On Writing and Staying Alive

Let’s face it. Writing is a sedentary profession. Unless we’re out hiking the hills to find the perfect spot for John to propose to Mary, or cruising the town’s streets and back alleys looking for body dumps, we’re sitting in a chair, fingers on keyboard, for long stretches of time. Our minds might be going a mile a minute, fingers racing to keep up, but our bodies are quiescent, patiently awaiting release. And when the writing is cruising at “don’t bother me, I’m in the zone” light speed, our physical form can have a long, tiring wait, indeed.

Though some of us are of a “certain age” and therefore more at risk, this advice, gleaned from very painful personal experience, pertains to everyone who applies seat of pants to chair for longer than an hour at a time.

Trust me, the doctors were abundantly clear on this point. It matters not that you go to the gym three times a week, or walk a mile or two every day, or are still in the twenty- or thirty-something range. The very sedentariness of writing can cause a life-threatening condition: Emboli.

In other words, blood clots. They can appear anywhere, usually in the legs or lungs. They can form without warning, regardless of your age or physical condition. And you can die from them. Quickly. Painfully. Here’s the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen to you:

  1. Drink lots of water while you work. Not coffee, tea or soda, but water. At least 12 ounces every hour.
  2. Ditch the marathon writing sessions. You might have a deadline, but you can’t make it if you’re dead yourself. Never sit for more than one hour in one session. At the end of every hour get up and walk around the house. Refill that water bottle. Check the weather. Make the bed. Set a timer for one hour (or forty-five minute) segments, write like crazy until it goes off, then get up. Your bonus? Timed writing helps turn off your Inner Critic because you don’t have time to listen to it.
  3. Eat regular, well-balanced meals. Nutrition is vital to the smooth workings of your interior parts. Don’t skip or skimp on meals because you’re on deadline or in the “zone” and oblivious to the passing of time. It’s better to eat 5 or 6 small meals than 2 or 3 large ones. Plus, you gave to get up and move around to fix a meal and eat it.

Following this advice will help ensure you’re still around to see your work in print. And collect those awards. It’s also good advice to follow when engaged in any sedentary activity or hobby, like watching TV, or knitting, beading, quilting and other crafts.

Stay healthy!

About Susan Tuttle

Susan Tuttle is a professional freelance editor, writing instructor and multi-award winning author of 21 books—6 nonfiction on writing (Write It Right), 6 suspense novels and 7 collections of award-winning short stories. She also has stories in both volumes of "Deadlines", the new anthology from the Central Coast Chapter of Sisters in Crime (SinC), Tales from a Rocky Coast, and the SLO NightWriter anthology. Under the pen name Susan Grace O'Neill, she is the author of the Journey With Jesus series: Lord, Let Me Grow (Parables) vol. 1, and Lord, Let Me Walk (Lent). She is currently working on volume #2 of her Skylark P.I. series (a PI with paranormal abilities), as well as 2 YA fantasy series. And she teaches fiction writing in both the morning and afternoon every Wednesday. Email her if you're interested in joining her class. And follow her on Twitter and FaceBook.