I read an article the other day that offered up some pretty grim news for us writers. Assuming you sit while you write and haven't sprung for a treadmill desk, you likely spend extended hours a day in a chair, pounding away at the keyboard. Unfortunately, you're putting yourself at risk for not only obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes but also certain types of cancer.
Because I don't want you to die before you're at least 100 and have written every word you wanted to pen to page, here are some tips for helping you stay healthy as you write.
Avoid candy, chips and crackers and instead reach for healthful snacks such as nuts, raisins, edamame, berries, yogurt, bananas, carrots, light string cheese, granola, etc.
I'll admit to keeping a tall glass of green tea within reach nearly every waking moment. It's actually a step in the right direction from the black tea I used to drink. At least my teeth stay whiter. Today I'll begin in earnest to alternate a glass of water with my tea. If caffeine is your source of fuel—coffee, tea or, God forbid, RedBull—then make a commitment to drink more water.
If hours go by before you get up and move around, then set a timer to go off at least every hour and get up and move around. Walk around the block, eat lunch while standing, do some yoga stretches. You don't have to clock a 6-minute mile to improve your health, but get up and get the blood flowing. If you're so inclined (and you have a fat advance on your book), you can always spring for that treadmill desk. I'm sure they're wonderful if you're a boss at walking and typing. I'm going to stick to regular stretching, eating lunch while standing and taking the dog for walks around the block.
If you're trying to finish a book, searching for an agent, vying for time to devote to your writing or wrestling with ideas for your next project, I feel your stress. I give 100 percent credit to the five women on this blog for why I still write. While friends and family members can be a great source of encouragement, only a fellow writer truly understands why you write and can empathize when the going gets rough. If you don't currently belong to a writing group, then look for one at your local library or book seller. Draw inspiration from an online group if a local one doesn't fit your schedule. Don't fret if the first group you find doesn't work for you. Keep looking. At the very least, join or start a book club to learn what your peers look for in a good book.
If you smoke, please stop. If you drink more than you can readily admit, curb your urge. If you engage in any other behavior that inhibits your joy, your creative fire, your passionate you, find a way to quit. We want you to do whatever it takes to produce your best work for many years.
Volunteering not only forces you to get your mind away from you and your current project, but it also has been shown to lower your blood pressure and reduce stress. About a year and a half ago, I started a book club at a retirement home. This has allowed me to share my love of books, while giving me so much joy to spend a couple hours each month with incredible women with a wealth of life experience. It's also helped fill a hole in my heart that came last November when I lost my mom.
Joan has taught ESL, served as treasurer of Writers' Guild of Texas and volunteered at her son's school as well as sponsored his artistic endeavors at college. She also supports the Parent Encouragement Program.
Elizabeth has long volunteered at her children's schools. She especially enjoys directly supporting teachers with the unexpected. She also worked with an organization that provides dental care to at-risk children.
Susan's work with International Book Project has helped ship books to orphans in Ghana and to nuns and monks in Nigeria. She's also busy putting together a prison literacy program in her home state of Kentucky while collecting books to distribute to at-risk families in eastern Kentucky.
Kim volunteers at her daughters' dance studio—particularly during Nutcracker. She loves watching not only her girls but the other children she's seen grow and develop as dancers over the last few years. Seeing others pursue their passions inspires her to pursue her own.
Julie, after selling Calling Me Home, was able to donate a portion of the proceeds to an organization that serves at-risk youth and, by virtue of that, help single parents, too. She also had the opportunity to visit with English classes at her high school in Denver—an inner city school that has struggled to stay afloat for years—and participate in some literacy fundraisers.
We all attend as many author book events as possible—not only because it gives us a chance to get together while drawing inspiration from talented authors, but it also feels good to support our fellow writers.
It's no secret that adults needs seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If you aren't getting your allotted amount, try to get more. Nap if you have an opportunity to. Your brain and your other organs need downtime to replenish themselves. Make sure you take care of you.
Image by Pacific Cat Ragdolls on flickr.