Writing is a tough profession. It requires thousands of hours of sitting in a chair. It requires solitude, which is a nice way of saying, being alone. It requires us to rack our brains, and if we are not well diciplined, to end up stressed out and beat up. I don’t know about you, but I know about me, so that’s what I’ll share. I can’t count the number of times I’ve kept my behind in the chair when my back was screaming, “GET UP! I CAN’T SIT HERE ANYMORE! YOU’RE KILLING ME!” I can’t say how often I’ve put my wrists in an awkward position from sheer exhaustion, or how many times I have slumped, not paying attention to my posture, for the same reason.
I’ve had days where I ate nothing but junk, forgot all about drinking water, didn’t take any supplements, and I don’t even want to think about the nights I couldn’t get to sleep for trying to fix a problem with a plot. But then I wised up. It’s a profession people. The world won’t end if we take a break. Nothing will explode if we stop for a moment to eat a proper meal, or at least a healthy snack. Most chairs are adjustable, but for those whose chair is stationary, sit on a pillow, put a book under your feet, or do whatever else it takes to get your feet flat on the floor, your screen at eye level and your keyboard in a position that doesn’t tweak your wrists into positions you might see in a Geico commercial. I’ve tortured my body for the last time. Most certainly, health is much more important than the few extra words I can crank out before standing up for a break. I know this subject all too well. The vertebrae in my back are disintegrating. Carpel tunnel is no stranger to me. My left shoulder has been through the mill, thanks to my poor posture. And let’s not discuss my neck. So now that I have to wear braces on my wrists, I know that a hand towel rolled and placed against the keyboard to rest my wrists on is really helpful. Now that my back has irrepairable injury, I realize that adjusting the chair is important. Now that I have to ice my shoulder on a regular basis, I realize that posture isn’t really about beauty or self-confidence.
We only get one body in this life, and though science is working hard to learning how to replace body parts, I don’t think that means we will soon be able to order a new spine, shoulder, or wrist, from a catalogue. Please don’t put off taking care of yourself. You have great stories inside you that need to be told and let me tell you, that can become a daunting task if you punish your body ‘just this once’ to finish something. Schedule breaks. Use a kitchen timer. Buy a vest or smock or some type of shirt with a large pocket, and then put a notepad and pen in it. Take a break. You can make a note if something brilliant hits you. Stretch your body every few hours. Get a glass of ice cold water with a slice of lemon and enjoy it. Put a note at the bottom of your screen that says SIT UP STRAIGHT. Take a moment to pet the cat, or dog, or to sit on the floor with your two year old and play. BREATHE.
Don’t take your health for granted. If you are young, and in good condition, don’t use that as an excuse for not paying attention to your body. And if you aren’t so young, it’s even more important to do the little things that will allow you to continue enjoying the writer’s life. Don’t fool yourself. When it comes to writing, health has a lot to do with it.