Writers don’t risk too many job injuries, but long hours at the computer can take their toll. Many writers wonder how they can avoid eye-strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, fatigue, back pain, and muscle cramps. Welcome to the wonderful world of writing! Spending long hours in front of the computer may translate into productive writing sessions (which can lead to positive feedback from literary agents and editors), but it may also lead to physical discomfort. The following tips may help you work more comfortably while you’re plugging away at your book, story, poem, or essay.
Adjust your environment.
It’s easier to work in a well-ventilated room with plenty of fresh air. Consider adding a few plants to filter the air and brighten your workspace. Adjust the room temperature so that it’s neither too hot (think: sleepy) nor too cold (think: stiff fingers). It’s also a good idea to wipe down your keyboard, mouse, and phone with antibacterial wipes once in a while (or more frequently, depending on how many little hands touch your equipment).
Adjust your equipment.
Keep your computer monitor situated just below eye level. Positioning it too high or too low can cause strain on your neck muscles. The screen should be approximately an arm’s length away from you. If you have trouble seeing the characters on the screen, try adjusting the brightness and/or contrast first.
Invest in an ergonomically correct chair, one that provides lower back support and can be adjusted to your height requirements. If your feet do not rest flat on the floor, use a footrest to relieve stress on your leg muscles. Check your local office product store for the latest and greatest.
Protect your eyes.
Take frequent eye breaks to reduce eyestrain. Physically walk away from your computer, or look away from the screen and focus on an object farther away. Close your eyes occasionally and keep them closed for several seconds. Or try slow eye rolls, following the shape of an imaginary clock.
Use proper lighting to reduce glare on your monitor. (This may take some experimentation on your part as you adjust blinds, overhead lights, and/or desk lamps.) You can also purchase antiglare computer filters.
Protect your wrists.
Pounding on the keyboard can cause discomfort, as can gripping the mouse too tightly. Use a light touch on both. While typing, keep your arms level with the keyboard and use them, rather than your wrists, to move your hands across the keyboard. Some people find that a wristrest (or a rolled-up towel) helps keep their forearms level, while others use them only as an actual rest between typing. Persistent pain and/or numbness of the hands or wrists could signal a more serious problem, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, so check with your doctor.
Protect your neck.
If you spend a good amount of time on the telephone, try using a speakerphone or a hands-free headset. Cradling the phone between your neck and shoulder is a surefire way to strain your neck muscles.
Take frequent breaks.
Even maintaining perfect posture and using all the latest gadgets can’t protect you from achy muscles if you don’t give your body a break once in a while. Roll your neck and shoulders periodically, and get up at frequent intervals to stretch. Better yet, jog down to the corner post office and mail off a few queries. When you return you’ll be refreshed and ready to work again.
When you’re done…
Once your book, stories, poems, or essays are ready to go, don’t think it’s time to get up from your desk just yet. Next comes the research that it will take to find the proper markets for your writing. But if you’d rather be writing than researching, give Writer’s Relief a call. We research and target the best markets for creative writers.