If you’re like me, when you get into a “writing zone,” you pretty much sit your butt down and just write until the words won’t come anymore. When I was finishing up the first draft of Martyrs back in 2009, I was literally writing from ten PM to four AM for several weeks on end. That’s… quite a bit of time in front of a computer screen.
Needless to say, most of us aren’t exactly practicing healthy writing habits. That’s right, guys. Today we’re going to talk about how to not kill yourself when you’re getting down to it and seriously writing.
Write with good posture.
Due to the abundance of desk jobs and chiropractors in the world, we hear a whole hell of a lot about posture. I’d like to say it’s all a bunch of hogwash, but seriously, guys, it’s a big deal. When you write for hours on end, you’re usually crunched over your computer keyboard (or doing what I’m doing now–relaxing back on a couch with your feet kicked up). Unfortunately, bad posture, especially bad posture over several hours of writing, can affect your spine, hips, and neck in pretty serious ways. In other words, they hurt like hell. I also know this because my own bad posture has jacked up my hips and put them out of alignment. In other words, do as I say, not as I do!
Take care of your wrists.
This, surprisingly, is actually more important for those writers who prefer to write longhand than type. That’s right–according to WebMD, typing isn’t actually a major cause of carpal tunnel (it can lead to cancer, though, so be careful (if that was lost on you, it was a “WebMD-tells-you-everything-gives-you-cancer” joke)). However, repetitive manual motions, such as writing have been shown to lead to increased risk for carpal tunnel. I know I personally can’t write long form for very long without my wrist starting to ache like mad–which has been fun as I write pages and pages in Calvin’s baby book.
Give your eyes a break.
Most writers (and people who work with computers daily) know how much of a pain it can be to stare at a screen for extended periods during the day. And it doesn’t have to be a screen. Being really close to your work (like when you’re writing longform) can strain your eyes, too. Now, contrary to popular belief, this kind of thing rarely causes permanent damage, but it can be really annoying when your eyes get sore while you’re working. A good practice to get into is to give your eyes a break by looking at something across the room or out a window every twenty minutes or so. While you’re brainstorming a scene, watch the spider in the corner of the room instead of stare at the words on the page!
Get up and walk AROUND, for God’s sake.
I don’t have to tell you about how unhealthy a sedentary lifestyle is, do I? It’s one of those things the media loves to talk about: we’re all unhealthy because we have cushy desk jobs and don’t move around enough. Unfortunately, they talk about it because it’s true. Sitting down for prolonged periods of time can lead to all kinds of trouble, from circulatory issues to focus problems. Sitting down for hours on end also usually leads to bad posture, which I’ve already talked about above. It’s a good idea to walk around your room a bit when you’re writing. Maybe, while you give your eyes a break, you can give your butt one, too!
Make sure you actually sleep.
I mentioned already that I was writing from ten PM to four AM, right? Luckily for me, I was doing that over my winter break when I was in college. That meant I got to sleep in and get at least seven hours of sleep even though I was staying up until ridiculous hours in the morning. Most of the time, though, we don’t take that kind of thing into consideration and instead we live on four or five hours (if that) of sleep a night. Sleep is actually pretty important, so my suggestion? Get as much of it as you can! Maybe I’m just saying that because I’m pregnant and in four and a half months I’ll be lucky if I ever sleep seven hours a night again, but, meh, it’s still a good rule to live by.
Drink water with your caffeine or alcohol.
I’ve had a blog post or two about writers and drinking–usually in regards to alcohol and caffeine. The caffeine thing is tied directly to that whole “not sleeping because we’re too busy” writing thing, and alcohol is more about unlocking creativity and this romantic belief that great writers are all drunks. Anyway, this could also be the pregnancy talking, but seriously, you need to incorporate some water into all that coffee and vodka. Water helps you focus and generally keeps the rest of your body in better shape than any other liquid you can funnel down your throat.
Anyway, that’s enough preaching. Go out there and write (healthy-like) you little writers, you!