Food for Thought… or, Taking Care of the Writerly Body

I adore the fragrance of baking bread. I also inhale with enthusiasm the aroma of fresh coffee and frying bacon. But bread? That’s in a category all its own. Mmm!

Yesterday I admitted to a fellow blogger that because of arthritis in my hands I haven’t made homemade bread for many years… at least, not the mix-and-knead-by-hand version. I do, however, have a bread-making machine so I often wake up in the morning to that heady fresh-from-the-oven smell. This morning’s olfactory treat came in the form of cinnamon fruit bread.

The starving artist in the garret is an image many of us can relate to, if only because escaping to a secluded locale for uninterrupted writing time appeals. Maybe the starving part doesn’t, since more often than not we joke about our need for sustenance… for chocolate, pots of tea or grande lattes, Diet Coke or glasses of wine.

We’re human, so of course we need food. But when I’m on a writing binge I hate stopping long enough to create a full meal. At those times, if my dear, considerate husband is around, he usually does the cooking. If he’s away, I survive on bread and peanut butter or bowls of popcorn. It’s not ideal but at least it keeps the growlies at bay.

If it’s possible to plan ahead (oh, sure… how good are you at predicting when the muse will appear?) there are comfort foods and other meals that I find quick to prepare and reheat, such as macaroni and cheese – I love macaroni and cheese – or stew – that’s my husband’s favourite – or in the summer (the what? Will it ever be summer again?) potato salad and cold meats are easy. I also like having lots of fresh veggies prepared in the fridge, ready for snacking. Yes, I actually like raw vegetables.

A writer’s life isn’t conducive to good eating and fitness habits. We sit on our butts for hours at a time, reluctant to leave our characters in the midst of a story for anything so mundane as eating and exercising. But we owe it to ourselves and our families – and perhaps to good writing itself – to stay healthy. God also reminds us that our bodies are his temple. That puts a whole new perspective on why we should take care of it!

Be honest now. How do your eating and fitness habits fare during extensive stretches of writing? What’s your favourite ‘writing meal’?

Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit who lives within you, whom you have received [as a gift] from God? You are not your own. [I Corinthians 6:19 – Amplified Bible]



11 thoughts on “Food for Thought… or, Taking Care of the Writerly Body

  1. I feel a responsibility to cook for my husband because of his illness. If circumstances were different, I would be more likely to stop cooking and get by on snacks during writing times. I cooked macaroni and cheese today, a southern recipe from the Internet. It was easier than making a white sauce for the macaroni and then baking it; but, still it took time to prepare. It was delicious. We like the typical comfort foods. I, too, swoon over the aroma of baking bread, but I’m not good at baking bread. Blessings to you, Carol…

  2. dave ebright says:

    Yikes. If I ever had to cook – I’d starve. Deb just mentioned something about our 2 boys (during our drive “home” today) about their cooking. It shocked me to hear that they both cook & worse, they LIKE to cook. (They call her for tutoring, she admitted). Somewhere, I must’ve failed as a father. And really, who cooks for their girlfriend(s)? I mean – how sick & wimpy is that? (Then she laughed & told me my oldest used to change diapers when his kids were little. I just hung my head in shame.) But seriously – I like healthy stuff. Not vegetables or fruit or whole grains, but I really like red meat, peanut butter, & oreos a whole lot.

  3. joylene says:

    I’m lucky in that my DH loves to cook too. Also, in the winter we eat stews and soups regularly. And then there’s KFC and pizza for those long days in town and cooking once we get home isn’t going to happen. Sadly, my butt has spread extensively this past year. I am trying to do at least 30 minutes of yoga a day, but i should do more. I vacuum and do laundry. Does that count? Summer, it’s harder to write because it’s so beautiful here. Gardening is my passion, but writing is my life. Even after all this time I still need to balance both. And I suppose that’s what it’s all about in the end. Being happy and healthy.

  4. Favorite writing meal is probably chips, with queso if I can take a break to warm it up! I take breaks from furious writing by working out. It helps me if my writing starts to flag but I still have lots of ideas.

  5. When I’m too busy to cook, I send my son for Subway sandwiches–chicken breast on herb bread with lots of veggies and Provolone cheese. Yummy.

  6. I’m glad I’m not alone with the forget-about-food-when-I’m-writing habit! There are some tasty sounding alternatives out there that I might have to try. I like the sound of that southern recipe for macaroni and cheese, Carol Ann. And, Dave, I’m with you on the peanut butter, but I’m not sure we can call it “healthy stuff”, although I guess it does contain some nutrients. We aren’t close enough to town to send anyone in for take out, Carol, but frozen pizza makes its way into my oven occasionally.

    Yes, Joylene, I’d say housework definitely counts as exercise. Trouble is, I ignore that, too, when I’m writing. I call a walk around my garden exercise sometimes. 😉

  7. Once again ” Hi. My name is Joseph and I am not a writer.”

    Have to get that disclaimer out there before I comment so I don’t get odd looks….well…I get a lot of odd looks all the time…anyway..

    I believe this leans over into my profession as well as we can get really focused on conferences and meetings and the next thing you know it is 8pm and you have not done the healthy thing by exercising and eating.

    As I have tried to become healthier, one of the things I have found really works for me, is to put my workout and meals on my calendar. It sounds weird but it keeps me from scheduling things over the top of it.

    What is amazing is not once have I felt during a workout or a meal I was missing something important like a meeting. After all, the most important thing is how we maintain ourselves.

    Just food for thought. Pun intended.

  8. Tori Simpson says:

    Tasty ideas! I always eat before writing, as I write in the evenings- days are usually taken up with other things. I used to put off dinner until midnight though because of this, and I had to consciously break out of a bad pattern!

    When it comes to exercise, I feel guilty if I’ve gone too long in my chair and I get a bit jumbled in the head if I don’t get outside. My exercise tends to be what I put off now though, and now that’s happening at midnight! lol. I guess I like the moon. I go for a jog or jump rope in the driveway pretty late. The neighbours must think I’m crazy. This is very probably the next bad habit to break. I think writers are constant jugglers!

    As for snacks…chocolate, rice crackers or fruit does the trick for me…

  9. Laura Best says:

    My favourite writing meal? I didn’t know such things existed, although I don’t suppose munching on a Mars would be considered a meal. Would it?

    I don’t bake bread. Why should I? My mum makes the BEST bread around, and well, someone has to eat it.

  10. Katt says:

    What I would like to eat and what I have to eat are totally different. I have food allergies—so my choices are very limited.
    What I would like to eat would be ANYTHING chocolate—or PIZZA! I could eat my weight in homemade bread—oh my goodness, I’m starving!
    What I have to eat is boring stuff, like green vegetables and protein. I really get tired of salad—
    give me a peanut butter sandwich any day of the week!!!!!!

  11. It’s probably important to compensate for any job that keeps our butts in chairs for long stretches of time, Joseph. We make time for our priorities so the challenge is identifying what’s a priority for us. As Tori says, sometimes we have to consciously break out of a bad habit.

    I’m not sure you can call Mars Bars a meal, Laura, but then again it’s a scientific fact (don’t ask me for references; we writers just know these things) that chocolate is one of the accepted food groups. Dark chocolate is healthy, isn’t it?

    Katt, I know allergies really complicate our eating choices. I don’t have any, but various members of my family do… shellfish, gluten, milk products, etc. When we have a family gathering I try to minimize the offending foods and have alternatives available, but I know the responsibility is their own to avoid what they mustn’t eat, and I see how hard it is. Weight is what I battle so I mustn’t always eat exactly what I would like either, although the consequences aren’t quite the same.

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