Writing is a dangerous job, and not simply to one’s sanity.

One of the oft-overlooked hazards of the business is that if one a) sits at a desk to write instead of, say, dictating while bouncing on a trampoline and b) has a desk job besides, there is every danger that one might soon resemble said desk.

Naturally, we all wish to avoid a future as furniture–especially the overstuffed variety. Hence the number of places where one can gain wholesome advice about calories, fibre, and self-flagellation. Enough such web sites abound that I’m not going to discuss actual facts here (as a fiction writer, facts are typically a last resort). Instead, I would like to point out three observations—by way of mythbusting—of practical use to writers:

ONE. Of course there’s no time for exercise. Everyone knows that.

Who doesn’t want more hours in the day? Most authors will do some pretty silly things to squeeze in extra minutes of writing time—but we all have our limits. I have made repeated protests that I am NOT a morning person and cannot possibly write at 5:00 am. This is still true. I am zombie girl until at least 9:00 and am quite possibly dangerous until 8:00.

But I can work with that. I can show up at an exercise facility at an early hour. No one who goes to a gym at 6:00 am is there for conversation, so I don’t have to be nice. The benefits of this schedule are twofold: It frees up time later in the day when I can actually think and write, and with luck I don’t actually remember any of the sweaty morning torture session. Hence therefore, it IS possible to write and maintain a fitness routine—just go when you’re not at your intellectual peak anyway. Besides, it’s nice to have a chore completely finished by the time the work day starts.

TWO. I can’t write without chocolate.

No, I don’t WANT to write without chocolate. Or cheese curls. Or a small lake of black coffee. But I actually write better without them because I won’t feel like my head is stuffed with packing pickles.

In a fit of who-knows-what, I gave up all forms of grain and sugar. One the shock (and grumpiness) abated, I was astonished to have tons and tons of energy. According to the diet I was raised on, I should be starving and tired, but I’m not. The secret is to not stick to a “three squares a day” regime, but to frequently eat little bits of vegetables and protein to rev the metabolism.

THREE. I’ll accomplish so much more if I just keep my bum in the chair for the next twelve hours.

There are times when more is not more. Still, focussed concentration is great, but only for a few hours at a time. After a certain point, diminishing returns set in.

The key is getting food and oxygen to the brain, which means circulation. You know: Beating heart. Pulse. All those things vampire characters lack.

It’s bad when the author tries to emulate the physical state of the Undead. Vlad may be okay with zero blood oxygen; authors just get stupid—so get up and move around from time to time. Eat something nutritious. The cliché of the author hunched over the keyboard, eating junk and drinking their own blood volume in coffee and cola is not a model for real life. Not if you want your brain to stay friends.

I have a tricky enough relationship with my brain as it is—but at least now it occasionally comes when called. Up till now, its specialty has been playing dead.

Interested? Here’s a blog worth reading:
Calorie Neutral


  1. Rachel says:

    Now that I’m officially in my second half-century, I’ve figured out that “more is not more” thing you mention, Sharon!

    Little breaks here and there, even a whole day off once in a while, are refreshing. I was astounded.

    As for ditching the sugar and hot cross buns in order to get more energy? Right there with you.

    Weird but true. How appropriate for a Darkside blog.

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