Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Staying Healthy in a Writer's World

This is my last post before the ACFW Conference in Denver. Are you going? I'll be there and I'd love to meet you. Please say hello.

And, we are two days (yes, just two giddy days!) away from announcing the winners of our first Audience with an Agent Contest!

Katy opened a great conversation on Monday. Writers tend to be passionate, wanting to squeeze the last minute out of their writing days. Not surprisingly, we get lost in our fiction worlds, and leaving is like saying goodnight after a lovely date. We want to linger with our characters. They're bolder than us and get out of the house more.

It's true and you know it.

Our bodies pay the price. Sitting bones weren't meant to be parked in front of a computer all day. Hands weren't meant to endlessly tap on a keyboard. And a neurologist with a New York Times best-seller says multitasking is tough on creativity.

Personally, I've had my struggles with headaches and backaches. You name it; I've tried it. I'm still tweaking things, but here are the things that have helped the most. I hope you'll share what you've learned too.

1. I walk 2-3 times a day for 10 minutes. My physical therapist claims this keeps good blood and oxygen flow around my spine. My dog, however, suggests 4-5 walks a day. You'll have to set your own goals.

2. I stretch the medial nerves that run through my wrists. I had carpal tunnel release surgery seven years ago and still wear my splints for extended times at the computer. (They do not come in fashion colors!) For exercises, Google stretching exercises to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.

3. I keep bite-sized veggies in the fridge. My personal preference is baby carrots. I'm hoping to turn orange before the end of my current WIP.

4. I take breaks to get off my bum that don't disrupt creativity. Katy had it right. Cooking works but so does meditation, prayer, and gardening. Red alert! Dusting is the death of creativity. So is the television. I learned this the hard way.

5. Since my husband developed heart disease, we're more mindful of eating a balanced diet. This used to mean eating something caramel for every chocolate delight I slipped past my gullet. And that was after I took a college-level nutrition class. Now, I choose my nutritional resources carefully and pay attention to my protein intake as much as my fiber or dairy. I feel better and more alert. To prove it, my eyes are open past 5 pm.

6. My husband works weekends 10 months out of the year, so we take two weekdays off. For some reason, it is harder for us to relax on a Tuesday or Wednesday than it is on a Saturday or Sunday. After many years of marriage, we've finally figured it out. Each week we choose Tuesday or Wednesday to be our sabbath. We're not legalistic about it, but it has helped us to say, "This is a special day. Let's give our hearts to God and kick up our feet." Try it. It's okay. You won't spontaneously combust--at least, we haven't yet!

7. The Bible is the mind of God in book form. I try to explore Him daily.

How do you keep healthy? Have you found a magic pill? Why is staying healthy so difficult? Is there a perfect chair? keyboard? desk? monitor? Is heaven our only hope?


Tina said...

This is such a good reminder, Patti. Thank you so much! I am actually just easing back into health and peace after thinking I could sustain sitting in front of the computer for long hours every single day.

I'm trying to make a rule to not work past noon, although I break that rule far too often. Then I use the few hours before school pickup to do something that pleases me. Even cleaning the house can give me a sense of accomplishment, but I try to do go for walks, etc.

I have a yoga DVD and I'm thinking about taking that out.

Great stuff. Thanks!

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Hi, Patti!

Thanks for these tips! I know they will help a lot!

My biggest issue right now is needing a creative space to write and a comfortable chair. I sit on the floor right now, and after a few hours it's definitely painful. Several days of that in a row and I have to take a break. Pillows don't help that much. I hoping to invest in an awesome chair sometime in the future.

Have fun at the conference! I wish I could go. Maybe another year!

Lori Benton said...

The stationary bike is my magic pill. Ideally I ride 20 mi a day or more, 5 in the AM, 5 at lunch, and 5-15 in the evening (long enough to watch an episode of a favorite show). I do a few pilates (sp?) and weight strengthening of my upper body too, as often I as can.

Slender doesn't always equate to healthy or in shape, especially after six months on the couch, ten years ago (during chemo treatment). Since getting the bike my endurance and muscle tone have vastly improved. And what's great is I don't have to go anywhere. Just grab a bottle of water and step into the next room. Can't beat that for convenience. Sometimes I'll ride a few minutes just to work out the kinks from sitting here too long.

As for diet, well, I have a raging sweet tooth. I try to cut back on the sugar, but baking (while listening to an audio book) gives me such mental peace that it's hard to stop. Fresh peach pie yesterday... yum! I often send what I bake to work with my husband, where he shares it with an office full of other people at computers (does that make me a bad person?).

Wish I could be at the ACFW conference. Next year. That's my plan, and hopefully I'm sticking to it!

Nicole said...

Fresh peach pie? I'm drooling.

(If I baked a pie of any kind anymore, I'd eat it all while sitting at the computer.)

Patti Hill said...

Tina, I appreciate that you set hours for yourself. I'm going to give that a try. Thanks. And I keep hearing that yoga is fabulous. There's a walk-in class at the rec center. Maybe...

Kristen, my dream is a little my garden. I wouldn't have a phone, but since I would need electricity, why not a refrigerator for baby carrots and Nicole's peach pie? And honey, I'm praying for a chair for you. BTW, Stephen King used a plank of wood on his lap for a desk while writing Carrie.

Nicole, baking as relaxation is NOT far-fetched. I love baking, and yes, I eat a generous helping and then I MUST get it out of the house. I send mine to hubby's work too. Peaches are being harvested right now in my valley. Oh, the pure delight of sweetness and smooshy flesh.

Patti Hill said...

Oi vey! I know you're the baker, Lori. Sorry about that. I have a treadmill that I use like Lori during the day when it's too hot or too cold to walk outside. Must keep the blood moving.

Bonnie Grove said...

"Dusting is the death of creativity"
I'm stenciling that on my walls.


Bonnie Grove said...


I have used a treadmill twice in my life. Both times the thing shot me off the end and I was reduced to a pile of loosely connected body parts on the floor.

We're not friends.

Lori Benton said...

LOL, Nicole. I have a weakness for fruit pies.

Patti, wish I could enjoy a peach straight off the tree! I'm going to spend a lot of eternity eating all the healthy things I can't have now. Most raw fruit and all raw veggies.

Amy Sorrells said...

I wanted to leave comments on the last three posts, but suffice it to say I think you girls are hilarious and each of you gave me a much-needed dose of laughter and my writing obsession . . . and perspective. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and humor with girls like me who want to be just like you when we grow up. You made my day today!

Patti Hill said...

Bonnie: Would it help if I told you I watch Dr. Phil while walking on the treadmill? At speed 3? I never sweat. That would be gross. Friends?

Amy: Hi! How nice to hear your voice, sweet thing. You're the one who blesses us. Thanks for jumping in.

Gary said...

Hello Patti,

Saw your question on twitter.

I have always viewed physical exercise as a means to keep both body and mind in decent shape and operating at max capacity. While also watching what I eat!
It seems better to decide on a routine that can be incorporated into one's lifestyle, rather than a grand plan that is dropped after a few days or weeks.
For me (age 55) for years now it has been 2400 stairs at the local school athletic field. Then minimum one mile around the track. In winter I do it all with 12 pound pack and helps keep me in hiking shape for all year. Total routine is 40 minutes per day. Sundays off! Purges body and mind (great time also to pray) and keeps me fresh and alert while in front of this screen.
Whatever you decide, make it realistic for you so it can be part of your lifestyle. But then commit! Resolve and discipline! Rain or shine. It is so easy to come up with excuses!


Bonnie Grove said...

Ack! I meant treadmills and me are not friends.

YOU and I, Patti, are friends! Goodness, I don't know how I did without you, woman.

Sherrie Lord said...

Great ideas, Patti. Thanks for the reminders. And your site is lovely!

Nicole said...

(I think Gary's a show off!) ;)

Patti Hill said...

It's nice to hear from you, Sherrie. Come back anytime. You never know what you might find. My blogmates are amazing.

Anonymous said...

Amy, what a nice thing to say. Sweet. Like all the discussion going on here today. Peaches, oh, I love peaches.

Carla Gade said...

One thing I have to be careful about is reaching for the white grape juice (my favorite veggie rashion and drink). Water would be better. I need to be more deliberate about my choices.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Thanks, Patti! I'm hoping to get one of those "moon chairs". You know which ones I'm talking about? The ones that are completely round? I'd love to have a space just for writing, like the cabin you described. That sounds perfect!

I definitely can't do treadmills, but I love the elliptical machine. Unfortunately, I don't have one. Thankfully it's still nice enough to walk outside... now I just have to do that!

Rachel said...

"Dusting is the death of creativity"- I think I need to rearrange my housecleaning breaks- eek!

As a fairly new writer, health is something that is just beginning to creep up on me. Right now I drink too much caffeine and don't eat hardly any fruits and veggies (terrible- I know!). Top that off with my seemingly inability to get my butt off the chair for more than a quick run to the kitchen, and you have one unhealthy woman!

My solution? Road racing. When I exercise with a goal or an event in mind, I am more committed. Right now my husband and I are training for a couple 5ks this fall.