(Author's note: this is an ongoing series on how to combat everyday obstacles and other setbacks to the creative process. If there's a specific topic you'd like me to discuss, let me know in the comments.)
We're all guilty of taking less that ideal care of ourselves from time to time, or even falling into bad habits that last for weeks or months; we stay up too late, eat too much junk, and engage in a host of other bad behaviors. Yes, we're only human, and yes, bad habits can be overcome, but us creative types need to be especially cognizant of our well-being. It's hard to be creative when you're feeling "off", and that can lead to substandard work, missed deadlines, and all sorts of complications.
I was going to post my writing schedule for the rest of 2015, but I didn't want to scare anyone. Basically, I have four ongoing series and a crap ton of short stories in the pipeline, and that's enough to drive anyone to drink. In addition to my crazy schedule, I'm also taking care of my family, managing my home, working a day job, and I'll be starting grad school next month. Basically, I can't afford to bring anything less than my A game, or the domino effect from missed deadlines could be catastrophic.
A few months ago my day job transitioned to a virtual office, which means that I now work from home. I saw this as not only a great way to save on gas, but also the ideal time to make changes to my routine.
I started small, and upgraded what I eat. At the office cafeteria I would typically get a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich for breakfast; now, I have oatmeal and a glass of vegetable juice (yes, I like vegetable juice). Since I now have time to go to the farmer's market, I always have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables on hand for snacks and salads. Over the past few months my junk food habit has become almost nonexistent.
Once my eating habits improved, I took stock of how much time I spend sitting. Pretty much everything I do, from my day job to writing to school, is accomplished by me sitting in front of a computer. This is unhealthy for a number of reasons, but the fix is pretty easy: step away from the computer. I make a habit of getting up once an hour and moving around; sometimes I go outside with the kids, or I might do something as mundane as put in a load of laundry. Those short bursts of activity really do add up, and keep the blood--and creativity--pumping.
The third change I made involves sleep. Some of my friends joke that I don't sleep, which is close to the truth. My natural rhythm is to sleep from midnight to around six am, and I feel fully rested after six hours--usually. There are times I need more, such as after a multi-day event or if I'm coming down with something, but the problem was that I wasn't letting myself get the extra rest when I needed it. That, coupled with the fact that I love getting up early and writing while the house is quiet meant that I was driving myself to near-exhaustion, and ending up losing days while I recovered.
So how did i conquer that obstacle? No, I didn't start going to bed earlier. What I did do was schedule breaks in my day, two half hour chunks where I give myself permission to do nothing. No computer or phone is allowed during this time, but other than that I do whatever I want. I might nap, or read, or make Play-Doh. These short breaks recharge me almost as much as a full night's sleep, which is a pretty good return on investment :)
Based on my rigorous unscientific research, here are my three rules for writer wellness:
1. Eat some vegetables every day.
2. Move around often.
3. Rest when you need it.
What are your wellness habits? Tell me in the comments!