I often read advice about snacks for writing and it never works for me, mostly because they start at the wrong place–which is telling you what you should or shouldn’t eat. Much more important is the question of ‘why’.
People like to have snacks while they write for so many different reasons. Once you have worked out why you snack, you can work out what specific things you would like to snack on. I might give examples, just for ease of imagination, but you will have your own preferences and things you stock in your fridge and things that are easily available in the shops near you and things that are good for your body to eat.
I’m not sure what are the most common reasons that people snack, but the first two are the top reasons I have a snack while writing, so I’m starting here.
I like to feel special while I’m writing, but I don’t want to be distracted. If I’m at home at my desk, I might add cashmere fingerless gloves, something nicely scented in my diffuser, I’ll use the nicest tea cups. So if I’m eating a snack while writing, really what I want is something tiny and beautiful. A biscotti, or two chocolate almonds. Something that feels like a treat, but is not really eating.
Other times, I’m pretending to snack, but I’m actually eating a meal at my desk, spreading my lunch out thin rather than taking a break to refuel. I don’t love this kind of snacking, but sometimes meetings mean the only time I have to make progress on a writing deadline is my lunch break, and multi-tasking is good enough. And it is fine, as long as I have enough food–a platter of crackers with cheese or hummus, some fruit, some olives, maybe a muesli bar as well. If I skip or skimp a meal, I end up starving and sad and struggling to concentrate. The food has to be able to be eaten one handed, without taking my eyes off the screen, and must create little mess. The point of these snacks is fuel without fuss, so I lean into that.
My ways of snacking aren’t the only ways. Other people, I know, are looking for other things in their snacks, so my snacks would be useless and horrible.
If you are snacking to have something to do with your hands (especially for people who find that helps them take a break from writing to have a little thinking space), then you don’t want something easy to eat. You want the kind of snack that requires hand-eye coordination. Anything that is a dip will be a disaster if you try to eat it without looking. Those same crackers with hummus, but served separately as a dip, would do the trick. Anything with chopsticks or noodles, or soup to be honest. I’d also put any chip/crisp snack with a coating here–Cheezels or Doritos make you stop to wipe your hands.
If you are looking for things you can consistently snack on for hours at a time, as a way to stay motivated, then you need to look for the opposite of the full-meal snack items–there is no point getting full after one muesli bar if you want to be snacking for the next two hours. Instead, look for food that is really light, so you don’t fill up too fast. Carrot sticks, popcorn, those little salty pretzels, rice cakes will all work here.
If you find that the ritual of preparing the snack is a helpful part of your ritual for getting into the writing, then as I’m filling up my diffuser with essential oils, you might want to be mindfully cutting up and arranging a platter of fruit slices.
In other words, there is the right snack for every writing moment, but also the wrong snack. Too often I have needed distraction-free fuel only to get salsa or soup down my shirt; or eaten a pack of rice cakes when I needed a meal. I’m sure you’ve had similar challenges.
For sustainable writing, add a few seconds of intentionally planning your snacks to your writing planning. The right snack at the right time can boost your mood, protect your concentration, reward your efforts or keep you motivated.
There are so many challenges in writing a thesis, snack time doesn’t have to be one of them.
I used to write a lot about food on this blog, and then I had other things to say, and obviously food is challenging for people for lots of reasons. But I still think a lot about food, and people say no-one reads blogs anymore, so I’m going to put these thoughts somewhere.
Anyway, I’d love to hear about your favourite writing snacks, join the conversation over on @ResearchInsider.