Sophie and Benny – Role Models for Writers

- by Linda Barrett

My friend’s parents, Sophie and Benny, spent New Year’s Eve hosting a party that rocked their Florida condo. No hurricane needed. Their younger guests, a bunch of octogenarians, couldn’t keep up with them and went from the dance floor to the couch before midnight. Benny called them party poopers. He’s ninety-two. Sophie shook her head and kept dancing with her man. She’s ninety. They’ve been married forever and on good days, act like they’re in their twenties. On not-so-good days, maybe thirty-five.

I won’t ignore the illnesses along the way, a few extra pounds, a few disappointments like we all have. But they bounced back from every adversity like they still had a lot of living to do.  Benny is the mayor of the neighborhood whether in Florida or at his summer place in Massachusetts; he knows everyone and everyone knows him.

Sophie’s front door has been open to friends and relatives her entire life. Her warmth is legendary. These two don’t waste a day. Four card games a week for him. A  hairdresser appointment every week for her. Early bird dinners and visits to the casinos combine for a fine life after a lifetime of working hard and raising a family.

We, career writers, can learn a lot from them. In fact, we need to emulate them. For our health. For our sanity. For a full life. And hopefully, a long life.

In the two years since I’ve become a full-time writer, I’ve found it too easy to stay at the computer all day long. More than once, I’ve remained in my PJ’s until I showered at night. Afterwards, of course, I put on another pair of PJ’s. That’s when I started to label myself a “full-time writer.” And got scared.

Between the actual book writing and all that’s available on the Net, there’s no reason to venture out. Lonely for company? Instant message. Set up a chat. Check out your Face Book pages. Read some good blogs and leave comments. Check back later for more. Heck, we talk with our story people all the time. Lonely doesn’t happen. Want to have fun playing a game? Spider Solitaire is the answer.

The day passes quickly to evening. And then another day passes. And we’re still in our chairs. When I take a break, my hip joints creak so much, they need to be oiled.

I know all the stuff about the Myer-Briggs, how ninety-five percent of us are introverts. How staying in our home office suits us just fine. What could be better than dwelling in our true comfort zone? We’re not complaining. So, leave us alone!

Sorry, friends. We can’t remain complacent in our caves. Not if we want to dance past midnight at a New Year’s Eve party when we’re ninety-two.

Here’s a confession: for twenty years, I’ve belonged to a gym, and not once in all that time have I gone willingly. If my dh hadn’t schlepped me along three times a week-hadn’t loudly insisted that I go with him-fugheddaboutit. I used to teach in an adult GED program. I’d hit downtown Houston by 7 a.m. During the day, I’d run flights of stairs, walk hallways, and pace the classroom. Why did I need a gym? 

In the two years since I’ve been working from home, however, my physical activity has stagnated and I’ve gotten antsy. I’ve become more cognizant of my body. My attitude about the gym has changed, which is a good thing for my hip joints. If they need oil, I go to the gym. If they don’t, I go anyway. My husband is now very happy and is using his voice to cheer his favorite teams-and his wife. Nagging not needed anymore.   

As writers, our mind is always engaged, but we do our work sitting down. Most of us enjoy crossword puzzles and brain teasers like Suduko, one of my favorites, but these games don’t get us out of the chair! We seem to be taking better care of our mental faculties than our physical state, and we need to do both. We’ve got to move!

I suppose fear was my motivator for exercising with out complaint. Fear of frozen joints, aches and pains, gaining weight and having no fun later on. Fear of becoming a kvetchy old lady. I want to be like Sophie and dance into my nineties. I want to tool down the road like Benny does, at 75 mph in the plum center of his lane where he should be. I want to play on the floor with my grandkids. Life is a gift I want to enjoy until I close my eyes for the last time.

If you’ve got suggestions on how to keep our writing community healthy, let’s hear them. What’s working for you might help someone else.

In the meantime, you can check out my new book, QUARTERBACK DADDY, which challenged my brain more than usual. I learned football from scratch and for the first time realized the goal was to get the ball down the field, rather than kill the other players.

I loved learning the game, but you can relax. I’m not suggesting we get our exercise through football, although sometimes it does look like a dance !


  1. Linda, this really spoke to me.

    I am fairly young(early 30’s), but for the last two years I’ve been at home trying to establish a full-time writing career. It is so easy to contact the outside world from inside your home that you could become idle and closed off.

    You’re right, I want to be ninety and too busy to stay at home :)


  2. Great blog, Linda and sooooo true. I just got out of physical therapy. Who know writing sixteen hours a day could be bad for your back? I’m back to exercising.


  3. Linda,
    Wow, what two amazing people, and good examples. Someone we can all emulate.

    Sitting in a chair all day can be a killer. I really, really know that. I do water aerobics and that helps. I exercise at home too. It’s a balancing act, but something we must do.

    Cheers to Sophie and Bennie.

  4. Linda, I am so guilty of each and every one of these. I write in the morning – 7 to 8:30 or 9. After a shower, I’m in my bookkeeping service (home) office from 10 to 6:30 or so. Love Sudoku, Spider Solitaire, jigsaw puzzles, reading, and stories on TV. Did you notice anything in that sentence that got my butt out of the chair? I’ve already ruined my knees with weight & lack of exercise. YIKES! And I’ve got a new grandniece!

    Bought an elliptical trainer a year or so ago. He’s big & macho and lives in my bedroom and I call him Swen. I’ve only made periodic visits to work with him. I need to make him a priority this year.

    Linda W – good for you on the water aerobics. If I can find a swim suit that covers enough of me, I’m gonna start that again come spring. :-)

    Thanks for the inspiration folks – I needed it!!

    Jo Anne

  5. I guess the blog either inspired or triggered guilt! Thanks for checking it out.

    Christie – good luck with the physical therapy, another time suck but important. I’ve done it, too.

    Linda W- I know how dedicated you are. No guilt for you! I’ve been told that water aerobics burns more calories than land exercise. That’s motivation for everyone.

    Jo Anne – give Sven my regards. I’ve got his brother upstairs in treadmill form. It serves as a jacket hanger and guilt promoter.

    Good luck to everyone with their choice. All I know is I’ll be at the gym today.

  6. Brandie – You’re right on with your observations about working from home. As important as exercise is, it’s more important to keep a busy life with real people in it. We all must be vigilant about not closing ourselves off. Good luck with your writing career.

  7. I agree that it’s as important to have an active life as an active body. I realized recently that the bulk of my interaction with friends is done online. Since we’re all writers sitting at the computer all day, it’s easy to feel socially engaged without even leaving the house. For exercise, I walk my dog, which gets me out of the house, but there’s zero contact with humans. (Sorry, Cody, of course you’re my best friends and fabulous company.) This year, my goal isn’t so much to get my body in shape, but to spend more time with people.

  8. Julie – you are so right about the human contact. The second reason I go to the gym is to see people. Not friends, but to be part of life. There’s action, activity, energy. I have to make a conscious effort to pick up the phone/or email and arrange Saturday night activities. But it’s so worth it. I love being with my friends, I just don’t think about “play dates” when working on a book :)

  9. So, does putting on my yoga clothes count as working out?