Does the phrase “Get your butt in a chair and write…” ring a bell?
Maybe it does. It’s perhaps the most popular advice given to writers every day. You just gotta sit and type. There you go, easy peasy. You’ll start meeting your daily word quota, and you might even surpass it. You’ll get more work done, and your writing will improve.
But once you get the hang of just sitting and typing, you will also start paying a price.
Sitting down for long periods –how bad is it?
Picture my story: right now I’m writing eleven articles a week. Ten of these articles are for my copywriting job and one is for my weekly blog post. On top of that, I’m writing both a comic and a screenplay. That means my butt is almost glued to a chair for hours, going all flat like a tortilla.
After 4 months of multiple writing projects and binge watching, I gained weight, I was getting tired faster and I wasn’t exercising at all. Even when I was achieving my writing goals, my craft was taking a toll on me. It wasn’t until I checked in with my cardiologist that I realized I was slowly killing myself. And this isn’t a hyperbole. Sitting for long periods of time could increase your risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease up to 125%, and your risk of death from any cause by up to 50%.
I don’t know about you, but that scared the hell out of me. I wanted to live long enough to see my hard work pay, and for that, I had to completely overhaul my lifestyle.
So, how did I manage to live a healthier life while still accomplishing my writing goals? Here are the answers:
1. Fitness trackers and inactivity alarms
My first step towards a healthier lifestyle was finding a way to take little breaks without losing hyper focus.
If you have experienced flow, you know it’s really easy to lose track of time. And while setting an alarm might work for some, I found them disruptive and quite annoying.
That doesn’t happen with my Jawbone UP24. I just set the inactivity alarm to 30 minutes and it gently vibrates to remind I should stretch. Once I’m standing up, there are two possible scenarios:
I take a little break, I stretch, jump a bit and get back to work
I get away from the computer to walk for a while –if I don’t want to lose focus, I use voice recording or I write down key concepts on a notepad.
Also, you can try the Hemingway-way by writing while standing up. I’m not a big fan of this one but it’s a matter of giving it a try.
If you are an introvert like me, you are most likely to avoid the gym. All of those people sweating and grunting and looking extra fitness? No thanks, I’ll pass.
Yet, I found swimming to be ultra-beneficial for my writing and health. It’s an aerobic exercise that helps me process oxygen in a more effective way while I take care of my heart.
Also, when I dive in, I get a lot of insights about my stories. It might be something related to the struggle I withstand or the calm I experience when I’m underwater in my own swimming lane, aside from daily live distractions.
3. Fruit and vegetable juices –that doesn’t taste like grass
One of the perks of working from home as a writer is having quick snacks and food within reach. But trust me! It’s a trap. Cheese nachos might be delicious, but it counts as junk food –that also leaves an orange trail of nastiness in your keyboard as if Chester Cheetos was your ghostwriter.
So, I gave up on cheese nachos and I started making my own juices with vegetables and fruits –which turned up really easy once I bought a proper juicer that makes my juice free of pulp, something you would appreciate if you are not used to eating vegetables on a daily basis.
But, and this is a disclaimer: I wouldn’t recommend juice fasting. I don’t do that. For me, It’s not about skipping meals and filling in with juices. but about having a more healthy and balanced diet without spending too much time in the kitchen, or relying on fast food.
4. Voice notes –the overlooked writing tool
Besides recording drunk and embarrassing voice notes, your smartphone’s voice recorder could be a useful tool to improve your overall productivity as a writer.
This is what I do: I pick up my cellphone, a pair of headphones with a mic, and I go take a walk through the City Centre. Then, I start recording monologues, feelings, and inner dialogues. Whatever I manage to reflect from how the city makes me feel. Also, It works for me since my comic main setting is my city, and I’m writing it in a First-person POV.
By walking one hour in the city:
I get to do cardio
I explore my main character’s psyche
I study setting
On the other hand, if you are more into copywriting you can record yourself having a conversation with a prospect. It helps achieve that conversational tone and it’s perfect to take a sitting break without losing focus.
NOTE: There are several voice-to-text software you can use to get the most out of these voice notes. The most accurate of them all is the Dragon Professional Individual –though it’s a bit expensive at $300 and it might take you a while to learn all of its features. If you ask me, I would recommend using Google Docs voice typing because of its accuracy ratio of 1 inaccurate word for every 250 words (plus it’s free). Then again, it’s a matter of what works for you.
If you love writing and you want to do it for years to come, adopting healthier habits would allow you to stay sharp –both physically and mentally- without affecting your productivity.
For me, implementing these 4 healthy writing habits helped me:
Increase my endurance –I could work more hours without getting tired
Improve my focus when writing –since my oxygen levels improved too