Take it on the Run: Writers are Athletes

…Well, in a way. I’m sure some of us could actually get out there and climb mountains, swim the English Channel, etc. I definitely wouldn’t cop to such abilities, but all the same, I am beginning to appreciate that there is a physical level to being an author. I experience my share of days when I have not gotten enough sleep, have not eaten right, or have some other physical ailments bothering me. I find that those days coincide with the worst of brain hazes, the worst possible days for getting something done. Those are the ones where I often throw up my hands and feel lucky to have written anything at all.

It took me some time to make the connection between self-care (or lack thereof) and this brain haze. I suspect this has something to do with my own pattern of ignoring my own needs and thinking that I’m some weird superman that can withstand things that even normally functioning people can’t endure for very long. It’s a lifelong habit that I’ve worked very hard to break, and will continue to fight all of my life, but at least I find myself aware of it these days, and was able to connect lack of self-care to those same days where I just couldn’t write.

When you think about it, it makes the most sense. The brain is the most energy-intensive organ, and keeping it operating in tip-top shape (which writing well demands – that and more sometimes) requires not just caloric intake but the right kind of caloric intake. Sugar and carbs will have a short-term effect, sure, but the brain needs more. The right kinds of oils, amino acids, and vitamins that deliver the right ingredients for sharp brain function.

I didn’t want to hear this stuff for the longest time. Writing was a form of escape, and what this espouses is a policy of engaging even more – exercising, eating right, taking care of yourself, they’re all things that require more engagement in the here and now. I wanted nothing to do with that when considering them in the context of writing. Give me a long string of lousy writing days, though, and I’ll begin to reconsider the wisdom of even the most stubborn pattern. So I started to pay attention.

I know it’s no coincidence that I’ve discovered eating nuts – particularly walnuts and almonds – can help to clear some of my brain fog. Walnuts are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, which aid in keeping brain cell membranes at proper functional levels. Almonds contain Phenylalanine, which stimulates the brain to produce more neurotransmitters like dopamine. I’m working on building a diet that will help to keep my mind functioning at peak level, and it will include berries, seeds, nuts, and yogurt, as well as some other foods that I’m currently studying. I’ll probably share it here once I’m done.

Exercise is also important. Plenty of studies have found that exercise boosts brain function, and I know more than one writer who incorporates a regular exercise regimen into their writing routine. I’m currently physically unable to exercise as much as I’d like, but once things begin to change on that front, I’ll be doing the same – I’ve seen the benefit that just a little bit of exercise can offer when it comes to feeling sharp and on top of my game.

I have, however, found that sleep is the #1 ingredient for successful writing. I think there might actually be some sort of formula between my reduced capabilities and reduced sleep time. Last night, for instance, I probably got around seven-and-a-half hours, maybe less considering I woke up a few times. I’m feeling somewhat energized, but could likely do a little better. Every now and then some sleepiness and brain fog creeps up on me, and I beat it away. Yesterday I had eight hours of sleep (and a fantastic salad loaded with some of those things I describe above), and functioned at pretty much peak. That’s important when I’m trying to cross the finish line on a first draft.

My point in all of this is that, while we should always remember that our health is of paramount importance, it’s even more so when we rely on our minds for so much. The mind-body connection is not just a myth, it’s fact – and improvement of one aids in improvement of the other.


In other news, Qwendellonia Publishing’s erotica “division” is hosting its first free story on Amazon, The Witching: Jubilation, by Lily Ortiz. It’s gotten a lot of downloads, and will continue to be available for free until Friday, so if it sounds like your kind of thing, head on over and check it out! You can expect the same from the Kayson Cycle next week, which will unfortunately mean removing the story from Smashwords and Barnes and Noble for some time, so get it there while you still can.

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  1. I’m in total agreement here–I can become completely obsessed and sit in front of my computer until my shoulders ache and the words blur in front of my eyes–one of my intentions for the New Year it to have more balance in my life which includes more yoga, walking in the woods and getting away from the writing desk…

  2. Agreed. A clear mind is necessary for good writing. It can be difficult – it’s really tempting to skip meals and sleep to keep writing. Some people can get away with it, but overall I think it’s a bad idea, and will eventually end up with the writer burning out. Moderation in all things!

  3. V good points there! Totally agree though not totally following… 😉 lacking sleep mostly! No wonder Im in a daze:))) Thanks for this article.

  4. I agree completely. I know all about the mind/body connection. There’s more to it than just our physical health. When we let our bodies get sluggish and overweight, we also tend to start to feel like failures, which has an effect on everything in our lives.

    I lost a lot of weight to get myself healthy, but the biggest challenge I face now in trying to remain healthy is getting enough sleep. (I have a toddler; need I say more?)

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