For the most part, the only physical ailment (thus far) has been some back and neck pain associated with slumping over the keyboard all day. A few months ago I bought a posture shirt (the 2.0 from AlignMed) and that helps tremendously.
The Posture Shirt Helps Counteract Pain from Slumping
Even though I tried to remain conscious of my posture before, I always found myself hunching over too much, especially when the muse was in full throttle.
The posture shirt corrects that posture issue for me. My only complaint about the shirt is that it is so tight under my arms. My next purchase will the tank top version (from Intelliskin) as opposed to the t-shirt version. I noticed a remarkable difference in the way my neck and back felt at the end of the day wearing the shirt versus not wearing it.
I stumbled on the posture shirt idea from reading a post by a NY Times bestselling author who had the same issue. The posture shirt worked for him, so I gave it a try.
Counting My Steps Gets Me Up More Often
My routine is never set in stone. A year ago I bought a FitBit step counter and I strive for a minimum number of steps per day. If I’ve been at the keyboard for over an hour, I try to remind myself to get up and walk around the house a few times, grabbing a few hundred steps each time.
You’d be surprised how many steps you actually take just doing mundane things around the house. If I sit for too long without getting up and moving around, the old joints start to complain. Using a step counter serves as a good reminder to get up and move, which I think is vitally important if your job, any job, keeps you sitting for too long at a time.
I’ve thought about getting on3 of those desks that adjust vertically to I could sit or stand while I write…the cost of a good one has been the biggest holdback so far. When the weather is nice, I try to get outside more often, which cuts down on the writing day, but I feel better after walking a few miles.
Living in Colorado instead of the always hot and humid Florida makes getting out so much nicer.
Being an Author is a Lonely Job
Being an author is a lonely job.
The general public seems to think authors are always having lunch (and drinks) with agents and editors and publishers…that’s not the case! Authors sit at home, usually by themselves, all day, nearly every day. So, isolation and loneliness are a big part of the job.
If you’re the type of person who needs constant interaction, being an author might not be the job for you. As an author AND publisher, trying to find the balance between the creative side and the business side is always a stressful challenge. It’s easy (for me) to let the business side out-muscle the creative side.
We all want to sell books and marketing and promotion can eat up a lot of your day. Between projects it isn’t as difficult, but while working on a new story, I find the need to keep the buzz going on the other books a challenge to my writing. It’s an easy sidetrack that authors don’t need, but, unfortunately, it’s a necessary one unless you have some (hired or not) to do that for you while you write.
Writer vs. Air Traffic Controller: Which is More Stressful?
As a retired air traffic controller, I have been asked numerous times how the stress of writing compares to the stress being an air traffic controller.
Short answer is, it doesn’t compare at all.
Air traffic control is typically hours of boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror. But, at the end of the day, I would throw my headset in my locker and go home…and nothing went home with me.
The stress of an author is always there. Whether it’s story ideas or plotting issues or deadlines, it never really leaves you and follows you everywhere. Out to lunch or dinner, the movies, sometimes even in your dreams.
In my opinion, the job as full-time author is more stressful in many ways than being an air traffic controller. The only difference is the stakes are higher as a controller. As am author, if something doesn’t work, I can rewrite it. As a controller, if something doesn’t work… (sad face)
Living in Colorado is Like Meditation
As a new resident of Colorado, the town where I live has a very active and supportive writers group. Participation in these types of groups is always uplifting.
It doesn’t take long to realize you’re not the only one with those issues. I think that’s just part of it. Also, for me, moving to Colorado is much like a form of meditation in its own right.
My wife and I like the outdoors. We love to hike and explore close by Rocky Mountain National Park. Being in the outdoors of Colorado is relaxing and rejuvenating.
After a day spent hiking or snowshoeing…or whatever, I come home refreshed. My brain is ready to jump back into writing again.
Everyone needs to take a breather every now and then. It’s what keeps the sanity.
Sheer Agony at a Critique Group Toughens Your Skin
Most authors, at least in the beginning, are very sensitive about criticism of their work…especially bad criticism.
While working on my first story, I received some input I didn’t like from my wife. I got upset and told her not to read my stuff because she didn’t know anything about writing. I took my chapters to a writing group and finally mustered up the courage to let the group critique my work.
What an eye opener!
Needless to say, when I returned home after that critique session, I handed my manuscript back to my wife and told her there was nothing she could say now that would hurt my feelings.
It took that moment of sheer agony at the critique group to lose my emotional attachment to my writing. BUT, and this is a big one, it was necessary to move forward and be able to improve as a writer and learn more on the craft of writing.
We All Go Through Times When We Wonder If It’s Worth It
For me, writing the stories is fun. Because I don’t typically outline, I am as surprised at what happens in the story as the reader will be when they read it.
It’s the part after the first draft that isn’t as much fun—editing. That’s really where the work starts…at least for me anyway.
But when I get that email of praise from someone who has read one or more of my books and they tell me what a big fan they’ve become, that’s encouragement alone to keep grinding them out.
We all go through times where we wonder whether it’s worth it or not…those are the little things that keeps me doing what I do. Certainly, the awards and recognition help, but it’s the readers who keep me motivated. After all, I am writing for their entertainment.
Advice for a Young Writer: Fiction Writing is Not for the Faint of Heart
I would tell them that it they are truly passionate about writing, then keep at it.
Fiction writing is not for the faint of heart. It takes drive and determination. It takes dealing with disappointment and rejection.
Stay focused on learning and improving the craft. Don’t give up and, eventually, things will fall into place.
* * *
Chuck Barrett is the bestselling author of the Award-Winning Gregg Kaplan series— BLOWN—and Jake Pendleton series—Breach of Power, The Toymaker, and The Savannah Project.
Barrett is a Florida native, a graduate of Auburn University, and a retired air traffic controller. He also holds a Commercial Pilot Certificate, Flight Instructor Certificate, and a Dive Master rating. He enjoys hiking the Rockies with his wife, Debi. They currently reside in Colorado.
His assignment is to stay off the grid when he innocently stumbles into a blown witness protection detail in Little Rock, Arkansas. He simply could not walk away from the impending mayhem. After the dust settles, a mortally wounded Deputy U.S. Marshal makes him promise to personally deliver the witness to a U.S. Marshals Service safe site.
Not just a promise, an oath. A pledge between ex-Army Delta Force comrades.
A trust that could not be broken—Once in, never out. Kaplan soon suspects the witness he vowed to protect has secrets of his own; secrets that go beyond his testimony for the U.S. government. When he discovers the witness is being tracked, Kaplan teams with a WitSec Deputy U.S. Marshal assigned to recover the witness, but soon realizes some merciless people are dead set on preventing the witness from reaching the safe site.
Breach of Power (third book in the Jake Pendleton series): Deep inside a glacier, a hiker finds a journal that was lost during World War II. On its frozen pages are etched the secret locations of treasures lost since the 1940s.
But something more ominous is scribed in the journal, something that threatens the Presidency of the United States.
Jake Pendleton and his new partner, Francesca Catanzaro, work for an “off the books” intelligence firm and are summoned to the White House where they are instructed to locate and acquire the book. Jake soon realizes there are others on a quest to find it as well.
Others who will kill to get to it first.
This book guides you through the benefits and pitfalls of print and eBook publishing, printing options, selecting a printing company, and more.
It shows you how to treat publishing as a business and do it in a manner that aims you toward success.
Publishing Unchained is a must for those grappling with the decisions about how to break into the publishing world.
A cold case from his day on the force resurfaces when new forensic evidence is found.
His old partner uses clues from the past to unlock the haunting mystery of a woman who vanished without a trace.
New evidence transports this bone-chilling mystery to its disturbing conclusion.