While spending hours and hours on our computers may be good for our word-loving souls, it certainly isn’t good for our bodies. Back strain, wrist strain, eye strain—the list of ailments writers suffer goes on and on. When faced with all these maladies, we can find ourselves presented with a heart-breaking dilemma: do we continue to write and bear the pain it causes, or do we cut back on doing what we love and give our bodies a break?
Don’t grin and bear it or throw your computer out of the window just yet. Yes, you’re a writer, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer for your art. The first step to becoming a happy writer is becoming a physically healthy one.
Perfecting Your Posture
At the root of many back, neck and wrist strain problems is posture. How we sit at the computer or while scribbling away in a notebook can affect our bodies in ways we don’t even realise, especially if we’re doing it for hours on end. Find out the kind of damage sitting for long stretches can do to your body in this Pin.
What can we do to stop these health hazards before they cause us any more damage? Correcting our posture at the computer is one way. Contrary to popular belief, however, good posture isn’t just about sitting up straight. Follow these steps to make those long writing stints don’t make your body suffer for your story’s sake.
- Adjust your chair height. Make sure your seat is high enough that you can reach your keyboard while keeping your wrists and arms straight, parallel with the floor. The angle between your upper and lower arms should be 90 degrees (an L-shape) and your keyboard should be positioned so that you don’t have to reach forward to type.
- Keep those feet flat. To maintain healthy posture at the computer, your feet should be flat on the floor or on a footrest, not tucked under the chair or crossed (I’m guilty of this, but it’s something I’m trying to correct!).
- Position your computer screen. Your eyes should be at the same level as the top of your computer screen, which means you may have to prop it up on something (we’re writers—we have books aplenty for this task). If you have a laptop, lining up your screen with your eyes and your keyboard with your wrists may not be an option, as the two are attached. If possible, try getting a separate keyboard and mouse, so that your screen can sit at a different height to the keyboard.
- Take regular breaks. Ideally, for every thirty minutes you’re at the computer, take a thirty minute break—perfect for a wordscrim or word sprinting challenge. If the muse demands your attention for longer stretches, make sure you give it and your body a rest at least once an hour. Spend some time away from the computer, get some exercise (a short walk or yoga routine can do wonders for your physical, mental and creative well-being). Then come back feeling refreshed and ready to write.
Because it’s often easier to implement these steps when you’ve seen what they look like, here’s a handy YouTube video showing the correct way to sit at a desk and on an armchair:
For the laptop version, see here.
Easing Eye Strain
Aside from back, neck and wrist strain, which can be attributed to posture, eye strain can also plague writers. Staring at the screen for too long, inadequate lighting or a glare on the screen can all trouble your eyes. Try out these steps and save your eyes some strain in the short- and long-term.
- Adjust your lighting. Bright light from the sun or indoor lighting can hurt your eyes, so reduce the brightness by blocking out some of the sunniness (e.g. with curtains or blinds) or turning down the lighting.
- Reduce screen glare. Reflections caused by bright lights or shiny surfaces are another cause of eye strain. If possible, position your computer so that it’s away from the source of the glare and adjust the brightness and contrast of the screen until it’s less of a problem.
- Take regular breaks. As with posture-related strains, alleviate eye strain through taking frequent breaks from the computer. Rest your eyes for 15 minutes between word sprints, do a spot of exercise or get yourself a drink of water—anything as long as it’s away from the computer.
Another way to ease the strain on your eyes is to use f.lux. This application mellows out the harsh blue glow of your screen, which has several benefits for computer-users. For example, not only can the glare caused by your computer screen strain your eyes, it can keep you up longer at night too. And what’s one thing writers tend to be guilty of? Staying up late into the night, writing. When we try to switch off, we can’t, and when we finally nod off, our sleep may be disturbed. A good night’s sleep is very important to a writer, so help to protect it by neutralising that blue glow!
Want more information on correcting your posture or easing the strain on your eyes? Check out these resources for further details!
- How to sit correctly
- Proper Posture for Computer Use
- Laptop health
- Dealing with computer eye strain
- That Eerie Blue Glow & Sleep Deprivation
Writer Question: What about writing causes you the most health problems?