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If you’ve combed my archives you’ll probably know that self-care is a big thing for me; I firmly believe that the depressed writer stereotype is one that needs to be burned to the ground. Those writers who flourish even through hardship, mental illness, and addiction are exceptional writers who would do better were they well and healthy; a mediocre writer can evolve when they take care of themselves.
So bear with me because this isn’t about aesthetic, it’s about your main tool as a writer… it’s about your brain. So let 2017 be the year that you find balance, because in truth that is the key.
As writers we need to be emotionally and mentally enriched as well as physically taken care of; find the balance between health and happiness, fitness and comfort, writing and living, and you’ll see your writing evolve.
Diet and Exercise
This is the most obvious tip, but it’s not kale and lettuce leaves, guys, it’s a bit more. You need brain healthy foods and exercises to keep your mind sharp and powerful. After all, your mind is your main writing tool. When it comes to weight loss they say its 30% diet and 70% exercise, but when it comes to writing i’d say its an equal split.
Start by adding some brain healthy foods to your diet where you can;
- Oily fish (Tuna or Salmon for example)
- Whole grains
- Tea (green tea is especially great for your body, too)
- Dark Chocolate (Yes!)
- Pomegranates (either the fruit or some juice)
- Berries (blueberries in particular)
All of these foods are brain healthy, so get them where you can to treat your biggest asset with some TLC. Exercise is huge, though, and as a writer you need to focus on aerobic exercises as these up your blood flow, get your heart pumping, and deliver more oxygen to your brain. This isn’t a small measure of difference, either, as some studies have shown that exercise can help prevent or delay Alzheimer’s, and it needn’t be a lot;
“exercising for 20 facilitates information processing and memory function”*
20 minutes of your day, preferably in the morning, spent exercising could do more for your writing that all your perseverance and all-nighters. Consider these aerobic exercises for inclusion in your daily routine;
Even a few jumping jacks could do the trick.
Jazz up your work routine
If you don’t have a set routine for your writing you should consider setting one; it makes it easier to plough through writers block if you do. Obviously every writer is different, and few can afford to have writing as their nine-to-five, but if you do making sure your routine is healthy is even more important. These tips can be stretched to fit any routine, and they’ll help you avoid writers butt as well as improving your productivity.
- Do some of your work standing up, if you work a full day do two thirds of your work on your feet, if you only do an hour or two a day do it all standing. You don’t need to buy a fancy stand up desk, either; I work with my laptop on the kitchen counter.
- Stand and stretch every 20 to 50 minutes when you do sit.
- Don’t snack while you work.
- Drink a minimum of a litre of water for every three hours of work (that’s roughly half a gallon).
- Rest your eyes every hour; ten minutes away from the computer screen will do.
- Walk; if you work a full day take a walk in the morning, before or after lunch, and after you finish for the day. It doesn’t have to be long, just long enough to get the blood moving in your legs.
- Eat small meals often, and have vegetables with each meal.
- Squat on the go; I do five squats every time I take a bathroom break, and five when I’m waiting on the kettle for a cup of tea. It’s not much, but they all add up.
- Treat yourself. Have that little bit of chocolate or cookie; writing is a mental endeavour which consists largely of passion, if you’re unhappy or grudge what you’re doing it’ll shine through in your writing.
- Don’t work through the night; or day. Whichever. Just remember to sleep in order to keep your brain functioning at full capacity.
Take the constant barrage of “butt-in-the-chair” advice with a pinch of salt; to write you must live. The great writers didn’t live their entire lives hunched over a desk thirteen hours a day; they travelled, they worked, they drank, they had sex, they ate funny foods, and generally made choices and decisions, some questionable some good. I’m not telling you to start drinking a gallon of whisky a day and sleeping with everyone, and I’m not telling you to sell all your stuff and do an “into the Wild”…
I’m telling you to spend time with friends, to go out for dinners, to travel a little, to read a lot, and to seek the experiences you’ve always wanted. Experience goes hand in hand with inspiration, and often they feed from each other just as your stories feed from you. Put time into yourself, your desires, and your life, and, yes, write, but don’t make it the sum total of your experience in life. To quote (or misquote)a film of a great book,
“The world isn’t in your books and maps, it’s out there” (The Hobbit; An Unexpected Journey). Sometimes the best thing you can do for your writing is take a few weeks or months off to live and explore so that you can bring back all that new living for your writing.
References and Resources