• Joel Ryan

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

Welcome back, fellow writer

I pray it’s been a fruitful month and all of your writing projects and creative endeavors have been inspired and productive.

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

I had 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 eating properly and I needed time to mentally, physically, and spiritually recalibrate.

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

Believe it or not, physical disciplines often translate to other positive habits, which can include mental clarity, emotional stability, creative focus, and spiritual consistency (something I was especially intent on during this fast).

Although intermittent fasting has become quite popular in the health and fitness world, the real purpose of the Daniel Fast, for me at least, was much more spiritual and God-focused.

What is a Daniel Fast you might ask?

Inspired by the prophet Daniel in the Bible, the Daniel Fast is essentially a 21-Day vegan diet that removes all caffeine, added sugars, leavened bread and yeast, processed foods, and other fried foods from your diet.

Of course, the biblical Daniel partook fasted for twenty-one days while in exile, in a time when he sought clarity and insight from the Lord. In many ways, this is the true purpose of the Daniel Fast. However, for many, there are added health benefits to shifting one’s diet away from processed food and added sugars. As it turns out, twenty-one days is a good amount of time to assess one’s diet and begin to make appropriate changes.

So what does the Daniel entail?

· 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 are the staple of the 21-day Daniel Fast. Many of these foods I’ll continue to incorporate into my regular diet from here on out. Believe it or not, they fuel the body far better than bacon and deep friend Oreos.

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

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 if they hope to have success or produce good work at a consistent level.

To be clear. I am not writing to recommend any particular fast or diet. A lot of trendy diets can actually be harmful or dangerous if done improperly (or at all). They are not for everyone, neither is fasting. Fasting should be taken seriously and approached with care. A prolonged fast of this sort also shouldn’t be undertaken on a whim. I highly recommend consulting with a doctor or nutritionist to determine what your daily diet should look like and whether or not you should partake in a fast, including the Daniel Fast.

I will say, though, that the past 21-Days have been challenging, but also incredibly rewarding and revealing.

Within my first week, I noticed that I had more energy. I had an easier time getting up in the morning and felt more alert throughout the day. I even lost ten pounds. More importantly, I learned a lot about myself and what disciplines I would need to develop to become not just a healthy writer but also a thriving artist and better person.

Here, then, are a few observations and takeaways that hopefully can encourage you in your writing or life goals:

1. Sugar is in Everything

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 or minimize added sugar and sweeteners from your diet, your body feels really weird at first. It’s a withdrawal process because everything, and I mean everything, has added sugar.

Over time, however, your body begins to adapt, 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.

2. There's Light IN the Tunnel

In any fast or life discipline, early persistence becomes consistency that turns practice into habit.

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 smoothies. 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 habit and even enjoyable.

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 in your goals (whatever they 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 specific meals with 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 appreciate 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: You will gain strength in community and gain courage in encouragement. Surround yourself with people you challenge you but also encourage your choice to make positive changes.

4. Questions are Part of the Process

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

Sometimes questions came from a well-meaning place; sometimes they come 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 decision will be understood, appreciated, or liked by others. Sometimes we do have to defend our choices, but when you believe in what you’re doing, your attitude shifts from “having” to explain to “getting” to. You want to share because you have something worthwhile to offer.

5. Discipline Should Help You Develop Other Habits

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 time spent in God's Word.

In my case, fasting along with intense prayer created a heightened discerned that allowed me to gain wisdom and clarity on what to do and where to go next. This also provided a more clear 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 you, however, is to create habits that open the door for other life disciplines.

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 discipline/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 you is that you learn to become intentional with your habits and develop disciplines that feed your body and creativity properly.

Anyway, if you are interested in the Daniel Fast or want to talk more about my unique creative workflow or a few of my favorite recipes, comment below, or send me a 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 these perspectives. And don’t forget to subscribe for news and updates.

Thank you again. Now get back to writing!