Managing Health as a Writer

IMG_20160801_101736For the past 6 years, I’ve drafted an average of 2 novels a year; plus edits and short stories. Throughout two degrees, my first job, moving house and health issues I managed to keep on top of my writing goals.

In 2014, I wrote 150,000 words of new fiction. In 2015, I wrote 100,000.

In the 7 months of 2016 so far, I’ve written 20,000 words. Part of that is due to life events: we’re still getting into the swing of new jobs, still unpacking boxes from our house move, attended job interviews, and had a wedding/honeymoon to organise.

But a key change this year has been physical pain. I began experiencing a lot of pain in my lower arms, back and neck around March and it’s been slowing my progress more than I’d like.

Being Proactive

I’ve never had great posture, so these pains weren’t all new. But as soon as they became a barrier to my writing, I realised I should do something about them.

I’ve had an assessment at work, and they’ve agreed to get a special chair and keyboard for me. The assessor even said if it gets much worse, he’d recommend my day-job company get me a speech-to-text program. I use an ergonomic mouse both at home and at work. I’ve begun strength training to give my arms a fighting chance, and as I’m working out to fix that anyway, I’ve been including posture/back/neck/core exercises too.

Noticing the Impact

When neck and back pain affects my sleep, and my shoulder-wrist pain slows any typing – it doesn’t matter what stage of writing I’m in; physical health is a real barrier to getting those words down.

But I haven’t stopped.

I’ve been lying down to read, hand-writing notes in my lunch break to type up later, and focusing more of planning and editing instead of drafting large amounts of new text. I’m finding ways to keep that momentum going and to make progress.

Technological Pains

Amidst that, my laptop keyboard decided to get ill. Only certain letters work, some letters type two different letters, and with Insert or Alt supposedly pressed (not physically) every space or enter pastes a screenshot into my novel document…

So my fast-draft of Skeletal is kind of on-hold. I’m trying to edit The Felled Gods and beta-read for a friend; but equally, I’m trying to backup my 1TB harddrive onto 8GB USB sticks and not change too many files to move when they come to collect my laptop for repair.

Sometimes, writing is hard. Every word is blood trapped in a stone.

And other times, something actually stands in our way. Then it’s my duty find a way through.

Do you experience physical pain which affects your writing? How do you cope?

One response to “Managing Health as a Writer

  1. I have chronic migraines and joint pain, which has taken a very definite toll on my writing. Some days I can barely find the will to do more than type a few words or stare at the screen, I try to use those days to recuperate and think about the story (sometimes just free writing or outlining), even if I can’t do any actual writing. I also try to step back and give myself time away from the screen on a regular basis, reminding myself that I won’t get any work done if I DON’T take the time to refresh.

    For the joint pain, I find that arnica gel and epsom salts help, though I also supplement with magnesium from time to time. Sometimes my muscles tense and the magnesium helps.

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