Writers live in a solitary environment. Left to our own devices, we’d probably end up pasty, bug-eyed and nearly blind, arthritic with major scoliosis, heart disease, and probably poor kidney function, too. When the Butt is in the Chair and the Hands are on the Keyboard, we’re not exactly at our most physically fit.
Back when I was in the corporate world, we bemoaned the presence of “Executive Spread” – how your ass tends to expand to fit the contours of your chair. At one point, sometime back in the 90’s, I worked in companies that actively sought to improve the quality of life for their employees with things like on-site Weight Watchers meetings, exercise rooms, and even one place that brought in a personal trainer at reduced rates for us. Well, the dot-com…dot-bombed and suddenly, it wasn’t so much cutting your employees’ carb intakes as it was just cutting your employees. So it falls on us once again to come up with our own ways to maintain that work/life balance that’s critical to our productivity (yet critically ignored by industries always willing to throw money after “productivity” quick-fixes).
As writers, we live a sedentary lifestyle. We tend to equate productivity with presence at the computer, but there have been many studies showing that productivity is actually enhanced by taking the time to step away and get moving. But if you’ve been slumped in that desk chair for days on end and the writing seems to be coming harder, the more you try to keep to that Butt-In-Chair-Hands-On-Keyboard regimen, the less you’re going to get out of it. Get up and start moving. Aerobic exercise has immediate and longer-term effects on your creativity.
This study shows that participants tested on creative thinking experienced a positive bump in their creative thinking both immediately after aerobic exercise and two hours later. So if the idea of breaking from your workday to go sweat (or if you’re using your day job’s lunch hour to write and can’t do six things at once), make the effort to schedule a brisk morning walk or workout. You’ll still feel the effects of that increased productivity.
It’s not just moving that keeps us well, of course. What we put into our bodies is the fuel for what we get out of it. While some writers could fuel themselves on alcoholism and mood swings, the rest of us aren’t really enamored of that as a career path (personally, I’d rather be famous–or at least read–before I’m at death’s doorstep). I know most of us are sneaking in writing time between eighteen different other tasks that call for our attention, but if you’re eating while you’re writing, you may be eating less efficiently. One of the tricks of a healthy attitude towards eating is to make our mealtimes memorable. Stop what you’re doing, eat your lunch, and taste it. That way, you’ll remember it–and remember that you ate it when snacktime rolls around.
What you sit on may play just as much of a part in your wellness as what you do and what you eat. Some writers are exploring the concept of the Treadmill Desk. A desk placed at the right height to allow a slow stroll while comfortably typing can increase your health and wellness. While you might not have the money to drop for one of these ready-made babies, there are plenty of ways to DIY it with a used treadmill and a chunk of plywood. Do some jumping jacks and get creative.
And stay well. Especially if you’re a series writer. We all want to know what happens next.