Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Self-Care for Writers by Amanda Barratt

We ran today's post in November, but had issues with our comments. To be fair to you and Amanda, we're running it again. ~ Sandy

As writers, we have advice at our fingertips about a myriad of topics. One, however, is rarely discussed, and that’s how to take care of our physical bodies as writers.

Like actors or athletes, we work in an environment that requires us to be both quantitative and qualitative. Doing those things simultaneously and doing them well, places a huge amount of stress on the physical. I learned this firsthand when, after several years of pounding out 3k a day, I developed tendon issues in my arms. For a year, I had to take a hiatus from typing, go to physical therapy, and totally redo my desk setup. This was not only difficult for me physically, but emotionally, since creating stories is such an integral part of my heart. Thankfully, I’m now able to write again and am grateful for God’s healing hand on my body. However, I now invest more time and energy into taking care of myself.

A few tips:

1. Stay hydrated – With the amount of soft drinks and caffeinated beverages available, most of us don’t drink nearly enough water. Dehydration can bring on side effects such as headaches and lack of energy, two things that can seriously stop a writer’s creative output. Experts say to drink half your weight in ounces. Personally, I try for 3 quarts a day—way more than the recommended amount for my weight. I find that when I drink less, I definitely notice a change in how I feel. I also avoid all soft drinks and only consume caffeine in limited quantities. Along with water, I love a mug of green tea. It’s full of antioxidants, plus I love how it tastes.

2. Consider an ergonomic keyboard – The keyboard on your laptop, while handy and portable, wasn’t designed with ergonomics in mind. Even if you only use an ergonomic one part-time, it can make a huge difference. A supportive desk chair with properly adjusted armrests is also a must. Another option, especially if you’re already experiencing issues, is a voice to text software like Dragon Naturally Speaking. I’m using mine right now to draft this blog post! Though it takes a learning curve and isn’t a hundred percent accurate in dictation, I love using mine, especially when I’m going to be writing a sizable chunk in a short amount of time.

3. Exercise – Before beginning any exercise program, you should of course, consult your doctor. Exercise is great on so many levels – it reduces stress, builds strength, and can be a good way to listen to your favorite podcast while still getting something accomplished. There are also exercises available to help repetitive strain injuries – I do mine every day.

4. Take breaks – At least once an hour, leave your desk and move. This gives you a break mentally, as well as physically.

5. Eat healthy – Today, more than ever, we have access to, putting it bluntly, “junk food.” Athletes stick to a healthy diet to keep their performance levels up. As a writer, I’ve committed to the same. When I make dessert, I sweeten with agave or coconut sugar, and limit the amount I consume to a couple of times a week. While you may not take it to this extreme, if you’re feeling sluggish, maybe reaching for that chocolate bar isn’t the best idea. Try a piece of fruit instead!

I love what I do and want to maximize the health God has given me to the best of my ability, so I can continue to write. I hope you’ve been inspired by some of these tips, or perhaps encouraged in what you’re already doing.

Thanks so much for having me!

Do you have anything to add to Amanda's list?


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ECPA bestselling author Amanda Barratt, fell in love with writing in grade school when she wrote her first story – a spinoff of Jane Eyre. Now, Amanda writes inspirational historical romance, penning stories that transport readers to a variety of locales – from the sweeping coastline of Newport, Rhode Island, to the rugged landscape of Central Texas. Her novella, The Truest Heart, finaled in the FHL Reader’s Choice Awards.

A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, she lives in the woods of Michigan with her fabulous family, who kindly put up with the invisible people she calls characters.

These days, Amanda can be found reading way too many books, watching an eclectic mix of BBC dramas and romantic chick flicks, and trying to figure out a way to get on the first possible flight to England.

8 comments:

  1. I’m thankful for my Fitbit that reminds me once an hour to get up and move, otherwise I’d sit for hours and then be so stiff when I tried to move. Thanks for these tips!

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    1. I love the Fitbit! :) Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  2. I'm typing this comment while walking on my "tread-desk." My husband made an attachment for my treadmill that allows me to put my laptop on it so I can work and walk at the same time. He also mounted a large-screen TV on the wall right in front of the treadmill and I hook my laptop up so my screen projects onto the TV -- voila! I can look up and read instead of down. Easier on my neck. And yes, you can buy pre-made treadmill desks or standing desks, but my husband liked the challenge.

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    1. That’s fabulous, Beth! What a great setup!

      And I can’t wait to read your next book, by the way! :)

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  3. Thanks for the advice Amanda. I'm not nearly as good at these things as I should be. And since I have a desk day job as well I have to really make a point not to sit too much.

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    1. A desk day job can be hard, Terri! Definitely making sure to keep active can help. I love watching a movie or listening to music while working out. It’s a great way to have fun, while still taking care of my physical health.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  4. I am so bad about taking a break (okay, I'm bad about everything you listed). I get busy and let a couple hours go by before getting up and moving around. Setting a timer for my writing sprint helps. Thanks for the tips, Amanda!

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    1. A timer is a great way to remind yourself! I tend to get busy and absorbed​, and forget to take breaks too. What a helpful idea!

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