We sit at our desks for long periods of time. We drink lots of coffee, maybe smoke, when we take a break (or even as we write). We eat chocolate or chips, or get fast food for dinner because we've got no time to shop and cook. We stay up late, night after night, or drag ourselves out of bed at dawn to write, because that's the only time we have in a busy family/work life.
The result of all of this is obvious. We are overweight, unfit and tired. Just like most of the population. We make resolutions to go to the gym, walk regularly, eat more fruit and veges, but it doesn't happen. Oh well, we sigh, just like everyone else.
Except we aren't like everyone else. When everyone else collapses on the weekend, or after dinner, and watches TV or naps, or goes out and parties, the serious writer is writing. Other people's R&R time is usually our writing time, especially if we have to work in a regular job to pay the bills. A writer who wants to write, and complete projects like novels and short story collections and film scripts, is writing when everyone else is chilling out.
The problem that arises from this is simply a physical and mental tiredness that stops you from writing at your best, and may often stop you from writing at all. I've blogged here before about how that tiredness influences everything about our writing, not just getting the words down on the page but also how you feel about them. If you are feeling bright and healthy and energetic, revision is a pleasure, not a pain. Rejections sting for a few minutes then you can shrug them off and move on. Words zing onto the page because you feel zingy!
What is the solution? Unfortunately, there is no magic wand for this stuff, but here are my thoughts on what makes me write better:
1. Sleep. I am an 8-9 hour a night person, and if I don't get good sleep, I fall in a heap very quickly. So I watch very little TV and go to bed early. Boring, huh? It works for me. I know there are people who insist they can survive well on 5 hours a night, but all the sleep studies now (and there are lots of them because scientists have realised what lack of sleep can do to us) show that it affects alertness, ability to process thoughts, ability to respond, moodiness, irritation, concentration, etc etc. It's actually quite scary what the effects are. Maybe they could add writer's block to the list.
2. Walking, or some form of exercise. It gets me off the chair, it lets my brain think more freely as I walk, it wakes me up, it gets me out in the world. I actually like walking in the rain (with an umbrella) better than anything. But I do have to force myself to do it some days, even though I know it will make me feel good.
3. Less coffee and alcohol. I limit coffee to one a day now, but it has to be a decent one. Not instant. And if I have it in a cafe while I'm writing or thinking about writing, even better. Alcohol - I'm always trying to do better there!
4. Where I write - making sure my computer use is not going to make my neck and shoulder condition worse, which was caused by that in the first place. So the chair and the desk and the keyboard and the monitor all need to be working for me, not against me.
5. Eating better. Skipping breakfast is silly. I've come to believe that breakfast sets you up for the whole morning. I hate lunch - it's the most boring meal of the day to me, but I try to have something with protein in it because of my iron and energy levels. Dinner is up to you! I hate sitting around after dinner feeling like a lump of lead is lying in my stomach, so if we've eaten something heavy, I'll go for a walk afterwards. That helps me sleep.
If I feel good physically, I feel great mentally. I want to write, my brain is full of ideas and words, I can tackle anything with energy and concentration. My biggest struggle is work - it exhausts me mentally and physically - but I can cope if I stay healthy. It's one of my big goals for this year, and I hope it feeds into my writing every day.