This post is something different for me – a collation of all the research I’ve done into how I can stay happy and healthy as a writer and editor. We live in a stress-filled age, and writing requires us to not be stressed, because stressed people aren’t creative, as I’ve previously explained.
All the “health” tips here are ones that I personally have tried and found helpful, so I hope they help you, too!
At BWF in the Burbs this year, Australian fantasy author Trudi Canavan gave us this invaluable tip:
“Look after your bodies. Writing is hunched over a computer, fingers working furiously for extended periods. It’s an unnatural position that soon leads to RSI if you do it for years on end.”
She recommended we take lots of breaks from the hunched, sitting position.
For her, unfortunately, RSI is a daily issue, which is inconvenient now that she’s a full-time writer (the dream!). Because of the pain, she can now only sit down to write for half an hour at a time before getting up from the computer again. She does that over and over all day, because she has to. (Gosh! It takes me at least ten minutes just to get into the swing of things with my story again after a break – imagine only having twenty useful writing minutes each time you sit down to write.)
So don’t make the same mistake as Trudi and let it get too late to avoid RSI. Get up and walk around. Pat the dog. Do some quick yoga stretches at your computer! I got into this when I was working a job that was 8 hours a day at a computer, and it worked wonders for my lower back pain.
The other issue is that many of us write on a computer, as well as working during the day on a computer, which means a lot of screen time in your day! And that’s terrible for your eyes.
Screens stop you from blinking as much. This means your eyes dry out faster and have to work harder to stay focussed on that one spot.
Screens also make you focus at short range for as long as you’re looking at them. If you focus at short range for too long, it shortens your eyeball and leading to short-sightedness and glasses! We need to look up at least every half hour, and spent a minute using our distance vision, if we want to keep our eyes the right shape and nice and moist.
When I started law school, my eyes were around prescription -1.5 and -2.5. But in law school there is a loooooot of reading, a lot of tiny print in case notes, and a lot of screen time. So by the time I left, my prescription was more like -3.5 and -4.75. Phew! (These days it’s even worse – don’t ask.)
So if you write on a computer, like I do, walk away from the screen for a bit. Don’t just go find another screen, like your phone or the TV. Instead, maybe go stare out the kitchen window at the birds in the trees outside. Hey, read a paper book for a few minutes!
Let’s talk about the neuroplasticity we need in order to think creatively. Neuroplasticity simply means that your mind is open, it can stretch to new ideas and concepts. This means that you can think of more options for your characters, not just in terms of what they will do, but who they will be. Maybe you’ll be able to write a crime novel, not about a world-weary, alcoholic detective, but about the adventures of a young artist whose painting is stolen. Who knows!
By contrast, a person whose mind is closed only sees the world in black-and-white. They will think of one idea and assume that is the only thing that could ever happen. That’s why this kind of thinking leads to depression and anxiety – because the person can only imagine the bad scenarios that could possibly happen if they act in the future, and can’t imagine the good scenarios where things could go well.
You might enjoy another post I did on how happiness will make you more creative.
‘Meditation’ in its various forms has long been proven to relax people, which makes them happier and able to be more creative. Now, I don’t meditate using the traditional method of emptying the mind, because that is allowing evil spirits an open door through which to enter. (Read Matthew 12:45, where Jesus discusses this.) But I do meditate in prayer, because prayer has been shown to be equally effective for relaxation and centering, if it means you’re thinking about God’s power and thanking him for the blessings he’s given you, and asking if there’s anything he’d like to show you in response.
“On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.”
You know that old adage my Grandma always says? “Count your blessings.” Being thankful releases your mind and your soul of negative thoughts and replaces them with positive thoughts, opening us up to receiving God’s peace and allowing us to be more creative.
I try to remain in God’s presence throughout the day, by praying whenever I see things that I am thankful for. You can use triggers to remind yourself to pray in thankfulness. For example, every time I see a butterfly, whether it’s while I’m out walking or while I’m googling and a butterfly image pops up, I see it as a fleeting opportunity to thank God. I thank him for his presence in my life, and that his presence rests on me like the butterfly on a leaf, brushing lightly and beautifying me without crushing me with his weight.
How do you stay healthy as a writer?
This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2014. Reblogging is highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.