Ten years ago, I wrote this letter to my future self. I don’t have a time machine or a crystal ball. What I mean is that, knowing what I know now, I wrote this advice to the person I used to be.

Nothing I believe is unique or hasn’t been said before. However, had someone said this to me, in this way, ten years ago, I might not have suffered for so long.

If you want to be guided out of the darkness and into the light, this is when it begins. And how. You must accept the call to adventure, because if you don’t, nothing will change. If you are fine with being a hobbyist, you wouldn’t have begun reading this in the first place.

Accept the call to change your path. Do it now.

One – Practice Sobriety

Stop drinking. Stop doing drugs. Stop putting dangerous chemical compounds into your body. There is no “moderation” when it comes to substance abuse. One cigarette, one beer, one hit. You do this with consequences for both your body and your mind. The continuing, runaway success of the drug-fueled artist or drunken writer is a myth. They’re all dead and many perished before their time. Proof? How about the “27 Club”? Balance and moderation are not the same thing. Eating paint chips, drinking gasoline, or mainlining heroin “in moderation” will kill you. And, as science is discovering, so will sugar.

Eliminate sugar from your life. Completely. Sugar lights up the same part of the brain as heroin. Food manufacturing companies have known this for years. They exploit it, and they take advantage of your addiction to it. Stroll through that high-end grocery store owned by that company that used to only sell books. You know the one. Pull products off the shelf and read labels to try to find as many as you can that don’t have some type of sweetener in them: organic cane sugar, pure agave, natural honey, stevia. Yes, some of these are better than others. People who choose “healthier” sweeteners are still feeding their “sweet tooth.” It’s like saying being struck and killed by a car is better than being flattened by a bus.

This country and most of Western society are trapped in an epidemic of epic proportions—literally and figuratively. The human race has never been bigger, sicker, or dealt with more chronic pain than ever before. Your grandma used to say that you are what you eat. She was right. Software coders call it GIGO—garbage in, garbage out. They’re right. Every single thing you put in your mouth affects your body and your mind in ways you can’t even understand. Chances are, you’re sick right now, and you’ve been this way for so long that it’s become your accepted “normal.”

If you do not take a clean and balanced approach to what goes into your body, your creative energy won’t be worth anything. Stevia? Honey? Cane sugar? Wrong questions. You’re dealing with the symptom without addressing the underlying cause. There is no nutritional value to sugar. None. It is not a “normal” part of growing up, or harmless, or a biological need. For tens of thousands of years, humans have lived without processed sugar. It is an addictive habit we’ve created—and one you can break. Instead of looking for a better sweetener, show yourself that you don’t need any added sweeteners to enjoy a nutritious, satisfying meal. Seek out and banish the hidden, insidious ones, such as the salad dressing in your fridge that has sugar listed in the ingredients.

Caffeine? The jury is out. Yes, it’s a stimulant and will feed addiction, but it has other health benefits and therefore, is something to think about. However, if anything you put into your body causes you pain, you should generally avoid it.

Practice sobriety, no matter what you have to do to get there, or how long it takes, or how painful it feels. If you fail today, practice it again tomorrow. The concept of moderation is false. Your life and your creative work depend on complete sobriety.

Two – Embrace Movement

Move your ass. Right now. Get out of the chair, off the couch, or out of bed and move. People in wheelchairs participate in marathons. Blind people climb Mount Everest. No excuses. Start now.

You don’t need to be a world-class athlete to embrace movement. Got stairs? Walk up and down them for 10 minutes a day. When that starts to feel easy, do 15 minutes a day. When that starts to feel easy…

Sitting for long stretches and hammering away at the keyboard is worse than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Your mind needs your body to be in motion. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of story ideas will flow to the forefront of your brain while your body is in motion. You’ll come back to the page reinvigorated and energized. Move. At least five days a week, at least 30 minutes each day. Don’t cry. Try. When you begin, you’ll only last a few minutes. That’s where everyone starts, but it gets easier if you show up. Every. Single. Day.

Three – Welcome Rest

Lie down. Right now. Turn off the phone and lower the blinds. You’ve worked hard today, and you’ve exercised, too, and now, you need to embrace the yang of movement’s ying—sleep. 8 hours? 9 hours? 10 hours? Nobody knows but you. Listen to your body and do what it tells you.

Fact. Sleep-deprived humans drive as if intoxicated. The physiological benefits of good, uninterrupted sleep are beyond debate. People who say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” are right. It’ll just be sooner for them than for the rest of us. Sleep is not a luxury. Lack of sleep is not a badge of honor. Everyone is “busy” so stop saying that and get the rest you need. It doesn’t make you lazy or weak to sleep. As you embrace movement, you must also embrace rest.

This piece was first written exclusively for the Author Life community and this is the first time it’s been shared publicly. Part 2 coming next week.DISCLAIMER: By reading this article or listening to the audio version, you agree not to use this article as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or others. Consult your own physician for any medical issues that you may be having. Furthermore, no information contained in this article should be construed as legal advice, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this article without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

Each week in this blog series, I’ll discuss what it means to live the author life, delving into topics about mindset, craft, audience, finance, publishing, self-improvement, spirituality, technology, and more.

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