Fasting, Writing, and Mind Games

I enjoy fasting. Nothing very long (my longest fast was 72 hours), just small daily fasts that last into the middle of the afternoon. Fasting provides a jolt of energy and good feeling. 

Too much food makes me feel lethargic, depressed, anxious. I don't know the exact science of it (ketosis plays a role), but I rarely feel these feelings during a fast, though I have an occasional physical symptom.

One thing fasting does is change my conscious state of mind. I become wired, extra sensitive, more aware. This hasn't always been the best state of mind for creativity, or at least focused creativity needed to sit and write (though I'm writing right now). 

Fasting may help me avoid depression and anxiety, but I'm in no way “relaxed” during a fast in the sense that I'm calm and easy-going. When I fast, I could run circles around my non-fasting self.

When I write I like to be relaxed. If I have something going on, or I'm overly stressed or distracted, I have a very difficult time getting the words out, if I can write at all.

Fasting is all of those “negative” feelings. It's both stressful and distracting, and because I'm doing it on purpose, it's also “going on”. But when I push through it and write anyway, I find that this need for everything to be just so is merely a mind game I play with myself. 

When I stop playing the game, the writing happens despite what else I'm doing.

I think it all comes down to perfection. It's similar to writing 10,000 words in a day. If I don't trust myself, and instead allow perfectionism to sabotage my goal, then I can never write that much. I've held myself back.

Fasting is the same way. I want everything to be perfect, but when I'm fasting I can't have that ideal. It's not possible. I've learned something valuable about myself.

I can write despite distractions, despite stress. If fasting teaches me anything, it teaches me that. I'm writing this right now, and I'm fasting. I haven't eaten in fourteen hours or so. Maybe longer. Yet, because I'm not clinging to an ideal of perfectionism, I'm having no problem letting my words out.

It's mind over matter. It's mind over distraction and stress. It's a sense of “I can do this, and nothing will hold me back.”

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19 Responses to Fasting, Writing, and Mind Games

  1. Great Article, only one I have a visual image of you running circles around yourself. Chuckles..oh the curse of being an artist.

  2. I haven't eaten since this morning and I feel like I'm about to faint. I don't eat a great deal at any one time but I eat a lot more regularly than most, I guess because I only eat what my body needs. My next task after writing this comment is to go eat. I admire that you find your focus this way and you gain so much from it. For me I find that it has the opposite effect, I end up with a headache, feeling sick, not able to concentrate properly and I had no energy. It's a good thing we aren't all the same.

  3. The only time I can't write is if for some reason I am wallowing or sad about something, it matters not if I have eaten or not, or where I am. I've never fasted for 72 hours, might be worth a try... maybe. :-) Insightful post on the working writer's mind.

  4. Regina: LOL!

    S.J.: But I can't find my focus this way... I think I can write despite fasting, and the complications it brings, but fasting's benefits lie far outside of my creativity. It definitely doesn't improve my attention span. It can be...hectic, but I've found that with practice my body adjusts. And drinking water is so important.

    Brenda: I agree with this. Some things are bigger than eating habits. For me, fasting isn't a cure-all. But generally, I like it!

  5. I'm bad at fasting. I know that already. I do a workout and have an energy drink, then I'm good to go!

  6. Huh? I have such poor eating habits. I eat "something", when my body demands, but eating is not a priority to me. I rarely think ahead about it, not do I not eat on purpose. This is very interesting what you have had to say.....

  7. Thank you, Jan. I don't consider food a priority either. It's usually the last thing I think about...unless I want candy!

    Mike: I'd rather sit down to a Snickers or a bag of gummy worms, than have an energy drink :P

  8. Must have food regularly! Exercising, quality fuel, fresh air and TIO (turn it off!) help me focus and work well.

    I'm glad the fasting works for you. :)

    (And a 15 minute nap helps too, as I work afternoons.)

  9. I'll skip the nap for some meditation ;)

  10. In a recent post, "What Are You Hungry For", I wrote about why my body will not allow me to fast. Like you, I get lethargic if I eat too much at once, so I tend to eat light meals, and eat when I feel hungry. If I go too long without food, I lose every ounce of energy and cannot concentrate at all.
    Glad for you that fasting helps your writing. It's amazing how differently we are "wired"! :)
    Blessings and happy fasting!

  11. I can see how that would train your mind to push through distractions. The most I've ever fasted was 30 hours to raise money for World Vision. But now I get crippling migraines if I don't eat, so I wouldn't get any work done! My struggle used to be w/pushing through being tired. I really had to train myself to just push through being tired and work anyway. Now it's automatic for me to go on even if I'm feeling lazy. I like what you said about meditating instead of taking a nap. It's so much more refreshing than a nap, and it also helps to control thoughts and push through distractions if you focus on something during meditating instead of trying to clear your mind.

  12. Great article. I liked when you wrote:

    "I find that this need for everything to be just so is merely a mind game I play with myself.

    When I stop playing the game, the writing happens despite what else I'm doing."

    I love to write when I'm alone...The problem is, I'm rarely alone. I always try to wait for the right moment and the thing is, that moment rarely comes. I've been learning more and more to just simply write. To just let the words come out...I can always edit them later! To wait for all the right factors to fall into place can really impede on our progress or prevent it entirely.

  13. Christina, that's something similar to what I've been thinking about. I look at people who can go without sleep, without food, without many other things and I really wonder if I can train myself to do what they're capable of. For some things, i really want to push past my limits!

    Jessica, thanks! It's the same with meditation, too. People want to wait for the perfect time to meditate, but sometimes it's beneficial to meditate when most people wouldn't. Sometimes that's when we need it the most. I wonder how many good ideas we'd miss out on if we only ever wrote when it was totally quiet. The "idea machine" doesn't take a break just because it's active around us.

  14. I know that feeling. Yeah, I think it has something to do with burning off reserves. I've never thought of using it for writing though. Very interesting. Maybe I'll try it during Nanowrimo. I'm one of those who tends to write late at night, so I guess it hasn't come up.

  15. Fasting beyond me mate, I pass out if I don't eat

  16. "nothing very long"? 72 hours? (reaches for snickers bar to ward off shock)

  17. lol, Lisas. Sadly that's about the first thing I go for after a fast that long. I'm a candy bar junkie.

  18. I also enjoy fasting, during my teaching days at a private christian school, a group of us teachers fasted for 96 hours. I did it with easy and felt alive, awake, energized. Not sure if I could do that now, being 3 years later.

  19. You might be able to. I did 20 hours today, between meals (not technically 20 hours fasting because food takes a bit to digest before fasting actually starts), and it was pretty easy. I finally ate not because I was hungry or feeling symptoms but because I don't want to starve myself :P

    My update, lol.

    96 hours...I should try for that some weekend.


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