Showing posts with label writer health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writer health. Show all posts

Friday, January 8, 2021

Exercise Envy


Sitting. Not ideal. You've seen the data earlier this week. But you know, when all you have is a hammer, everything is a nail. All I have are sitting desks. So far. I lust after a treadmill desk like Jeffe has. With four adults and too many cats in the house, that ain't happenin' any time soon. Space concerns and all.

Still. In the middle of the raging hellhole that was 2020 (and that 2021 is still flirting with, the hussy) doing something - anything - to look after our health made my family feel a little more in control. Working out at home became THE thing.

Yes. Yoga. Weightlifting - we have free weights and a bench and training in the Weider method. We take 2-3 mile walks (with masks - this is Florida and well - the FL man memes, they do not lie). The dh and I bike. 

These are lovely. They boost mental and physical health. But they're time delimited. There are only so many hours in a day and only an hour a day I can devote to motion for motion's sake. Yet our brains evolved in very different circumstances - when motion WAS the day. Our brains were designed to operate at peak efficiency while we walk. Stroll, really. Take a look at the book The Brain Rules

Read this and see if you don't join me in lusting after a treadmill desk like Jeffe's. 

The spoiler is this: Our brains were designed for us to walk up to twelve miles per day. It keeps our brains oxygenated, boosts connections, etc, etc, it's really good for you, so there. 

All I know is that if I stop moving, I start hurting. Maybe I'll start saving for that treadmill desk.

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Abbreviated Manual for the Care and Feeding of Writers

Generalized instructions for keeping a writer alive, interacting with other humans with minimal snarling, reasonably happy, marginally sane, and writing (which feeds the first four conditions.)

If you love a writer:
  1. Advocate for a room of the writer's own. Perfect world, this room of the writer's own is not shared space, but you know, you do what you can.
  2. Ask the writer to declare office hours (this is a negotiation you participate in, because the hours have to work for you, too, in the interest of the next step.)
  3. Stop talking to us while we're writing. Seriously. The house is only so big. You can find your missing thing yourself. This goes double for the refrigerator and pantry. Not everything can be in front. Move things. If you still can't find what you want, go to the store. No more interrupting writing time to ask how to find something. If the house is on fire or blood is being spilled, by all means interrupt. If you're leaving and want us to know, that's a yes from me, too, but your writer may disagree. Asking what your writer prefers belongs in the negotiation above.
If you are the writer:
  1. Take responsibility for your own well-being. Creativity doesn't exist in a vacuum. It needs feeding as much as you do. To that end:
    • Take your meds if you need 'em. See the MD if they aren't working.
    • Drink water.
    • Eat actual healthy food.
    • Exercise.
  2. Talk to your loved ones and your friends when you aren't writing. Help them find their things in your off hours if that's their love language. Part of caring for and feeding you means caring for and feeding the people you care about. (Yeah, I know the numbering has lost its damned mind - went into the HTML to fix and let's just say that didn't go well. It shouldn't be news to anyone that computers can't really count.)
  3. Set office hours. Keep them. Enforce them from a place of love and compassion for the people and critters in your life. This is why I will always advocate for a writer having a door to shut, even if I don't have that, myself. Remember that 'No.' is a complete sentence.
  4. Get out into nature once in a while to remind yourself you live in this world as well as the worlds of your stories.
  5. Cultivate a hobby. Preferably one radically different than writing. Knitting. Gardening. Painting. Serial remodels. Whatever. You're looking for something to take you out of the frustrations inherent to writing and put you in different brain space. Bet your problem solving is speedier.
  6. Find community. It's natural to talk about what we do, what we aspire to, and what we wish we could do. Our families may not be equipped to have those conversations. It isn't that they don't care, they just may not have the frame of reference that allows them to do anything more than smile and nod. So it's vital to find or create a community of fellow writers who can validate your experiences in a way family might want to, but can't.
  7. Lighten up and don't take writing, yourself, or the care and feeding rules too seriously. Cause this is all about figuring out what works and what support you need from your nearest and dearest.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Hands on Keyboard, Butt out of Chair

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is the deceptively simple "Perfect Writing Snacks."

I say it's deceptively simple because I'm going to have to pull a Veronica Scott this week and say that I just have nothing on this one.

I don't snack while I'm writing. Really, I don't snack much at all. The way I grew up, we pretty much just ate at mealtimes, maybe a nibble with drinks at cocktail hour. Also, my whole ethic is bent in the opposite direction. I don't snack while I write because it would interfere with my hands on the keyboard. It's also difficult to eat while walking, which is what I do while writing.

There's a saying a lot of writers pass around, that the way to get the words down is "Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard," or BICHOK. While I agree with the spirit of the saying, I don't like it because I'm not a fan of sitting. I walk while I write and it's been the most amazing thing for me.

I got my first treadmill desk in February of 2013, so over six years ago (wow!). Since that time, I've gotten so that I generally walk about 10 miles/day while writing. The trance-state induction of steady walking is amazing for writing flow, and the movement keeps my brain alert.

I have the same hydraulic desk, which I can raise and lower as I wish. I absolutely recommend that model. I'm on my second under-desk treadmill, which is about how it goes, since they do wear out.

If you listen to my podcast, First Cup of Coffee, you know that my current treadmill started tanking on me. The horrors! The folks at LifeSpan (I have this model) have been great and are sending me a new motor, since it's still under warranty. The techs come on Wednesday to install it and give the whole thing a tune-up.

Until then, I was deeply unsettled. I'm working hard on finishing THE FIERY CITADEL, sequel to September's THE ORCHID THRONE, and I need to walk to write!

Okay... maybe I don't NEED to, but I hate to mess with my process. I really do. And you all know that I'm always saying that the most important thing is that we own our process as writers, and that means doing what it takes to facilitate that process.

So, my hubs David suggested that we rig up something temporary on the running treadmill. (Yes, we're a two-treadmill household, but a walking desk treadmill needs a motor that runs well for long times at low speeds, which is not the same kind of motor that you need to run at faster speeds.) Thus, above, is my temporary workstation. Those are the leaves for expanding the dining room table across the handle bars, and the ever-useful bungee cord strapping on the laptop. I have a wireless keyboard I love for the key action, so that's nice and familiar.

There's even a glimpse of the book, for the clever reader.

I wouldn't use this system for long, but it works for now.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Balance: The Involuntary Standing Desk

I have a standing desk. My standing desk has a chair. As you can see by the photo at right, whether I sit or stand is not at all up to me. This means that any notion of balancing anything is dictated by my furry masters. 

That probably sounds wrong.

Balance is such a personal thing. Most people with day jobs have to worry about work/life balance. Writers have a set of unique balance requirements in that we have to look after our brains as much (or more in some cases) as we look after our bodies. We're asking a whole bunch of our minds while we live inside our stories and attempt to imbue our characters with emotions we usually evoke in ourselves to some extent as we put them on paper.

Reading books written for laymen by brain scientists has been a thing recently and one of the fun concepts is that emotion in the body defines reality for the brain which subsequently releases chemicals in response to that emotion. Do you get angry remembering how that twit in the blue car cut you off in traffic? If I've understood the biology correctly, the brain scientists are saying that you brain and body can't tell that your anger is about the past. You're angry now. Therefore there's a threat now. Have some adrenaline and a few stress hormones to go with it. Now your body is reacting physically to a threat that's not even present. We all do this. I get that. But writers and actors do it as a living. And writers and actors need to know there's a need to purge the accumulated emotional and chemical baggage. 

Exercise, meditation, changing up and tuning our energy systems - whatever that means to you - they're all tools in the box. Getting out and away - seeing or doing something new, those can also be useful balancers. Sure. I get up at 5AM every day to meditate and do an hour of yoga. It's the single biggest predictor of whether I'll make my word count goal for the day or not. In no way do I recommend it to anyone else. You have to do you. 

I used to think I had to get up at 4AM on a consistent basis in order to make life work. I hated everyone and everything, including myself. All those years I thought I had mental illness and I had to take all those psychoactive medications to function. Turns out it was a major body clock issue. When I finally refused to get up at 4AM anymore, I was cured. So if I have any advice at all to offer here it would be this: Don't fuck with your body clock. Yes. You can train yourself to get up earlier, but if you notice you're getting and staying depressed? Back off. There's only so much play in your body's preferred sleep/wake cycle and a definite mounting cost the farther you deviate from it.

I strongly suspect that balance, like every aspect of health, is something you pursue but never quite catch. It's a work in progress and all any of us can do is keep trying.

Which, according to Hatshepsut, I will do standing.