A healthy writer leads to healthy writing

So many writers jeopardise their health in the name of art, whether it's working hour after hour without a break or into the night until morning. Time to get healthy and stop!

I’ve been feeling rather sick this week with a particularly terrible bout of gentlemen’s influenza. And it got me thinking about a post called Self-care and Being Humble by Rachelle Gardner, which I bookmarked a while ago. It’s a great post. You should read it.
Anyway, in this episode I take her thoughts, add them to my own and then relate it to the proverbial us, we writers of the world. Because if you’re anything like me, there’ll have been times many where you’ve put your health at risk for the sake of your writing.

Of course, I’m not talking about taking notes on a motorway or entering a war zone in the name of research. I’m referring to those marathon, break-less writing sessions and those all-nighters in front of the screen. The things that we writers often seem to think are just, you know, things we have to do.

Well we don’t. And we shouldn’t. So there you go.

Watch this episode on Vimeo


randymurray@me.com 9 December 2010 Reply

Glad you’re feeling better. I find that my best writing is early in the AM and fully agree with you – you have to take care of yourself to write consistently and well. I try to schedule a morning writing session, work out and have lunch, then go back at it. On my best days this can be very productive.
BTW, what, pray tell, is the “gentlemen’s influenza”? Self inflicted in some way?

iain@writeforyourlife.net 9 December 2010 Reply

Now that’s what I’m hoping to switch to – getting up and writing before I head off to work to… well ….do different writing. It’s tough – it doesn’t come natural – but I honestly think that’s the way to go.
Gentlemen’s influenza. In the UK, men are generally thought to, shall we say, make the most of what is likely just a minor cold. Women never complain about this type of fever. Therefore, when a man is sick but not that sick, he is told to get a hold of himself, as it’s just ‘man flu’.

Anonymous 9 December 2010 Reply

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stevenkgriffin@yahoo.com 9 December 2010 Reply

I took a sickness hit last week, myself. So I’m right behind everything you mention in this video. One of the things I’ve recently been doing is waking up early to write. I use to wake up at 7:30am and was off to work by 8:00, but now I wake up at 4:45 every day (including weekends) and get 2+ hrs of writing accomplished each day. It’s worked out much better than staying up late because I would tend to continue writing for hours and hours without limits in the evenings. By writing in the morning, I limited on time before I have to start working. Keeps me from over extending.

iain@writeforyourlife.net 9 December 2010 Reply

Hi Steve – yep, that’s another logical reason for doing the morning thing instead. Like most things in life, it’s just subtle changes in our behaviour that can potentially make huge differences. Truth is, whenever I do get up and early and get work done before, yer know, proper work, I feel fantastic about it. Needs to become a habit.

stevenkgriffin@yahoo.com 10 December 2010 Reply

Yeah, I had to back into waking up so early. I would move backwards in 15 minute increments a week at a time until I finally reached 4:45. Made the transition easier and helped me establish it as a habit rather than a forced action. Makes a huge difference.
I’ll admit though, I still enjoy a late-night writing session every once in a while. 🙂

Anonymous 10 December 2010 Reply

This is really interesting, because it’s got me thinking about something I wasted a lot of column words on a month or so back – the “literary scene” and superficial posturing. First, I’ll say I know I should do more yoga/crunches/running – I was in the athletics team at uni (you’d NEVER believe it now to look at me, although it was for discuss – but I still trained 6 times a week, doing masses of cardio, and had indoor rowing times that were ahead of the college first eight) and that level of fitness, for all it takes time, makes the time back and then some in the extra energy and creativity you have.
But what I’ve been thinking about is that “writer’s lifestyle” that we associate with the tortured geniuses we admire, the consumptive, addicted picture of ill-health (I was at a Beat night watching film of Burroughs last night, which is maybe why I can picture it so well). The Beats became about the lifestyle as they began to implode, and there’s a tendency in certain parts of the literary scene today to adopt the lifestyle as a badge of honour and hope the creativity flows from it. That’s not how it works. The writers who brought back truly great works from their own personal hells found themselves there through misadventure and misfortune and made the best of what had been thrown at them. I work with a few writers who have been addicted, self-neglected, suicidal to the point their bodies are shot to pieces, and they create worlds that are unimaginably beautiful out of their pain – but they’d all give it up in an instant to get their health back – and they’re all perfectly aware that if they were healthy and hadn’t been through what they had they’d be producing work that was equally good, but about something else, and more productively. In their cases, like so many, the ill-health they find themselves in now is a result of, among other things, self-medicating mental illness. They’re sick because they got sick and there was not a lot they could do about it – and there will always be a lot of people who can’t do anything about it because they’re too sick – which is where we come in as their friends and support network. But if you are in a position to do something, to choose which path to take – don’t choose the path of ill-health because you think it’s glamorous or going to turn you into the next Burroughs – it isn’t; and it won’t.

Possibly not the kind of health you had in mind, but it’s so tied up with the writerly image in many people’s minds it’s worth mentioning 🙂

iain@writeforyourlife.net 10 December 2010 Reply

No, you’re absolutely right and that’s all very interesting. The badge of honour reference is exactly what I’m talking about. If you’re a middle class, perfectly comfortable and fortunately talented writer, don’t feel bad about it. That’s who you are.
We don’t need to drive ourselves to extremes to feel like a writer. Just live healthily – normally, even – and your writing will be just fine. Don’t be a martyr!

Great comment – thanks!

Anonymous 13 December 2010 Reply

[…] another unhealthy writing stereotype, I’m afraid. Quite often, we don’t need to shut ourselves off from the world. In fact, […]

Anonymous 16 December 2010 Reply

[…] recently talked about being a healthy writer and, more specifically, about not being a martyr. That is, don’t run yourself into the ground […]

jasmin.nanda@gmail.com 20 December 2010 Reply

Very true! I was upset the day before, so just did not feel like posting on my blog. So, apart from physical health, mental health is also very important. Moreover, writers are more likely to go into depression or mood swings as this is solitary job…

iain@writeforyourlife.net 21 December 2010 Reply

It really can be a solitary experience this writing business and that’s all the more reason to look after your health. And blogging is definitely something that we shouldn’t feel bad about letting slip once in a while, unless it’s your only source of income. This blog every day theory is nonsense. It’s not essential.

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