When NOT to Write

There’s a lot of writing advice out there and much of it focuses on hints for how to write more. They often suggest working when others are asleep, avoiding friends, and making do on meals. In fact they seem to feel that writers are like saints, and must give up on earthly things to focus on more lofty goals.

As someone who has spent a great deal of her life sick I can honestly say that this is garbage. No one does their best work when they are sleep deprived and malnourished. Even the greatest of artists and writers are less effective when they are not at their best.

Whether you are someone who has fragile health or are blessed with a fine constitution you can benefit from making sure that you take care of the fundamentals of your heath, even if that means sacrificing some precious writing time to do so. In the end, your book will thank you.

The fundamentals of health are remarkably simple. I’ve heard it boiled down to “eat when your hungry, and sleep when you are tired”, but I will expand it to four key points.

Take time to move. It is best to get some gentle movement every few hours to keep blood flow moving and help your body regulate its hormone and digestive systems. The brain and the body are two sides of one coin, it does no good to ignore your bodies needs because your brain will suffer too. Take a walk and get some fresh air, or if your not up to going outside, at least stand up and mosey around the house. I am often surprised by how much easier it is to work out plot holes or character motivations when I am walking about instead of hunched up over my keyboard.

Make sure to eat regularly. By regularly I mean however often you need to to avoid low blood sugar. Low blood sugar is stressful for both the body and the brain. By eating before starvation kicks in and eating food that doesn’t spike your blood sugar you can avoid ‘crashing’. It’s relatively easy to have simple snacks available that don’t take more than a twenty minutes to prepare and eat. Doing so will not interrupt your writing very much and will probably save you from greater work interruptions overall.

Go to bed. Sleep is important. How much you need is pretty easy to figure out. If its hard to wake up in the morning you need to get more sleep. It can be hard to disengage from our day, and wind down to sleep but it really pays to have an alert mind to write with. The time before bed is not the time to be crafting plots and working out details of your tomorrow’s schedule. That will only make you feel more awake. I find bribery is not always a bad thing. I make going to bed a treat by having a book on tape to listen to as I drift off. Some other or some other equally calming and enjoyable activity that you can savor in the moments before you drift off might work equally well.

Spend time with people you like. Humans are social creatures. We do better physically and emotionally when we spend actual face to face time with other people who’s company we enjoy. If you feel guilty remember it’s not just for your health, socializing can also give you great ideas for stories.

Think of it as an investment. By constantly maintaining these four critical pillars of health a writer can make sure she is at her best to seize those wonderful moments of inspiration when they appear.

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