Self-care for writers

Writing takes a toll on writers’ bodies. We slouch over our keyboards. We peer all day at screens. We can sit for hours at a time. We drink a lot of coffee. Do this for a few decades and you can wind up looking like a pretzel. So what can we do to help ourselves? Here are five things that have worked for me.

Consider a different keyboard

A split, curved keyboard helps reduce pressure on arms, wrists and shoulders. On a regular flat keyboard, you tend to twist your hands toward your lower finger (or pinkie finger, as the case may be.) This can cause the carpal tunnel to constrict, according to Kinesis. It also forces you to hold your palms flat for long periods of time, which stresses your arm muscles, which then causes pain in your shoulders and back. These ergonometric keyboards take a while to figure out how to use, but the self-care benefits are significant.

Test out Audible

When I’ve been looking at a screen for enough hours, there’s no amount of Visine that will take the red out. My eyes just need to rest, and I’ve found listening to books on Audible (or any other listening platform) allows me to give my eyes a good rest. I just sit there and listen and make believe I’m holding a book.

Do yoga

This is the answer to almost all self-care issues, as far as I’m concerned. But especially my shoulders, which usually wind up around my ears at the end of the day.

Try vitamins

Keep in mind that I’m not a doctor, but I’ve found taking B6 vitamins tremendously helpful. You buy it over the counter. I feel like it gives my brain a boost of energy and it helps my memory. I take it around 3:00 p.m., when I generally feel like I’m losing my mind.

Walk (and look at trees)

This goes without saying. 🙂

Susan Breen is the author of the Maggie Dove mystery series. Her stories have been published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. The MWA anthology, Crime Hits Home, in which she has a story, just won an Anthony Award. She teaches novel-writing at Gotham Writers and is on the staff of the New York Write to Pitch Conference. www.susanjbreen.com

 

17 comments

    1. Susan–great suggestions, especially the walks and Audible. I combine them every day. Also, in the winter I burn scented candles and drink specialty teas. And sometimes, when I really need self-care, I make a fire in the fireplace between my kitchen and living room and work where I can see it and smell it. Hmmm. Seems as though scent is important to me–never thought of it before now!

  1. All great suggestions, Susan. Mine is to keep a bottle of dry eye drops in my desk drawer. My eye doc says that when you write you don’t blink as much as in normal time, so I use them to wet my eyes every so often. Really helps make a difference!

  2. Oh yeah sitting at the desk has wrecked my hips. Yoga and walking are the cures. Also getting up every 45 minutes for a short stroll around the house which is a good idea anyway if you drink a lot of water.

  3. Oh boy… Standing desk, lots of walking, and writing in a lazyboy once in a while with one of those laptop lap desks. I also have a tablet and pen that I use for design. and if all else fails, icepacks. We suffer for our art!

    1. I’ve always been curious about standing desks, Emilya. You make a good point about varying your writing environment.

  4. Susan–great suggestions, especially the walks and Audible. I combine them every day. Also, in the winter I burn scented candles and drink specialty teas. And sometimes, when I really need self-care, I make a fire in the fireplace between my kitchen and living room and work where I can see it and smell it. Hmmm. Seems as though scent is important to me–never thought of it before now!

    1. That’s so interesting, Connie. I have a lot of plants in my office space and the smell of their freshness soothes me.

  5. If you only do one yoga pose a day, make it legs against the wall. Find a blank wall. Lie down on the floor parallel to it. Turn your butt toward the wall as you lift your legs above you against the wall. You can extend your arms to the side or cross your chest with them. Close your eyes and just breathe. This restorative pose is calming, clears your mind, and leaves you feeling you had a nice nap.

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