No, no, don’t click away! Give me five minutes and hear me out, even if you’re sick to death of hearing about how you should be working out and eating healthy, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah, blah, blah, blah…
Staying fit and healthy can boost your writing career, help make your anchored lifestyle easier to manage, and get you to quitting the day job faster.
Do I have your attention yet?
There’s a romantic image that writers like Hemingway, Faulkner, and Ian Fleming made attractive, and contemporary writers have continued to live up to. Hard drinking, reckless adventure-seeking, wild parties. Strings of failed relationships, or endless sexual exploits. Idiosyncratic and often unsociable habits. Drug dependencies of all sorts….
It’s possible you secretly think a writer must adopt this sort of anything-goes attitude in order to experience life at the fullest, and fuel your writing, but there’s good evidence that great writers who played hard managed to write brilliant stories despite their lifestyles, not because of them.
Stephen King, one of the most prolific and successful contemporary authors in the world, managed to rid himself of his drug and alcohol habits, and still keep writing. In On Writing, King said:
“Any claims that the drugs and alcohol are necessary to dull a finer sensibility are just the usual self-serving bullshit…Hemingway and Fitzgerald didn’t drink because they were creative, alienated, or morally weak. They drank because it’s what alkies are wired up to do. Creative people probably do run a greater risk of alcoholism and addiction than those in some other jobs, but so what? We all look pretty much the same when we’re puking in the gutter.”
If you’re still tempted to click away despite what I’m about to say having the ability to boost your writing career, then is it possible that you feel guilty? Diet and exercise both seem like too much effort when coupled to an anchored author’s busy lifestyle. But it’s worth working for optimum health and fitness. Here’s why:
The longer you live, the more books you’ll get to write. Being both healthy and fit (they’re related, but not the same) will give you the best chance of living longer. Futurists and scientists say that the first person who will live to 200 years old has already been born.
Optimum health helps keep the blood and glucose flowing to the brain, and the synapses firing properly. If you’re at peak health, you think better. Thinking better produces better books.
Balance Mental And Physical Activities
If your day job is an office-bound one, like mine, then you’ll be spending most of your day in a chair, staring at a computer, with only your fingers moving. That’s a well-known danger of sedentary jobs.
In addition, as writers we are particularly prone to submersion in the rich world inside our heads. Add to that our anchored author status: we’re constantly obsessing over how to make the writing career pay and quit the day job.
Regular exercise gets you moving on a daily basis, and also forces you to focus on the physical — something outside your mind – which helps rest and restore your mental functions.
Teaches you self-discipline
It takes planning and execution to establish the habits required to gain health and fitness, to drop excess weight and maintain it, to eat well and avoid excess. It’s not always fun – if it was, the world wouldn’t be suffering an obesity epidemic. But it is a great way of teaching yourself discipline over the long term.
That same self-determination will help ensure you write when you’ve planned to write, which will boost your productivity.
Exercise helps you structure your day
If you exercise at the same time every day, the daily event — combined with your day job — gives your days a non-negotiable structure into which you can slot the rest of your life. It helps ensure that things get done, like showering, writing, and marketing, which will also help increase your overall productivity.
Gives you more energy
If your get-up-and-go got up and left a long time ago, then for the first few weeks, “more energy” is going to sound like a nasty joke.
But eventually your system will adapt, and the workouts and sensible eating will start to pay off by providing you with extra energy to get through your day. You will no longer be dragging your tired butt to the writing desk or, worse, chosing not to write at all because you’re too damned tired.
The effects of increasing health and fitness are cumulative and feed off each other, too: the more weight you drop, the less calories you’ll use to move yourself through the day, and therefore, the more energy you’ll have to tackle the things you must do. As your cardio-vascular fitness increases, your metabolism will get a boost, providing even more energy.
You’ll look slimmer, younger and happier
You will actually be slimmer and happier (more on the latter in a moment), but you’ll also look younger. Without exception, a face not rounded by excess body fat looks youthful. Excess body fat ages your body and your appearance.
It’s impossible to ignore the fact that the world judges on appearances. Looking younger, slimmer and happy is great for public appearances, meeting readers and the media, and it’ll do wonders for your ego, which will give you confidence to deal with both media and readers.
The public respects public figures who demonstrate all-round discipline and dedication to all aspects of their craft. Although it’s not necessarily true, when you see someone who has the self-discipline to keep themselves fit and healthy despite a busy lifestyle, you assume that the same self-discipline and strength of character will extend into every aspect of their lives, including their profession.
The reverse is also true: Think of actors, etc., who have stacked on weight, or led dissolute lives. Does anyone ever really care if Brittany does another album? We’re fascinated by the glimpse of a public figure’s clay feet, but at the same time a little repelled.
As an anchored author, you’re pursuing a career that makes you a public figure and open to the same judgement.
You’ll sleep better
If you’re physically tired at the end of the day and not just mentally drained, you’ll sleep soundly, and you’ll dream in proper REM cycles, uninterrupted by snoring (weight-loss very often eliminates snoring), stress, or indigestion from a crappy meal and mindless munching late at night.
Good sleep is good for your creativity – it will boost it over the horizon. I speak from experience. I recently ceased taking a prescribed medication (with my doctor’s supervision) and almost immediately noticed the effects on my sleep. I began dreaming again, too.
After nearly two years of drug-stunted sleep, I now wake up with solutions to fiction problems, new ideas for novels, and a returning enthusiasm for story-telling. My creativity is blooming again.
Better sleep may not sound like a big deal if you’ve never had major problems with sleep. But most adults’ sleep patterns are sub-par and any improvement you can make will make a difference to your writing.
Getting fit, losing weight, and eating well will improve your sleep.
You’ll be able to write longer
When you get the chance to write in long sessions, or write more often throughout the day, being fit and healthy will ensure you can physically cope with the demand of long or many writing sessions. You’ll be more alert, with brain fog setting in less frequently. You’ll avoid the physical tiredness that comes from excess weight and deal better with sitting in one place for long periods of time.
And possibly, you’ll write faster. Your brain is an organ, just like your liver and kidneys, and functions better when it is well watered and fed, and not clogged with residues and toxins.
Your escape stash will build faster
If you’re not paying for street drugs or prescribed medications, booze, and expensive pre-packaged meals, you’re going to save money.
You’ll also save money by eating out less, and you’ll be spending less on general healthcare, too. You’ll be sick less often, and virtually eliminate those days when headaches and general feelings of lethargy kill your ability to work at either your day job or your writing.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on getting fit, either. For every expensive club-based fitness activity, there is a home-based version available, or a publicly-accessible almost-free version in your community.
You’ll be happier
The best for last. There’s physical proof that good health and high levels of fitness actually make you a happier person.
Physical exercise releases endorphins, the body’s own happy-pill. Better sleep and physical wellness helps you relax and deal with the stresses of the anchored lifestyle better.
Gaining mastery over your health, the boost of energy that comes from peak fitness and your improved physical appearance will all give you psychological satisfaction and happiness.
As an anchored author, the boost to your writing productivity and the improvement in your writing abilities are both happiness-generators.
And tell me how much joy and contentment you’ll get out of shortening the time it takes to get to quitting your day job?
First appeared on Anchored Authors, August, 2008