Career Advice

Live Freelance, Die Old: Ways to Write and Stay Healthy

By Kylie Jane Wakefield June 29th, 2012

Writers aren’t known for their healthy habits. They’re classically portrayed as  boozy, cigarette-smoking, drug-users a la Hemingway or Bukowski. Today’s writers are depicted gulping down coffee at Starbucks, staring at computer screens and filling up on pastries. Either way, one fact remains: It’s easy for writers to slip into routines that are detrimental to their health.

By taking some time every day to eat healthy, do quick exercises, and sleep, writers can improve their health and clear their heads, thus improving work. Here are a few quick and easy tips:

Stretch to Avoid Injuries

Freelance writers are mostly sedentary. They don’t keep 9-5 schedules or have designated breaks, and they can fall into a trap where they sit for too long, causing strain and harm to their bodies. Physical therapist Karen Greenfield, explained, “The muscles are not moving, so they get weaker and [you’ll have] poor circulation. The digestive system is not active. When you walk, your metabolism helps the digestive system. So if you’re sitting all day your stomach, intestines, and bowels are probably going to be less efficient.”

Alfia Passarelli, also a physical therapist, said that when people cross their legs, this leads to “increased pressure on blood vessels. Veins take the brunt of it; Walls collapse, leading to spider veins and varicose veins. Calf muscles don’t aid in pumping to return the blood to the heart so you risk clot (thrombus) formation.”

To avoid such health hazards, both physical therapists recommend doing stretches. “If you start at the head, turn it side to side and up and down,” Greenfield said. “Raise your arms up, out to the side to the shoulders. Straighten the elbows, open and close the hands, and move the toes and ankles up and down. Bend the knee and straighten it, and lift the knee up to move the hip.”

Exercise to Keep Toned

Obesity rates in United States are high, in part, due to the fact that all day long Americans are sitting. Even if writers are on tight deadlines, they need to make time to exercise. Thankfully, that can be done with little money and work right at home.

Greg Cheriyan, a personal trainer at Clarity Fitness, said that writers can do squats to keep their bodies fit.

Exercise may be intimidating to writers who aren’t used to working out. Starting out with simple exercises and doing 20 squat reps per day will give a writer the push to continue his or her work out regimen. “Once you’re able to feel the muscles growing, then you can start doing sit ups and exercises like that. You have to shed the weight first then work on your core,” Cheriyan said.

Eat healthy and drink water to stay alert

Most writers are under the impression that coffee is the best way to stay up and finish a story. In fact, that Red Eye may be impeding energy levels. “In terms of nutrition, drinking plenty of water is very vital,” Cheriyan said. “It keeps you from being hungry. Typically writers and people on computers are drinking coffee and sugary items. If you drink more water it’ll help.” For those who absolutely need caffeine, he recommended a cup of green tea, which “has a lot of antioxidants and will give you that energy you’re looking for.”

Freelancers who work at home run the risk of sneaking off to their kitchens for snacks. A cookie or soda may seem like a good idea in the short run, but repeated behavior can result in dire health risks. Instead, Cheriyan said to eat yogurt, nuts, and berries, which are full of protein and are sources of energy.

No matter what, get a good night’s rest

A lack of sleep can cause “a reduced ability to concentrate, decreased attention to detail, increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, and medical problems, including obesity, diabetes and hypertension,” according to

Writers are notorious for having vampire-like sleep schedules. But getting at least seven hours a night is essential. “It is unhealthy to not have a regular sleep schedule because we all have circadian rhythms dating back to the time when the cavemen had no clocks and slept and rose with the sun’s availability,” Passarelli said. “We need to sleep in order to give the body time to rebuild what it ‘broke down’ during the day of activity.”

Images courtesy of Tumblr, henrycharlesbukowski and


Tags: , ,