The idea of being a healthy writer can seem a bit oxymoronic. Ernest Hemingway didn’t say “Write drunk, edit sober,” because he was invested in a healthy lifestyle. (Actually, he didn’t say that at all. The truth is never very exciting, is it?) More recently, Neil Gaiman quipped, “No, my people, we stay indoors. We have keyboards. We have darkness.” And even more recently, I thought about going to the gym and then said, “…Meh.”
Writing isn’t exactly a high-energy profession. High-stress, maybe; but an elevated heart rate when you aren’t exercising is generally considered a bad thing. Here are some healthy habits that can keep you typing for longer.
- Get up and away from the screen. It’s so easy—so very easy—to get caught up in your writing and lose track of time. Whether you’re on a deadline or just in your zone, the temptation to just keep writing is overwhelming. But five hours later, when you suddenly realize that your eyeballs are burning and you can’t feel your butt, you might regret not standing up for thirty seconds. Do your butt a favor and set an alarm for every forty minutes. Every time it goes off, jump up, move around a bit, and then get back to work.
- Schedule in some exercise. I know, right? That sounds like the kind of boring, responsible thing that an adult would do. Unfortunately, there’s a reason they do it. Regularly scheduled exercise is, well, good for you. Schedule it in, get into the habit, and channel all the energy you get from it back into your craft.
- Don’t keep snacks nearby, but do keep water handy. When it comes to mindless eating, I’m a champion. Jumbo bags of chips and pretzels, whole packages of cookies, an entire bag of trail mix—put it near me when I’m in the zone, and it will vanish. The only way I can stop myself from mindlessly bingeing is to deny myself the opportunity. But since water is good for you, I try to keep a bottle of it nearby. (Bonus—if you keep drinking water, you’ll have to get up to go to the bathroom, meaning that you’ll be standing up and giving your eyes a mini break.)
- Sit up straight. You read that in your mom’s voice, didn’t you? As usual, she’s right. Sitting up straight and keeping your eyes far away from the screen can make those long writing days a lot less painful. While you’re at it, eat a decent meal, change your socks, and call your grandma.
- Get some fresh air. I try to get outside at least once a day, just so that I don’t forget what fresh air smells like. Going out for a short walk not only clears all that “inside air” out of my nose, it clears the cobwebs from my brain. Take a turn around the block and see if that doesn’t help you sort out your plot problem.
- Get a screen backlighting changer. Screens are backlit with blue light, and our brains interpret this as a signal to wake up. If you’re working late, this can really mess up your sleep. A quick Google search will give you a bunch of free backlighting changers, which will turn your tech’s backlighting from blue to orange when the sun sets and then back again when the sun rises. Those orange screens are so much easier on your eyes—and better for your sleep cycle, too.
- Get some social interaction. What? Socialize? Us? Yes. Writers are people too, and people need social interaction. Even if you’re super introverted, like I am, going out with friends does a world of good. It helps fight the loneliness that comes with the writerly life. It forces your brain to stop obsessing over that plot point and start obsessing over your friend Sharon’s terribad dilemma. And, if you’re friends with
interestingweird people, it provides a butt-ton of inspiration.
Being healthy isn’t always fun in the short term—exercise can be painful, sweating is gross, and sunlight makes us hiss and retreat back into the shadows. But as writers, we know that what’s difficult in the short term is rewarding in the long term.
We’re aren’t known for being a healthy bunch, but there’s no reason we can’t change that! How do you like to keep healthy as a writer?