Become a new you with this easy plan to help you shred the doubt and burn up the pages
OK, who’s with me? There’s never a bad time to start a diet, right? Beginning of spring, post-holiday binge season, the first day of the week? Tomorrow maybe? Keto, low-carb, zone, paleo — so many diets to try, so little time.
As for myself, I’m a diet aficionado; I learn each new fad and chat about them with my friends. Thankfully, the diet topic is a gift that keeps on giving. There are a million publications out there, each one keen to share the good news that flab is easy to shed. Or shred, if you prefer.
And it is, right? Follow a few simple tips and those kilos will drop right off. But what about those unfinished drafts? Where’s the diet for those? Did you even know you needed one?
Read on for a new twist on what you may — or may not have — read a hundred times before…
Always start your diet with a detox. Digital detox is what I‘m talking about here. Lose the phone, ignore the screen. Stop checking social media or stats and let your brain float free for a while.
Paper books are on the allowed list, even though reading something excellent might bring on niggles of self-doubt and possibly break your resolve.
A tattered old paperback classic is something to savor, and isn’t that what we all need when we’re on a diet?
It’s slow to read a book these days, but in a good way. Fast food and fast fashion are out, slow is in. The good old printed page is a sensual thing, and it can soothe and slow down the modern hyperactive brain.
With all our open tabs and hyperlink hopping it’s amazing anyone can write a whole sentence these days. Blue light is as addictive as sugar, and we’ve all become junkies. So turning the pages of a good old paperback might be just the thing to calm your mind and break through that block.
Drink green tea…or bullet-proof coffee
Diets are easy if you can get the food part right, right?
The latest buzz is IF, or intermittent fasting. A fancy way to say skipping breakfast, basically.
For writers, that means you have a whole extra half hour or so in the morning to get some writing in, instead of eating.
You can also replace food with liquids.
I discovered bullet-proof coffee recently (coffee with ghee and coconut or MCT oil for those who’ve never heard of it), which some say helps with mental clarity. I agree. Maybe it’s the coffee, maybe it’s the fats, maybe it’s just a placebo effect. I don’t care as long as it helps me focus.
And with the writer’s diet, we need all the focus we can get.
In the 60s, writers such as Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre did the Parisian diet. That is, five Gauloises and a black coffee to start the day. That’s serious focus. As for lunch, try and skip it if you can. That way you can save your calories for your evening cocktail.
And a tipple, as every good writer knows, will always increase your creativity.
Do a boot camp
I don’t mean the knee-squat and low-plank type of boot camp. I do not recommend the situation where some muscle guy screams in your face and tells you to drop for fifty.
No, I’m talking a writers’ boot camp.
It’s much less strenuous for one thing; definitely less sweaty. There are a few of these around, and I reckon they are worth the sign-up.
The one I did sent me a challenge in my inbox every morning. Some days the challenge was to write a certain number of words. Some days it was to organize my writing space. Or go see a film. Or hang out with some friends.
A lot of which sounds suspiciously like procrastination.
But I’ll take that over a HIIT session any day.
Do your daily (pages) routine
Every writer worth their salt knows Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. The pearl of advice in this classic is to start every day with your morning pages.
Morning pages are effectively a brain dump. Start each day with about 3 pages of writing. It’s best by hand, but any words are better than none. No editing, no censorship; just whatever comes to mind.
For many years I held fast to paper journals. I love a beautiful new journal as much as anyone. But I have to admit my handwriting is…messy. My thoughts travel faster than my hand, and I can type faster than I write. Probably due to years of working as a translator, where the daily word output is significant, and you can’t be too precious.
These days I use a nice little app called 750words.com. It’s a simple interface, and I love seeing that little green box checked off each day.
But the main thing is that it works like a warm-up to other writing. Those 750 words or 3 pages are a warm-up to a writer, just like playing scales are to a pianist. And once you start the flow, who knows where you’ll end up?
Get some fun in
Doing some sketching or painting always works for me. Spending an afternoon amongst my oil paint and turps always lifts the spirits. Recently I’ve rediscovered the joys of sewing. All those wonderful old Simplicity patterns to be found on eBay, which, I know, sounds a bit like procrastination. But it beats online shopping, another massive time-waster, because it does, at least, get the creative juices flowing…
Fun takes many forms and will definitely make you a better writer. I like to play with the dogs or have a dance with my son to Just Dance. Maybe it just gets the blood flowing, or gives the writer part of the brain a rest.
Because we all know, writing can be just so damn intense some days…
Walk the doggos
Switch up the blue light for some green. Getting out into a bit of nature resets the brain, and walking is a well known cure for writers block. Thoughts unfurl like forest green fern fronds with every step you take.
And you’re in good company. Many of the greats enjoyed a good wander. Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Wordsworth loved to be out in the elements; and think of all those Austen characters, constantly going for a walk, or even just a “turn” about the room, uttering character-revealing dialogue with every step.
If you go walkies you’re practically guaranteed to come back to the desk with new ideas.
Or with happier dogs, at least.
And if all else fails, try the wild card
Everyone knows that to be a writer your life has to be more interesting than what you write, so feel free to go on a bender. You’ll have to forget about calories, but you have so many role models to draw inspiration from.
Forget Keto, Paleo, vegan, Atkins. Try the Kerouac, Hemingway, Bukowski, Joyce, Yeats, Parker, Byron, Shelley … oh, the list is very long.
Then there’s the pot diet, which worked for Baudelaire, Hugo, and even Shakespeare. But be sure to proofread your inspired prose the next day.
The last-resort pot diet is not without risks, so try it only under medical advice.
Side-effects include altered consciousness, red eyes, silly giggles and nasty diarrhea (of the verbal kind).
While it might have worked for 19th-century geniuses with a penchant for flowery prose, it might not go down too well in these days of snappy paragraphs and murdered adjectives.
Other side-effects may include a bad attack of the munchies. And a few extra kilos to go with.
If so, you’ll end up back at square one, at the only place where you’ll ever really break that plateau.
But unlike your regular diet, it’s not at the gym.
You know where it is.
Sit at your desk and open your new page.
Published in The Writing Cooperative, a Medium publication, October 6, 2019.