Monday, June 15, 2015

Writing Fitness


In January, I wrote a blog about “Resolution as Metaphor” where I spoke about my two New Year’s resolutions (to carry less in my purse and drink more water) and wondered what those resolutions said about me. I decided, “Lightness and water are two ideas associated with movement and flow. They enable the journey and keep the adventurer fueled to seek new possibilities.”

Currently, I’ve been reading Jordan Rosenfeld’s A Writer’s Guide to Persistence (Writer’s Digest Books 2015). Most of the chapters conclude with two sections, a “Work It” segment that provides ideas to consider about your writing practice and routines, and a “Move It” segment that offers suggestions for adding movement to a writer’s sedentary lifestyle. In her first “Move It” segment (p.10), Rosenfeld points out, “Any time you’ve been sitting for an hour or more, your body makes preparations to go into ‘shutdown’ mode—essentially it’s preparing for death. Yikes!”

Yikes, indeed!

An online article from Women’s Health discussed how the “sitting disease” can lead to heart disease and obesity and perhaps shorten your life. The article indicated that long periods of sitting may (1) cause fluid buildup in your legs leading to sleep apnea; (2) encourage fat cells in your body to create twice as much fat; (3) cause blood sugar to spike after meals; (4) decrease brain activity, giving you more senior moments; and (5) make blood flow more sluggish, increasing the possibility of developing blood clots in the lungs. (See The Risks of a Sedentary Lifestyle: Stand Up for Your Health by Tracy Erb Middleton, published August 6, 2012.) The article suggested: “The key to fighting sitting disease lies in augmenting your routine with something called NEAT, or nonexercise activity thermogenesis. Translation: low-impact movements that keep your metabolism humming and your circulation flowing.”

Writing fitness was addressed recently in a guest message on Lois Winston’s Anastasia Pollock blog by Kay C. Burns, a registered nurse who writes suspense mystery. Kay also mentioned that writing for long periods without breaks can lead to backache, eye strain, wrist strain, general weakness, headache, fatigue, isolation, and depression. She recommended that writers get sufficient sleep, stay hydrated, eat healthy, stay active, control weight, and manage stress. She quoted author C. Hope Clark, who in her book The Shy Author Reborn and an online post for Colleen M. Story’s blog Writing and Wellness emphasized that keeping healthy was essential to good writing. Hope’s routine included getting plenty of sleep, drinking lots of liquids, gentle exercise, and socializing.

Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Jefferson, and Winston Churchill all were supposed to have written while standing. In his letters, Kurt Vonnegut mentioned that he walked, swam, and did push ups and sit ups.

In a 2006 online article titled “Exercises for Writers and Other Desk Slaves,” Elsa O’Neal suggests some gentle movements based on yoga poses to help vary the position of tired eyes, necks, wrists, fingers, stomachs, legs, and feet. These exercises can be done while seated at a desk, so there’s no excuse not to stop briefly, stretch, and vary position before plunging forward with a writing project. If time is a factor, take a look at Colleen M. Story’s message on Writing and Wellness for “How to Boost Your Health in Less Than a Minute a Day.” She recommends not only exercise and fluids, but also chocolate and laughter. Surely, those are reasons to give yourself a writing break to improve your productivity!

What do you do to safeguard your health and enhance your writing?

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A legislative attorney and former law librarian, Paula Gail Benson’s short stories have appeared in Kings River Life, the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, Mystery Times Ten 2013 (Buddhapuss Ink), A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder (Dark Oak Press and Media 2014), A Shaker of Margaritas: That Mysterious Woman (Mozark Press 2014), and Fish or Cut Bait: a Guppy Anthology (Wildside Press 2015). She regularly blogs with others about writing mysteries at the Stiletto Gang and Writers Who Kill. Her personal blog is Little Sources of Joy and her website is http://paulagailbenson.com.

13 comments:

  1. Interesting post. Makes sense. Only problem as I write this is that I am lying on a bed with my iPad perched on my stomach as it was easier to read morning emails for the past hour than to get up.

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    1. Debra, from reading your Friday post, I can understand why you are taking a few extra moments in bed today. Congratulations on figuring out your antagonist and completing your novel! Can't wait to read it!

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  2. Great, helpful post, Paula. Sometimes, when I remember to do it, I'll stand during phone calls.

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    1. Thank you, my bestest buddy, Susan Craft (whose book Laurel was released in January and whose book Cassia will come out in September). You're helping my exercise routine. I'm taking my beta reader copy of Cassia to the treadmill with me!

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  3. Unfortunately, I don't do nearly enough. When I'm really getting going on a book, I forget that I should get up and walk around.

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    1. Marilyn, I'm like you. My day job is very sedentary and at home I write and too often lounge when I should be moving. The interesting thing the articles stressed is that gentle movements make a difference. I'm going to try it out and see!

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  4. Thanks for the wake up call! Yes, I KNOW I'm doing it all wrong. I do sometimes set my timer and get up every hour, but I'm not doing the exercise I should. It's hard, isn't it?

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    1. Desperately! I'll be your fitness partner if you'll be mine, Kaye!

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    2. I'll report that I've done zero exercise today. How about you? I have good excuses. Too hot out and the TV by my elliptical isn't working.

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    3. Just small things today. When I woke up, I did some arm exercises, then I walked down the hall a couple of times to get a glass of water. You're right. The heat is a real deterrent. I'm impressed that you have an elliptical!

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  5. I can get engrossed in my writing for hours, but that goodness for dachshunds who remind me about the need for breaks! Seriously, we do write better when we feel healthy and perky. Just makes sense that if the body is sluggish, the mind follows suit. Thanks, Paula.

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    1. Thanks so much, Hope. You've posted a lot of good information about this subject.

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  6. Staying fit while remaining at the computer can be so hard. Thanks for the reminder.

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