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This Writing Life: Health and the Writer

20 August, 2010

I mentioned in my last brief update that I’d been having some problems with my arm. Well, actually with my right hand, wrist, arm, shoulder and neck, to be precise. I should note that I’m only 23, don’t usually suffer from muscle problems and am generally healthy. Recently though – since I’ve started writing 1000 words a day, in fact – sitting at my desk and typing has become frustratingly uncomfortable, sometimes even painful.

This isn’t a post about my health problems, though and I offer this example just to show you that any repetitive activity, even something as innocuous as typing and even for someone otherwise healthy, can have its hazards. And, for a working writer, depending on their words to pay the bills, suffering a health problem like this could be disastrous. No more typing, no more words, no more money.

Now, I should point out that I’m not in that situation, as my writing isn’t earning me any money and I have a job. Still, being unable to meet my word count goals because of physical problems has been incredibly frustrating and it’s something I’m still dealing with. My solutions have, so far, only had middling success. I’ve cut down on other computer time (web surfing, gaming etc.), I’m trying to sit better at my desk, I’m doing as much work as I can sitting elsewhere. All of this is helping – but not entirely.

This isn’t, unfortunately, a post where I can offer any answers either. From my reading of other writers’ blogs, wrist, back, neck strains and the like are all too common and there’s no easy way to either avoid them or fix them (except for giving up writing altogether, and I suspect that’ll open happen on my deathbed). This is, instead, a word of advice – and gentle admonition – to other writers. You want to keep writing for the rest of your life, right? So, no matter how involved you’re getting in your story or how close that deadline is looming, remember to think of your health. It’s all very well making your book the best it can be, but take care of yourself too!

  1. 6 September, 2010 9:34 am

    I’m 45, which means my very first writing was done on a *gasp* manual typewriter – from where I always preferred handwriting.
    So to this day I handwrite the first draft until my hand aches, interrupt for some typing or other computer related stuff (like coloring my comics) and get back to writing. This is for the first draft, of course. When I revise, I print out, as my eyes ache when I read on screen – in fact I printed out even your blog posts to read them! 😉 I make sure to use the paper on both sides, but it sure helps my eyes to print (it doesn’t help my finances, but my health is more important! ;-)).
    So, no real advice from me either… but I know I can’t sit at the PC for more than an hour and can’t handwrite for more than an hour, so I try to alternate things to give my body some rest! 🙂

    • 6 September, 2010 3:07 pm

      You’re right Barb, alternating activities seems to be about the only way to reduce eye and muscle strain. I’ve taken to splitting my writing between morning and afternoon, rather than do it all in the morning as I was before. I’m lucky that I can do that though, as most of my day is quite free. I can’t imagine how tough it must be if you’re making a living from your writing and need to be at the computer all day.

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