In the last couple of Monday posts on writer productivity, we’ve been looking at nutrition and exercise. While researching all this, I learned some neat things. I realized that my body regularly craves almost all the best foods for productivity. I don’t think it’s just a matter of coincidence, that I happen to like these foods.
Rather, I believe it’s evidence of my body talking me and I’m listening. In recent years I’ve come to crave almonds (I also read that they contain something needed during menopause, and that’s also a factor in my craving). But I also crave walnuts, avocados, and eggplant.
What I’m thinking is that, while our bodies sometimes scream “Go buy a pizza or a triple-decker ice cream cone,” if we strain to listen beyond the superficial craving (which is often our bodies saying “I need glucose”), maybe we can hear that true biological voice telling us what we need as we’re cranking out those books.
I’ll crave different foods at different times of the year, and I believe that’s in line with our biology. Summer is when fruits are plentiful, with their high sugar, to give us lots of energy for heavy outdoor physical activity.
If we consider we were made to work harder and more hours in warmer weather and rest and be mostly dormant during cold seasons, it makes sense. In the winter we long for heavy, thick soups and potatoes. Foods that make us warm and sleepy.
So as you get to know yourself in this biology examination to become a super-productive writer, realize that you are unique, and what works for someone else may not be ideal for you. This is your journey of self-discovery.
Let Me Scare You for a Moment
When we eat junk food or high-carb processed foods, it slows down productivity (and it’s bad for our health! If you don’t believe me, watch the incredible documentary called Super Size Me. It will shake you to your core, and, I hope, you’ll never eat another Big Mac again).
Sugary foods, like sodas (a bit problem with many people), make you feel weak, confused, nervous, lethargic, and unable to concentrate. They give you that blood sugar crash (and burn).
Heavy calorie-ridden foods, such as burgers and fries, and that side of beer, will make you sleepy and sluggish.
But worse than that, diets dominated by such foods (high in saturated fats) can be damaging to your health. People who eat like this all the time are more susceptible to cognitive deficits and the slow processing of information. They read slower and have trouble remembering.
One study with rats (poor rats—the blueberry group fared a lot better!) that gorged on saturated fat for weeks suffered brain damage (in the hippocampus, an area critical to memory formation). Eat enough bad fats and you’ll forget your name. Not to mention you won’t be able to write well or crank out great books.
Here’s Another Interesting Fact about Glucose
In order to make good choices and form good habits, we need strong self-control or willpower. Get this: research suggests that blood glucose is an important source of self-control.
Acts of self-control deplete large amounts of glucose. Lack of self-control often occurs when glucose is low or can’t be mobilized effectively to the brain. Restoring glucose to a sufficient level typically improves self-control.
Can’t get going in your writing? Can’t seem to focus and push yourself to write? Maybe you need that chocolate. Or a handful of almonds.
Being hungry, or skipping breakfast, can ruin your hours of your productivity. One study had children skipping breakfast before coming to class. Then a random half of the children were given a good breakfast (the others got nothing). Those who ate learned more and misbehaved less. When all the children were given a healthy midmorning snack, though, the differences disappeared.
A portion on a small plate will always fill you up more than the same portion on a large plate. Weird, huh? If you have trouble controlling how much you eat, give this a try. It could make the difference of one hour of productivity gained each day—just by reducing the size of your plate and being less full.
Keep these tips in mind. Shop for healthy brain-supporting foods and make them more accessible than junk food or high-sugar foods. Have healthy snacks throughout the day, and don’t neglect exercise.
In addition to regular sleep and scheduling to write to take advantage of your biological prime time, you need to create good eating and exercise habits.
Are you serious about your career as an author? Do you want to write for life? Then know thyself and work with, not against, your biology.
One Last Insight about Biology
We’ve been analyzing our biology as it pertains to daily cycles, but I’d like to talk about seasons and years. Some of us write better at different times of the year. Winter is when I want to nap and hibernate. It’s harder for me to push myself in the winter to write, but I’ve learned to do it. It just might mean I have to stop and take a nap on any given day, or cut short my writing time.
If you’re aware that your body has different needs at different times of the year, respect that. If you have a lot more energy and motivation in the summer, try to make time to write more during those months.
I rarely write every day. Well, I do write something every day. But when it comes to my books, I may go months between writing. Since I do my best when I write for long hours day after day in a kind of marathon (that’s something I’ve learned about myself), I often schedule a block of weeks to write a novel from start to finish. This isn’t just about biology but schedule.
Summer is when I like to hike and backpack. I want to be outdoors. I will tell my editing clients I’m taking time off, and I’ll cut way back on my work schedule.
All that fresh air and beautiful scenery inspires me to write. So it’s not surprising that many of my novels have been cranked out between August 1 and October 1. I usually set aside all of December to write as well. My editing load is usually light then, due to the holidays. So why not write?
So think about this bigger picture and spend time doing some strategic planning that keeps in mind your biology. Use my ebook Strategic Planning for Writers—4 Easy Steps, which you get for free when you join my mailing list (or, if you’re already on my list and didn’t get it, let me know and I’ll send you a copy!). Plan out your goals and milestones for your career in 1-, 2-, and 5-year plans. But be sure to lay out those goals with your biology in mind! You’ll be way more productive if you do.
What has your body told you about your diet needs? Are there some foods you crave that help you focus and be productive? What foods destroy your energy and motivation?
Regardless of whether you write fiction or nonfiction, if you want to get established as an author, you need to be productive. Highly productive.
You can’t just write one terrific book and call it good, expecting that singular work to carry you atop the wave of success for years to come.
Studies show readers want 3-4 books a year from their favorite authors. And to build traction and a growing audience, authors need to deliver.
The key to being highly productive is centered on knowing yourself. First you need to identify your distractions, excuses, and attitudes that are keeping you from being the productive writer you want to be. Then you need to assess your unique biology, to determine the best times to write and to optimize your sleep and eating habits. It’s all here in Crank It Out!
Turn your life and career around by learning the surefire way to be the super-productive author you long to be!