• Joel Ryan

Feeding the Creative Process: the Diets and Disciplines of a Healthy Writer


Welcome back, storytellers,

I pray it’s been a fruitful month, with all of your writing projects and creative endeavors filled with inspiration and growth.

In many ways, this is a welcome back for me as well. I apologize for being away for the past few weeks. Writing must be a consistent discipline, but like training for a marathon, some training sessions are more intense than others. This month has been one of those seasons, and I made the choice to step away from the blog for a few weeks to finish several contracted articles while making greater strides on my current novel. All good things to report there and I’m looking forward to sharing even bigger news on that front in the coming weeks.

As some of you may know, September has also been an eventful month in that I made a decision to start a 21-Day Daniel Fast, which just ended a few days ago.

Now I know what some of you are already thinking:

· What is a Daniel Fast?

· Why did I feel the need to go on a diet?

· Am I okay?

I am pleased to inform you that I am doing great, and I was actually doing fine before the fast as well. This was not a doctor-ordered fast, and I did not radically change my diet just because I wanted to lose weight or had a sudden shift in my perspective on eating meat.

I made a prayerful decision back in August, with the support of my wife, to begin a fairly intense fast, namely because I knew hadn’t been feeding myself properly, and I could tell it was starting to take its toll on my body. The consequences of a poor diet are not always apparent on the outside either. Beyond weight gain, I discovered that I was sluggish throughout my day, mentally unfocused, and lacking motivation.

I wasn’t taking care of my body and my body wasn’t responding the way I wanted (or needed) it to. This was obviously impacting my writing in profoundly negative ways.

No one demanded change. No one told me to do this. I did it because I wanted to, and I wanted to make an intentional change for my health that would go beyond the physical benefits of a healthier diet.

Physical disciplines (like a diet or fast) often translate to other positive habits and purposeful payoffs, which can include mental clarity, emotional stability, creative focus, and spiritual consistency (something I was especially intent on during this fast).

A healthier diet is just the beginning of a holistically healthier life, and the results of this fast were both life-replenishing and lifesaving.

But what is a Daniel Fast?

Inspired by stories from the Bible, the Daniel Fast is essentially a 21-Day vegan diet that additionally removes all caffeine, added sugars, leavened bread and yeast, processed foods, and deep friend goodness (say goodbye to those deep-fried Oreos) from your diet.

· Fresh fruit

· Kale smoothies

· Veggies

· Salads with olive oils (no dressing)

· Whole grains

· Brown rice

· Almonds and other nuts

· Beans… LOTS of beans and lentil soups

· Unsweetened almond milk

· Drinking more water!!!

These are all amazing foods that fuel the body far better than most things we feed ourselves on a daily basis. They were also the staple of my diet for the past 21-Days, and many of these substitutions I’ll continue to incorporate into my regular diet from here on out.

But this leads to the reason for this particular post, which is to discuss just how important it is for writers to develop consistency and discipline in how they approach their craft and fuel their body, the primary instrument of their creativity. This includes their diet.

Yes, there is such a thing as an ideal writer’s diet, and no, it doesn’t include wine, coffee, bacon, and donuts… although those are certainly delicious and can provide momentary spurts of inspiration.

As athletes must train their body and fuel it properly to perform to its peak potential, so writers must also train their body and mind the right way if they hope to have success or produce good work at a consistent level.

Intentional choices and habits feed intended results.

And as a writer, would you rather have a flash of inspiration that leads to one great chapter, or plug into a consistent power source that allows you to write really good chapters and completed works for the rest of your life?

Apply this same principal to life. Would you rather have an occasional good day where you felt energized, alert, and motivated, or would you rather fuel yourself so you feel invigorated, productive, and motivated every day?

Writers who develop consistent habits and intentional disciplines, including what they choose to eat and how they feed their body, will often write better and do so on a more consistent basis.

The past 21-Days were challenging, but they were also incredibly rewarding, and revealing. Within the first week, I felt more energized and alert. I had an easier time getting up every morning and felt more refreshed throughout the day. I even lost 8 lbs. over the course of the past three weeks. More importantly, I learned a ton about myself as a writer, my creative process, my habits, and what disciplines I would need to develop to become not just a healthy writer but a thriving artist and human being.

Here are a few observations and takeaways from my Daniel Fast that hopefully can encourage you in your writing or life pursuits:

1. Sweets Aren't that Sweet

When you stop and check the labels on most products on the shelf, even items you thought were healthy aren’t because of how much sugar has been added. And we wonder why our culture is dealing with so many related health problems. Trust me, when you cut added sugar and sweeteners from your diet, your body feels really weird at first. It’s a withdrawal process. Over time, however, your body adjusts, and you begin to crave sugar FAR less than you did before. Eventually, you get to a point where sugary drinks and food items with too much sugar just gross you out. Sugar may provide a temporary burst of energy, but it often comes with a HARD crash.

Other natural foods, like dark greens and whole grains, burn longer and leave you feeling more energized and fueled throughout the day.

TAKEWAY: if you want to develop consistency in your writing or performance, you have to fuel yourself with long-term nourishment, not short-term energy boosts. Dark greens, whole grains, and plant-based proteins help.

2. There's Light IN the Tunnel

It only takes about a week and half for your palate to reset. I was a guy who hated beans going into this fast. However, once I realized how much protein I was getting from things like lentils, chickpeas, kale, and quinoa, I began to accept them, and before too long, I was eager to make 3-bean chili and add kale to every smoothie I made. It was no longer a chore or should-do; it became a want-to-do.

TAKEAWAY: Disciplines are hard to develop at first, but if you push through, what was what once difficult eventually becomes a joy.

3. Support Matters

I am so thankful to have people who supported me and championed me during this fast. Those who support you and do their best to walk with you on your journey (whatever that may be) are the people you want in your life.

My wife was absolutely incredible during this fast, as was my family and many of my friends. Not only did they help by occasionally eating meals me, they often tried to avoid eating specific foods around me or would choose restaurants where they knew I could order something on the menu. This was an unnecessary kindness but something I appreciated nonetheless.

I am not someone with food allergies or dietary restrictions, but on this fast, I developed a whole new perspective and respect for those who do. It matters when the people around you support you and don’t make a big deal about your diet or the things you can’t (or choose not to) eat. It means even more when they help you out along the way or show that they care by being considerate and consistent.

TAKEWAY: Creativity is a process; new disciplines take time to develop. You will gain strength in community and find courage in encouragement. Surround yourself with people you challenge you but also champion your choice to make changes.

4. Questions are Part of the Creative Process

People will always ask questions about your choices, both creative and personal. I definitely dealt with my fair share of questions during my fast along with the occasional insult or jeer.

Sometimes questions came from a well-meaning place, sometimes from a place of complete ignorance. I learned, however, that how I responded to questions about my choices says a lot more about me than those who are asking. Sometimes you don’t want to tell people what you’re doing because you don’t want to deal with the backlash or criticism.

Guess what?

Criticism and questions will always be a part of the creative process. You either accept that and learn to deal with criticism, or you hide your choices and your work from the world.

TAKEAWAY: Not every creative decision will be understood, appreciated, or liked. You don’t have to explain yourself when it’s a decision made for your well-being, however, when you believe in who you are and what you’re doing, your attitude shifts from “having” to explain to “getting” to. You want to share because you have something good to offer.

5. Fasting is Just the Beginning

A fast can obviously be a diet and stop there, however, a true Daniel Fast should be coupled with other spiritual disciplines such as prayer and meditation. In my case, fasting along with intense prayer created a heightened sensitivity to my Creator’s voice and allowed me to gain wisdom and clarity on what to do and where to go next. This also provided a wider spiritual perspective on things going on around me.

Obviously, many people don’t share the same faith that I do, and that’s fine. My encouragement to everyone, however, is to couple fasting with other life disciplines that produce greater results. A healthy diet is good; diet with exercise is better. As good as it is for writers to be eating well, they must also take care of their body by exercising, stretching their hands, protecting their eyes, and making sure to watch their posture. Fasting opens your eyes to other life habits that should be addressed.

TAKEWAY: The ideal fast encourages you to make positive change and provides you with the motivation and strength to do it.

In conclusion, I am beyond grateful for the past twenty-one days and could not be more pleased with the physical, spiritual, and creative benefits that came from this time of recalibration and renewal.

A Daniel Fast may not be for everyone, but my hope for both the storyteller and seeker is that you learn to become intentional with your habits and develop disciplines that feed your body properly. You have so many great things to do in this world and amazing stories to tell. I want you to have the proper fuel to do what you are inspired and gifted to do. Make intentional choices to achieve desired results

Anyway, if you are interested in the Daniel Fast or want to talk more about my process and a few of my favorite recipes, send me a direct message.

Thank you so much for reading. If you enjoyed this post, please tap the heart below or share it with someone who might benefit from my experience. And don’t forget to subscribe to Perspectives off the Page for fresh content and updates.

Until Today, Storytellers

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