Here Are 5 Methods That Are Helping Writers Stay Healthy

Here Are 5 Methods That Are Helping Writers Stay Healthy

Writing isn’t the kind of job you’d expect to be hazardous. When all you do all day long is sit in a comfy chair at your desk and poke some keys from time to time, you’d think your body would respond beautifully to all this pampering. But, as any desk jockey of longstanding knows, desk work isn’t without its dangers. In fact, injuries and ill health are rife among writers for several reasons.

  • Long periods of inactivity.
  • Intense, sustained typing and mouse use.
  • Poor posture.
  • Poor visibility, due to poor lighting, small type, or sustained focusing.

If I haven’t got you nodding your head in commiseration at one of these symptoms, then I congratulate you on having maintained your physical health in spite of the challenges of our profession. However, I’m willing to bet that more than one of those ailments hit home.

So what’s a writer to do? Certainly, we have no intention of forfeiting our passionate pursuit of art, no matter what the cost to our health. But there’s no reason we can’t be proactive in creating habits that will ward off all these hazards of the writing workplace. Following are just a handful of tips for preventing injury and guaranteeing health and wellness.

Make it a point to work out every day, even if only for a short time

Studies have proven that a 30-minute workout five days a week is all it takes to keep ourselves fit. As desk jockeys whose most strenuous daily activity is typing a mile a minute, we can’t afford not to set up a regular workout schedule.

Look for excuses to get up and move

We’ve all heard the suggestions about foregoing the television remote control, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and parking at the far end of the parking lot, but we can also implement similar ideas into our daily work schedule. I make it a point to leave my water (and I drink lots of water) upstairs in the kitchen, so I have to leave my desk and jog upstairs whenever I want a drink. Taking my black lab for walks at least twice a day and walking to the mailbox instead of picking it up as I drive past are two more easy, implementable ways to keep myself moving.

Give your eyes frequent breaks

In an article in The Writer, Stephanie Green recommends considering:

…the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes that you work at a computer, look away at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Take care to keep your writing area well lit; don’t write in the dark with only the monitor’s light to see by. Forcing your eyes to refocus from light to dark whenever you look away is stressful and can cause vision impairment.

Pause sporadically to stretch

Sitting all day in one position can make every muscle in your body stiffen. Take sporadic breaks to stretch yourself back into shape. You can find helpful video exampless of arm, wrist, and finger stretches on the ProBlogger Blog and full-body stretches designed especially for desk jockeys at the fitness blog Better Is Better.

Use preventative equipment to avoid Carpel Tunnel Syndrome and Repetitive Stress Injuries

As someone who suffers RSI, I’m on a constant quest to find the best way to not only prevent the degeneration of my injury, but also a means of healing it. I’m still working on the latter half of the equation, but my searching in prevention leads me to recommend plenty of TLC. Find a good gel mouse pad and a keyboard with a wrist support. Don’t push yourself to keep typing (or clicking) if your wrist becomes fatigued. The occasional five-minute break is more than worthy compensation for preventing a painful and inhibitive injury. If you’re already suffering chronic pain, try a wrist brace. I’ve had good luck with the IMAK™ SmartGlove.

We may live vicariously through our characters, but chronic pain in the real world can keep us from entering those in our imaginations. If we concentrate on taking care of our bodies, we can be assured of keeping that comfy chair at our desks for years to come.

Here Are 5 Methods That Are Helping Writers Stay Healthy

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. Just started a new first draft, so I spend a good part of the day at my desk. I’ve been setting the timer for an hour. When it goes off, I power walk for 5 minutes, then go back to my desk, set the timer, and carry on.
    Wish it were so. Most of the time I just turn off the timer, because I’ll be in the middle of something.
    But I try.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Smart! I make it a point to get up every hour, get a drink, walk up and down the stairs, and stretch. Makes a big difference!

      • Get a drink, yes. Staying hydrated supposedly offsets some of those desk-related injuries, or lowers the frequency of occurrence, or something like that, I’ve read somewhere. Not that it’s an excuse for ignoring your health– you should still observe the listed tips– but it’s one of those extra things that helps.

        Walking is an amazing way for a lot of writers to generate ideas anyway– especially through scenic or unfamiliar areas (just don’t get lost, and don’t go through the “dangerous neighborhood”). Sadly, I don’t get to do this much anymore, having developed stress fractures in my feet, so I need a new method of inspirational exercise. 🙁

        Don’t forget to take care of existing health problems and medications as well. Do you know what high blood sugar caused by skipped insulin doses can do to your body and your mind? I’ve forgotten to take mine a few times, and it is so hard to focus through waves of nausea, headache– and oh, how the brain turns to fog during those moments! I can spend hours staring at my laptop and my notebook, screaming inside my head to write SOMETHING down, ANYTHING, but the best I can come up with is something along the lines of “consider name change for so-and-so”, followed by a six hour nap. Not to mention getting up to pee fifty-two times, and who needs that?

        “It was” Get up and pee. “a dark” Get up and pee. “and stormy” Get up and pee. “…Wait, I forgot what I was typing. Where was I going with this??” Get up and pee.

  2. Great points! I’ve definitely been trying to get back in the habit of daily exercise. Another thing that’s hard for me is diet. It’s really tempting to fall into the habit of constant snacking, since I’m just sitting in one place. A couple things that have helped me with that are to drink more (water and tea), munch on healthy snacks when they’re available, and just practicing a little mindfulness; asking myself ‘am I eating this because I’m hungry, or just because I CAN?’ Anyway, good article, and you’ve definitely encouraged me to keep on with my fitness goals.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I admit I’m really needing to get back to some regular exercise myself. I keep waiting for the weather to get warm enough to let me go for my morning walks again.

  3. Just to tell you that the link isn’t working any longer. Says this: “Sorry, the page you were looking for in this blog does not exist.”

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