Writing Can Seriously Damage Your Health
Yes. Writing can seriously damage your health. And it doesn’t take long. Hunched up over a keyboard all day, or staring at a computer screen for hours on end (without blinking) can have some devastating consequences.
And then there’s the diet. The constant grazing (usually chocolate) and the copious amounts of tea, coffee or wine. No wonder Jane Wenham-Jones spoke of Writer’s Bottom in her book Wannabe A Writer?
I’ve just finished reading The Healthy Writer by Joanna Penn and Dr Euan Lawson, which explores some of the common ailments we writers can find ourselves lumbered with. It also offers some solutions to these predicaments (although, of course, it goes without saying that if you’re not well you should get yourself checked out by a doctor).
Most of the advice contained within the book we already really know: get your writing space set up to be ergonomically efficient, get up from your computer regularly to stretch your muscles and go for a walk.
What I found interesting in the book were the different solutions writers found for many of these problems. As we know, we’re all individual, so no one-size-fits-all solution really exists. But it’s possible to identify, by trial and error, the best solutions for our individual circumstances.
As writers we rely on our creativity. And that relies upon our brain, part of our physical body. When our creativity seems lacking, and the brain won’t function like we want it to, the chances are there could be a physical problem somewhere else.
Can’t think how best to end your short story because you have a headache? Have you been staring at the computer screen for too long? That’s your body telling you to move away from the computer.
Any pain can interrupt your creativity, because it’s your body telling you that something is wrong/ It needs investigation. Painkillers may offer a temporary reprieve, but that merely deals with the symptoms, not the cause.
And as someone who has stomach issues and a food intolerance, I’m acutely aware of how these physical health problems cause mental challenges: brain fog, lethargy and a complete inability to think straight. It has nothing to do with Writers’ Block – it’s a physical condition causing the problem.
So if you’re sat at your computer and the words aren’t flowing as easily as you’d like them too, firstly get up and go for a walk: to the kitchen, to the shops, to the top of the local hill – whatever helps. Get some exercise. Not only will the walking stretch muscles that have become semi-set through non-use for the last couple of hours, but the walk will also release chemicals in the brain (seratonin, for example), which can boost mood and, therefore, creativity. (How creative are you when you’re in a bad mood?)
And while you’re walking, consider how good your overall health is. Could it be better? Can you do something about it? As Joanna and Euan discuss in The Healthy Writer, there are often many easy, simple-to-introduce changes you can make to your desk and how you work that will make a huge impact on your health. And, chances are, your creativity will thank you for it and reward you accordingly.