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)

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