Monday, August 10, 2009

The Care and Feeding of This Writer

Huge apology for missing my slot last week. Personal matters cropped up and I was unable to write a post last Monday. The rest of The Novel Girls did a terrific job in talking about relieving stress, so rather than try to talk about both last week and this week's topic, I'll just move on to my take on the writer's diet. Or, rather, THIS writer's diet.

When I'm knee-deep into a writing a book, time gets away from me. My sleeping schedule becomes erratic, which means normal meal times fly out of the window. In fact, there are many days I flat-out forget to stop what I'm doing to get a meal. This is not good, writer or not, and one of my continuous goals is to create a schedule I can stick to.

And there are days, sometimes weeks, that I'll do terrific. Most of the time, however, I'm just not that great at it. When I was in the midst of writing A STROKE OF MAGIC, a very good author friend warned me to start taking a good multi-vitamin, to focus on fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins in order to keep myself sharp, to keep myself healthy. I listened to her, and then went right back to what I'd been doing: barely sleeping, grabbing maybe one meal a day, and living mostly on coffee.

By the time I turned the book in, I was completely wiped out. I had zero creativity left, my brain was numb, and I spent the next couple months doing hardly anything writing related. Not that I didn't try, because I did. But I'd drained myself, and it took a while to "refill the well."

You'd think it wouldn't be so hard to set a schedule and keep to it. But when I'm embroiled in the telling of a story, I don't want to stop. Either the words are flowing and I don't want to break for worry the flow will stop, or the words aren't flowing and I don't want to stop because I need to figure out why the story isn't coming out. And I need to fix that--as soon as possible, please.

However, my friend is one-hundred percent right. If I don't take breaks for food, exercise, sleep, and other things--like visiting with family, friends, etc., then the entire process becomes more difficult. It's easy to see this when I have a little distance from whatever project has carried me away, but it's a lot harder to take the appropriate action when I'm actually in the midst of the project.

My solution? I've finally put a timer on my desk. I set it for two hours. It's always two hours, now. When the time is up, I stand up...actually pull myself away from my desk, and do whatever it is that needs doing. If it's for a meal, I sit down at the table instead of eating at my desk. In addition to meals, however, the two hour timer forces me to walk away--even if it's only for fifteen minutes.

I've found that by taking better care of myself, both through diet and taking regular breaks, I'm more alert and creative when I'm sitting at the computer.

Of course, that doesn't mean it's always easy, because it isn't. And it doesn't mean I don't have a stash of chocolate hidden away. Because I do. Just don't tell my kids!

As far as my actual diet, well...some weeks are healthier than others. What can I say? Sometimes a leafy green salad just isn't what I want. :)

Mostly, I try to stick to fresh fruits, vegetables, proteins, with a few complex carbs thrown in for good measure. But there are days when nothing but a delivered to my door pizza will do. And I think that's okay.

Have a great week!


Jessica Rabbit said...

So true.I have lost sooo much weight because I am up from sunset to sunrise so I miss breakfast and lunch all together.Not healthy at all but I can't for the life of me go to sleep earlier or wake up later,if I do 'beware of the grouch monster,argh.'lol.But I have always had killer insomnia so writing gives me something to do when I can't sleep.I eat dinner and maybe a few snacks here and there,but no coffee.What how can this be?I know I know,I just don't like it,but I'm a tea whore and can drink about 6 glasses (I could be exagerating,it could be a lot more)until I crawl into bed.Okay so it's more like bouncing to bed.But yes I am the poster child for bad writing diets.LOL.

...and the whole timer thing,I couldn't do that it would drive me nuckin

Uninvoked said...

I can't remember the last time I was so pulled into the writing of a story that I required help leaving the desk. I forced myself to complete a novel length manuscript when I first moved away from my family. A few scenes gripped me, but mostly it was just regular writing. (Re: Me trying to avoid it.)

Now that the rough draft is complete, I'm not writing anything new. I'm editing it and posting it up as I go. It's only recently that the writing voice has creeped back into my mind, pointing out other stories that could be told.

Maureen Lipinski said...

I'm so much of a procrastinator that I think I'd have to set my timer for every 15 minutes, ha ha!

Tracy Madison said...

Hi, Jessica! So happy to see you over here! LOL, I hate the timer, but if I don't use it, I'll literally stay at my desk for hours on end.

Hi, Uninvoked: Well, to be honest, it's also about the deadlines for me. Even when I'm only working on a self-imposed deadline, I tend to become very single-minded, and that's where my inability to stop what I'm doing and walk away comes from.

I love the editing process, though. It's an easier process for me than the original draft, and a lot less draining.

Maureen, lol! I procrastinate too! But by using the timer, I've also found I'm better and doing what I need to do, because that dang thing is ticking down.

Jillian Cantor said...

Tracy, you're so organized!! If I had a timer on my desk, I'd probably lose it buried under all the papers and random notes to myself :-)

~*Jessica Rabbit*~ said...

TRACY!!!*shrugs* I just felt like shouting your name.LOL.Well that and a moth was attacking me,eek. LOL.So more about this timer business,I don't have one.ahhhh ha!
So it wouldn't work...unlessss,I set the microwave on for X amount of minutes.But that might not work.Shall try though.Well no,then I'd have to unplug my fan just to use the timer.Well,LOL,looks like the timer is out.To be continued...

dun dun dunnnn.

~*Jessica Rabbit*~ said...

o.O why on earth did it make my one paragraph into 2 paragraphs?Huh.Alright,these sites are destracting!Now I know ya'll love me but you have to let go of my ankle *tries to shake Tracy from ankle.* Seriously dad's gonna come in and ground me.hehe.Okay seriously before I procrastinate some more I am out...for now.

Lesley Livingston said...

I am perpetually in awe of your organizational mad skillz. Awe, I tell you.