When we think of writers, we don’t typically envision an elite athlete crouched at the starting line, or a novelist doing pushups between pages. But is energy level important for writing? Can we reach our writing goals more effectively if we keep our energy high? Here are three reasons energy translates into writing power:
I know a lot of writers are night owls. I thought I was, too until I tried writing early. (Get my free guide, Writin’ Early, HERE.)
I understand that the current data suggests different people have different optimal times to wake up and focus. But, I still encourage writers to try to wake up in the dark morning hours and try it for a couple of weeks. To me, there’s something compelling and energizing about that quiet early time. There’s almost a buzz in the air. And sometimes–sometimes–my fingers are more awake than my brain and I’ll write a passage that surprises me.
Regardless of when you wake up, try to stick to a schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time everyday. Ever notice that you feel terrible after a weekend sleep-in? Yep, it’s a sleep hangover. So consider waking up early on the weekends, too. I know–it’s your only day to catch up! But try instead to treat yourself to an extra half hour of sleep each day throughout the week, and pamper yourself with consistently better mornings and an easier time falling asleep at night.
First off, I’m not a doctor and this is NOT medical advice. That said, after a health scare a few years ago, I cleaned up my diet and noticed big positive differences in my work. I don’t get headaches any more, and the brain fog has cleared. I have maybe one or two sick days a YEAR (even while I was a classroom teacher)!
All of that translates into more high quality time in the writing chair.
I’m not going to campaign for a certain diet because there’s a LOT of conflicting advice out there. And, even more importantly, everyone is different. But here are a few simple things that seem to benefit everyone:
Cut out highly processed foods. In fact, don’t even call them ‘foods’–we’re writers, and words matter, ha! I think this is one of the big reasons that people report positive results when they start a wide variety of new eating plans; almost all nutrition systems cut out processed junk. Try it and see how you feel.
Eat more fruits and veggies. And eat them in their simple forms: roasted squash instead of creamy casseroles, baked potato instead of scalloped, lightly dressed salads rather than dollops of heavy dressing.
Try a few key supplements. Again, talk to your doctor and do plenty of research. For me, I noticed I really benefited from B12 and D3 supplements. I’m also keeping an eye on Omega 3’s because I know I don’t get enough from my diet. I don’t obsess about supplementation and I don’t take twelve pills a day. Keep it simple and notice how your body feels.
When you have a dozen other things on your day’s to-do list, it can be nearly impossible to focus if you’re worried about whether you have enough energy to complete all your important tasks. How are you supposed to create that dialog between characters when you’re fretting about this afternoon’s grocery run?
First, you’re not Superyou. (I mean, you’re super, don’t get me wrong.) But even the comic book heroes had butlers and sidekicks. So delegate, already! I know–no one knows how to do it correctly, and you’ll just have to redo it later. But? That perfectionism is crushing you. So set your expectations a little lower. Do you know that elite athletes have an 85% rule? As it turns out, 85% exertion allows people to relax enough that they slip into The Zone more easily, and often breeze past competitors. So give yourself the gift of 85%–accept, ahead of time, that you’re going to leave your to-do list a little less than perfect. Chances are, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
And second, you might be trying to do too much! Along with delegating, try to reduce the sheer number of tasks that fight for a share of your attention each week. In the book, Essentialism, Greg McKeown advocates a pared-down approach. (As I type this, I’m feeling overwhelmed about some home repairs, so I’m preaching to myself, too!) What really matters, when everything seems urgent? And what can wait, even if it’s got a loud voice? Take the two-minute rule: if you can do it in two minutes, do it now. If not, schedule it. And make sure you only schedule what truly matters to you.
High Energy Versus Limitations
All this isn’t to say that you can’t have writing success if you’re facing physical limitations or a season of recovery. In fact, in these difficult situations, we know more than ever how to guard and steward our precious time and energy supplies. Do what you can, work with what you have, and nurture your body. Step by step, word by word, you’ll reach your goals. And when you do–pour all your energy into celebrating!
NOW YOU: Is your energy level important for writing? What do you to do reenergize your routine?
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