A Writer’s Health


Writers have several health hazards to contend with:

  • Anxiety. Will they love it? Will they hate it? Why have my sales stopped? Will that bad review kill my sales? Should I have posted that comment? Did I spend too much on my cover?
  • Indigestion. Stress is a factor for common digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Diet is important for good digestion, so writers need to work a good eating plan into their busy schedules.
  • Heart health. All that time sitting down at the computer writing needs to be balanced with some exercise.
  • Vision. Reading and writing several hours each day can cause eye strain.

Stress is a big problem. It’s easy to get, hard to get rid of, and can have a big impact on your health. Stress is a factor in many common chronic health conditions like asthma and IBS.

It’s easy to say, but hard to do. But to help reduce stress, you need to not let things get to you. You also need to avoid things that can increase anxiety like checking sales reports avidly, checking reviews frequently, responding to reviews, or setting unreasonable expectations. Find things that you can do or people you can interact with which make you feel more comfortable.

Regular exercise is important for your health, and may even help you release some stress. At the very least, exercise for a few minutes multiple times each day. Force yourself to get up from the computer periodically and take an exercise break. Surely, you can spare a few minutes here and there.

There are probably times where you are stuck in your writing—great times to get up, stretch your muscles, and move your arms and legs around with some exercises. When you find yourself just checking one more thing online when you really don’t need to, or checking stats that you had just checked a few minutes ago, force yourself to get up and exercise for a few minutes.

Something like an elliptical is handy because you can move both your arms and legs actively for a few minutes. If you have asthma, exercise in spurts instead of lengthy workouts if longer workouts are more likely to trigger your symptoms. Even if you don’t have asthma, working out more frequently for shorter periods might be easier to fit into your schedule. There may be health benefits from longer workouts, but shorter workouts are better than nothing.

Swimming is another great way to exercise your limbs, if you have access to a pool. But you don’t need to invest in an elliptical or swimming pool to exercise. All you need to do is invest some time. After incorporating regular exercise into your schedule, you might just find that you feel better in more ways than one.

If you have digestive problems like acid reflux or IBS, you need to watch what you eat, as certain foods are more likely to trigger your symptoms. In addition, minimizing stress and exercising may help with these conditions, too.

It may benefit your heart to avoid long periods of sitting down, and to get up, stretch your muscles, and move around for a few minutes in between. It may also benefit your vision to rest your eyes, avoiding long durations where you stare at a computer monitor.

I’m not a medical doctor. If you want medical advice, consult with a medical professional. However, if you have a math or physics emergency, I do have doctorate in physics. 🙂

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

Authors: Where Is Your Happiest Place Online?

I’ll discuss a few places, then I’ll cast my vote in the last paragraph. I’d also like to hear your vote, if you’d be so kind as to leave a comment.

Let me start with Amazon, since it’s a huge website that authors are familiar with. I love shopping for books (and more) at Amazon and I love the support that Amazon has given to authors, including indies. It doesn’t win my vote with regards to happiness, however. For one, the current customer review and comment platform detracts a little from what would be a much more positive ambiance. It’s great that they promote freedom and independence, I just wish they could do that and still limit the occasional spitefulness. Another problem I see is that I sometimes find myself frustrated when trying to search for and discover new books by keyword or in a category. It’s sort of an inherent problem in trying to search through twenty million books. Maybe if we could see more than a dozen or so books on a page that would help speed up the process; sometimes, the way the results are ordered seems to make us scratch our heads, too. Still, I love Amazon and continue to use it.

There are many features that I enjoy at Goodreads, both as a reader and an author. Authors can connect with other authors, and friend reviews are allowed but clearly marked as such (I happened to see one on an author’s page recently, and thought it was an interesting option). You can see what friends have read, are reading, or intend to read. You can discover new books. However, there seems to be a little too much negativity (enough that some authors actually shudder at the mention of the website’s name), but not enough effort to try to make the ambiance more positive throughout. Again, perhaps the negativity is associated with the effort to provide independence and freedom. On the other hand, my vote goes to a website that seems to promote freedom and independence quite well, yet still appears to be a much more positive environment. If they can do it, why can’t others?

Another popular place among authors is CreateSpace. There may be a little room for improvement, but overall I like the way the website works as far as publishing books goes. I also love the wealth of free publishing and marketing information available to authors (if you haven’t checked it out before, you should). The community discussion forum is a nice place for authors to interact with one another, and a good place to look for publishing help. There are many helpful members there, some who are small publishers with many years of publishing experience. For the most part, the forum is very courteous (especially, compared to some community forums on other websites). Still, there are a couple of reasons that CreateSpace didn’t receive my vote. First, the file review process can be a little frustrating at times – even if you submit the interior or cover to specifications, there are sometimes unexpected changes (like telling you that your file is too complex, or resizing the cover on you). The defect rate may be a little higher than we may like (we can hope that they are working to improve this), yet there are defects with all publishers. Finally, eStore sales require the customer to setup a CreateSpace account and it’s not intuitive for customers to search for books on CreateSpace. Nonetheless, I still love CreateSpace and continue to use it, even though there are promising new rivals like Ingram Spark.

I’ll cast my vote now. WordPress is the happiest place online for me. Authors seem to enjoy ample freedom, independence, and creativity, while also in my experience it’s usually a very happy place online. The exception may be the occasional bitter rant, but that’s easy to ignore if you want. The comments section is often filled with positive interactions. The sense of community here at WordPress has been excellent, in my experience. WordPress draws me in like a magnet. I don’t hesitate, fearing negative experiences. I find myself spending way much more time writing posts and reading posts than I ever imagined, and I enjoy it. A positive ambiance attracts people, and the people make or break the place. Here’s a big THANK YOU to all the great people who make this place. 🙂 Please remember to cast your vote and share your opinions and experience.

Dealing with Writing Stress

It’s amazing how much anxiety authors tend to experience:

  • Trying to reach daily writing goals.
  • Wondering if the book will ever get finished.
  • Hoping that people like it.
  • Doubting whether it will sell.
  • Learning how to format.
  • The frustrations of the publishing process itself.
  • Searching for professional help.
  • Monitoring sales reports.
  • Waiting for reviews.
  • Receiving critical feedback.
  • Cyberbullying.
  • The scary world of marketing.
  • Deadlines (often self-imposed).

(So you want to be an author, huh?)

Authors can manage this anxiety.

One trick is to not let yourself get frustrated over things that are beyond your control. You just have to let those things go. First you have to realize that you just can’t do anything about them. The only thing you can do is get upset, and that doesn’t help at all.

You can’t control what other people say or do.

(No doubt, if you could, that universe would be incredibly boring to live in.)

You can do your best. If you do, this knowledge should provide its own satisfaction. Remind yourself of this.

Your behavior can also limit your anxiety.

If you frequently monitor your sales reports and product pages (looking for reviews), emails, blog activity, etc., you’re more likely to be disappointed.

Suppose for example you sell an average of 4 books per day. This means that you sell an average of 1 book every 6 hours. If you check your sales report every hour, 83% of the time you will be disappointed.

I know, when you see that sale, it gives you a temporary euphoria. But being disappointed by no sales most of the time isn’t worth it.

If you sell 4 books per day, just check your sales report once a day, and most of the time you will be happy to see some activity.

Try to wait long enough to see at least 10 sales, and don’t monitor your reports more frequently than that.

When you receive critical feedback, try to stay offline for a couple of days and engage in healthy activities. Keep your mind busy with those. Then see if the criticism offers something that you can use to improve. If so, use it and consider the matter settled. If not, discard it and forget about it.

Diet and exercise are highly important for writers.

We don’t get much exercise while writing. Think about that. We sometime keep irregular hours, staying up overnight to finish our thoughts. We sometimes don’t eat well – taking whatever is convenient – and eat in a rush.

Lack of exercise, poor diet, and especially anxiety can lead to stomach aches, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and a host of other serious problems.

Exercise is a great way to help your mind deal with stress, besides being something that your body needs. Walk (but don’t pace), jog, ride a bike, play tennis, or go golfing, for example. If you can’t leave the house, buy an elliptical or treadmill and make like a hamster.

Balance. The more you check your sales reports and read reviews, the more you should exercise.

Avoid nervous habits like biting your nails.

Writing should be fun.

It is. Remember that.

We tend to make it far more stressful and less fun than it really is.

Focus on enjoying the art of writing. It may help to think of something far worse that you could be doing instead. A little perspective never hurts. 🙂

And here is something I’ve said before: Don’t compare yourself to others. Instead, compare yourself to your former self.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon