Most wouldn’t consider writing to be a physical occupation. When compared to pizza slingers, bicycle couriers, acrobats, construction workers and even pianists, writing really doesn’t seem too physically taxing. In spite of the job’s sedentary nature (I haven’t met any content marketers who type and unicycle at the same time), professional wordsmiths need to condition their bodies and minds to foster creativity, improve stamina and produce the best material physically possible.
Forget how you look in a bathing Suit – follow these five steps for a freelance-ready body:
1. Eat Brain (food)
If you prefer to write with a snack by your side, choose to eat foods with the right variety of nutrients to improve focus and creativity. Some healthy foods, like cherries and turkey, contain melatonin and tryptophan which will slow your mind and make you drowsy, but others are packed with brain-boosting compounds like:
- healthy fats
- complex carbohydrates
- beta carotene
For a sharp mind and equally keen content, nibble on leafy greens, carrots, nuts, protein, fish, blueberries and bananas, which all pack in the power. Even chocolate, which contains polyphenols, prompts the body to produce feel-good serotonin and improves focus. Chowing down on nutrient-rich foods like these will give you the powerhouse writer’s brains a zombie would die (again) for.
2. Hydrate and Repeat
Your brain (sentence factory) is about 75% water. It’s basically a swimming pool of smarts. Water fuels almost every function of your brain.
When you don’t drink enough water, your brain actually shrinks. Studies have shown that after a one percent drop in hydration, cognitive function correspondingly drops five percent. Without enough water, you lose your ability to concentrate and carry out important executive functions like planning, processing and problem solving. Dehydration also causes headaches, fatigue, confusion and mood swings. Basically, a thirsty writer can’t get much work done.
Staying hydrated fuels brain functions, regulating your mood while improving memory, problem solving, planning, focus, clarity and creativity. The amount of water each person should drink daily varies from person to person, depending on metabolism, climate and activity levels. Most recommend drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of any fluid per day. Try to avoid beverages high in sugar, caffeine or containing alcohol, as they can contribute to dehydration. To further enhance your mental performance, brew a pot of green tea which contains brain-boosting L-theanine.
3. Pause to Play
Regular exercise creates world-class writers in two ways:
- Bigger, Healthier Brains – Studies have shown that regular exercise (at least 120 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week) increases the size of the brain’s hippocampus, prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex. Each of these areas of the brain are directly responsible for memory, learning, thinking, decision making and planning, which are all skills essential to turning out great work. In addition, regular exercise reduces conditions like insulin resistance, hypertension and inflammation which threaten brain health and hinder cognitive function. It also has been shown to stimulate the growth of blood vessels in the brain and the production of shiny new brain cells.
- Better Posture – Strengthening core muscles, which support the spinal column, will improve your posture and reduce pain which results from long hours sitting at a desk. Jumping into a Pilates or yoga class will do the trick, or you can practice simple core strengthening exercises in the comfort of your home.
Now that you know exercise will improve your writing (in addition to a myriad of other proven health benefits) you have no excuse not to take a break from your current project to enjoy some old-fashioned physical activity.
4. Stretch it Out
When you’re focused on a project, it’s easy to lose track of time and stay seated for hours on end. But this is bad for your body and your mind. Even if your posture is perfect, sitting reduces circulation and causes blood to pool in your legs rather than delivering oxygen to your brains. If your posture is less than perfect, sitting will also lead to back, neck and shoulder pain. Take stretching breaks every twenty to thirty minutes to make sure your muscles are loose and your brain has enough juice. Try stretches that will release tension in your shoulders, neck, suboccipital muscles, back and hamstrings.
5. Sleep Well
Although it might seem counterintuitive, studies have shown that sleeping (maybe not while on the job) improves your creativity and your ability to focus. Need a fresh angle on a tired story or have a pitch you can’t get excited about? Sleep on it. Sleep opens up doors in our minds that simply stay locked with our eyes open.
If you cannot get enough sleep or high quality sleep, chances are your focus, creativity, memory and all cognitive functions are suffering. Aim for about eight hours each night and practice impeccable sleep hygiene to get the quality of sleep you daydream about when you should be focused on writing your next sentence.
Whether you write up wonders at the coffee house, work studiously in an office or write while riding a unicycle and spinning plates, caring for both your body and mind will show through in the quality of your work, your concentration, creativity and your writing speed.
Jennifer G is a full-time freelance writer and editor with a B.A. in creative writing from the University of Montana. She enjoys researching and writing creative content to engage readers and developing professional voices for clients across all industries. She specializes in medical, health, veterinary, and financial writing. Having worked nearly thirteen years in finance, Jennifer applies her experience in the banking industry (marketing, social media management, consumer and commercial lending, customer service, accounts, and bookkeeping) to her writing work within the industry.