One day, I began to think about how well I really took care of myself as a writer, one who spends hours slouching behind her computer desk, constantly focusing on the screen, and forgetting everything around her.
Of course, nutrition is important and so is a regular exercise program; however, I was looking more so at my habits while writing and finding remedies that I could incorporate that would contribute to the betterment of my health, during my writing hours.
During my long days and often nights of writing, I began to critically access myself from the top down.
Do I clear my thoughts enough?
For someone, like me, who often writes many hours straight through, forgetting to take any descent breaks, the thought seldom occurred to me.
I alleviated this problem by getting out of my office for a short time after two or three hours of writing, to refresh my thinking . This distraction enhanced my creativity, often giving me a new perspective on my writing.
Do I give my eyes enough breaks from the hours of staring at the bright screen?
Being so absorbed in my writing, I seldom gave my eyes any consideration other then when they screamed from dryness or ached from tiredness.
Every fifteen minutes, it is recommended to look away from the screen and stare at a distant object to change your focus. Of course, being so absorbed in my writing, how was I to remember to look away every so often.
As a reminder, I used a timer that I set for fifteen-minute intervals. After each fifteen minutes, I take a few minutes to look out my office window and focus on something farther away. I know that without an alarm reminding me, the task would be next to impossible. Those fifteen minutes would slip to an hour, probably more like two or three.
Do I sit up straight?
I discovered my posture, too, needed improvement. I couldn’t believe how many times, I caught myself slouching.
Slouching was a more difficult point to conquer. I often didn’t realize that I was sitting in that terrible hunched position. A good chair helps, but it can only do so much. I needed to be consciously aware of my posture at all times. I did get help from my family. When they see me sitting hunched over, they come and press my shoulders back as a reminder to sit straight. I also started doing weight lifting to strengthen the muscles that help keep your back and shoulders straight. What really helped was setting a book on top of my head. Yes, I know it looks ridiculous but it works! I have noticed that sitting straight makes the long hours of writing more comfortable.
Do I treat my typing hands with respect?
This was one thing I did do.
When I began to write longer hours, I invested in a proper keyboard to take away the strain on my wrists, I got a proper mouse and key pad for support, and often during my writing, I give my hands a light shake or stretch.
Do I get enough movement into my legs while I write?
Who thinks of their legs when they are absorbed in their writing?
Sitting for long periods is terrible for the legs; in fact, it has many ill effects on your health. It is claimed that extreme sedentary is worse than excessive smoking. I never knew that my long hours behind my desk was so unhealthy. Inactivity is such a problem that an organization exists that fights against it, called Researchers against Inactivity-Related Disorders (RID).
Due to the importance of regular movement, I put a stair-climber right beside my office desk. Using my trusted timer again, every half hour, I step onto my climber to exercise my legs for a short time, enhancing my circulation.
Now that I treat my body with care, it rewards me with feeling better and having a clearer mind with improved concentration. I hope, I can continue to enforce these points for the betterment of my health and my success.
When my husband told me what he had experienced on his way home from work the other day, it touched me so profoundly that I needed to share it.
My husband was driving down a six-lane highway, with three lanes going in his direction, all covered with heavy rush-hour traffic. He already noticed from a ways back a disabled man, having difficulty crossing the road. The man whose arms were all bent and crooked and whose twisted legs wobbled had almost fallen into traffic as he tried to get down from the curb and failed. Having missed a couple of pedestrian lights, sadly none of the dozens and dozens of cars that passed him had stopped to help.
Approaching the walk, my husband put on his four-way blinkers and stopped his car. He got out of the vehicle, walked up to the man, and asked if he needed help. The man gave an appreciative, “Yes!” My husband then escorted him across by stopping the other two lanes of traffic as well. With the man’s difficulty of movement, it took some time before they reached the other side of the highway.
The interesting thing was that once my husband had stopped all the lanes of traffic, every car waited until he returned to his own vehicle before any of them drove off again.
Tears came to my eyes when my husband told me what had happened that day. First, I had tears of sympathy for the man. How frustrating and helpless he must have felt. What we take for granted as simply crossing a street, for him it becomes a nightmare.
Then I replaced those sympathetic tears with ones of joy not only because of the depth of kindness my husband had displayed in helping another human being but the respect the other drivers had shown him for doing so.
It made me realize that despite the appearance of nonchalant, busy, and antisocial lives people portray, they still process the desire to support others. It only takes one to show the way but others soon follow.
“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” By Howard Zinn
When I first began to write, I made many mistakes, and I will undoubtedly continue to make more mistakes; so, I gather knowledge and teach myself, to try to prevent those mistakes. There are, however, times when along that sometimes-daunting path of writing that I need help. Friends and family, although well intentioned, are subjective with my writing; therefore, I need the help of an editor.
One of the mistakes I made when I wrote my first story was not seeking out the right editor.
I have comprised a list of what I consider to be a right editor.
An editor that is like-minded
Editors differ and so do their tastes. I had one editor who had a very different idea of the direction of my book. That is not to say, the idea was bad, but it did not match mine. Of course, there are always going to be areas where I don’t agree with my editor but there must be a general agreement on the vision of the book.
A reliable editor
I can have the most skilled and educated editor, but if he/she is unreliable, that will halt my headway and results. Even a contract, if not adhered to, is useless. An editor must be reliable. However, having said that, I also have an obligation as a writer to be reliable, by keeping to my scheduled appointments, deadlines, and payments.
An editor with excellent credentials
An editor needs to be a master in his field. I wanted an editor that knows far more than I do, one that can help improve not just my novel but make me a better writer.
“The best teacher is the one who suggests rather than dogmatizes, and inspires his listener with the wish to teach himself.” – Edward Bulwer-Lytton
A well established editor
An editor needs to be well established and have worked in the industry many years, one who knows the ins and outs and has ties that I, as a writer, may not have. I have learned that connections are essential to success.
Knowing what I wanted in an editor, how did I go about finding the right one?
Referrals are the best way to go to get a competent editor. Unfortunately, I had no one close to give me a referral nor did I personally know any editors, so I went to the best to find the best. I took books that I had enjoyed reading and looked to see who edited them. From that list, I picked out one and contacted him.
His employment with a publishing house was a conflict of interest in taking on freelance work, but he was kind enough to give me a referral.
Luck is always an essential ingredient in success
I was fortunate to find a great editor, but I also know that luck was involved. I contacted the referral and luckily, we connected well and he had an opening available. Being in the right place at the right time determines success.
Remember, you get what you pay for
I know that for outstanding service, you need to pay well. In life, you usually get what you pay for, and it is the same with a good editor. If you desire the best then be prepared to pay for it. I discovered a good editor is worth every penny.
I was fortunate to find a good editor for my novel. He has not only helped me to improve my book and my writing but has become my mentor. Thank you, Pat Lobrutto!
Pat is an editorial consultant that has been editing for over 30 years, and in my opinion is one of the best. – www.lobrutto.com
Awhile back, I began to practice my, “Motto of the Month”, to help develop, motivate, and improve myself in all facets of my life.
What is my “Motto of the Month?”
At the beginning of every month, I come up with a motto that I incorporate faithfully for that month.
Why for a month?
Because I learned that, it takes at least three weeks to break bad habits.
When I first started using a rule to live by each month, it had been strictly for my writing practices, but I later incorporated it to encompass the rest of my tasks.
One motto that I used was something that I had always impressed upon my children to do: Whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability.
I was already doing my writing to the best of my ability, but what about my other tasks.
Tasks you enjoy come easily; the ones you dislike are the ones that need dedication.
By everything, I meant every task like doing errands, cleaning, laundry (which I absolutely hate), grocery shopping, telephone calls, flossing teeth, planning dinner, taking out garbage, car washing, working-out, and so forth. You get the idea. No matter what the task, I would do it to the best of my ability.
It’s amazing when you start to analyze each task you take-to-hand, how much improvement can be added if you do it to the best of your ability. I have to admit that I found it sad how many of my mundane and disliked tasks were not completed to the standard I was capable of doing them.
Doing everything with
can enormously enhance your life and the life of others. Surprisingly, it doesn’t even take that much more time to do things to the best of your ability; in fact, I found it often saved me time in the long run. I didn’t need to redo or finishing doing something that was only partly or incorrectly done.
What it did require was mental energy, the willingness to do it to my best standards.
After applying my “Motto of the Month” for a whole month, it started to become automatic. I have never looked at a task the same again. I do my jobs with pride and have a great sense of satisfaction knowing I did it to the best I was capable of doing it.
I highly recommend you try this motto, everything you do, do to the best of your ability, and see the phenomenal results you get. I assure you, your life we be enormously improved.