Are You a Healthy Writer?

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Writers have to be extra conscientious when it comes to their health. They need to go out of their way to make sure they’re taking good care of themselves.

Why? Well, let’s examine what are often the habits of writers. Check all of them that are problematic for you.

𐲘 Isolation. Writing is not like working in an office or a school or a store, where we’re surrounded by people all day. Many writers like it completely quiet when they work. Other writers cannot write when there’s human interruptions (kids or spouses). Being isolated doesn’t always lead to good mental health.

𐲘 Rejection. Writing might be done with a rose-colored (wine) glass in hand, but most writers (I imagine) view the glass as half empty rather than half full. We tend to fixate on the rejections, instead of the acceptances. Dealing too often with the (erroneous) idea that we’re not good enough certainly makes us prone to depression.

image by Pixabay

𐲘 Eating and exercise. Writers chant, “Butt in chair. Butt in chair,” as their mantra. After all, most of us don’t write as we’re hanging upside down from a couple of mile-long pieces of silk. Usually we’re sitting on our rear end, hunched over our keyboard and eating Krispy Kremes by the boxful too much. As we nibble gorge on apple slices crackers dipped in a sour cream and salsa creation chocolate chip cookie dough, we think, ‘Well, I’m on a writing roll (not to be confused with a Hawaiian roll). If I get up now and walk or bike or do the treadmill, I’ll ruin the writing groove I’m in.’ Eating unhealthily, and maintaining the activity level of a sloth, makes for a vicious cycle.

𐲘 Sleep. If we’re writers who write full time, we probably stay up late, trying to squeeze every last minute out of the day. If we have a regular job and write in our “spare” time, we don’t have much choice. Staying up until midnight 3:00 in the morning is almost unavoidable. Not getting enough sleep makes us more depressed… and our weight creeps up… and we become more lethargic… and we eat more. And the cycle continues. Not getting adequate sleep just adds to the perfect storm of problematic choices.

I could check each of those boxes. On top of all the bad things I’m doing to my body and my psyche, depression/mental illness runs in my family. Serious mental illness. I’m talkin’ ‘bout homicidal and suicidal mental illness, and four blood relatives are proof, so in my opinion, I need to be extra vigilant. The one I’m most concerned about? My eating and lack of exercise. I believe if those two areas would improve, a couple of the other ones would fall into a healthy place.

During the summer, my goal is to find something I enjoy doing—and something I can do even when there’s snow on the ground and even when it gets dark at 5:00 at night and even when the humidity level and temp are both hovering close to 100. I’ve ruled out a gym (waiting for machines is frustrating for me) and biking. I’ve got a couple of exercise CDs, and one of them I even used to enjoy (Billy Blanks kickboxing) but that was 20 years ago. Am I going to topple over if I try it now?

My most recent plan: I’ve ordered a mini trampoline. Since I love music and I love to dance (like Elaine Benes in Seinfeld) and since music energizes me, I think it might work… but only time will tell.

If you'd like to read an article on why writers are not always easy to get along with, check this piece out.

And now for you. How many of those things are a problem for you? And what are you doing to get back on the right path?

Sioux Roslawski is a teacher during the school year (although she's currently looking for a job) and a writer in her spare time. She's busy querying  publishers and agents, hoping to get her middle grade novel published. If you'd like to read more of Sioux's stuff, check out her blog.


Renee Roberson said...

Sioux--Oy. That article about successful yet mentally ill writers and those who loved them was eye-opening! Not really a shock, but can you imagine what they would have been like if they also had to deal with modern-day stressors on top of everything else?! There's also Virginia Woolf. You know how I handle rejections? I avoid them by not submitting things when I probably should. My sleep has gotten worse in the past few years. My brain decides to go through a checklist of everything I have left on my to-do list at 1 a.m. Luckily I recognized the need for taking care of my mental health and now attend therapy weekly, but it's an ongoing battle. I won't mention the 4-5 pounds I've gained during the quarantine. I can't wait to hear about how the mini-trampoline goes. I too was a faithful TaeBo follower back in the day.

Nicole Pyles said...

Ooo I have a mini trampoline too! Now, if only I used it. It's like my exercise bike - it holds things great.

Yeah the exercise thing, that's not my strongest point.

I do find with rejection, I get numb, but that numbness can bleed it's way into me thinking that this whole writing thing wasn't for me after all. I realized I never submitted the whole month of May. I submitted over the weekend and it felt good to get back into it all.

Angela Mackintosh said...

I wonder about the accuracy of that article you linked to in saying that most writers are "awful lovers." Lol! I do admit that most of the writers I admire are bipolar, but they aren't "narcissistic" or "terrible lovers." The author seems to state this a few times in different ways, and says it's because we treat people like "characters, malleable and at [our] authorial will." Uh...

I love your checklist! I've learned how to brush off rejection as a blessing. I think I get more nervous about acceptances than rejections... because an acceptance means I need to start preparing to share the piece, which almost always comes with dread for revealing too much. I've been slacking on exercise the past couple weeks, but usually I take one or two hours off before dinner, even if it's just walking. I get to bed around 1 or 2am because I watch TV only after my husband goes to sleep! =/ Mental illness runs in my family as well, both sides.

The mini trampoline sounds fun! I also used to do Billy Blanks kickboxing. :) I like workout DVDs and riding a stationary bike while listening to podcasts. Right now it's over 100, so it's too hot to walk outside. Great post, Sioux. :)

Margo Dill said...

I think we need a video of you on the trampoline!

Linda O'Connell said...

A writer is always taking in information and processing. That is a constant task and rest for me comes in the form of a deep, brief nap, for heaven knows, sleep at night is interrupted by snoring husband and always hungry beggar cat. We must remember to take care of ourselves first. I think self-doubt is one of our greatest enemies. Trampoline? Let me know how that works.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--If it was only 4 or 5 pounds, I'd be thrilled.

Nicole--You're back in the saddle. That's wonderful. Keep up the submitting momentum.

Angela--As far as I'm concerned, anything close to 80 means it's too hot. I imagine you get some mental writing done while you're walking?

Margo--For proof or entertainment? ;)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Linda--I may be writing from the emergency room soon...

Cathy C. Hall said...

Ah, yes...mind, body, and soul. One or the other seems to always be out of whack, though I'm not sure writers are more susceptible. I think if you're human, you have to deal with all the stresses, the joys and pain, that make up life.

Um...what did you ask, again? :-) Oh! Yes, I walk a lot more now, which is great if you're sitting all day writing. And I'm a big believer in support groups for the well-being of my mental health. And I pray 'cause...well, that's a whole book, isn't it?

Have fun with that trampoline, Sioux! I can't dance and jump at the same time but you do you, Sioux. :-)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--My version of "dancing" looks exactly like Elaine Benes' version of dancing. If you've ever seen her dancing on Seinfeld, it involves wild, ungraceful kicks, and arms thrust out. It's hilarious to watch, but perhaps it will burn a few calories...

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

As my husband, who now shares my office, has pointed out, I am not all that good at butt in chair. If I sit too long my sciatica hurts which is a great reminder to get up and move.

Snacking? That's my big downfall. As my grandmother always said, "I could nibble."


Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--I only WISH I was as tall and young and talented as Margo. ;)

I know back pain is never a good thing, but perhaps in this case, there's something positive about it.

If you stand and nibble, the calories don't count, right?

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

You don't have to claim the calories if you eat off someone else's plate.

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