Superficially, writing may seem like one of the least physically taxing professions on the planet. How hard can sitting in one place and thinking be after all?
This viewpoint is dangerously simplistic and might just leave you with a nasty surprise if you’re not careful enough. Most authors do not count writing as their sole profession, and burning the candle at both ends leads to physical and mental fatigue, not to mention burnout, all of which will only diminish your productivity as a writer.
If you’re an author, you need to give this article a read to safeguard your body and mind and to ensure you never have to count writing among the activities that are detrimental to your health.
Why should you listen to anything I have to say? A valid question. As an author and an M.D. I am intimately familiar with burning the candle at both ends, bad habits, and more importantly, things you should and should not do!
Let us start with the most basic, most important, yet often overlooked part of your health:
This particular section is important not just important for self-care, but also to maintain your quality of writing. I speak not only from personal experience but also from the experience of several other authors. Your frustration, anger, and despair reflect on your pages, and readers might notice a sharp decline in the quality of your writing in certain sections of a book or books of a series.
Some tips to stave away that creative frustration that always seems to bubble underneath the surface of our minds:
Do NOT set definite word counts. Missing them by even a few words will make you feel bad. Missing your word count by a wide margin on bad days will make you feel like an utter failure and affect your future writing. Instead, set a REALISTIC daily word count range. (My range is 300-2700 words/day. On bad days I aim to at least write 300, on good ones, I hope to hit or cross 2700.) Landing anywhere in your range will give you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, further motivating you to write. The goal is consistency.
Try to run at least two projects at once. If you hit a wall in one project, you can switch to another until you have that lightbulb moment for the project you are stuck on. Remember, as with everything, moderation is key. Do not bite off more than you can chew. (Personally, I’ve found the sweet spot to be 3-5 projects)
Taking a break is perfectly fine. The break doesn’t have to be of a defined length. It can be however long or however short you need it to be. (I took a break for 9 months before coming back and finishing my novel).
Eye Care: (Or ways to avoid developing Computer Vision Syndrome)
Download a Blue Light Filter App for your Laptop/PC/Phone. Your eyes, your head, and your sleep schedule will thank me.
Follow the 20/20/20 rule. After every 20 minutes at the computer, take a 20-second break to stretch and look at something 20 feet away from you to reduce strain from squinting.
Make sure that your writing area is arranged in such a way that the top edge of your PC/Laptop is 2-3 inches above your eye level.
Adjust the brightness of your screen such that it is in tune with the brightness behind the monitor.
Consciously blink. Looking at a screen makes our body forget to blink, increasing eye strain.
Keep your spectacles clean. Grimy specs diffract light, increasing the strain on and damaging your eyes.
Invest in an ergonomic chair with good lumbar support. It will be one of the best investments you make.
Remember to consciously practice a good posture till you start doing it subconsciously. Write in such a way that your back is straight, elbows parallel to the ground, and feet are resting on the floor.
Remember to stretch when you take your break every 20 minutes! After every hour or so of writing, take a ten to fifteen-minute break to walk around away from your writing place. (Also helps to prevent Varicose Veins!)
Special Consideration to avoid Carpal Tunnel:
When you take your breaks, do basic wrist movements and exercises (rotations, etc.) to reduce the likelihood of developing carpal tunnel due to excessive or prolonged mouse use.
HYDRATE. HYDRATE! HYDRATE!!
A. Blachernae has had a love for stories inculcated in him since a very young age. Books were his first friends and the one constant in an ever-changing life. He is a firm believer that stories are nothing but emotions bound by words that echo through time and space.
When he is not writing, he alternates his time between his pets and trying to become a true bread connoisseur. You can visit his website at ablachernae.wordpress.com.