Nurture Your Body, Nurture Your Muse
As a working author, sitting is an unfortunate by-product of the profession. When I first began my writing career, I confess that I spent too much time at my desk, desperately typing, revising and editing, so much so that I ended up in the emergency room with a pinched nerve in my back. I’ve had three children and I have never experienced something so painful in my life. Even now, as I write about it, I cringe at the memory!
Needless to say, after recovering from that ordeal, I made definite changes to my writing routine. By doing so, it has not only improved me physically, but also kicked up my mental processes, making writing that much easier. My muse is so much happier and she shows it by letting the ideas flow!
There are five things that I worked into my writing routine that helped me improve the way I work.
Please take these tips and mold them to your needs. Good health is important and sometimes as authors, we begin behind the eight-ball because we sit for such a large portion of our day.
Without further ado, here they are:
- Drink plenty of water. It’s easy to slurp down coffee and soda and juice while sitting at the computer. The sugar and caffeine give us a quick rush of energy and keep us focused on the task at hand. However, overloading on such drinks can cause a late day crash, jitters and dehydration. I have acquired a cute little water bottle and fill it with ice water with a touch of lemon juice. Mind you, I do not skip my morning coffee, and will go for a refill if the urge strikes me. However, if I am going to have the coffee, I’ll make a conscious effort to finish the water bottle by noon, then go back for a refill. Sipping water also keeps me from snacking too much. The addition of the lemon gives the boring water a spiffy taste and has the benefit of Vitamin C.
- Take a Break – Try not to become so focused on your writing that you don’t get up from the computer because you don’t want to “break the spell”. Create a break schedule. Set a timer for fifty, thirty or twenty minutes, then do nothing but an assigned task for that period of time. Then, when the timer goes off, get up. Walk around, check the mail, do yoga stretches – anything but sit. This gives your body a break from sitting in a fixed position and gets the blood flowing to your brain. Don’t skip the break, as tempting as it may be to do so.
- Exercise – Yes, you’ve heard it many times before. Your brain feeds on the oxygen-rich blood circulated by the heart. Before I sit down at the keyboard with my fragrant cup of coffee, I complete a brisk 15-20 minute walk that gets my blood pumping and my brain receptive for the muse. During these walks, I am often able to work out any issues that I might be having in my story. Getting away from the keyboard and out into the fresh air helps immensely.
I also enjoy yoga. It’s calm, low-impact and I don’t have to get too dressed up for it! When the weather is poor or I simply don’t feel like going outside, fifteen minutes of yoga poses can serve the same purpose.
- Get Enough Sleep – Most of us wouldn’t stay up half the night and try to function at the job on four or five hours of sleep, would we? If you write full time like me, your writing is your job. Treat it like one. Get enough rest the night before. A full night’s sleep increases your mental sharpness, emotional balance and creativity. Sitting in front of your computer screen bleary-eyed and fuzzy-headed can only lead to frustration and writer’s block. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, for sure!!
- Pay attention to Posture – Nothing will fatigue you more than terrible posture. We’ve all done it: shoulders hunched, wrists smashed against the laptop and feet in odd positions. There’s no problem in doing it, the problem is staying that way. Check your posture: are your shoulders back, feet flat on the floor and your wrists relaxed? Hunching over can put a great strain on the neck, as well as the shoulders and forearms. My weakness is that I lean to the right side, putting too much pressure on my right arm. About fifteen minutes of that and I have to shake it back awake! Stay cognizant of how you sit.
So there you have it, my magical formula for staying alert and healthy while pounding out the word count. While I don’t always do every single thing on this list, I strive to ensure that I’m in the best mind frame possible when I sit down at the computer. It’s not easy sticking to this routine, and I have been guilty of hunching over the computer for an hour straight. However, as long as that remains an anomaly and not a regular practice, I’m looking forward to many happy, healthy years as an author with a happy, healthy, giving muse and no more ER visits!