PREPARE THYSELVES for, well, a bit of a downer.
It may come as no surprise to any of you that writers die. I know, right? Tom Clancy most recently, and before that, Vince Flynn, both of whom were, frankly, way too young to go. And with NaNoWriMo looming dark and vicious before us, I’m going to talk about something that we writer types don’t really talk about a whole lot.
Yawn. I know. But here’s the thing: if you’re a full-time writer, you’re spending, what, 8 hours a day at your computer? Probably not at the right height, and probably not with great posture. You’re probably picking at jelly beans or candy corn and sucking on caffeiney goodness all day. And when you “take a break” from writing, chances are pretty good you’re still in your chair, mucking about on Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr or whatever your choice of internet time suck is.
If you’re not a full-time writer, you’ve probably got a job. And if you’re not a sucker like I am, it’s likely at a desk. In front of a computer. For 8 hours (sometimes more). And when you get off, you drive home (sitting down), maybe you relax with some TV or video games (probably sitting down), and then you crack those writerly knuckles, wiggle your writerly fingers over the keyboard and get to it. Sitting down.
GUYS. THIS IS TERRIBLE. Sitting down for insane stretches of time is really awful for your health. Seriously: there have been studies. When your circulatory system is sluggish and you’re not stretching your muscles (or even resting your eyes), you’re doing the only body you’ll ever have a huge disservice.
I know, I know: but I’m on a roll, and I have to keep going or I’ll never finish this scene and I KNOW EXACTLY HOW IT ENDS RIGHT NOW WHERE’S THE COFFEEEE
I haven’t gotten anything done and I can’t take a break from a blank page because I have no idea what I’m doing but I want this to be my job/this is my job, and I can’t just run around and fuck off for a bit because I HAVE THINGS TO WRITE I JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE YET WHERE’S THE COFFEEEEE
I get it. Here’s the thing, brothers- and sisters-in-pens: if your brain’s stagnating, or you’re close to beating your head against the keyboard, take a freaking break. You don’t have to go out and run a marathon, or even a mile. I’ve had plenty of days where I got up from my chair because I was about to break something and went into the hallway and held a plank for 30 seconds, or did 10 push-ups, or both. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. Your brain is an organ like anything else, and it requires blood to function. And when you get your blood moving… no, it’s okay, I’ll sit back and let you do the math.
I think we’ve all noticed a pattern of writers dying a whole lot younger than maybe they ought to. There’s a lot of pressure in the publishing business, and there’s a long-standing expectation of writers to be self-destructive, alcoholics, drug addicts, on and on. And many great writers have been–and many haven’t been. It isn’t, of course, mutually exclusive, but none of you really think that.
What is important to remember is that THIS BODY YOU HAVE RIGHT NOW is it. That’s the one you get. That’s the one that houses your brain (that thing that makes with the words), and you want to take care of it. Beyond that, getting up and moving around and, oh yeah, having a vegetable once a week or so, is going to make you feel like a million bucks. Seriously. That’s not bullshit. And if you’ve got a limited budget or limited time (which, really, don’t we all have this problem), consider investing in a multi-vitamin. AND THEN TAKE THE DAMN THINGS. You are NOT going to have a fully functional body if all you feed it is coffee, booze, and fun-size Hershey bars.
NaNoWriMo, for many writers, is the time where they get to Live The Dream. They have a deadline, an obnoxiously high word count, and no excuse to take off work or raising children or anything. Don’t let it be an excuse to let your health go to shit. Don’t let “I’m tired” be an excuse, because the more you give in to “I’m tired,” the more tired you’ll be. Even if you just get up and walk to the bathroom every hour. Or every time you update your word count (which could be more frequently!).
Look, I’m not trying to rail against candy and chocolate and coffee and booze. TRUST ME. I love all those things–but I also love having enough energy to work an 8 hour day on my feet, go to the gym, eat dinner, and then sit down and writer 2,000 words. It’s a lot of work, guys, don’t get me wrong. But it’s doable. Treat yourself right, and you’ll return the favor.