C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

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My Top Ten: Becoming a healthier writer

Remember when this blog was about publishing?

It still is, but I’ve got to talk about the author and publisher and our mental and physical health. Without us, there will be no books.

As I write this, I am battling a bad infection. On Tuesday, I find out about some medical test results. In short, things have been tough lately, emotionally and physically. I have a plan to deal with this mortal coil (more on that in a moment) but in the meantime, not much writing is happening. A little, yes, but at George RR Martin speed (i.e. glacial). Once this latest problem gets sorted out, I hope to be free of health scares for a good long time. Sickness and fear is draining. Life, as I have failed to organize it, is draining.

And here’s where the mental game comes in…

This last three weeks has been a series of blows. Most of that problem is mental. I’m not dealing with stress properly. I’m obsessive. I’m negative. I’m focussing on what not to do instead of focussing on what to do. If you spend your energy in the present on what you know you should do, you won’t lose time with regret and anger. I know this because I’ve lost too much time already.

The short story is, I allowed an energy vampire into my lair and he shat in my living room. Two days ago, another energy vampire attacked. I dealt with the problem faster this time, but it still ruined an entire day while I obsessed over what else I wish I’d said to cut him off. When I was younger, I wasted a lot of time being furious. The rage monster is back. I’m not punching walls or anything silly like that. Just seething. That can even be useful when I channel that energy into Misericordia, the beastly vampire in This Plague of Days. It’s less helpful when I argue everything in my head again and again. (At least the revenge fantasy with the torch, the knife and the bag of rats is fun.)

But here’s the paradox:

Writing makes me happy and yet I haven’t been writing enough. A friend asked about my strategies for dealing with negative emotions. For two years, I was free of all this nonsense. Those were the happiest two years of my life. Guess when that was. Yes, it’s when I was at home writing and only writing. Running two struggling businesses at once is a time management problem, though proper use of a calendar and a stopwatch alarm should get that sorted out.

There are many components and variables to health and everyone has to deal with these issues at some point. This is where I make my stand. Turmoil and rage is not a successful life strategy.

Living the way I have been isn’t working.

Underneath the anger is fear, just like Yoda says. I’m afraid of failure and a short life and I’m even more scared of a long life in which my brain and body abandon me. Sometimes, I cry a little and wish I could cry more to let it all out. Mostly, I want to take all the bad in the world into my arms and squeeze until it’s tiny and dead and dust. I want justice and just desserts. I want us to live in a better world and I think, through fiction, we can come at solutions sideways. Even if we can’t save the world through Art, we can save people by giving them harmless vicarious thrills and joyful distractions. Stephen King calls books “escape hatches”. That’s exactly what they are. We write about heroes and heroes affirm our humanity in the face of Darkness. We need these myths as a starting point for our aspirations. There is wisdom and honesty in good writing. With our fiction engines running hot, we can make the hopeful lies true.

I know what to do for myself and these latest health problems are reminders that, yes, I really have to deal with this stuff STAT.

Here are my strategies to protect my brain, body, energy and mood:

1. A diet of plants with some protein on the side. Vegetables are the main thing.

2. Daily movement. It could be dancing or Fight Club or running from bears or chasing criminals through the night in my cape. But keep moving.

3. I built an incredibly cheap treadmill desk ($100) but I find it difficult to compose while walking. A friend gave me a pedal treadmill for Christmas (to use while sitting at my desk). I hope to do better with that.

4. No aspartame. As little processed food as possible. Stevia or xylitol in small measures, okay, but the chemicals I can’t pronounce have to be cleared out.

5. Tracking. The same friend who gave me the desk treadmill gave me a FitBit Flex because (a) he’s awesome and generous and (b) that which is not measured cannot be improved. Everything I eat and do goes into tracking. From graphs and math come course corrections and healthy habits.

6. Closer contact with my doctors. I go for regular physicals, but we’re going to do closer monitoring to make sure I’m on track as I make more lifestyle changes.

7. First drink of choice is water. Then more water. Thankfully, coffee is still in, though less than I have been drinking.

8. More sleep. Early mornings are fine, but the late nights have been too much for too long. I took workaholism as par for the course to get things done. Now I think it’s a stupid ego thing and a result of impatience and poor planning.

9. Be more social with friends and invest in those healthy, positive relationships. Cut rude people off faster and destroy any hope they have of being casually destructive to my energy reserves. Psychopaths don’t lurk behind every rock and tree, but they’re out there. I’m not going to engage these people. I’ll simply delete them or throw them out.

10. Write. For me, it’s as important as exercise, if not more so. When I am writing I am most myself. When I am writing, I disappear from the stresses of this world. In that world there are psychopaths waiting, too, but I know how to deal with them better. I’m very unkind to the bad guys in my fiction. They get to think they’re winning for a while, sure. Then? They burn.

11. Every day in this world, I am kind. I make a point of it. The day isn’t done until I can find a way to do someone a solid if it’s within my power. But I have to be kinder to me, too. That’s why I’ve got 1 – 10. Your strategies may not be identical to mine, but I hope you have some that work for you.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year to all my readers!

My next entry on ChazzWrites.com will be in the New Year. As you can see, I have to take some time off to organize for lifestyle changes, rest, recharge and, of course, write. Let’s all have a healthier and happier 2014. We need each other for the fight.

Be well.

~ Chazz

PS If you have links, books, or green smoothie recipes to share about how you take care of yourself, please leave them in the comment thread. We all need to know.

Filed under: Rant, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 Responses

  1. MishaBurnett says:

    I live about 2 miles from my day job, and I don’t own a car. I get a ride into work in the mornings, but in the evenings I walk unless there is a blizzard going on. I have a fairly active day job, physically, but my walk home is different.

    That’s my time, I put on my headphones and let my mind go where it wants to go, so that by the time I get home I’m ready to write. Even when I’m not working, I find myself craving a walk at about the same time in the afternoon.

    I think that walking is just about the best exercise, both physical and mental. It seems to work best, however, when I am actually going someplace rather than just walking in circles, so I will walk down to the store, for example, just to pick up a few things and walk back home.

    Maybe you could pick a destination that’s a comfortable distance away and get in the habit of walking there and back every day.

  2. Chazz! I love the raw honesty of this post and commend your courage in opening your veins and letting us see the blood. I have been in a place very similar to where you are.
    I am reminded by one of my favourite pieces of advice that Hemingway gave to F.Scott Fitzgerald: “We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt use it — don’t cheat with it.”
    Sometimes when life kicks you to your knees even writing can be a struggle.
    I really hope that this time passes for you soon. I hope that the storm clouds lift and the silver lining to the clouds opens up a pathway of inspiration and renewed vigour and energy.
    Merry Christmas and here’s to wishing for a year of light and ease in 2014,
    – Kim

  3. mazielane says:

    Oh man! Brother man have you hit home for me, and for so many more with this powerful, awesome and raw post, Chazz. My heart goes out to you, and my applause, too, for you take what has come and you write with it, rock with it and rip apart all the old paradigms of what a writer lives like, looks at, and leaves in the past as baggage that does not serve one. You’ve done it this time … you’ve dart-bulls-eyed so much of what each of us faces, and you give us a way to beat back that field of negativity and energy-sucking sap-shifters who live there. I can’t say enough about the great energy and potency in this message. Take care of your dear self, rest, mend, and know that you are not alone, my Friend.

  4. Nice post and a good reminder to be healthy. I wish you all the best in the coming year!

  5. Sorry to hear you’ve been dealing with all that. I’ve gotten hit pretty hard this month too. I need to take better care of myself as well so that I can handle these tough situations better.

    You asked for some healthy resources. There are a couple of blogs I follow that give good inspiration.
    I also pin healthy pins here: http://www.pinterest.com/growwithstacy/healthy-living/

    Merry Christmas!

  6. I like number 9. It’s something I have been trying to do myself. I’ve been trying to do the whole keep myself in a good place mentally.

    My day job has a great Green Smoothie recipe. I don’t know the exact measurements, but it’s kale, spinach, almond milk, strawberries, bananas and dates. It is so good and I really hope hubby got me the Vitamix Blender I think he has so I can make them at home.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New year. I hope you get to where you want to be in 2014.

  7. […] My Top Ten: Becoming a Healthier Writer […]

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