Writers: Are You Remembering to Take Care of Your Health?

Writing isn’t easy. Writing requires a lot of extra time. Writing requires sacrifice.

How many of us have ever sacrificed sleep, diet, and exercise until we got that draft finished, or those revisions done, or those edits completed? *raises hand a million times.* The problem is when the list of sacrifices plus the list of things “to do” stack up. Sometimes they stack up so much that they topple over and crush us.

I’m guilty of putting my health second to writing. I used to rationalize my crazy writing schedule and crappy diet by saying that I would take a short hiatus when I finished my next book and finally work on those things then. But new projects developed, deadlines happened, collaborative projects demanded my attention, and that planned hiatus? That was three books ago.

I knew my life required change a little over a year ago when I started having health issues. Note that these aren’t necessarily as a result of writing, but they did coincide with the time of my life when I was writing on a rather maniacal schedule. It wasn’t until recently that I was forced to make some fairly drastic changes in my life, and I am amazed at how my major health issues have improved, how much more energy I have, and how overall less stressed I am.

I am NO expert, but these are some of the things that I’ve found have made a difference in my life (all of which were recommended by my physician). Even if you don’t require a major overhaul like I did, maybe they can help you too. At the very least, they’re worth thinking about.

1. Stock up on healthier snacks and beverages. Chocolate, diet soda, and sugary treats are staples for lots of writer friends of mine (believe me, I was guilty of chocolate. Lots of chocolate.) But sugar and sugar substitutes cause energy spikes and crashes and long-term use can wreak havoc on your health. At the very least, try to incorporate healthy snacks as part of your regimen. And while these aren’t for everyone, if you require daily caffeine boosts, coffee and green tea even have antioxidant properties (plus other recently discovered benefits that can even be in decaf versions!) My favorite writing snack: apples or carrots dipped in almond butter or guacamole. My favorite writing beverage: green tea with pomegranate

2. Take stretch breaks. Prolonged sitting dramatically increases chances for serious health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Recent studies show that even if you exercise regularly, the effects of that exercise will NOT counteract the damage done from sitting for long periods of time. The health risk goes down when you get up intermittently to take breaks. (Read one of the many recent articles on this here.) Get up and stretch in between short writing sprints. Or write at a standing desk. Or try working while sitting on an exercise ball instead of on a chair (It’s actually kind of fun!)

3. Reevaluate your sleep schedule. I used to force myself to stay up until past midnight to get writing done. I mean, hey — I worked all morning and was with kids all afternoon and evening, so late night was my time. I would often write until I was bleary-eyed, or sometimes even when I was half-asleep, and in the morning, would wake up to a bunch of crappy words and a lot of frustration AND I would still be tired. Over the last month, I have been going to bed earlier (sometimes ridiculously early) and waking up early enough to get in a good hour and sometimes two hours of writing before my kids got up for the day. Ultimately, you need to do whatever works best for you and your brain, but it’s always worth a second look. 🙂

What about you? Suggestions for a healthier writing snack or healthier writing habit?

Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both urban fantasy and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of YA urban fantasies MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL (coming 2015) and NA contemporary romance LOSING ENOUGH. She is also one of the authors on the YA/NA crossover anthology LOSING IT.