Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Physical Side of Writing

Writing is generally considered mental work, but there’s much more to the physical side of it than people think. I’ve had the past few weeks off from school and have been pouring it on, spending anywhere from six to ten hours a day on the computer. I’ve made great progress, but I’ve also had to pay a physical price for it with back aches, neck cramps, numbness and tingling in the legs, a stiff shoulder and hand on my mouse side, and eye strain. In fact, while my mind is reveling in the work, my body is making periodic threats at a strike. Fortunately, I’ve begun to find some ways to appease my body without losing a lot of time from my writing.

1. I stay hydrated. Instead of a soda, I keep a bottle of water at hand and refill it as necessary. (I’ve found this is a good way to get myself to drink more water, in fact.)

2. I take frequent breaks and actually do some stretching exercises. Just a minute seems to help. Even at the computer I take moments here and there to roll my neck or stretch my upper body.

3. I force myself to switch position more frequently in my chair. I have a habit of sitting with my left leg curled up on the chair and my right leg over it. I’m trying to alter that about on a more regular basis.

4. I’ve given in and admitted that my eyesight isn’t what it used to be and have used my word processor’s zoom capabilities to significantly increase the apparent size of the font.

5. Concerning vision, I’ve also had my eyes tested and am getting a new glasses prescription, which should help.

6. I’ve cut back during my off periods on playing any computer game that requires a lot of repetitive mouse work.


Bernita said...
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Bernita said...

Fortunately, I do not play computer games, but the neck and shoulder muscles could stand a break.

Anonymous said...

I always have to remind myself to watch how I'm sitting. I get up and walk around sometimes.

Lucas Pederson said...

Great ideas, all of them. I too drink water while writing. I also drink a lot of green tea, the cold kind, not the hot kind. That also seems to keep my going, as well as Gatorade.
Before sitting down to write I do a few hand and arm stretches, finger flexing exercises too. I strectch my legs, crack my back and neck and finally get to work. I usualy have no problem after I do these.
Great post! See ya around!

Steve Malley said...

Once, I moved away from a stationary PC to a seventy year old 'portable' typewriter. It strained different parts of my back, but the upper body workout was great!

These days, the laptop keeps me from too many strain-y positions. When I do get fatigued, I usually switch to the old notebook and pen. If I need to, I'll type or write with eyes closed to relieve eyestrain.

Yes, I know. Big freak...

cs harris said...

It is sometimes hard to remember to take care of ourselves. I walk and do yoga. Once I thought I was being selfish. Now that I'm getting older, I realize it's necessary.

Drizel said...

water is always good, and I also sit like that when I write...hahaha...then when you get up it feels like your left leg has left the building, it went all numb...:)
the walking around part I also need do! enjoy the week:)

Shauna Roberts said...

I know exactly what you mean. Like you, I drink lots of water and take stretching breaks. Like Candace, I do yoga. I also set up my computer according to ergonomic guidelines, have a foot rest, and bought an adjustable chair so my short self would be better aligned. None of it's been enough.

I had surgery a few years ago that kept me from the computer for several weeks. I was startled to discover that my years-long chronic shoulder and neck pain disappeared--until I was well enough to work again.

Stewart Sternberg (half of L.P. Styles) said...

I tell people that when I'm in a writing frenzy that I sweat, and then when I'm done, however many hours that might be, that I am physically exhausted. No one believes me.

I can't see myself spending quite the time you've devoted, but I'll spend at least three to four hours without break.

Erik Donald France said...

Right on, Charles. It's wearing to write, eh?

Which reminds me, my right ankle is screwed up between walking all over New Orleans in dress shoes, driving too much in crazy traffic, and working at my laptop. I might need "writer's tape" to keep going.

All good points you make for endurance's sake.

the walking man said...

I exercise my mouse hand when i use it to light a cigarette which i hold in my left hand for it's exercise, I get up to walk to the counter to get another cup of hot coffee, and if there is a round table in my square writing corner then i get my prewriting exercise by moving myself a square table to my corner.

after 18 broken bones , hands, wrists ,knuckles, fingers, neck, ribs, ankle and 15 (16 in two weeks 17 in about a month or so) surgeries, I found that ergonomics are not as important as hitting the right keys the first time is more important, because i hate to have to go back and capitalize those damn I's because I let go of the shift key before I hit the I key.

you're right again though Charles, I have to agree writing is hard physical work.

ZZZZZZZ said...

I totally hate the lower back pain and the eye strain! Sucks ass. I always feel good when I write something though, so I guess the physical pain is worth it. Sometimes though I wonder.... haha

Susan Miller said...

My Mom says, "Balance. Remember balance." I know that when she says this she is hoping that I don't let writing take over my life. She wants me to exercise, socialize, eat nutritious meals and sleep.

So I say, "Yes, Momma."

And then I think, "I'd could do a story on balance."

Michelle's Spell said...

I agree -- writing wears me out more than working out. I'm bad with the Dr. Peppers and candy when I'm doing it. But it works as a bribe so there you go.

Danny Tagalog said...

Those computer games really are bad news aren't they?

How about a bit of 10 minute yoga, metal boy?! Return the flexibility of youth...?