Writer’s Tips: Managing Energy For Writing

Last Wednesday, I wrote about time versus energy, how sometimes we complain about lack of time but what we really are missing is energy.  You can read the post here. Power_energy_wind_265065_l

I promised specific tips on how to manage energy, and as if by magic (or ma-gic with a hard g as my daughter used to say when she was little), here they are:

1.  Know Thyself.  My eyes pop open at 6 AM and I'm up and doing my morning ritual soon thereafter.  (Except I will admit to sleeping in a bit this morning, as I was up late watching the coverage of the death of Osama bin Laden last night.  What an amazing year it has been so far.)  I love to get up early and launch into my day.  My friend Robin, on the other hand, stays up late, until 2 or 3 AM, and sleeps late.  If she went against her natural tendencies and tried to get up early, she'd be really cranky.  And if I went against my preferred sleep schedule and stayed up late to work, I'd be fighting drowsiness the whole time.  So figure out your natural rhythms and go with them.

2.  Do What's Most Important First.  Whenever you can, give your best energy–that which comes at the start of your day or work session–to your most important goal.  If it is writing a novel, work on that first.  If it is working on a book proposal, spend some time on that first.  Committing your best energy to your main goal will feed your energy for the rest of the day or work session.  I wrote more about this here.

3.  Move Your Bod.  This comes in two parts:

A.  Throughout the day. Recent studies have shown that if you sit at a desk all day, you're basically unhealthy.  Even if you go exercise after that day of sitting on your ass, you're still unhealthy.  This is an occupational hazard for writers.   So, move throughout the day.  Get up every hour from your desk and walk around the office or house, or stretch.  And, every time you are on the phone walk (if you can) or stand.  I've taken to pacing around the house when I'm on the phone, to the great puzzlement of my pug.

B.  30 minutes a day. Or more.  Exercise is as vital for the brain as it is for the body.  Creativity and walking has long been linked, because when you're out walking, ideas just seem to come.  Ma-gic.  I've been struggling with this lately due to a knee energy, but I've been a walker for years and it is the best.  However, do whatever you love, whether that is swimming or biking or Zumba.

4.  Use Intervals.  Experts are now touting interval training as an efficient way to get optimal exercise in and you can follow this same theory for writing.   Set a timer or agree with yourself that you're going to write for 45 minutes and then go full out for that time.  This means don't look at email or the latest on Twitter.  Just write.  When time is up, take a break for 15 minutes.  This is when you get to look at email, talk to your dog, call your girlfriend.  And then launch in again.

5. Understand Creative Cycles.  Just as the year progresses through the seasons, so too does your creativity progress through stages.  You may be writing full out for four months and then not scribble another word for two weeks.  After I got my MFA, I could barely write for six months.  Two years of intense deadlines had done me in.  It is naturally to have periods of intense activity and times when you are less energetic.  Use the latter for less demanding tasks, like note-taking and so forth.

Those are my best tips for creating and conserving writerly energy.  What are yours?

P.S.–On Saturday, I held my first VIP Day with the amazing Holly Marie St. Pierre, and it was fabulous.  We got at least a month's worth of work (the core of a book proposal)  done in one day!  If you're interested in catapulting your writing to a new level, check out the VIP Day page here.

 

Photo by kevinzim.

 

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6 Comments on "Writer’s Tips: Managing Energy For Writing"

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Zan Marie
Guest
05/02/2011 12:20

Charlotte,
Wonderful post! “Know Thyself” is key for me. My pattern is: go to bed no earlier than 11, sleep till at least 7, and ease into the work. I do check out email, etc. first and to let my brain warm up. My most productive time is from 11 AM to 2 PM. Not long enough, but it’s what I’ve got. ; )

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
05/02/2011 13:24

Thanks, Zan Marie, I’m glad it was helpful. And thanks for sharing your schedule, because it is useful to see how others work, and what works. Actually, focused writing from 11 AM to 2 PM can be quite productive. I always remember the novelist Susan Isaacs saying that she wrote 4 hours a day because world-building was quite exhausting.

J.D. Frost
Guest
05/03/2011 15:42

Charlotte, you’ve given us a pretty good life plan: know yourself, do the important, move your bod. Don’t you have a writer’s diet you can put with it? Trim our tummies and give us brain food. After you’ve whipped us into shape we can mount our creative cycles and ride those suckers into book heaven.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
05/03/2011 19:38

J.D., I need that writer’s diet myself. All I know for me personally is that I feel better when I eat fewer carbs. But that is not necessarily the case for everyone. And I really don’t mean to be taking your comment so seriously, except that dieting is like writing in that whatever works for you works. Which is why it is all so mysterious.

J.D. Frost
Guest
05/04/2011 04:29

A couple of days ago I commented on the path of the storms, suggesting they had hit people with the fewest resources. That was way off base. They hit everywhere. The affluent and the poor were affected. It rains on the just and the unjust.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
05/04/2011 07:12

J.D., Perhaps it just seems like the storms hit the ones with least resources because they have the hardest time recovering. Not that it is easy for anyone. My friend whose daughter lives in Tuscaloosa sent a photo of the tornado approaching the daughter’s apartment complex (It was on 15th St.) that is just stunning in its terror. She survived and the tornado lifted just enough that the apartment complex was saved also.

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