The Blogging from A-Z Challenge continues today. Throughout April I’m posting about my life as a writer, including my inspirations, frustrations and celebrations.
For the letter H, I’m talking about how writers need to build healthy habits into their routine. Self-care is important. That’s the message we’re hearing everywhere at the moment. But taking care of ourselves when we’re living busy lives is not easy.
For writers, it can be particularly challenging. We have to sit at desks and stare at screens for hours, which is no good for our posture or eyesight. Many of us are juggling day jobs and burning the candle at both ends, chugging coffee and snacking on chocolate as we power through to meet another deadline. When I’m ‘in the zone’ and writing furiously on a new project, I often skip meals, sleep and even showers (Is that the sweet smell of success? Nope, just my armpits).
But the well-being articles in magazines and on Pinterest are right-we do need to look after ourselves. Writing is important, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of our physical and mental health. If we don’t eat healthily or exercise at least a little, we are setting ourselves up for a whole host of problems later in life, and surely we all want to live longer so we can write and read as many books as possible!
I’m a great believer in finding balance in all things. I don’t think it’s necessary to go to the gym everyday or practise clean eating, (unless you want to of course!) but building a few healthy habits into your routine can definitely benefit your overall well-being. Here are some suggestions that you could start with:
1) Stay hydrated
Writing is thirsty work! Staying hydrated keeps you alert and benefits your overall health. Get one of those bottles that has time markings on and challenge yourself to get the right level each hour. Try taking a few sips of water every time you start a new paragraph.
2) Keep moving
Wear a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps a day if possible. You can do about 5000 if you go for a 25 minute walk at a moderate pace before you start to write or in the evening before bed. Then set an alarm to go off every hour and walk around for 5 minutes before getting back to work.
Some studies have shown that walking can increase creativity, so it might help you to work through a plot hole or re-write a tricky scene. Instead of viewing it as wasted time, why not walk and listen to an eBook or even plan out ideas aloud and record them on your phone?
3) Eat a good breakfast
We all know it’s the most important meal of the day. Writers need brain food for improved concentration and that means whole grain cereals or breads, low-fat protein such as lean meat, fish, eggs or peanut butter and vitamin-packed fruit and veg.
My personal favourites are poached egg on granary toast or porridge with fruit and seeds. Look to Pinterest for some healthy breakfast ideas that will fuel some amazing writing.
4) Improve your posture
Try not to spend too much time writing while lounging on the sofa or in bed. Create an inviting work space with a sturdy desk and invest in a good chair that supports your lower back properly. Adjust it to a comfortable position so that you can use the keyboard with your wrists and forearms straight and your elbows by your sides. Your knees should be slightly lower than your hips and your feet should be flat on the floor or slightly raised on a foot rest.
Make sure your computer screen is at the right height so you’re not peering down or stretching up to look at it. Try to avoid hunching over the desk, slouching and crossing your legs, which can cause muscle and circulation problems.
5) Keep healthy snacks handy
You need lots of food to keep you going during a long writing sprint, but sugary snacks will only give you a quick buzz and can make you crash afterwards. If you prepare some healthy snacks in advance before you start writing, you’re much more likely to reach for them than if you have to get up and spend ten minutes washing and chopping fruit. There are some great ideas for healthy yet tasty snacks on Pinterest.
6) Focus on the positive
As a writer, you are going to experience rejections, negative reviews and times when your writing just won’t come together. You have to develop resilience to cope with what can be a very difficult road to publication.
Try not to compare yourself to others, because even hugely successful authors have had the same feelings of frustration and inadequacy. Instead, focus on what you have achieved. Writing down just one thing you’re proud of or looking forward to at the end of each day is one thing you can do to reflect on your successes.
Sitting for long periods is not good for your muscles. Regular stretching can reduce pain and stiffness, improve your circulation and help you to manage stress.
There are some quick exercises you can do at your desk, or you could take up yoga or pilates to keep you flexible. Even if you don’t have the time to go a class, you could spend 30 minutes following yoga videos on Youtube. Yoga with Adriene and Sarah Beth Yoga both have some great videos for beginners.
8) Find a support network
Surrounding yourself with people who will support and uplift you is essential, whether you are a writer or not. You need people you can turn to when you need a good moan or just someone to sound ideas off when you can’t figure something out. People who will accept that you might turn down social events in order to work on your book and won’t force you to go out, but will also remind you to look after yourself. People who will console you when things don’t work out and cheer you on when they do.
Your support network doesn’t have to be family and friends-you can also find the same positive community online amongst writing and blogging groups.
9) Sleep well
It can be tempting to stay awake late into the night to write. I’m a night owl myself, and it’s often when my best ideas come to me. But if you have to get up early for your day job the next day, you’re not doing yourself any favours. Sleep is essential for repairing bodily tissues, resetting brain waves, restoring energy, supporting immunity and cementing memories and learned information. Try to get between 8 and 8 hours each night.
10) Do something fun everyday
Writing is hard work. It can be mentally exhausting and emotionally draining. You need a break to recharge your batteries and you also need time to enjoy your life so you have more interesting experiences to write about! So I recommend doing a creative hobby or something else you enjoy every day.
Try to build some downtime into your routine where you can watch a Netflix show, curl up with a book, dance to your favourite tunes or have a laugh with your best friend. Even 30 minutes will help you de-stress and clear your mind, which is bound to benefit your writing.
Before you go…
What do you do to keep fit and healthy?