Staying Healthy on a Writing Blitz

A good many of you will be writing madly for NaNoMo this month, trying to finish a book in 30 days. How will you stay healthy during this time? As a veteran of numerous NaNoMo’s (otherwise known as the deadline blitz), I have a few suggestions.

1. Drink a lot of water. Then drink some more. Aim for that solid 6-8 glasses every single day to help keep your brain, your joints and your eyes hydrated. It will help get rid of toxins you build up when you’re stressed, too.

If you don’t like plain water, try sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice and plenty of ice. Fill a pitcher with sliced oranges, lemons, limes and fill it with water. Let stand overnight. Hot water with lemon is surprisingly satisfying.

If your local water is not tasty, spring for the bottled version.

2. Eat properly. That means the super easy, super boring idea of having a nicely balanced diet with different colors and textures and not too much of anything. Watch the sugars and excess carbs, because they will make you sleepy at the computer. Save them for rewards after you get your work done.

3. Work in a half hour of fresh air, preferably walking. If you can’t walk, just going outside to breathe counts for a lot. Don’t bring your iPod or your phone or multi-task. Just go out and walk/breathe and let all the stress flow away.

4. Protect your rest. This is not the month to stay up late playing Sims or Tetris. (Sure, sure, it’s only me.) If you’re staying up late, make it about writing, not the other keyboarding things we all do. Save your wrists and fingers and mouse shoulder by limiting the keyboarding time outside of writing (and work, of course). Go to bed at your appointed time and do whatever makes it easy for you to get a good night’s sleep. (Not to be a nag or anything, but that walk will probably help, too.)

5. Keep a positive attitude. I have a blue bracelet I put on to remind myself to stay positive. It’s not a bracelet I adore, so I notice it a lot. Maybe you’d rather wear pink socks or grow a mustache or put neon post-its on your bathroom mirror. Optimism is a powerful force for meeting goals.

6. Stretch. Once an hour, do these three stretches:
–Eye roll. Look up, look right, look down, look left. Roll again in the opposite direction. Repeat twice on each side. Then hold your hand about six inches from your nose, focus on it, then focus on a point far beyond your hand, maybe the wall or a picture or something far outside your window. Return your gaze to your hand. Repeat three or four times.

–Hand stretch. Hold your right arm straight out in front of you, even with your shoulder, palm up. With your other hand, gently take hold of her fingers and bend them backward toward the floor (gently, gently! it should feel wonderful, and never, ever hurt!). Hold for a count of five, repeat on the left side.

–Shoulder stretch. Put your hands over your head, reach for the ceiling. Stretch. Feels good, huh?

–Downward dog/toe touch. If you can do downward facing dog, do so. It will shake out a lot of stress. If you can’t, stand up and walk around your space, then touch your toes (or as close as you can get), reach for the ceiling, and repeat twice more.

7. Take vitamins. You don’t have to get all fancy about it—a good multi plus some C will probably cover just about anything. It helps keep all the little stressors at bay.

8. Figure out what you can’t live without. Maybe it’s taking your children to school in the morning, or having a cup of coffee with your best friend on Wednesday afternoon or going to dance class on Tuesday night. You’re not going to be able to keep everything, but you can pick one or two things you really want in your life. I have to have my Nia classes, and I have to have a clean kitchen before I start every morning.

9. Let something go. Maybe let a lot of things go. My car is never clean when I’m racing the clock, and I don’t mean it’s a little bit dusty—there are piles of papers and old cups and discarded receipts and books and things I’m supposed to be running somewhere. I don’t visit with anyone except my closest friend. I give up long phone calls with writing buddies.

10. End your day with a big cheer for yourself. You’re awesome. There is no one else who can write your story—bravo to you for rolling up your sleeves and engaging in the messy, thrilling process.

Good luck!


About Barbara O'Neal

Barbara O'Neal has written a number of highly acclaimed novels, including 2012 RITA winner, How To Bake A Perfect Life, which landed her in the Hall of Fame. Her latest novel, The All You Can Dream Buffet has just been released by Bantam Books in March. A complete backlist is available here.


  1. says

    Great suggestions, Barbara. I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, but I’ve got an 11/15 deadline so I’m in that final stretch. My biggest issues are forgetting to get up and move around and forgetting to eat lunch, both of which make me really tired mid-afternoon. Just got out my timer and will use it to remind myself. :-)

  2. says

    What great suggestions! Very helpful even when you’re not on a writing blitz. Then again, with little ones in the house I’m kind of always racing the clock! :-)

  3. says

    These are great tips, especially the stretches. I just tried the finger one on my poor, overworked right arm (stupid mouse hand) and it felt lovely. Thanks!

  4. says

    These are great suggestions. I’m not doing NaNo, either, but working to build good work habits for throughout the year.

    Still, with both the book and the blog, I can easily become “the ghost in the machine.” Exercise has slipped through the cracks. Thanks for reminding me that it can’t.
    .-= RhondaL´s last blog ..Painting workshop at the Kentucky Horse Park =-.

  5. says

    I can’t wait to get started!

    These are wonderful tips! About a quarter of the way through reading them, I bookmarked this page. I will definitely be coming back throughout November (and I’m definitely retweeting you on Twitter)!

    Good luck to you and everyone else participating!
    .-= Elizabeth Kaylene´s last blog ..Comeback =-.

  6. says

    Thanks so much for the timely reminder. I’m kind of doing NaNo by default as my next ms is due to my editor by 1 December so I have printed out your list and I will abide by it. Especially the exercises as I tend to build up a lot of pain and tension in my body toward the end of a book.

    All the best to everyone participating!