20 January 2011

The Writer Lifestyle is Sedentary

by Carrie Bailey

I have to admit that there is one aspect of being a writer that isn't as glamorous as I imagined it would be when I started daydreaming about my career years ago. As I was considering all the places I would like to be published and how I would spend my time in between writing novels, I started to notice something was missing. The fantasies were filled with beaches and long walks, but the reality was more about my laptop, couch, or bed even, that, and the clicking of the key board. In truth, the writer life style is remarkably sedentary. Sure, I've been to Paris with Perry Block, to Australia six hundred years in the future and traveled around Chile a second time, but I didn't get up. Now, after all the success I've had as a writer, I'm wondering if I can continue-I'm so out of shape.

It wasn't always this way, but once I started writing, it was. And if I do make it to a warm beach-the Oregon coast is similar to standing on a dirty ice cube that smells like it's wrapped in two week old kelp, it won't be to bear any skin.

Currently, I'm starting to reverse the damage I've done to myself by pursing my dreams of being a full-time writer. I have a strange, rare and wonderful balance disorder that makes some (many) forms of exercise difficult for me. My minor disability may have prompted me to turn to my laptop writing enterprise for support in the first place, which is why I opted for a modified version of the HCG diet. The good news is that I've been losing the weight I gained steadily. The bad news is that I'm only doing it, because I got conned into a Groupon for a diet clinic, but I do like it because it works well with my writer lifestyle. Hear the grumbling tone of the very frustrated and hungry writer? What I'm doing isn't for everyone, but what I do want to share was how I got out of shape so that other writers may potentially use this insight to circumvent joining me in my terrible fate.

Writing and Eating

Drinking and driving is illegal, but yet, they don't warn us about writing and eating, which is nearly as bad. It's too easy to not notice what's going in your mouth when all you care about are your poor characters who are about to kill each other...nom, nom, nom. Yes, you just ate the entire bag of veggie crisps.

There is no easy way to avoid writing and eating except making a conscious choice not to do it. My failure was in believing that if I chose healthy snacks to keep in the house, that I would be healthy. In many ways I am healthy, but my body was not meant to have 1 lb of healthy almonds every day. And it's easy to eat one 1 lb of almonds when you've got a deadline and you're sitting on your couch and no one is watching how much you eat, especially not you.

Avoid my fate by not eating while writing. Take a few minutes to dine properly or fill up on liquids until you can.

Writing and Eating Around the Clock

As a writer, I can write whenever I want or need to write. I set my own schedule. I am my own boss. Cue the "victory" background sounds... Yet, I never set a schedule. I write constantly and the worn keypads on my dying mac bear the evidence of that. And yes, that meant that I was often eating without any schedule. The scientists say that even one hundred extra calories a day can lead to ten pounds of weight gain over the course of a year. Of course that is unfair, but that's the only kind of information scientists have, facts.

I discovered that having many small meals through out the day was truly an excellent way not to keep my blood sugar stable, but to eat more than I needed. I ate when I was hungry. It seemed logical at the time, but then I started getting hungrier more often and vicious cycle began, involving me and almonds.

Avoid my fate by being a good boss and setting a schedule for yourself whether it's for writing, eating or both.

Misusing the Imagination

I have a good imagination, writers generally do. For hours I can force characters to perform tasks I would never actually undertake myself-fighting monsters, going out into a foreign land with no local currency... Unfortunately, it's easy to misuse the imagination to talk ourselves in and out of things we want to do. Mostly, I convince myself that a whole bar of dark chocolate is a health food and that if I don't eat all the almonds then the obese squirrels that live outside my house will break in and gorge themselves. Seriously, it's endemic in this region just look:

It's the old side view trick, isn't it?

As for getting back in shape and staying in shape, I've misused my imagination there, too, by paying for gym memberships, imagining that exercise would be enough and not changing my eating habits as it relates to my writer lifestyle. However, a few new photos bring a harsh reality into perspective. If I want to be a freelance writer full time, I have to either minimize the damage of the writer life style by my own efforts, buy the best health insurance on the market or hide the mirrors, bathroom scale, cameras, cover the window reflections, wear togas and never answer the door for anyone who has ever met me before. Denial can be difficult to maintain...

Avoid my fate by staying honest with yourself about your health.

No, I'm happy to change my ways. In fact, right as I type, I'm tossing the almonds outside. They say if you can't loose weight at least you can fatten up those around you and look thinner, right?

The truth is that the HCG diet is working very well for me and it makes me wonder why did I allow myself to put on weight in the first place? The only answer I can think of is that writing was my only priority at the time. On some level that is admirable I hope, but I doubt I would have been so single minded if I realized how hard loosing weight and getting in shape were.  

What do you do avoid the effects of a sedentary lifestyle?


  1. *puts down BBQ sandwich*

    Uh, well... Sometimes I stare at my Wii balance board and think I should use that sometime.

    My waistline betrays my writerly ways. I really need to start getting more active. I have a friend who is determined to make me get out and walk, so I must tell her to prod me to do so.

  2. That's actually a very good thought. I have always noticed that my thinnest friends walk regularly and my heaviest ones are experts on diet and exercise.

  3. The writer's lifestyle does have its pitfalls. I admire your honesty and for encouraging others to take a look at their habits. It is so easy to let the writing come first. I'm 'guilty', too. :)

  4. It's easy to eat a little constantly instead of a lot at once when you're eating and writing! Thanks for the warning :)