How to Avoid Health Issues Caused by Bad Writing Habits

If you’re serious about being a writer, you spend a lot of time in front of a computer (I know I do). That’s great for your writing – in fact, it’s necessary. That doesn’t make it great for your health. A sedentary job like sitting at a desk for long hours (bad posture or no), typing all day, or even using a computer mouse a lot can all have significant effects on your health. Since the last thing a writer wants is to have to stop writing because of health issues, it’s time to consider some alternatives and preventative measures.

Take Breaks: Get up, Move, & Stretch

Take a short walk. Do a few exercises. Stretch. I know not all jobs allow this, but maybe you can sneak a few exercises and stretches in with each trip to the bathroom. At least when you’re working on your novel, you can set a timer and make sure you get little breaks. Even short breaks can improve spine health and keep you from developing a hunch. Not to mention giving your hands a break.

Check out “Working Out Isn’t Enough: Advice for Desk Workers” by Nicole Crawford and “Do You Have Sitting Disease?” by Lisa Fields for more specific ideas on breaks and stretching.

Stand/Move While Writing

Buy a standing desk. Or if you don’t want to buy new furniture, you can add a shelf or lap desk on top of your existing desk. For short term, you can even stack a couple of tomes on the desk to raise the monitor or laptop higher. The add-on can even be an advantage if you still want to be able to sit and work sometimes. I’ve found that whether I can work standing depends greatly on what I’m working on. For certain types of thinking, I do better when I sit (I have no clue why).

They also have desks that fit on treadmills so that you can walk while you work. You might even consider having a couple different options at home so that you can vary your posture and position but still continue to work.

Dictate Your Writing

Dictation programs have gotten a lot better than they used to be. Using one will take a learning curve, and you may find that you need to alternate dictation and writing so that neither hands nor voice get overworked. That said, once you get used to dictating your writing, you should be able to move around fairly freely as you write as long as you’re not making a lot of noise.

Like standing, you may find that you are more comfortable using dictation for certain types of writing than for others. Some writers don’t like to use it for writing fiction while many others find that writing by dictation helps them write faster. You can read about several author’s perspectives in “Writing: Voice Recognition Software – Is It the Author’s New Best Friend?” or in the answers to a question about writing with speech recognition on Quora.

Personally, I don’t think it would work for me as my main writing method simply because I like to listen to music or movies in the background, which is not how the software is meant to be used. So the usefulness of this technique will definitely vary from writer to writer.

Try Muscle Therapies

Even if you’re trying to be good and moving/stretching/standing/dictating, a single marathon session relapse could result in tight, knotted, and angry muscles. That can hurt. A lot. Worse, it can cause a cycle of bad posture and more knots that can make it hard to write until all that muscle tension is somehow relieved. Habitual stretching can do that, but if you need a more immediate solution to alleviate the pain, there are other options.

Massages, hot tubs, and even an ice/heat/ibuprofen-style regimen can help unknot the muscles and relieve the pain. Treatments like IcyHot and Bengay relieve immediate pain but don’t necessarily relieve the muscle tension that causes it.

That’s actually a problem with this entire section. These muscle therapies treat the symptoms of the poor posture/habits yet only provide short-term relief since the bad habits will only continue to cause more muscle tension to be relieved. Keeping ahead of it can be hard (not to mention expensive), so this is better as a supplement/backup than it is as your main plan.

What is the best plan?

Whatever keeps you healthy and free of pain while allowing you to write. It may be a combination of these tactics. It might even add in some others – you’ll find plenty of different options with a google search on the subject. Or maybe you have some of your own to suggest.

How about it? Got any suggestions for writers to prevent the problems caused by writing for too many hours?

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