Many writers these days are frantically running from place to place, working too many hours, volunteering for too many projects, working nights and weekends hoping for approval.
On top of that, in order to write, they are fueled by sugar, caffeine, cigarettes and adrenaline to keep going.
Long-Term Damage to Career and Health
I don’t need to tell you that we live “on alert” these days. We are bombarded from so many information sources. We allow ourselves to be at the beck and call of anyone who calls or texts our cell phone or shoots us an email.
Adrenaline rushes work in the short term. Used like a drug, it pushes tired bodies to work faster and harder. The end result, though, is a crash-and-burn depletion of your reserves.
Go Against the Flow
Do you want to have a long-term writing life? Then while you still have time–while you still have your health–I urge you to develop a counter-cultural lifestyle. Look at your life now. Make a list of the things that have stressed you out this past week.
(No groceries in the cupboard because a meeting ran late and you couldn’t stop at the store? Phone call from a teacher saying little Johnny forgot his required permission slip for the day’s field trip? News of a violent crime in a part of your city you considered safe? A bounced check? Having to work late at night while everyone else is sleeping, just to keep life from derailing?) All of these things make us run on adrenaline that wears down our bodies. And nearly all of these things are preventable.
Replace the Old with the New
Habits that cause you to run on adrenaline are habits that need to be replaced. I can’t tell you which habits you need to exchange, but I can share some of mine.
- I used to routinely arrive places out of breath and a little bit late, tearing into meetings or classes after the program had begun. So embarrassing. I would sweat it on the way to the meeting, and backed-up traffic skyrocketed my blood pressure. I hated to waste time, so I hated arriving somewhere early and waiting. The change I made? To avoid the adrenaline rush, I planned to leave early enough to arrive early, but took work or a book along, stayed in the parking lot and worked, then walked in calmly ten minutes before the class started.
- I knew that the days I DIDN’T run on adrenaline were the days I started with exercise and devotional reading and prayer. And yet, too many times, I’d awake feeling energetic, consider the two hours I’d lose if I stuck to my exercise/devotional regimen, and jump into writing instead. Make hay while the sun shines, right? Mostly, I made headaches and a sore back and neck, lowering my productivity. I decided to make my morning ritual non-negotiable. My health regimen actually saves me time in the long run. And I run those days, not on adrenaline, but on healthy energy supplies.
- I also set a boundary on working in the evenings. I couldn’t see what difference it would make if, while chatting or watching a good movie with my husband, I also answered some email and updated my websites. Most of it was “no think” activity, so what did it harm? A lot, I discovered. My mind wouldn’t shut off when I shut off the computer to go to bed. My neck and back hurt terribly by then. And I felt disgruntled, like I hadn’t had any free time at all that day.
Mostly, I had to convince myself that it wasn’t selfish to slow down and live at a sane pace, to build in a buffer zone or margin around activities so I could make a smooth (not frantic, hurried) transition from one thing to another. What’s that old saying? “We’re supposed to be human beings, not human doings.”
It’s Up to You
No one can make changes for you. And frankly, many people in your life who like all the work you accomplish won’t help you make changes. But make them you must. If you want to have a decent quality of writing life, you’ll have to step outside this current “hurry frantically” electronic culture of ours, and figure out what works for YOU to have a saner, happier life.
Running on premium fuel instead of adrenaline will make you more productive, less stressed, and be better for your health. Saner writers are happier, more productive writers. And doesn’t that sound appealing?