If you don't read another article on my website, I hope you'll take the time to read this one.
As writers we must take care of ourselves - physically, mentally, and emotionally. Let's look at these areas.
First, caring for yourself physically. If you feel bad, your writing is going to show it. No ifs, ands or buts. It's the sad truth. And who wants to feel bad. If you can prevent it or optimize how you feel, do it.
Start with proper rest. The human body needs rest. I'm as guilty as the next person of trying to squeeze 30 hours into a day of 24. I used to burn the candle at both ends and in the middle. I can't do it anymore. Nor do I choose to.
The amount of time you spend recuperating from it isn't worth it. In the end, you'll lose more productive time than you think.
Get those 8 hours of sleep each night Your body will reward you with clarity of thought and energy.
Another important thing about sleep is to have a regular bedtime and a regular time to get up each morning. Or at least on those days when you're working at your writing. The body is like a machine. It needs certain things to function properly and with sleep comes the need for regularity of hours.
After you've had your proper rest, what else does your body require of you physically? Proper nutrition.
Like cheating on hours and running on adrenaline, you can get by with junk food and poor eating habits for a period of time, sometimes many years, but at some point you're going to pay with illness(es), sluggishness, aches and pains. I believe a lot of this can be avoided by fueling your body with proper nutrients and eating on a set schedule. Find out what works for you.
Maybe you're happy eating six small meals throughout the day instead of three large meals. Experiment. It doesn't hurt to try.
If you're overweight, look into a good plan to lose those extra pounds. This is an area I struggle with. If what you're trying doesn't work for you, find another plan or schedule a visit with a nutritionist. The important thing is not to give up.
Next on the list of proper physical care is to gt regular exercise. Walking is probably the easiest and least expensive form of exercise you can do. It doesn't require special equipment although a good set of walking shoes is important, as is loose clothing. If you have access to a treadmill, you have no excuse. Whether you walk inside or out, make sure you are exercising regularly. Twenty minutes a day, five days a week is great. More if your writing schedule allows it.
Remember, before you start any exercise program, including walking, check with your doctor or healthcare professional.
Along with physical health, make sure your writing area is set up for optimum self-care. Make sure you have a good chair with excellent lumbar support (add a lumbar pillow or roll if you need more support) and adjustable side arms. This is a must to reduce stress and strain on your back, neck and shoulders.
Your chair should raise and lower and articulate forward and back so that you can get the proper alignment for your body. Your elbows and knees should rest at a 90 degree angle. Feet should be flat on the floorand not twisted or turned as this could pull muscles in your knees, hips and back. Hands should come off of the chair arms in front of you with your wrists flat and not contorted or bent to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome and other nasty hand and wrist pains.
A good ergonomic keyboard is helpful. Go to the office supply store and try out several until you find the one that feels the most comfortable. Have your mouse close to you and at the same level as the arm of your chair. Use a wrist rest if necessare to achieve the proper level of wrist posture and minimize injury.
Position your monitor so that it is directly in front of you so that you are neither raising or lowering your head to see. You'll be amazed at what this simple adjustment can do for neck and shoulder pain.
If you have "mature" eyes where they don't adjust to distances as well as they used to consider asking your eye specialist about progressive lenses or have one of the distances on your glasses set for the distance from where you sit to your computer screen. This will prevent you from moving your head around so much trying to find the spot where you can see the screen the best. I actually measured from the bridge of my nose to my monitor to determine the distance. I then took that measurement to my opthamologist to get the right setting for my glasses. And it was well worth it.
The other important thing is to not sit too long. I get so involved in my story that I don't want to stop. But your muscles need for you to get up and move around. There's such a thing as muscle memory. Too long in one position and your body remembrs that position. Trying to get into another position will be more difficult the longer you sit.
You should get up and move around every 20 minutes. Walk and stretch. If you have a treadmill nearby, hop on it for a 5 minute walk. If you don't have a treadmill, go out and get some fresh air or walk around in the house. You may think you can't get much done in 5 minutes, but you'd be surprised. Your body will reward you. You'll come back to your desk and your story revitalized. And you'll be upping your chances of preventing repetitive injuries.
Another important thing I've found for people who do a lot of sitting is to have "tummy time." Yes, I found those words funny the first time I heard them, too. But 30 minutes a day in the bed or on the floor resting on your stomach will stretch out those leg muscles that shrink up with all of the sitting a writer does. It's also a good time to do some listening to your characters or wrestling with a sticky plot point. I highly recommend tummy time.
Now that you're feeling better about sleeping, eating and sitting, let's look at mental and emotional self-care.
A big part of this self-care step is to keep a positive attitude. For some people it's so easy to get down or depressed. I think writers and creative types are more prone to this than the general population. Face it, we tend to feel things more intensely than the average person. It's part of what makes us good at what we do.
Try reading books for relaxation, go to the movies, have a meal out with a friend. Schedule a play day for yourself. Find what speaks to you and then do it on a regular basis.
Laugh. I truly believe there is restorative power in laughter. It loosens up the body and nutures the soul. Your mood will be lighter. Your body will be less tense. Your outlook will be more positive.
Avoid or limit toxins, whether they're in food, drinks, smoking or people. We all have weaknesses. Know what yours are and keep them in check.
The quickest way to sabotage a god mood is to surround yourself with a toxic person. They will suck the life and spirit out of you. They will leave you empty and depressed. You will not affect them in any way no matter how positive you are. This is how they live, how they are. You cannot change them. Don't even try. Protect yourself.
Surround yourself with people like you - positive, supportive people who look for the good in people and in life. People with goals, with interests and people who are going places in their chosen professions. Remember, nothing succeeds like success.
We all have bad days. Very few people can be cheerful all of the time, but if you practice a positive attitude, you'll be able to ride out adversity much better than the negative person who only wants to complain and wallow in their own misery.
Have a few people you trust to share your thoughts and problems with and be willing to do the same for them. Build your support system carefully.
Don't take on other people's problems. You can listen. You can offer advice. But remember the only person you can actually change is yourself. Work on being the best that you can be.
I also believe it's important to your mental and emotional health to have a strong belief system. Whether that encompasses a structured religion is up to you.
Like our books, we are each a work in progress. Fine tuning the things we do each day or even making one or two simple changes can do you a world of good.
I wish each of you your best life. And I hope you have time to enjoy the life you are building.