A writer on deadline can be a scary sight. The red-rimmed eyes from lack of sleep (or crying out a scene), crazed hair from jamming their fingers through it repeatedly, all while wearing the ever popular t-shirt and pajama bottoms.
Okay, so we don't all look that way.
However, when a writer is on deadline, they often overlook life as it normally exists and descend into a pit of unhealthy habits.
So what's a writer to do?
Look out for number one. How can you give your best when you're not your best?
Here are a few tips to help you care for your #1 -
Plan ahead - Deadlines rarely show up out of the blue. So before crunch time hits, make a plan. Take care of all those errands you've been putting off. Get the oil changed, schedule the kids physicals/haircuts/dental appointments, make that big trip to the grocery store. Stock up on healthy snacks (we'll talk more about those below), easy-to-prepare meal items and toilet paper. Because let's face it, no one wants to have to take time away from their hectic writing schedule to run to the store for toilet paper. Plan your meals in advance. If you're making a casserole, make two and freeze the second one. Then, when time is of the essence, all you have to do is pop it in the oven and continue writing.
Get up and move - We recently moved into a new house and my office happens to be on the opposite end of the house from the kitchen. I'm a big tea drinker and while I contemplated keeping my electric kettle in my office, I ultimately decided the walk to the kitchen, which is no less than 50 steps each way, would be a better idea.
Writing is a sedentary job, so we need to force ourselves to move so our performance at the computer will be at its best. Try waking up 30 minutes early to get in some exercise and get your blood pumping before you put your butt in the chair. If you're stuck on a scene, take a walk outside to clear your head. Schedule a break once an hour and do some jumping jacks. Or, simply walk to the other end of the house for another cup of tea.
Eat healthy - When we're stressed, it's easy to reach for things that aren't necessarily good for us. We keep a bowl of peanut M&Ms on our desk. "It's a reward for every so many words," we tell ourselves. And that "peanuts have protein, so they're good for us." Ah, if only peanut M&Ms fell into the healthy category. I'd eat them day and night.
Even when you're on deadline, you need to eat real meals, preferably somewhere away from your computer. Trust me, the change of scenery will do you good. And as for those snacks, instead of candy , try reaching for just the peanuts or whatever your favorite variety of nut may be. Or, if you really need something sweet, try mixing those nuts with some dried fruit. Cheese sticks are a good protein boost, as is yogurt (look for high-protein varieties), even beef jerky. Apples and berries will satisfy your sweet tooth without spiking your blood sugar.
Sleep - A good night's sleep is necessary to keep our brains and bodies performing at their best. However, that can sometimes be a challenge when you're on deadline because you're constantly thinking about the story. You wake up at 2 a.m. with an idea and, bang, you're wide awake. Instead of lying their wide awake or getting up and stumbling to your computer, try keeping a pen and paper beside your bed. When those ideas crop up in the middle of the night, write them down, then roll over, knowing that you won't forget that stellar plot twist because you've made note of it. Or, if you don't want to turn the light on for pen and paper, type your thoughts on your phone. If you're like me, it's charging on the nightstand anyway.
Reward yourself - At the end of your writing day, do something you enjoy. Watch your favorite TV show, read a book, play with the kids/grandkids, plot your next book, whatever brings you joy. And don't feel guilty. Remember, you've earned it.
Keep God in the equation - Psalm 121:1-2 "I lift up my eyes to the mountains - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth."
When you take care of you, not only are you happier, your family is happier and your readers will love you.
Now it's your turn. Writer or reader, let's chat about what keeps you sane during those times when life gets crazy. Do you plan ahead and try to take care of yourself? Or do you roll with the punches? What are some your favorite ways to stay on task?
Three-time Carol Award nominee, Mindy Obenhaus, writes contemporary romance for Love Inspired Books. She’s passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren at her Texas ranch. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com