Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Writer Cramps

For a few years I wrote full-time. Since I had left my teaching job to write, I treated writing as my job. I’d roll out of bed very early, often before 5 a.m. and plant myself at my desk. I’d take short breaks throughout the day to stretch and do chores, and one longer break to exercise, and by the time five or six p.m. rolled around I’d have put in about eight hours. Sometimes at night I’d write a little more. My productivity soared.

After eight months or so, my body started rebelling—I couldn’t get the keyboard height quite right, so my wrists hurt and my neck and shoulders were slowly but surely turning to cement.

"Help! I'm stuck!"

In response, I went to see a physical therapist.

I carted my laptop all over the house, writing in a rocking chair, on the couch, standing at the kitchen counter. These things helped but not enough.

So, I finally settled on this.

It took two hours to build the desk top.

Being an exercise addict, I already had a treadmill to help me through the 40-below cold snaps we get every winter.

I’m back in the classroom now and have much more limited writing time. But when summer rolls around and I’m putting in some longer writing days I’ll probably hop back on the treadmill.

Does the physical strain of writing ever limit you? What adjustments have you made to your writing space and routines over time? How have these things helped you?


  1. I'm a full time writer now too, and I pretty much write all day. But in between, I do my housework, go and meet friends for a coffee and a chat, take a walk or drive downtown for a shopping spree. The part I'm suffering from is the loneliness or writing as opposed to teaching. I really miss the noise and life at school. That's the worst part, the silence.

  2. My cat has this thing about sleeping on my arms. Don't ask. He's a strange cat. This sometimes causes my hands to fall asleep when I am trying to type. At times I have chosen to sacrifice my cat's comfort in the name of my own comfort and writing. I love to write while laying in bed so to me Paul's treadmill desk looks like an instrument of torture!

  3. Writing on a treadmill? Hmm, I'm calling the builders to make me a tennis court. Perhaps I can write a sentence between changeovers.

    Glad your body is feeling better, Paul!

  4. I'm not coordinated enough for something like that, but I've heard of them, and they do look pretty awesome.

    I sit at a desk all day anyway, so the only real consequence for me is that I get fat. How you I combat that? You guessed it. Treadmill. At the gym.

    It would be cool to combine them, but it's just not an option.

  5. Paul, your kids must think you are the coolest teacher ever, sporting that awesome ponytail! ;)

    I have a treadmill in my office. I hop on it for about an hour everyday. I REALLY dislike working out, so I could never do the writing/workout thing! I love writing too much! :)

    Great post!!

  6. When I write on the treadmill, I walk 1.5 miles per hour. It is very sloooow...any faster and I can't concentrate on the the writing. It's not a workout, but more of a way to have good posture and keep from tightening up. :-)

  7. I've seen these and think it's awesome! And yes, I've been feeling the strain lately since I work from home on the computer. I maybe have to consider this . . . as soon as I get a treadmill. :)

  8. What a good idea. I know I don't sit right. I had physio earlier this year for a problem with my arm and she despaired of my posture.

  9. I could never exercise while writing, but kudos to you for being up to it. However, to weigh in on your topic, yes, I definitely feel it when I'm parked at the computer while knee-deep in a WIP. I am a big-chunk writer too, spending upwards of 10 hours straight writing at a time, so it wears on me. But I don't know any other way to do it.

  10. I love the idea of this, and I have a few writer friends who do it. I tend to write in short spurts, so I never have the too-cramped problem - ha! Unless I'm trying to type one handed with an infant in the other...

  11. That is such an awesome idea! I tend to get pains in every joint if I'm sat at a computer for too long, so procrastination soars quite quickly.

  12. Wow -- writing on a treadmill! I can't believe you can do that! I think the sheer number of typos I'd make would prohibit me.

    I had a problem with carpal tunnel symptoms last spring, which I blamed on the feverish writing of the climax of my WIP. I bought some wrist braces on Amazon,and the pain went away over the summer. Then, this fall, the pain flared up again. My husband blamed my laptop and my writing -- but I realized it was the height of my desk at school causing the problem (thus, the reason it got better over the summer, even though I spent more time writing).

    I moved my computer to a lower table at work -- wrist problem solved.

    As for shoulder and neck soreness, that's a permanent condition. :(

  13. Pricilla Jones10/6/11, 11:40 AM

    I have to keep working out separate from writing, like some of the other writers commented. I do feel extra creative after I workout though, so combining the two might not be all the bad! Paul, how tall are you anyway?? :)

  14. Pricilla, I'm not really working out--just walking very slowly--like 1.5. miles per hour, any faster and I can't concentrate on the writing. And, how tall am I...not very...5' 6"......:-)

  15. Pricilla Jones10/6/11, 11:45 AM

    You look so tall in the picture! Probably because you are on the treadmill! I'm only 5 foot, but I'm tall on the inside!

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