One of the basic tenets of creative writing is that feasting on a regular diet of good literature will help improve your own writing. And I agree that there’s value in this tactic. But that’s not the kind of “brain food” I want to talk about today.

I’m talking about actual food. As in, if you want to write well, if you want to do your best work, then you have to eat.

It sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? But it’s a lesson it took me a while to learn, and it was an eye-opener. When I engage in a fiction writing marathon (usually thanks to a fast-approaching deadline), I find myself getting hungry more frequently than usual. I didn’t understand this at first. Why would writing — which requires almost no physical exertion — make me hungry? It sounds silly.

And yet it happens every time, without fail. I finally came to understand that engaging in the kind of deep concentration required for writing may not be physical exercise, but it’s exercise nonetheless. Your brain is a muscle like any other: use it more than usual, and it needs extra fuel. Fail to provide that fuel, and it won’t be able to function properly. If you’re not eating enough during a period of heavy writing, then what you’re writing won’t be very good. In a worst case scenario, you may not even be able to get the creative side of your brain into gear.

Yes, you run the risk of gaining a little weight by following this tip. But your mind is your body’s engine. And every engine needs fuel to run.