Friday, March 21, 2014

Keep Mind and Body in Balance

Writing is a very demanding profession. At times—especially when payment isn’t forthcoming or problems arise with editors—it can be extremely stressful. And stress can play havoc on your health and your writing. It’s a vicious cycle.

The impression most people have of writers is that words just spill forth with little effort—that ideas just appear. But for most writers, this can’t be farther from the truth. Most people, albeit most writers, believe writing to be entirely a mental process. But to make sure your mind is in good shape to write, you must make sure your body is also in good shape.

No, you don’t have to go to the gym every day, but regular exercise is one way to make sure your mind is sharp. And if your mind is sharp, then your writing will improve.

Consider playing a sport. Swim during the summer. Ski, especially cross country skiing, in the winter. Play tennis or basketball. Whichever sport you decide on, make sure it’s one that offers opportunity for rather vigorous exercise. And while playing golf will get you outdoors, the leisurely walking—and for many riding—around the course won’t do it. Bicycling would be better. But if you choose to cycle on level ground and cruise along most of the time, you won’t get very much exercise. Even a walk around your neighborhood each day will invigorate your writing.

There’s a definite connection between the moving body and the thinking mind.

But exercise alone isn’t enough. You must also make sure that your diet offers you the energy that you’ll need. A balanced diet, enhanced by plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains, will serve you well. Stay away from trendy foods and especially processed foods.

Sugars provide energy, but too much sugar provides you with a false sense of energy. Sure, you’ll get a sugar high, but that won’t stay with you. And to maintain your mental abilities throughout the day as you write, you need foods that will give you energy that stays with you. The same can be said for caffeine. The more caffeine you take in, the less sharp your mind will be. Above all, avoid processed snack foods like chips and such. Stick with natural snack foods like fruits and nuts.

Some writers get out and do things that contribute to their writing. Ernest Hemingway went out into the world and actively participated in life. While he may have gone a bit overboard—no one says you have to go fight the bulls—he experienced life to the fullest and then wrote about it. Everything he did influenced his writing in some way. On one hand it may have been the experience, itself, while on the other it may have been details that he then included in his stories.

It’s easy to work continuously throughout the day. Once you get going, you may not realize that you’re doing nothing but sitting at your computer. Make time to get up and move. Go outside and take a deep breath of fresh air. Go for a walk. You’ll be glad you did.

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