We’ve been sold this idea that writer’s are these pale, hunched over, gremlins eating whatever food is within reach. We laugh at this, joke about how true it is, and keep destroying ourselves. But is bad posture and unhealthy diets really something to joke about?
I have scoliosis, and was in physical therapy for several months to get rid of the chest-crushing pain and blinding, debilitating headaches I suffered from. Now, I have to be hyper-aware of my posture. Let me tell you, writing was an incredibly painful activity for a while. Even if you don’t have scoliosis, bad posture is- don’t hate me for this- a pain in the neck. In my many months at PT (I had a few others issues as well) I learned a shocking, horrifying fact. For every degree your head is angled down, so many pounds of pressure are applied to your neck. With your head tucked down in the usual posture for people at laptops, you have the equivalent pressure of an eight year child sitting on your head.
This leads to tension head aches- which suck. Not only do you have a headache and your neck and shoulders are in pain, you can have difficulty sleeping, sensitivity to light, and loss of apatite.
You also need to be aware of the position your hands are in when you type. Having your arms tucked at your side so they are directly positioned in front of your keyboard is a highly unnatural position. It can cause stress and inflammation in your wrists and devolve into carpals tunnels. If you can’t afford an ergonomic keyboard or if you have a laptop, try and angle your hands when you type.
Your diet is also incredibly important. There was a time where everyone in my house was really busy, so we weren’t really cooking meals. My brother, who is deathly allergic to peanuts, was gone for the week so we were all feasting on peanut butter. For three days or so, I really only ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It wasn’t intentional, they were just easy to make. Then I started getting really tired. We had no idea why; I was getting enough sleep. One day I slept for 15 hours and was still exhausted. In the end, we figured out that it was my diet. My body wasn’t getting all the nutrients it needed and was trying to conserve energy in order to function.
You also need to take vitamins. Seriously. I know I sound like your mother but I’ve learned these things the hard way. Even if you don’t actually feel better when you’re taking them, they help you from getting sick. Trying to write when you have a bad cold is almost impossible.
And; WATER. WATER WATER WATER WATER WATER. You’ve got to drink enough!!!! I keep a water bottle on my desk at all times. Because, you know, I don’t feeling like crap. Dehydration can cause, exhaustion, dry skin, headaches, dizziness, etc, etc, etc. You have to stay hydrated! If I’m feeling muddy-headed and unmotivated to keep writing, I get up, get a drink, and take a walk around our property. Boom. Fixed. (Most of the time. Sometimes it’s spine issues and that takes a some more complicated steps to fix.)
Speaking of walking….. As much as I hate to say this, it’s necessary to move. Just taking a walk can improve your mental clarity so much.
And maybe the thing we writers, and everyone else, struggle with the most- sleep. I don’t think I even need to get into all the thing slack of sleep causes. Sure, you may write some really great stuff when at three in the morning; but if you make a habit of it you’re going to slowly spiral into chronic exhaustion. I’m on a sleep schedule right now, (shocking, I know.) and I haven’t felt so good in a long time. I’m in bed by 9:30-10:00 each night and up at 7:30. And guess what? I do my best work in morning.
I know there’s a hundred other things I could say about staying healthy as a writer, but I won’t. These are the biggest things, and following them improves your life so much. There’s a lot of things you can sacrifice for your writing, but don’t sacrifice your health.