Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Pain of Writing

And I don't mean the mental anguish when often accompanies good writing when trying to get one's plot off the ground or attempting to create the perfect prose.

I'm talking about back and shoulder pain, numb bum syndrome and, more seriously,the joint and muscle aches that can be a warning of Repetitive Strain Injury. 

It's incredibly easy to get wrapped up in writing at the computer without taking breaks. I have in the past had to resort to voice software to be able to write, both for pleasure at home and to do my day job. Through a mixture of extended exercises and physio I've been able to use a keyboard again for quite some while but in the last few weeks I've felt elbow and knuckle pains and have dug out my 'Dragon' software just in case.

What I try to do is have a break every hour from the screen and walk about the house vigorously swinging my arms or doing my stretches. A bit of housework in between writing bursts is also good - it has to be done anyway so why not work it into your health regime!  I also try to have a walk at lunchtime - both on my 'proper' working days and on my writing days.

Does anyone else have any tips on staying fit and healthy as an author? I'm always glad to try new ways to stave off any problems.


  1. Reading this post was shocking as it made me look at the clock. I've just finished writing my story and I'd been sitting in the same chair for three hours without a break. You've really made me think and I'm going straight out to walk the dog and will keep an eye on the time in future.

  2. Wendy - I don't have a dog but I often think it would be a good thing to have one - because they have to be walked whether you're in the mood or not!
    I read that walking and swimming are the best forms of exercise because they don't put strain on your joints - and at least when walking, we can be thinking up new plots or characters.

  3. We find it helpful to look away from the computer screen, possibly out of the window, in order to give our eyes a different focus.
    A timer is helpful in reminding us when to take a break.

  4. I keep a kitchen timer by the computer and set it for hour-long writing sessions. Even if I've reached a crucial part of the story, I still break off when that timer pings to do something else. And like you, Carol, I try to get out for a walk every day.
    Having arthritis in my hands I've been thinking of investing in voice activated software. It's interesting that you mention one of the Dragon applications. Would you recommend it? Rx

  5. Rena - I would recommend Dragon - I haven't used other voice activated software so can't compare it with others but it is very accurate once you've 'trained' it to your accent and vocab. You do have to be patient as it can be very frustrating at the start. But once it's up and running, it's actually quicker than typing.

  6. Carol, since I probably learnt like many of you way back in the days of manual typewriters, I haven't had an issue with RSI in my hands or wrists. Simply because when we learnt to type, we lifted our whole hand above the keys and typed only with our fingers.
    These days with touch type keyboards and especially on laptops I notice people tend to rest the palms of their hands on the front base of the laptop and just move their fingers. Huge mistake. You must lift your whole hand above the laptop surface and type. With your palm resting on the keyboard the whole stress and pressure then rests on the back of your hands and wrists. Try it and see. You'll notice a world of difference and no pressure on your hands when they are completely raised above the keyboard.

  7. That's brilliant advice Noelene as I know I do exactly what you advise us not to. Over the last year I have developed RSI and had an assessment at work where they recommend Dragon and some training to go with the use of it. Also an ergonomically designed mouse and a mouse mat which is huge and maps the whole area to take account of where one's elbows land as it certainly feels as if the tendons there are inflamed. The doc recommended ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation and I also, when it is bad, wear an elbow support. I haven't yet got my Dragon software but am looking forward to seeing how well it works