05 Apr

How I got 10 hours of writing time each week by eating less and running more

This is a long story.

It spans 10 years, a million words and about six kilograms. But first some background.

I am a middle aged gentleman on the wrong side of the middle. I’ve got two jobs, three kids have no time.

When I started being serious about my writing, wanting to take it from a dream to a career, I had to cut out something from my day. So I don’t watch TV anymore. I used that time to write.

I cut down on useless web surfing. Or I try. I do spend a bit too much on the YouTube science and writing channels. But I found those things that I could trim from my schedule, and used that time to write.

I wrote a million words. It took me six years. But as I ramped up my writing, I hit a snag. Two snags, in fact.

The first one was a matter of time. I didn’t have time to write.
The second one was one of energy. When I had the time to write, I didn’t have the energy. My mind was too tired to come up with useful ideas.

That’s the bad news. The worse news is that time and energy are buddies. They work in conjunction with each other. You need both to create.

So I needed to get both.

And I tried.

And tried.

And failed. Miserably. All. The. Time.

That sucks away the joy of life, let me tell you. Almost as badly as going on a diet. But I learned.
I learned that when I’m hungry, I don’t sleep as much. In fact, I wake up before everyone else in the house, and I’m not tired in the evening.

I also learned that I hate denying myself when I want to eat. I hate having the munchies and not being able to reach for a bit of fine, dark, Ecuadorian chocolate. I learned that I hate dieting.

I also learned something else: I hate working out.

I hate having sore muscles. I hate forcing myself to run, when I would rather walk. I hate the time it takes to work out, time that I could use writing or reading or doing any of 1000 other things I like better than working out and dieting.

But I learned another thing. I learned that after I exercise, I’m not hungry.

It is as if my body says: “Alright, we’re going to work out hard. And we can’t do that if the stomach is full. Therefore, let’s exercise now, and we’ll eat later.”

You can probably see where this is going.

I didn’t.

It took me a good five years to add two and two together and realize that if I both exercise and cut back on my calorie intake, they will cancel each other out. I could get both energy and time.

I would like to take credit for his brilliant discovery, but I did it completely by accident. Actually, I did it by running from zombies.

In the months leading up to last Christmas, I was feeling low. I’d been tired, and eating more to compensate (when I’m tired, I get major munchies). I was eating too much and gaining weight. Instead of added energy, the sugar was making me irritable.

I was tired all the time.

My solution was going to doctors taking blood tests, trying to figure out what was wrong. Which, had I given it two seconds of thought, would have been clear. I hadn’t exercised for over a year. I hadn’t exercised regularly for over two years, and my energy levels are taking a beating.

But the gyms around here are in lockdown. And those that are open aren’t that inviting. I don’t fancy sitting in an enclosed space with sweating, panting people, anyone of whom could be sick.

Remember when I said I’m on the wrong side of the middle of age? Well, I don’t want to get covid.

What saved me was a call for writers for this thing called “Zombies, run!”

I had to look it up. In case you’ve never encountered it, Zombies, Run is gamified running. You run, you get chased, you listen to a story and collect supplies for your base. And you get statistics, lots of lovely, lovely statistics on everything from how long you’ve run to what type of sports bra you just found in the (virtual) street.

I’m a sucker for statistic, and I love games. And although I’m not a big fan of horror, I love characters and Zombies, run! has a very character-heavy story (Hi, Sam!)

To make a long story short, I started running.

And as I started running, I realized that I could cut back on my calorie intake which would wake me up earlier each day so that I could go out and run in the morning.

Of course, this should have been a zero sum game. I run to get more time, but I use that time to run some more. I don’t get more time for writing.

I do, however, get more energy. And that energy I can apply to my evenings after I’ve put the kids to bed, when I do have time. In the foggy hour that I used to spend staring at the empty screen, to drained to produce anything coherent, I now write. My average is around a thousand words a day.

That makes eight novels a year, at least the kind of short novels that I write.

In addition to this, I don’t exercise quite every day. Some days are rest days.

Which gives me mornings when I wake up at 5:30 because this is what my mind has become used to, but instead of putting on my running shoes or doing jumping jacks, I make a cup of tea, boot up the computer, and write.

I get another hour of writing time before the kids wake up, pushing my word counts even higher.

This has done wonders for my productivity. It has done wonders for my mood.

And because I am taking concrete steps every day towards my dream, I feel more accomplished. Which makes me smile even more. It is a win-win situation for everyone.

I’m happy. Kids are happy. My wife is happy and everything is rosy. All the other life troubles that I had before I still have today. But they are a lot easier to take when you have the time and are upbeat from following your dreams.

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