It’s pretty common for writers to sacrifice their health for their art. We stay up too late, hunched over our computer, and because our time is limited, it can be easy to grab a granola bar and call it dinner. We also live in a world that often rewards and celebrates people who make these kinds of sacrifices for the things they care about.
As much as I do believe in pushing yourself past your limits, I don’t believe you should be sacrificing your health on a regular basis for any reason. Sure, we all may have to suck it up from time to time, but if taking care of yourself and being unhealthy has become a version of ‘normal,’ you might want to think about making a change.
Personal story: the year before my first book came out, I was way too wound up and I was working too hard–though it took me a while to realize it. It was understandable. It was my first book and it was an exciting time, but it had also made me more prone to unhealthy habits. I wasn’t sleeping enough, I wasn’t eating that great or moving enough either. Sure, I was on a deadline for my second book, and some of it was unavoidable, but a lot of it was. After my book came out, I realized how wound up I was and made some changes. These changes not only positively affected my overall health, but they also made me a better writer.
Here are some things I did that positively impacted my writing. Perhaps they will help you too!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and you should definitely talk to one before making a lifestyle change. This is just me sharing my personal experience.
1) Move more
This was a big one for me. I had done online yoga for years, but not every day and never with classes were ever designed to work together. Around the same time I was realizing I needed to take better care of myself, my favorite online yoga teacher Erin Motz, aka Bad Yogi, came out with her Perfect Body Yoga Program. It’s an eight-week program comprised of classes designed to work together. It’s built on the belief that the “perfect” body is the healthiest version of the body you already have. I found that moving every day opened a floodgate of creativity and made me a more consistent and productive writer.
Another part of that program is weekly walks, which I’ve started doing at least 3-4 times a week. Getting outside regularly has also had a really positive impact on my writing. I’ve found that if I’m struggling, taking a 20-30 minute walk to clear my head almost always gives a boost of energy and makes it possible to keep working.
Even if yoga and walking isn’t your thing, consider taking the time to find a regular exercise that you enjoy. If you like what you’re doing, you’re more likely to keep showing up. And if yoga is your thing, please know that I don’t get any kind of commission or anything for recommending Bad Yogi and PBYP. I just love it that much, so you should totally look into it!
2) Eat right (80% of the time)
Another part of the Perfect Body Yoga Program is eating better without depriving yourself of the food you love. This isn’t a health blog, so I won’t bore you with the details, but basically, I try to eat pretty healthy 80% of the time and have whatever I want 20% of the time. This has made it really easy to eat better, largely because I don’t feel like there’s anything I “can’t” have. I feel like I make the choice not to have something, but I always know I can have it if I really want to. And when I do really want to, I enjoy it!
Also, I don’t count carbs or calories, so I don’t cut myself off from food when I’ve reached a ‘limit.’ My brain needs food to power it. If I’m hungry, I eat something. However, I do pay attention to sugar, dairy, and process grains and try to eat as little of them as possible. That doesn’t mean I don’t eat these things; I just make sure I eat them when I want them and not just them because they’re there and easy. I’ve found that eating better has given me more motivation and alert, which has made it a lot easier to be consistently productive.
And again, I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist. I can only speak for what I do and what’s helped me. Consult an expert before making any dietary changes.
3) Sleep enough
Seriously. Sleep enough. I know life is busy. I know sleep is one of the first things to go when we need more time. But you will perform better and make better choices if you are well rested. I’ve found when I try to stay up too late, it flat out gets harder to work. It will take me twice as long to meet my goals and my writing isn’t as good as it could be if I was rested. Maybe this is just me. Also, being rested on a daily basis had made it a lot easier to continually meet my goals.
4) Drink enough water
Once I started drinking enough water, I noticed that I had more energy and overall focus. I also found that drinking more water made me crave more water. I rarely drink iced teas or sugared drinks and I don’t drink soda at all. At no point did I really make a conscious choice not to drink those things. I just stopped wanting them. I don’t know if this will happen for you, but it definitely made cutting back on sugar easier. And again, this is something else that made me a much sharper writer.
I don’t think I really need to tell you how much of a mental job writing is. Apps like Headspace can help clear out the excess thoughts and distractions to help you focus more on your writing. I was pretty surprised the difference 5-10 minutes can make. It can also put you in a more positive mindset which will enable you to do your best work–or at the very least, to get something written on the page.
Bonus tip: Don’t try to completely change your habits all at once. You’re more likely to make a long-term change if you focus on building one new habit at a time. For most of these changes, I put my attention on implementing a new habit for at least a week before I added another one to my routine. That’s how I can tell you how each change helped my writing. I’ve also been able to maintain these habits long term, which I think is largely because I took the time to get used to them individually. Overall, I’ve been able to be consistently productive since I made these changes without feeling drained or burnt out.
As always, I hope this helps!
Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter. You’ll get a bi-weekly email with posts like this one (plus a handful of email exclusives) delivered directly to your inbox!
Now it’s your turn: Have you noticed how your habits affect your writing? What are some easy tips you have to be a healthier writer? Tell me about it in the comments!