Saturday, March 6, 2010

5 Bad Habits of Writers

Originally uploaded by greg westfall.
I often hear people call writing the solitary life when they should call it the sedentary life. Most of the work I do is on the computer and in my head, so moving isn’t really a top priority. I woke up the other morning and had a huge kink in my neck and I knew it was the four straight hours at the computer the night before that did it. I’m not as young as I once was and this writer’s lifestyle was starting to put a damper on my style. I decided to revamp the way I do things and to do that; I need to figure out what I’m doing wrong in the first place. I came up with five habits that writers engage in that can lead to problems down the road. I researched healthy alternatives and practices to counteract those habits and I’ll share them with you.
• Number one on the list is bad posture. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt a know in my neck or on my back from sitting incorrectly at the computer. A good chair goes a long way, but resting your feet on a small stool and sitting up straight really make a difference in the way you feel. I’ve also invested in a wrist pad and some ergonomic pillows for my back. These minor adjustments help to reduce the stress on your back, neck, and shoulders, minimizing headaches. Protecting the angle of your wrists lowers the risk of carpal tunnel issues later.
• Another bad habit that most writers admit to is unhealthy snacking. You know who you are! We drink way too much coffee, gobble easy to grab pantry goodies, and tend to meet at coffee houses…enough said. This type of eating can cause sluggishness and that’s never a good thing if you’re writing. I learned recently that healthy snacking, or grazing, helps to improve brain function. This is something I can’t’ afford to pass up. I try to have pre-cut veggies, nuts, and fruit next to me on the desk now and I have to say…I feel better. Another thing that helps alertness is water. Try substituting some of your favorite drink for water flavored with a sliced lemon or orange. Keeping in pre bottled in the fridge helps me when I’m feeling lazy.
• Not sleeping enough is the habit I am most guilty of. I tend to write at night, because that is when the home schooling is done, and my kids are in bed. I often don’t go to bed until after midnight. One solution is to make sure to set aside a realistic time to type and then step away from the computer. Sleep is not only restorative to your body, a properly rested person is more creative, alert, and has a better recollection than a tired counterpart. Want to improve your efficiency? Get some sleep.
• Not exercising is a huge problem for people that work at a sedentary job because the gym may be the only time we go outside. You computer types know what I’m talking about. Fortunately I have some freakishly healthy friends that motivate me to get off my chair and go to the gym with them. Not only do I physically feel better, I am also mentally relaxed and that bodes well for the characters I write. When I’m cooped up and nihilistic, people tend to get blown up or eaten by strange creatures.
• Finally, there’s the tendency to STRESS! This can be the worst of the five because a stress can affect both mind and body. From deadlines, to equipment malfunction, to just too many distractions…stress can derail anyone’s goals. There are some great tools out there to help the writer get control of their task. Software, classes to improve organization, even taking an hour to make a list of your goals that day help to keep stress at a minimum. Set aside time to write, and then honor it – both by starting on time, and walking away when the time is up. Finally, find a critique group and complain to people who truly understand what you’re talking about. Some support and understanding often make a huge difference.

I hope these tips help make your writing time more fun and efficient. Until next time…Go Write!

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