Avoiding The Ouchies & Owies
Writing can be a danger to your health! Thankfully we have Geri Krotow here to share the tricks of the trade which contribute to her healthy writing lifestyle and could help us avoid all the associated ouchies and owies.
Health encompasses so much more than the physical, more than our immune systems and nutrition. There are mental, emotional and spiritual aspects to robustness, too. As my writing years have added up (25+ since I began my first novel, 19+ since I found Romance Writers of American, and over a decade of publishing deadlines), so have the aches and pains associated with any job that involves a lot of stillness. Notice I didn’t say sitting, because like so many of us, I’ve learned to work in various spots throughout my house to include standing at the kitchen counter. Here’s what I know I need to do to keep my writing life at its healthiest:
A Handy Healthy Writer Checklist
1. I need an ergonomic setting whenever possible. I live by the ninety-degree suggestion, keeping my thighs at a right angle with my hips and my elbows close to my body, arms bent at ninety degrees. This means I need some kind of prop under my feet. I used to use a slanted under-desk foot stool, but in the last year I’ve switched to the HOVR. It’s basically a swing for my feet, and the constant motion helps my butt (sciatica and tailbone) not scream in protest when I stand up. You can learn more about HOVR here: https://hovrpro.com I get no cut if you decide to purchase one.
2. I’ve learned to spend the most I can possibly afford for my writing comfort. Keeping in mind that all writing tools—desks, chairs, footstools and under-desk bicycles—are tax write-offs helps. If I go cheap now I’ll pay for it at my health care professional later.
3. Massage Therapy is my friend. I schedule regular massage therapy, especially when the books are due in rapid succession. A good therapist can work out the worst knots, no matter where they manifest; upper back, shoulders, lower back, buttocks, piriformis, forearms, wrists, hands. And the neck, have I mentioned the neck? As someone you trust for a recommendation.
4. Exercise is not a luxury, or something to be dreaded. Walking is the absolute best practice for any artist and especially writers. It loosens up my muscles and skeleton, and gets me out and about. A good dose of nature even in crummy weather is vital to my mental health. The movement helps my not only physically and mentally but spiritually, too. My walks are a chance to commune with the universe and to get to know myself better by tuning into the planet.
5. First, I absolutely deserve my own writing space and second, I delight in a happy place to create. This was tougher when we were raising tiny tots as we moved about the globe and space seemed to always be at a premium. Now that our navy life is a memory and our kids are adults, I’ve taken a full room for an office, and am about to take over another empty bedroom. I painted it a color that evokes joy for me—parakeet green. Yes, really.
6. I need quiet time everyday, before I write and at the end of the day. Also during breaks from the page. No matter our personal convictions, religious or not, we are creatures with incredible brains that benefit from a regular de-cluttering. I like the ritual of brewing tea or even espresso. It’s a nice time away from the desk but not so long that I don’t want to go back!
7. Being a healthy writer means being a healthier person. For me, it means saying “no” to far more than I used to. I no longer fill my days with busy work or feel guilty when I turn down anything. The writing time is sacred, and to keep it untouched I have to guard it like an attack dog. Or, for a more serene image, I look at myself as my writing time’s guardian angel. This tactic has helped me learn to be kind to myself and to appreciate that it takes a lot of empty space and time for my mind to calm down and get to that writing zone. Since I write daily and have heavy deadlines these days, it’s imperative that I set, and keep, healthy boundaries for myself. Gone are the days of overbooking, of having an author engagement every weekend, or even every month. I can’t do it, not if I want to put out the stories my readers love to read.
8. REST and RELAXATION are indeed part of a writer’s life. They must be, or I’ve learned I’m in the burn-out rut, dreading deadlines instead of getting excited to have another book written. These are only suggestions and what have worked for me through the years and the words. Take what you like and leave the rest—it’s different for each one of us. If I can leave you with one suggestion you’ll remember, it would be, be kind to yourself. We need you here to share your stories for a long time to come.
How do you cope with the ouchies and owies writing/sitting at a desk for long periods of time can cause? Is it something you've thought about or experienced? Let us know in the comments or join the discussion on our Social Media.