Monday, January 9, 2012

Writer's Block? Maybe Not

At the park with Barry

Since New Year’s opening bell, Facebook and Twitter have been abuzz with complaints of writer’s block, general ennui and a need on the part of many writers to lose weight—a lot of weight.

On his blog last week, Joe Konrath announced he’d put himself on a thirty day, beer-only diet to shed pounds. Earlier, I ran across an article on Amanda Hocking’s amazing rise in the publishing world. The story warmed my heart. But the photos of this attractive young woman—a dedicated novelist who was quite overweight—sent up the red flags on my maternal instinct.

What’s going on?

No doubt you want the short version. Here it is: the boom in Independent Publishing now allows writers across genres to make a living publishing and promoting their books. Dedicated scribes spend upwards to 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, in front of the computer. No wonder complaints of writer’s block abound.

If you’re one of those folks strapped to your computer at all hours, consider the long haul. Frankly, you can’t build and nurture a fan base if you’re dead.

I’ve been writing professionally for thirty years. In between deadlines I raised four children, helped build several companies and managed a 12-acre farm. I began writing fiction full-time in 2004—the same year divorce dropped the bottom out of my world. Through it all, I’ve remained healthy. You can, too.

Here are a few tips to increase your productivity and safeguard your health:

Ignore the deadlines, self-imposed and otherwise, and get a minimum of thirty minutes exercise every day. Join the gym and become friends with the treadmill. Or take your neglected dog for a walk in the afternoon sunshine. Dance in your living room. Do whatever it takes to get in those minutes.

Upset tummy from too much stress? Drink ginger tea while you write. Trouble sleeping? Try an herbal sleep supplement that includes Chamomile. Unable to focus? Sit on the floor for several minutes and stretch. And for heaven’s sake, breathe deeply. If you’ve never learned Yoga 101, now is the time to get your Zen on.

Combine common sense with social media. Structure your workday to allow set times to check in with your fans and chat with your writing brethren on Facebook, Twitter and other sites.

Eat well—and, as much as possible, avoid eating while you work. Mix walnuts, cashews and raisins for a healthy afternoon snack. Ensure you have vegetables in at least two meals each day. If you find yourself craving sugar, you’re actually craving exercise. An overworked brain and under-worked body are a sure ticket to packing on pounds.

Your body is as sacred as your WIP or the novel you’ve just released. Treat yourself well and you’ll continue to pen compelling works for many years to come.


  1. Great advice, Christine. Thanks for the reminder. I'm guilty of ignoring my needs, especially now that I have ventured into the realm of Facebook and Twitter. And those self-imposed deadlines are a killer

  2. Maureen, I think most writers feel overwhelmed. The social media frenzy cuts too deeply into a writer's quiet time--those moments of deep reflection we all need to create the next work. Good luck with your Twitter-FB balancing act.

  3. This is a great post. However, a few points:
    1) If Amanda Hocking read this, would she be offended by this post, even though I am not? I Googled the author in question and she looked healthy to me.
    2) Have you addressed this point with her? I do totally understand the need to be healthy and I'm sure she would probably be aware if someone brought it up to her.

    I totally agree with the premise of your post, however. God bless! josh

    1. Josh, I don't know Amanda personally and my comments weren't meant to be insulting. Many Americans struggle with their weight, and I'm sure Amanda is aware of her health issues. I hope she can and does maintain a healthy weight.

      Btw, the weight issue is a big issue with many authors. Hours seated before a computer makes the struggle to remain thin difficult for most of us.

    2. I didn't want you to take that wrong; I was just mentioning that that she might have seen that and taken it wrong. I definitely feel you brought up a great point.

      However, I've seen some young male/female YA authors and their blogs and they look healthier than most people. It depends on the person.

    3. No question about it, some writers do treat their health as sacred as their prose. I've simply noticed many complaints on writers loops, a general malaise in the tribe ... and too many of us do spend too many hours in front of a computer cranking out our stories.

  4. Great reminders, Christine. I find that I'm a little relentless lately...I think it's because I feel like I should be writing whenever the kids are at school. I exercise every day, in the mornings before I sit at my computer. However, today I took the dog for a twenty minute walk in the afternoon even though I already shook it hard at Zumba, and it helped clear my head and get a second wind. I've also been meditating every day (mostly unsuccessfully, but I'm determined to keep working at it until I get it) in an attempt to manage some of my anxiety.

    Number one, though, is exercise. Fights everything bad! Great post.

  5. Tess, you way ahead of me. Note to self: add meditation into the daily mix. Some days I simply can't get to it. Must fix that!

  6. Some authors are in great shape, especially the YA/teen fiction writers. I think female authors in general are in better shape than male writers.

  7. What about the mental impacts? If you sit in front of a computer screen all day of course you'll have writers block. Inspiration comes from within and comes while you are living your life, and by living I don't mean sitting in front a facebook page inhaling doritos. Social media is important but it can be an unhealthy distraction. Great post Christine.

    Bernadette Walsh

    1. Bernadette, a wonderful observation! I couldn't agree more that social media can (and does) become a mental distraction for far too many authors. No one can write scintillating prose if she isn't living a life--and avoiding 17-hour shifts in front of the computer. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Once again a brilliant post. If you do not mind Mrs. Nolfi, I would like to slightly weigh in on this one. It is an honor to be here.
    I am putting on weight(I am a certified physical trainer with awards and a fitness eBook lol) and I am one of those people who spend about 18 hours a day now in front of the computer.Why?
    Well, plenty of it has to do with the state of the union. Let me be frank here, we are in a full blown economic depression. This time around my generation has food stamps and cheap internet access. To a degree this economy is forcing people onto the net.
    I have no work. I spend 18 hours a day on here trying to find a way to be of service to the eBook revolution. I have turned my job into establishing myself as a writer because I have absolutely no other viable option.
    I am about as "struggling author" as it gets.
    I have not a penny to my name and both my oldest brother and I are sleeping on the floor of our elderly mother's one bedroom apartment. I sit here all day trying to perfect my novels and shorter works. Perfect my blog to attract the attention of the like-minded. Writing new things. Figuring out how to build webpages. Teaching myself social-media/networking...and on and on. lol
    Konrath and Hocking are among my new heroes as well. I could cry when I think of their success.
    Our culture is demonizing money now, but let me tell ya, I could sure use a buck...and getting it from being a writer vs a menial minimum wage (I am college educated, not that that matters I guess*shrugs)part-time job that leads to nowhere but more poverty.

    The net seems like my only salvation, so I guess the truth is that until I am saved, I have nowhere else I would rather be.

    I will leave it at that. Knowing how to type faster than you can think is not always such a good thing lol.

    Cheers to you and may you and yours know nothing but prosperity, happiness, and health in 2012.


    1. Damien, I can't thank you enough for posting. As the mother of four young adults--all of whom are struggling in America's economy--my heart goes out to you.

      Okay, I get the part about spending your life in front of your computer in search of income. But take breathers throughout the day. Go for a walk. Get some fresh air. Pace yourself so that you'll remain healthy.

      Your generation has a brilliant understanding of the world's rising connectivity. You're a writer and college-educated? Can you post editing services to writer's groups? Offer to do eBook conversions? Set up social media sites for authors? In this difficult economy many writers take on publishing related work to pay the bills while they build a career.

      If you have any of the above-mentioned skills, please contact me directly at I'll try to connect you to writers in need of those services.

      Keep your chin up and do not give up. You aren't the first writer to undergo great challenges. Trust me when I tell you that every heartbreak you face--and overcome--will deepen the prose of every novel you produce in a long and illustrious life.

  9. Sheesh, your children are lucky! If only my mother still spoke with such eloquence and sound reasoning.

    Trust me, as a physical trainer type I know all about what a sedentary lifestyle can do. I agree with you 110%. Which is another reason I am just going to get it all done (setting up my social-media web). I cannot wait to get back into the gym. I was over-do for a break though. The last stretch was a 3 year 6 days a week exercise schedule and I was at like 190 and 10% body fat lol. When the dust settles I will have traded twenty pounds for a worthy cause.

    I will hit cha up with an e-mail.




    1. Damien, your steely-eyed determination comes through loud and clear! You will get through the hard times--trust in yourself and in the Higher Power that guides us all.

      Btw, I adopted all 4 of my children, a sibling group, from a shelter in the Philippines. It was the most irrational financial decision of my life. It was also a moment of absolute grace. I know all about hard times.

      Never forget that few writers strike gold quickly. And while we all love to hear the Konrath and Hocking stories, most of us work hard for years to earn a living wage from our writing. I wouldn't trade a step of that journey with the rich-quick authors because I now understand, at the grand old age of 53, that my ability to move a reader from laughter to tears has everything to do with the person I've become. Hard times? I think they represent God's way of tempering the finest steel.

      I'll look for your email--I've already begun following

  10. You know, I actually stopped using my Facebook completely after literally sitting on it all day and night like an addict. I'd also suffered a prolonged period of writer's block (over two years worth). Funny thing is, about a month after quitting Facebook I started daydreaming again, my mind going off on long strings of ideas for writing which I couldn't even stop if I tried. Ironically, the whole time before that I couldn't even make that happen to save my life, and because of this I've been feeling up to writing my novel again. I definitely agree that social media is not good for writers given this discovery, and I thought you'd find that interesting.