3 Ways Writing Can Mess You Up

By February 28, 2013Writing about Writing

ErgonomicsWriting is dangerous business.  Throughout history, ranks of frustrated and despondent novelists and poets have made the image of the down-and-out writer a pop culture fixture.  The value of literacy is self-evident, but let’s face it: many of us writers don’t really know why we’re so captivated by this weary lifestyle.  You’re probably going to groan and roll your eyes when I say this, but it’s time we writers started paying attention to our posture.  But as long as we’re going to ruin our minds with our writerly struggles, we should at least keep our bodies healthy, right?  So be aware of these 3 ways composing on a computer can take its toll on you, and how you can manage them.

1.  Sitting unnaturally

Bad sitting habits over prolonged periods of time can mean trouble for your back, and as the New York Times has reported, Americans who suffer from back problems pay higher medical bills overall than those who don’t.

You can save a lot of strain on your back by just sitting with your hips as far back in your chair as possible.  You should be about an arm’s length away from the monitor, and you shouldn’t feel like you’re straining to reach the keyboard.  Make sure the screen is centered in front of you.  If you’re using a laptop, you shouldn’t have to hunch over to see the monitor–tilt it up to meet your eyes.

2.  Straining your eyesight

Training your eyes on a computer for too long can lead to headaches, neck pain, and vision problems.  So much of your work on computers is visual, and it’s important to realize the toll this might take.

  • The brightness of your screen should match the brightness of the room you’re working in.
  • Zoom in on the text in your word processor to make it easier to read, and use “Control”-“+” (or “Command”-“+” on Apple devices) to enlarge the text on any websites you’re reading.
  • Glaring lights that bounce off the screen can make it difficult to see what you’re doing.  Adjust the blinds to your office or adjust your screen so that it doesn’t catch any ambient light.  You should definitely avoid any bright lights shining from behind the monitor.

3.  Ignoring your need for breaks

These two writing-related risks grow more dangerous the longer you subject yourself to them.  And of course we all know what it’s like once you get into the zone–although your legs may grow stiff beneath your seat and your wrists begin to ache as you hack away at the keyboard, the temptation is not to stop, but to push ever onward.

Go easy on yourself.  It’s a healthy thing every 20-30 minutes to stand up, walk around a little, and stretch your legs for a little bit.  See if you can build these breaks into your routine while you write.  It might even help with writer’s block to stop and smell the rosese for a little while.