to drop and your body will relax into each day allowing you to once again focus on all the things you need to do. For me the trick was to focus on only one thing at a time despite the overwhelming number of "items on the to-do list"... it is a learned trick, doesn't come easy, and yes I used the word trick as in "old dog learning new tricks".

So, starting with a deep breath just take one step at a time and slowly (it really is not a quick process) work your way back into what you want your life to be.

Don't be surprised though if somethings just don't seem to matter as much any more. Don't fight the process, let it take you to new heights.


Why don't you get another guest blogger (or a few of them) for a month or so? That might relieve some of the stress from this place. As per the comments everyone want's you and your family to focus on yourselves and not have to worry!


Hope you get a decent break, Charlie.

May I say how glad I am to have found your blog - always interesting, with a high standard of debate, as others have said.

All the best to you and your family.


That sounds like a nightmare - all the best to you, and I hope the break does what you need it to.

Take the time, come back the better for it.


Very glad to read the good health news. Yes, it is a good idea is to spend some time on an activity that is the opposite of writing.


Sorry to hear of the family crises and associated stress. And thank you for all your excellent work over the past thirty years (including the entries you did for Fiend Folio). You've earned some rest.


Feel better soon, can't wait for "Codex".

Tai Chi is a good idea, de-stress' me like pretty much noting else, but book and old cat sounds like a wonderful thing as well... Now where did I put my cat?


Be very careful of pushing foreward when you are so tired. I have had chronic fatigue Syndrome for 20 years and still published 30 textbooks, many bestsellers. But I paid an enormous price. Watch what you eat, stay away from carbs, no long term antibotics, unless you can help it, then take lots of probotics.

Pronlonged, profound fatigue is nothing to mess with. At one point, early on, I had to crawl from my bed get to get to the bathroom, and was thenb exhausted for hours afterward. Don't tempt fate. Rest, eat healthy, and lower your stress level. Take it from someone who didn't and is now in the final stage of CFS.


Personally, I find a nice cup of hot chocolate quite uplifting when I'm a bit down. I also find that some of my most creative moments are when I'm taking a nice long shower.

On the subject of cancer and MRSA, I can see the day when the greatest risk from cancer is that of infection from drug resistant bacteria when a tumour is surgically removed.


Glad to hear the medical news has turned out well. Try to find something to do for the break that qualifies as mischief? That's always a good way to get absorbed.


Your profession is tough enough as it is without fate deciding to smack you on the nose with the Giant Rolled News paper of serious illness. I do congratulate your wife and other relative on the successful medical treatment. It's all very well knowing that many cancers are eminently treatable these days but it is quite another thing to be on the receiving end of the reality of cancer and so I do wish you well.

On distracting pastimes; I don't want to contribute to an un-ending thread of well meaning 'helpful ' suggestions but ... have you considered BOOKBINDING as a handicraft that wont strain yours eyes too much and which can be done at quite a simple level and then built up from that level stage by stage if you find that you enjoy the craft.Consider the merit of a really limited limited edition of, say, a new short story signed, numbered and bound by you .. a Laundry story bound in genuine Cthulhu Hide ?

Hereafter a link to a youtube demo of a very simple binding ...

Of course you can do formal courses in bookbinding if you so choose. A book dealer that I used to know once had her shop in Newcastle Upon Tyne and did her training in bookbinding at the local University's art department as evening classes and, though she has long since moved from Newcastle, I understand that she still does bookbinding for profit as an extension of her book dealing business from her new shop.


Hi don Just saw your comment re cfs, really sorry to hear you've had such a rough time of it. Am guessing you've tried everything to get well. I had it for about 18 months - best thing for me was 3 minutes on a sunbed, maybe 3 or 4 times a week. Bit of swimming too. I reckon it was the sunbed that cured me tho - the difference was really noticeable. At the time I lived in the north of England, so sunlight is available but not a huge amount. Anyway that's my 50ps worth. Hope you feel better :)


Sorry to hear your'e having a tough time, I hope it gets easier for you.


Hmm... why only books? Computer games can be engrossing fun.

There's this old civ clone called Master of Orion 2, a SF space empire building game with interesting tactical combat.. has been enormously improved by fans (game balance). Also, some Russian maniacs decompiled the exe and patched it, as sources are now lost...


Hmm... why only books? Computer games can be engrossing fun

See above for movies and TV - eyesight.

(Though IIRC, MoO was more turn based, so might be less problematic.)


Glad that both prognosis are positive - now look after yourselves.

How about boardgames as relaxation? There's an opportunity on your doorstep soon to sample some of the amazing variety and quality available these days - the themes range from sci fi to Cthulhu and ancient Egypt to the cold war, with interpretations ranging from abstract to detailed narrative and tone extending from the short & silly to the long & complex - so hopefully you can find something suitable.


At least the medical issues have gone as well as possible, thankfully.

Your description sounds suspiciously like burn-out. It's not uncommon - especially for people with jobs requiring creativity and being constantly 'on' - but it's socially largely invisible. So your post is not only eloquent and honest, but also a service. Thank you.

A friend in her early 50s hit a burn-out wall nearly a year ago and she ended up taking about three months off work, going on a structured retreat and returning to work only part-time at first. She's doing fine now, but as she tells it, it's taken being away from everyday things (hand in your mobile at the door kind of away) to get there. FWIW, I hope you read this only after taking an excellent break.



It's 640x480.. if you run it on a big screen.. it's very easy to see.

Also not action.. turn based. No need to see rapid movement.

All about mathematics.. the game strategy is about optimizing growth and then making kickass ships..

The graphics are nothing much, but the strategy is very, very tough. Also computer AI sucks.. the only real way is to play on the internet over dosbox emulated IPX..

One game takes abour.. 4-8 hours to complete, depending on map size..


Maybe you should take up RPGs again? Sitting around a table with some friends, making the pictures in your mind's eye, making the GM's plans unravel with the absurd application of a single, simple idea... or just killing virtual monsters if you don't want to work your imagination.


Dear Charlie,

All our thoughts and wishes are with you and yours. Take care and rest up.

Glad we had a chance to see you at Boskone!



I recommend abstract painting. After all, it's not about the details, it's the story you imbue it with. You can even bring in your cats as co-creators.

For example, you could call something a conceptual attempt to represent Feline surface perceptions in a postmodern context, perhaps...


So sorry to hear about the mass of problems; the exhaustion is totally understandable. From personal experience, you can't help anyone if you, yourself are incapacitated. Take care of yourself and yours, and take time for what makes you happy. You are a brilliant man, Mr. Stross, but none of us wants you in pain or problems if you overdo. Time to take care of YOU. So do so, forthwith, or we shall, collectively, have to do something crazed and insane, such as kidnap you to some island somewhere, and force-feed you drinks with tiny umbrellas and those little sausage things wrapped in bacon...and pop-tarts, yeah, lots of pop-tarts...


It's a long time since I did any target shooting, but what I do recall is that a quick visual response isn't needed. But getting to the point where you can pick up a gun and shoot probably is a lot less simple.

Thing is, sighting is about lining up three objects, at very different distances, and what I recall is that refocusing doesn't work. A lot of the "how to shoot" pictures you see, with everything nice and sharp, are hopelessly unrealistic.

You then get things such as breath control coming into it.

The problem with shooting is the degree of paranoia that surrounds it in 21st Century Britain. Air rifle gets around a lot of that. But, whatever else, I don't think your eyes are a critical issue.


The symptoms you describe could be liver stress. I recently received an email from a health list I subscribe to which discussed this topic. The recommendations (IIRC) were to avoid all non-prescription medications, eat as healthily as possible, and cut down on the booze. And, of course, to rest up. Is it really unavoidable to have such a heavy workload?


You could try some other hobbies, such as role playing games or board games.


Sorry to hear about the medical troubles of your family.

Can I suggest making some space for live music, of whatever mixture of genres interests you? I find being in the same meat-space as the performers has a special power to distract, divert and lift one out of the rut.

I recently heard some great jazz performances (Andy Sheppard and Pharaoh Sanders), and like a really good book, the echoes and benefit keep rumbling on weeks after you leave the venue.



As both well-wishing and unsolicited advice are the least valuable commodities on Earth, I have neither prescriptions nor recommendations for the improvement of symptoms related to emotional stress and overwork, save:

Embrace true pleasure over mere comfort; Savor meaningfulness over convention; Waste no time with fools like me; Contra Pythagoras, eat more beans.


A few suggestions.

Take Vit D at around 5000 units per day. D deficiency is linked with just about every disease you can name - google it or do a search on I am amazed how my efficacious it is.

For those "senior moments" 5mg of B12 per day, but boost general B intake or you'll paradoxically come down with Vit B deficiency.

Finally, I occasionally use modafinil to sharpen up and as a mood enhancer.


Good grief, Steve. At least try to find quotations or sources for your hogwash.


Enjoy some rest and feel better.


Not sure how many of these apply, but here's a list of ten things in Scotland that can be done in a reasonable time frame with 'reasonable' money (some big one-off costs but no enduring luxury expenditure) rather than taking some months off and yachting around St Tropez

  • Day trip to St Kilda on a RIB from Harris/Lewis (bouncy, and a long day, but woo)
  • Jump on the wee seaplane from the Clyde in central Glasgow and fly to wherever
  • Stay in the lighthouse at Rua Reidh for a couple of days, up beyond Gairloch
  • Visit the small islands, walk on machair, drink beer (Tiree, Coll, Colonsay)
  • Head for the Ross of Mull then have day trips to Iona (beaches, Columba) and Staffa (Fingal's Cave)
  • Hire one of the Blue Reef, turf-roofed cottages on Harris and chill out (many beaches to walk during the day)
  • Train to Aberdeen, boat to Kirkwall, do Neolithic Orkney (bloody marvellous)
  • Book into the Kilberry Inn, Knapdale, for a couple of days ...
  • Head for Mallaig then get the wee boat round to Knoydart and have a pint at the Old Forge (they can make recommendations RE accommodation)
  • Head for Skye, go to Elgol and get the boat to Loch Coruisk
  • Any of these could be done in a day or five ... nothing necessarily involves a commitment of weeks although they do involve some time, and some money plainly ... and for the record, i don't have any commercial relationship with anyone/anything above - it all comes from guidebook writing experience or 'i wish i'd done that' yearning ...

    sometimes i wonder if the likes of yourself, Banks, MacLeod and other writers may have kept me sane in recent years so i hope this helps.


    Best wishes to Feorag. Sleep well as well, that always helps.

    (And a plug for the Maggie's centre at the Western, its a good place)

    Keith Davidson - I venture to suggest that most of these options you give would have tired me out, even before I had glandular fever and lost my fitness, and I am a fair bit younger than our host.


    This has not been a stress-free period.

    If you were in our part of the globe then I might wonder if it's the onset of SAD, but the above statement probably explains it all. Coping with stress is very exhausting; the flight/fight response works much better for coping with acute crises. And it saps energy for play & other creative prusuits. Finding the right balance is a tricky but necessary thing. Hope your solution works for you.


    Eh? Which of the recommendations I suggested, are, in your opinion, hogwash, and try to prove that with some quotations or sources please. You could even try being polite, if it's not too much trouble.


    Whatever it is that you do away from writing and reading, if being outside helps, alone or with others, it might not matter much what that doing is. Good Luck Charlie and be well again.


    "Liver stress" -- interesting quack condition you've got there. What's next: Morgelons? Or a fluxion of choleric humours?


    Ref #88 - If you're doing any of these and staying on North or South Uist, or Benbecula, feel free to e-mail me dates and stuff, and we can see about going for a beer or a meal.

    I've stayed off this thread cos I've got nothing other than more "best wishes" type stuff.


    The highlands and islands are (a) a long drive away, and (b) full of midges at this time of year. Not to mention (c) not much bandwidth and (d) hard to feed a vegan.


    All true, and not easy to overcome (except [b], as it's usually too windy for the midges) since even the air flights all go from Glasgow or Inverness, or possibly there's one Edinburgh - Stornaway, but that's 2 hours drive plus 1 hour ferry from here to Stornaway.

    The offer is genuine on an as, when and if basis. In fact, I'll extend it to any moderator who's heading this way.


    Choleric humour? Yep, you've got that. I was merely trying to be helpful. It may be risky to assume that chronic exhaustion is merely due to emotional stress, but it's your life. Perhaps a GP consultation? I'm sorry to hear of your family's trials, and wish you all the best.


    It could have been worse, Steve; Marilee might have suggested that you were suffering from a severe mental disorder. Now that would have been really rude.


    I don't know about liver "stress", but I have a tendency towards fatty liver, whose symptoms can include "Fatigue, Weight loss or loss of appetite, Weakness, Nausea, Confusion, impaired judgment, or trouble concentrating."


    A liver function test will reveal this condition, and an ultrasound will confirm it.

    That said, can we stop trying to remotely diagnose Charlie's medical problems, please? It's starting to veer towards hypochondria-by-proxy.   8^]


    After an urgent search through the medical Literature I have discovered the you are in fact suffering from " the marthambles " as was mentioned in several of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin novels ..

    "According to C.J.S. Thompson's The Quacks of Old London (page 100), the marthambles is one of several nonexistent diseases invented by a Dr. Tufts in a pamphlet in order to sell his tonics and medicines. The other diseases mentioned in Tuft's pamphlet are the "Strong Fives" …, the "Moon Pall," and the "Hockogrockle." Tufts claims to have encountered these diseases on his travels over a period of forty years, and that he can cure 'em all. "

    What you need Charlie is ' Carters Little Liver Pills ' ..


    I actually remember Carters Liver Pills. And all those other dubious medicines dealing with things like indigestion and constipation epidemics.

    I wonder what their modern equivalents are...


    Well I'm not going to post the full correctly spelled identification of my stab at the Modern Quacks Best Effort - whilst our hosts web security is pretty good why take the risk ? - but here is the Stripped Down version, ' Herbal V ..... '


    ...magnetic bracelets (even marketed for pets!), all kinds of toot that reminds me of the kind of stuff sold to high-end hifi enthusiasts. And less amusingly, I know a person with severe MS who was conned into paying thousands for a piece of titanium to put under her pillow. When people are clutching at straws there's always some bastard selling gold-plated straws.


    THE LIVER IS GUILTY, and must be punished!


    I suspect you think that is rude because you see mental illness as an insult rather than an illness. Perhaps you could advise me what I am supposed to do if it appears that someone is having delusional thoughts about me and others he is debating on the internet? Should I mock and sneer? That would be more conventional, but not helpful.


    eHow is not a real medical site. Places like NIH and Mayo and so forth give real answers and info, none of which are "liver stress" diseases.


    I've done a bit of Googling for you Marilee, as you like quoted sources.This is not the document where I first heard about liver stress, which I think you and Mr Stross might not like as it was an infomercial. This one might suit you better. Any organ of the body can be subject to stress. That is basic. Please try to understand that the fact that you don't like me doesn't make everything I say wrong.

    "We have discovered a key mechanism here that plays a crucial role in many pathologic metabolic disorders,” explains Stephan Herzig. “It has been obvious for some time that there is an association between the body’s own cortisol or therapeutically administered cortisone and the development of fatty liver. Now we also know what the interconnections look like at a molecular level.”

  • Ulrike Lemke, Anja Krones-Herzig, Mauricio Berriel Diaz, Prachiti Narvekar, Anja Ziegler, Alexandros Vegiopoulos, Andrew Cato, Sebastian Bohl, Ursula Klingmüller, Robert A. Screaton, Karin Müller-Decker, Sander Kersten and Stephan Herzig The Glucocorticoid Receptor Controls Hepatic Dyslipidemia through Hes1. Cell Metabolism 2008 September Vol 8, 212-223. German Cancer Research Center
  • I'm not trying to diagnose Mr Stross remotely, I am suggesting a check-up would be a wise precaution.

    Over and out. I won't be back.


    Enjoy some time with the people and cats who are most important to you. We'll be here when you get back ...


    If it helps... I buy your books in hardcover, generally via pre-order.


    William Gibson had Salam Pax; now Charlie Stross has ... Damascus Gay Girl.


    No Steve, I thought it was insulting because it was plainly intended to dismiss and belittle your interlocutor.

    I have no opinion on SoV's mental health because, unlike you, I do not claim to be able to complete a psychiatric diagnosis on the basis of a few blog comments. I do have an opinion on you however because rather than attempting to engage with SoV's argument you chose to poke fun at the language he used and then assert that he was irrational.

    In summary, you lost the argument when you decided to play the man rather than the ball.

    Regards Luke

    PS For those who care, the comment in question was @174 in the 'Two Months On' thread and you can track back to SoV's comments from there.


    I came rather late to this posting, but all the same, I am sorry to hear the news (a lot of us can relate, I'm sure), wish you, your wife and the rest of the family the best, and hope you are all better soon.


    Re computer games

    Many of the recent spate of browser based and flash games are pretty static from a visual aspect especially the strategic ones and should be readily playable by someone with limited vision.

    Re hands on crafts

    You don't need to be able to see for certain crafts. I'm sure that there are blind potters for instance.


    Re Blind Potters - there's an active "blind shooting" league run by our national association.

    The target is a graded white-tending-to-black aiming mark shot against a dark background. Air rifles are used; they have a photoelectric detector linked to a tone generator; the higher the pitch, the nearer you are to the middle.

    I can vouch for the fact that it's difficult (we were doing it as a training exercise) and it seems to be gaining some popularity. Google "NSRA blind shooting" if you're curious.


    There's also such a thing as "blind archery". This is basically done by "aiming" the toxophilite down-range (down-butt?) and then ringing a bell behind the target's bull.


    I'm sorry that things have been so very difficult for you and your loved ones, and hope for good health and good fortune for you all going forward.


    Glad to hear that things are improving, and I hope they continue to do so.


    Make sure to get your exercise, too. Desk work (which is what I assume your writing amounts to) can be lethal. You need the cardio to stay healthy. I work at a desk all day long and put on quite a computer gut. It's a long-term project downsizing but it's been a tremendous improvement for me. Helps clear the mind, too.


    For medical reasons, a serious cardio workout would be a very bad idea for me. (Somewhat less strenuous exercise is another matter.)



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