Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Writing 101: Keeping Up the Energy

I am literally exhausted every day by 1 pm. This is because I spend my mornings cleaning and working out, and it's a pretty intense routine. When the afternoon rolls around, I finally sit down to work...and I stay right where I fall. I don't stop working until 9 or 10 pm at night. The life of an indie author can be packed pretty full of stuff to do, and that's why keeping up the energy is so very important. 



The American Obsession

Energy has become a commodity in the United States. Watch television Stateside for an hour, and you'll see that it's true. Shows are packed with ads for energy drinks, of all things, and they've become so prolific you can even get them in a diet version. Indie authors, who often maintain full-time jobs while doing all of the marketing, research, writing and editing for their books on their own, are probably the prime target for these ads. If self-published authors aren't tired and overworked, then no one is. 

But keeping up your energy level by pumping yourself full of sugar and caffeine, the main ingredients in energy drinks, is no way to write. Unnatural energy and heavily caffeinated drinks that make you wired are also going to totally wreck your focus, make you forgetful and may manifest itself as frantic, unorganized writing. By the same token, being overly tired can make you lazy when you're writing. You might skip over the details and rush too quickly toward plot points, creating text that feels harried and stilted. 

It's not natural to move between highs and lows all day long, and there are much better ways of keeping up the energy so you can stay focused, write well and still take care of all those other things on your to-do list. 

Healthy Energy

Trying to be creative after working all day, dealing with the family, maybe tending to chores and engaging in exercise is really a form of self-torture that many indie authors happily embrace. But this lifestyle will start to feel unsustainable pretty darn quickly. Everyone needs down time, rest time, time off and time to sit and stare at the wall if that's really what they want. Scheduling every available minute is wearing on the body and on the mind. Self-published authors have got to make room for themselves. Make sure you've got some free time and some "you" time. Take the time for that manicure. Take the time to go shopping for that new pair of boots. Take the time to wander around the bookstore (if there's still one open in your town). 

And in-between all of that time-taking, you're going to have to make time for everything else. Do it in a healthy way by learning how to keep up your energy in a positive way.

  • Showering. That's right, nothing's off-limits at this blog. I'm even going to give you shower tips. Instead of waking yourself up in the morning with coffee, change your showering habits. After you're all finished and nice and relaxed under that hot water, turn on the cold. Give yourself an icy blast to wake up and face the day with much wider eyes.
  • Coffee-drinking. Speaking of coffee, if you're going to drink it try to wait. I don't drink one of my iced coffee drinks until the early afternoon. When you wake up in the morning, you should already have some good energy going because you just stopped sleeping. If you pick yourself up with the caffeine early, you're going to feel totally used up by the three o'clock. 
  • Eating habits. You want to know why you're tired? Because you aren't eating enough carbs. It became the fashion to eschew carbohydrates in favor of losing weight, and suddenly the energy drink industry boomed. These two things are not unrelated. Carbohydrates are essential to providing the body with energy, and most people need to eat a diet that's 50 percent carbs every day. If you want to do it in a weight-aware fashion, eat wheat breads and low-cal crackers, thin bagels and potatoes that have been grilled or baked instead of fried. I eat a carb-rich lunch every day right around 1 pm to give myself a boost of natural energy and perk myself up after my grueling morning routine. When do you start to feel tired and unfocused? Go eat a slice of wheat toast with sugar-free jelly and see how that suits you instead of reaching for an energy drink. 
  • Sleeping. This is often where I fail, but never underestimate the importance of sleep. The human body needs to sleep daily in order to regenerate and recharge, and if you don't get at least three uninterrupted hours you may as well never get in bed at all. I try to give myself 6 hours of sleep and even that doesn't feel like enough. Don't work so much that you aren't sleeping enough. I started waking myself up an hour later in the mornings, because I found that I was so tired when I woke up earlier it took me an hour longer just to really get going anyway. Are you wasting time in the mornings because you're just too exhausted? Pay attention to how long it takes you to complete your morning routine. Sleep in the next day, clock yourself again, and see how sleep makes a difference. 
Keeping up the energy is important if you want to keep yourself sane while you work at being a self-published author. You shouldn't drag around all day feeling tired. When writing begins to become a chore, you might need to think about changing some habits and shifting your schedule if at all possible. If you can't function without using caffeine and other weird tricks to keep yourself energized, you're doing way too much. It's always okay to slow down a little, relax a little more and work a little less. Your writing will be better because of it.

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2 comments:

  1. Morning exercise is amazing for energy. I found that the best thing for me was to hop in for a super quick cold shower, just something to snap me awake. Then I was told to workout before I eat anything. If you do weight training first followed by cardio, you apparently burn more calories and have a more effective workout. Afterwards, eat a breakfast high in carbs before you start your morning shower and routine. I only do it three days a week, but I need to change that up and do it more often because I never have so much energy as I do on my exercise days. I also find I don't need any caffine through the day either. Usually I will have a fun size chocolate bar as a mid-afternoon snack to keep my energy up. It's just enough sugar to keep me from feeling those 3pm doldrums.

    Awesome post, as usual.

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