Has it ever dawned on you suddenly—

that you’ve been staring at your computer screen for ages? That your neck is crunched, your back is aching, your tush is squashed, and your eyes are bloodshot? Join the writers club.

Writers have particular challenges when it comes to health—both physically and mentally. Let’s address some of them.

Working at Home

Not having to go to a 9-5 job is fantabulous. But when your workspace is in your home, you need boundaries, and that is not an easy thing to establish with family, housemates, or friends. Most people just won’t get it because they have no experience doing it.

It’s up to you to set your own rules and boundaries and maintain them. And it can be done. I have worked at home for decades, first as an illustrator, then as a writer. My first years as an illustrator were in advertising and the deadlines were always crazy—especially newspaper deadlines (this was in the 80s when newspapers were printed :-P). With deadlines continually looming, I was forced to optimize my time, space, and attitude in every way I could.

The first thing you’ve got to do is:

Develop a thick skin when it comes to judgments from others regarding your work as a writer. All this takes is to remind yourself time and time again that you are following your dreams. There is little that is more important in life than that.

If you sleep late because you write late into the night, don’t bother trying to defend your schedule to people who can’t think outside the box of “the early bird catches the worm” mindset (almost everybody).

How to Write and Stay Healthy: For Cave-Dwelling Authors & Other Keen Writers

Accept that no one may understand, and don’t blame them for it. Writing is a nebulous job to those who haven’t gone through the process of completing a whole book. You may be at it for months or even years until you have a finished product to show for all that time. It may seem to others that you’re just having fun writing—you are!—but the work has to get done and that won’t happen unless you set rules, maintain boundaries, and learn to say NO.

If you have trouble saying no, try this:

For one week, say no to everything (within reason). You can use the excuse that you are doing an exercise, if this is too uncomfortable. Blame it on a book you’re reading (this one!). The point of this exercise is to experience how it feels. By saying “no,” you will feel the relief from certain things you really did not want, or have the time, to do. This will jumpstart your ability to make good time-management decisions without emotional responses.

How to Write and Stay Healthy: For Cave-Dwelling Authors & Other Keen Writers

Motivating Yourself

It’s so easy to find excuses not to write (much like the excuses not to exercise :-P).

As a writer creating a product out of thin air, you must push yourself to finish that book! This takes commitment and discipline. You’ve got to kick your own self in the butt, and be your own motivator.

Don’t let snarky opinions or bad reviews stop you from continuing. And don’t wait for good responses to keep you motivated. On the other hand, be open to constructive criticism. If a beta reader makes a suggestion or raises a question, DON’T DEFEND YOUR WRITING. Listen. Make notes. You don’t have to change anything, but you may want to if, after consideration, it feels right. The key is: 

Detachment and Self-Honesty

How to Write and Stay Healthy: For Cave-Dwelling Authors & Other Keen Writers

Your All-Important Eyes

Unless you’re writing anachronistically by hand or on a typewriter, your eyes are glued to a screen when you write. The official term for too much screen time is Computer Vision Syndrome, popularly known as digital eye strain.

There is a lot you can do to ease the strain on your eyes as a writer. Here’s one tip:

Write, BLINK, on a sticky note and attach it to your computer, laptop, or whatever device you write on. The number one reason for eye irritation, according to my own easy-on-the-eyes eye doctor, is not blinking enough.

How to Write and Stay Healthy: For Cave-Dwelling Authors & Other Keen Writers

Overworked Hands, Fingers, and Wrists

When you write, you engage in repetitive motions, and hold your arms, hands and fingers in certain positions for long periods, whether you’re on a keyboard, touchscreen, or old-fashioned typewriter.

There are great stretches, tendon (self)-massage, and office adjustments that will help those overworked fingers, wrists, and forearms. Here’s one easy stretch:

Reach for the stars.

Lift your hands over your head—without lifting your shoulders and pulling them out of their sockets—to increase circulation and get any pooled blood to move and flow out of your hands.

This opens up your chest area and it feels great to take a deep breath while doing this.

How to Write and Stay Healthy: For Cave-Dwelling Authors & Other Keen Writers

Sitting on Your Tush

I call it “squash bottom.” You’re probably sitting on your tush now, squashing the muscles, fat, blood vessels, nerves, and corpuscles like sandwich ingredients in a panini press.

Do you feel it?

One tip for squash bottom:

Get up every once in a while and walk around the room, house, down the hall and back. Just move around a bit and kick your circulation back into gear.

A great time to do this is when you get stuck on a word, idea, sentence, whatever. It usually happens that a short stroll around the house gives you fresh eyes on the matter.

How to Write and Stay Healthy: For Cave-Dwelling Authors & Other Keen Writers

Squeeze Every Last Drop of Happy Juice out of Life

If you want to write to your heart’s content and feel great while doing it, How to Write and Stay Healthy: For Cave-Dwelling Authors & Other Keen Writers is full of actionable stradegies and practical solutions to the challenges of working at home as a writer.

A whole chapter is devoted to “Exercise Without Exercising.” It’s a way of going about your day in a different way—something I developed when I first started martial arts training. (I now hold two advanced-degree black belts.) 

There are tips and insights in How to Write and Stay Healthy you will only get from a veteran freelancer like me, who has always been determined to stay out of the mainstream workplace and live a healthy lifestyle.

Happy writing!

 

Reviews:

“I loved this book! A quick read full of great practical information for staying healthy and dynamic as a writer. A gem for both new and seasoned writers!”–Kelly Larsen, author of Keys to Unlocking Your Inner Power

“Fisher nails the often-overlooked physically taxing part of writing with practical and–most importantly–actionable strategies that any author can apply and every author needs. Sprinkled with poignant quotations from literary greats and infused with a healthy dose of humor, every chapter of this book provided me with sound advice that I continue to practice on a daily basis. How to Write and Stay Healthy is a must for every writer!”–Mark Plets, author of Business ESL Made Easy

“It’s a quick read, entertaining, and full of helpful suggestions, with actual examples of what to do and how to avoid the inevitable stumbling blocks. Highly recommended for anyone who sits in front of a computer all day, and not just writers.”–K. Z. Kane, author of Blindfolded: A True Story

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