Monday, November 23, 2009

Walk the Walk

Many of you probably know that I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes last winter. For those of you who didn't know…Surprise! Ain't life grand? J

That said, I'm doing very well – and whatever shock the diagnosis brought about has pretty much worn off by now. Mostly. I'm still trying to get used to drinking diet soda (ick!), but if that's the least of my worries, life will be ALL good.

With the diagnosis came a huge wake-up call that I really needed to make some lifestyle changes. You see, even in my lowest moment of "why me's" I heard a firm voice of resolve from inside, constantly chanting: YOU WILL NOT SETTLE. Meaning, I would not settle for, nor rely upon my medication to do the work for me. If I had to drag myself out of bed each morning to exercise…if I had to avoid all fast food restaurants…if I had to guzzle down a gallon of water in order to quench my need for sugary goodness, then by God I would do it. It wasn't easy. Heck, it still isn't easy.

What I learned—very quickly—is that I couldn't rely on anyone but myself. I had choices—I could go on living/eating the way I was and risk future and/or worse health problems. I could play the blame game. I could cry and whine and bemoan the unfairness of it all. Or I could get off my duff and do something about it. Make changes that would see me on the road to better health. I chose the latter. It may be an uphill battle that I'll never win, but dang it…I'm going up that hill with fists raised and one snarky attitude that no one wants to mess with.

So, how does this relate to writing? Bear with me for a little while longer…I'm getting there.

One of the key ingredients to a life with diabetes is: ROUTINE.

Oh, gawd. I almost break into hives at the mere thought. But yes, routine. It's that simple…and that difficult.

Like a good diabetic (as one of my diabetic friends likes to call me), I try to eat right (craving fast food? Go somewhere that offers a side salad instead of French fries), exercise (the key to controlling blood sugars, imho. I walk every day, after every meal, and boy do I see it on my meter results), TRY to get plenty of rest (the one I'm most likely to fail at…on a daily basis), and track any changes I see in my readings over time—and adjust accordingly. The good news is that I'm having a VERY difficult time keeping my blood sugars UP at this point. Hopefully that means I can ditch the meds! WHOOT.

So, what happens when I have a bad day/few hours? Well, I don't call it a crap day and give up, that's fo sho. Doing that means high sugars that leave me with headaches, swollen feet, blurry vision, and just an overall case of ICKS that I do not want to deal with. When I feel like that, I don't slack, I push myself even harder. I get my butt moving, eat a completely carb-free meal, and/or guzzle a bunch of water. Because if one thing is true – no matter how high my blood sugars may spike sometimes, they WILL come down eventually.

Okay, I'm getting to how this relates to writing. You ready for it?

I've made HUGE adjustments to my lifestyle over the past year. I've developed a routine. Not because I HAD to. (You could say I had to, but ultimately that isn't what motivates a lot of people. Not me at any rate.) I did it because I want to live a LONG, healthy life…and I didn't want to feel like utter crap anymore. I did—for a long time. And as hard as it was to be diagnosed, it was also a HUGE blessing because I feel better than I have in YEARS.

So, the thing I'm realizing as I come out of this sort of funk, is that I need to take what I learned and apply it to my writing. My health was worth the changes I made, and you can sure as heck bet my writing is worth it too.

I've had to ask the really tough question: Am I doing everything I can to achieve my publication dreams?


I fall prey to fast food FAR too many times. Instead of making sensible choices and sitting down to write when I have 10 minutes, I'll choose TV instead…or maybe a book. Whatever's quick and easy.

Instead of writing, I'll putter around on the net, checking blogs and sitting on my duff. All of that inactivity isn't getting my book written, though it's doing a great deal for my writer's spread.

I don't check in with myself enough. Am I writing at the optimum time of day/in the optimum place—when/where I can avoid distractions and am at my most alert? Probably not.

Am I scheduling time to write? NOPE. Am I writing each and every day? NOPE NOPE NOPE. If I have a crap morning, do I let it affect the rest of my day? YOU BETCHA.

Am I SETTLING? Yes. Yes, I am.


My name is Jennifer Hendren and I am a slacker.

Phew. Glad that's out. I've felt like such a fraud!

So, bearing all of this in mind, I've done a little self-assessment:

  1. My nifty little office is not the place to write. My neighbors are far too loud, and it's really the only room where I get a decent internet connection. If I go elsewhere, I'm more likely to actually write when I turn on the computer. Plus I won't be boiling mad at my neighbors all of the time. (Sigh, and my bookshelves are soooo pretty.)
  2. I don't have much time to write at work—I'm walking during my breaks, etc. That said, I CAN read while I'm walking. If I plan ahead, I can bring in scenes to go over. Even if I'm unable to make changes/write during this time, I can at least get my head in the right space.
  3. I must get out of the mind frame that I need a huge chunk of time to accomplish anything. I used to turn out 30K a month writing a couple of hours a day – a few minutes here, a few minutes there. Must relearn this! And I must learn not to hold myself to that standard for the rest of my life. It boils down to this: What time I have, I need to use.
  4. Like my health, I need to make writing a PRIORITY. I need to schedule times to write…get into a routine of making time EVERY day. And I need to remember that even if I only manage 10 minutes of writing after a really crap day, it's still ten minutes. Still words I didn't have before.
  5. I need to remember that moaning about my busy schedule is NOT going to fix things or make this book spring magically from my forehead—fully formed and ready for publication. I have to deal with the cards I've been dealt. Things will change eventually. Must remember that.
  6. Slow and steady WILL get the job done. Maybe not as soon as you hope, but eventually. Major life changes don't happen overnight. When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, my blood sugars were through the roof. It took a LONG time for them to come down – they did so slowly, with lots of adjustments on my part, and even now, will flare up occasionally. But the important thing is that I'm now in a very healthy range. If I work toward my writing goals—even at a slow and steady pace--my book WILL be finished. IT WILL. Say it with me…IT WILL.

ROUTINE. I'm convinced this is the key. Let's all get in the habit, shall we?

My challenge to all of you is to figure out what's stopping you from reaching your writing goals? Feel free to share your issues and/or solutions here. Never know—you just might help someone struggling with the same problem.


  1. I'm with you on the ten minutes is better than nothing. And after the last month or so, I'm slowing down, and I think it's actually a good thing. Obsession was what I HAD, but most of the time, OCD isn't a positive diagnosis.

    If routine is what's needed, maybe it's the weekends that foul up the schedule? I work nights during the week, and keep a day schedule on weekends, so my own routine is anything but. That said, if you spend 8 hours a day during the week on the bill-paying job, but only ten minutes here and there writing, perhaps the weekends are a place for writing, with only ten minutes here and there for work? (Can you tell I do laundry on weekends?) I know writing takes daily effort, but some of that effort can be in your own head, while you're walking, or driving, or...

    I'm only a green newbie, but when I run up against a stumbling spot, I try to go do something else, and work out the scene in my head, without the blank screen staring at me. (This also happens when hubby and/or kids insist on having some time on the computer--we only have one, at this point.) Sometimes I realize I was heading down a dead-end street, anyway, but now and then I manage to skip over the slow patch and hit my stride again. Googling for research can be good for new ideas, but bad for production. I can spend hours and hours, happily clicking from site to link to random search...

    Best to all!

  2. I'm so out of my writing rhythm these days, I don't know which is better -- weekdays or weekends. Neither really, as I work nearly every day. (g) That said, if I can just get back in SOME kind of pattern...and I KNOW I can. Just have to put a little oomph in my step.

    And yeah, breaks are good. I often find that when I'm stuck, a solution will hit me when I'm not even thinking about my book -- doing something completely unrelated and stressfree. It's good to take those moments sometimes. Treat yourself. And my goodness, I can only imagine the writing hangover you have right definitely need a break. (g)


  3. Hey Jen,

    Dang, routine makes me break out in hives too. Total slacker, no doubt. Routine is something I need to do. I suspect it gets easier the farther into it you get. Right? Right?

    As for me? Hmm...the only thing that really works to get me back into the saddle is to re-read older scenes. I get back into the character's head, and find myself either really liking what I've read, or not, which results in editing. Either way, I'm back to writing, so it's all good. :)

  4. Great post Jen!
    Yes, ten minutes is definitely better than nothing. I must remember this!
    Hmm... think I might try a self-assessment of my own...

  5. Jen, what you say is the absolute truth.

    I think part of the problem is we try to achieve a perfect balance of everything in our lives - health, sleep, job, writing, kids, whatever - and then try to maintain that balance, when, IMO, there really is no such thing as balance. Life is just too unpredictable (and so are we humans!) to try to have everything in balance, all the time. I think all we can do is have a priority of how we use our time - mine is family, then exercise (I have a loopy immune system and a bastard of a back that sure let me KNOW when I've slacked off on exercise), then writing, then reading, then way, way down the list, housework (g) - but then not beat ourselves up if we hit a day, a week, or whatever, when we don't live up to these goals. But that said, you can't let yourself off the hook; even if you find that you can't give your writing or exercise or whatever the attention you'd like to, you can still slip a few minutes in and feel better that you've done something, rather than nothing. That's how it tends to work with me, anyhow ...

    You deserve a medal for how you've approached your diabetes. I know many people would have settled and taken the drugs rather than make the lifestyle changes you have. You should be really freakin' proud of yourself. And I KNOW you can apply that same resolve to your writing. Just know we're all cheering you on ...