Habits that have helped me become a better writer.

Something I had been reflecting on a lot during my hiatus was my inability to focus on my writing. My ability to focus on art was also affected, but didn’t hit me as hard as the lack of progress I had made in my writing. To me, writing and publishing my story is my core focus and not being able to make progress in that was emotionally and mentally draining. At first, I tried to brute force my way through my mental block. I tried to sit for hours in front of my computer, just trying to think of what to write next but my mind would take forever to come up with something. Because of that, I turned to other methods of helping my ability to focus. I tried incorporating healthier habits and, to my surprise, it helped my ability to actually write meaningful additions to my story.

One of the things I never expected to hit me as hard as it did was my lack of sleep. For years I had made up for a lack of sleep with a copious amount of coffee. When I say copious, I mean what likely is a very unhealthy amount of coffee. I would normally drink somewhere around 3 or 4 mugs of coffee in the morning just to start my day. That is around 2L of coffee a day! At first, I thought it was pretty great. I would have so much energy at the start of the day but around 3pm or so, I would have a harsh and exhausting crash where I can’t do anything. I thought it was ok as I did most of my writing in the morning, but I think as I got older it became more difficult to focus in the morning when I only slept for 5 or so hours. I also noticed that my anxiety and inability to focus started to become more of a problem. But I found when I got 8 hours of sleep, I felt more awake in the morning if that makes sense. I was able to go down from 3 to 4 mugs of coffee to 2 mugs of coffee and 1 cup of tea. Most importantly, however, was that this new morning routine helped me to sit down and focus on my writing.

I didn’t really believe this until I actually started it, but cutting out unhealthy food from my diet helped immensely. I noticed I was feeling super sluggish and exhausted most days, unable to get the willpower to do anything mentally taxing. I tried thinking about what could cause that and read how excessive junk food and sugar can cause a sugar crash that leads to exhaustion. A bit of a double whammy with the ludicrous amounts of caffeine I had been drinking. It took me a while, but eventually I fixed up my diet to be primarily healthy food rather than McDonalds and Pizza Pockets on the regular. Once I replaced my junk food meals with mostly healthier meals, I just felt a lot cleaner and lighter. I felt more energetic and ready to actually accomplish the daily tasks I wrote for myself. I’m still struggling with maintaining a healthy diet, but I’ve noticed on the days I don’t fail I’m able to accomplish way more than I normally could before.

Something I hadn’t been able to do for the longest time since the pandemic started was go for walks and/or runs. I always heard people talk about how exercise puts you in a better mental state but I never really thought about it. That being said, that was before we were all stuck inside for a year and a half. Once I got fully vaccinated, I started going for walks again and eventually jogging and even running this month. I was surprised how genuinely good I felt after each time. I don’t even go for very long sessions, maybe 20 or 30 min at most each day. But I noticed afterward I was able to think a lot clearer and focus more on what I was doing without getting so distracted. Curiosity lead me to look up why this was the case and apparently some of the benefits of “runner’s high” help to reduce anxiety, reduce feelings of depression and some other health benefits to improve the quality of life. While it may not work for everyone, it’s definitely worth trying as it’s started to change my day to day life for the better.   

Ultimately what was probably my worst enemy during the past year and a half was my own mind. From what the previous paragraphs illustrated, focusing on a task was exceedingly difficult for me and has been the major obstacle for my creative growth. I experimented with a few different methods to improve my focus and I found meditation and music to be the most effective for me to kind of “blank my mind” in a way. A lot of the tutorials I’ve seen usually say to meditate in silence or with calm and serene music playing in the background, one of those meditations songs. But I found it didn’t do anything to suppress the rapid influx of thoughts that would come to me. What I found really helpful was listening to melodic trance music without vocals. My mind would just focus on the rhythm and I would have a kind of mental calm I couldn’t replicate any other way. I really suggest trying it if you find your mind rampant with intrusive thoughts that never stop.

This article is a bit of a ramble admittedly, but I thought this might help other people affected by quarantine and being stuck inside for so long. I honestly never expected to have been so heavily affected by the pandemic since I was very much an introverted homebody. But what I’ve learned upon reflecting on this past year and a half is that this has been an incredibly challenging time for a lot of us. It’s important to take sometime and just focus on getting yourself back on track as it were.

Hoped this helped in some way. 😊

– Raphael

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