Creaky Bones? Fitness for Writers

Spring Break Joy from morgueFile Free Photos - clconroyMy granddaughter, who is three, thinks that I am really (stretch that word out for maximum effect) old. We have a standing joke: Gramma has ‘creaky bones’. We even have a song and a dance to go with it, and it’s great fun. Of course, I’m not that old, nor do I have creaky bones. Er, well, since this is the Catholic Writers Blog, I’d better be totally truthful.

Most of the time I don’t have creaky bones.

But sometimes I do, and this condition is most often associated with writing, one of my favorite activities in the world.

However, writing is a solitary activity that is most often done while sitting. There are some issues common to writers, simply because of the nature of the work. Neck soreness, posture problems, difficulty in managing weight, carpal tunnel syndrome… The list goes on, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you can add to it.

Big, big disclaimer here! I am not giving any medical advice, just pointing out common sense things we can do to counteract the, ahem, hazards of our profession. For some great discussion and support, visit The Healthy Writer. This blog was formed a couple of years ago by authors who recognized the benefits of raising awareness regarding health topics specific to writers.

One of the first things to address is the ergonomics of your work station. Invest in a great chair – not a good chair, a great one. Find one that encourages – nay! – compels good posture. You’ll have to provide the muscle for attaining and maintaining that posture, although often all that is required awareness of your spine, shoulders, and alignment. For me, when I think about it, I sit up straight. When I don’t, I can count on encountering creaky bones.

Getting up from the chair is important, too. Some writers set timers to stay in the chair and write; don’t overlook the idea of setting a timer to get out of the chair once an hour and walk around. I sometimes lose track of time when I’m absorbed in my work, and when I surface, I’m stiff. It helps to get up, step outside, and remind myself there is a beautiful world out there. It clears my mind, too, which is always a plus when I go back to work.

You can spend a lot of money to buy a treadmill work station, as they are making inroads in some work environments.  Or you can jerry-rig a desk to an existing treadmill. (I did mine with a piece of plywood and a couple of bungee cords.) Either way, set it at a very low pace and write as you stroll. While you aren’t building a sweat and knocking out the miles, you are moving. Here’s a great example of making it fun, too: award-winning author Caroline Fyffe “Walking Across America” on her treadmill. There are also stationary bicycles out there that incorporate a built-on desk. Again, with a bit of ingenuity, you can get a similar end product without spending as many dollars. (*I am not endorsing any products; these were simply links I came across while researching.)

Stretching, yoga, or swimming can be good for tight muscles. Weight lifting can build muscle and increase metabolism. Pay attention to what you put into your body, too. Choose healthy foods; drink adequate water and don’t overdose on caffeine, that quintessential author staple!

Some simple stretches that I’ve learned (again, check with a doctor or physical therapist if you have any musculoskeletal issues) include putting my arms out to the side, elbows level with or slightly above my shoulders, then bending at the elbow and lifting my hands so I look like a football goal post; I find a door and rest my forearms and palms on the jambs and gently lean forward. This gives a great stretch to the chest muscles, which tend to tighten up as I hunch over the computer.

Another great one: extend one arm straight out to the front at or near shoulder height, palm up; bend the wrist so palm is up and out, away from the body, and fingers point toward the floor. Use the other hand to apply gentle traction to palm and fingers for stretching. This may help relieve symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

For any stretch, do what you are able and do not force a stretch, ever. Also, never bounce or apply jerky pressure to a stretch.

If you’re on a deadline or feeling pressured, take frequent breaks to roll your shoulders and roatate your head and neck. The best stress-buster of all? Hugs. You can’t find a better tension reliever than that.

Do you deal with other physical challenges as a result of your vocation as writer? Have any tips for the rest of us? Please share! I know I’m not the only one!

About Leslie Lynch

Leslie Lynch writes women's fiction, giving voice to characters who struggle to find healing for their brokenness – and discover unconventional solutions to life’s unexpected twists. She is an occasional contributor to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’s weekly paper, The Criterion. She can be found at www.leslielynch.com and is on facebook and Twitter@Leslie_Lynch_
This entry was posted in Catholic Writing and Publishing, Encouragement for Writers, Humour, The Writing Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Creaky Bones? Fitness for Writers

  1. Don Mulcare says:

    Thank you Leslie,

    JSB had similar advice. The mind lives within the body, the Temple of the Soul. Take care of the body and the mind stays fit. Maybe if the same message is repeated twice in two days, I might actually listen to it.

    Writing leads to quiet walks that shake the elements of a story so they fall into place. It’s too cold here to garden, but snow shoveling and carrying firewood seem to satisfy the exercise quota.

    There was a famous Vatican Secretary of State in the 1800′s who used to spend hours in prayer. He’d emerge from the chapel and immediately apply new found inspiration to solve the most vexing problems. Maybe he used a form of Roman yoga?

    Thanks again for your generosity and kindness. You take good care of us.

    It’s time to shovel some snow.

    God Bless,

    Don

    • Leslie Lynch says:

      Great insights, Don! I find that a lot of ideas come to me when I do repetitive, non-mind-challenging tasks, especially if they are outside. Snow shoveling, mowing, gardening, walking, etc., all fall into that category. This time of year, cross country skiing would qualify for some folks.

      For those who don’t know who Don is referring to when he references JSB, that would be James Scott Bell, author of several excellent books on the craft of writing. I can’t provide a link here, but you can either visit some of my past blogs on this site or do an internet search if you are interested in more of what he has to say.

      Prayer and meditation open our minds to our Creator, which also helps us tap into our creativity. There are some great books out there on active meditation, or walking meditations, etc. Thanks for mentioning this aspect, Don, because we were able to build on each other and take the topic even further! Hooray!

      Thanks for stopping by, and enjoy God’s nature while you are shoveling. ;-)

  2. Don Mulcare says:

    Enough shoveling!

    It’s time for Mother Nature (in the form of sunlight) to melt the rest.

    Keep up the postings. I’ve found all of your epistles, inspired.

    Thanks again,

    Don

  3. Leslie and Don you both offer some great advice! I set my timer to get out of my chair and do housework… and I find that quite annoying. I will use your examples to “re-frame” my thoughts and call housekeeping time…meditative stretching and healthfulness time.
    This could be an all around win for me!

    • Leslie Lynch says:

      Kassie, you’ve nudged me to ‘reframe’ my approach to housework, too.

      You know, I think it will work!!! ;-)

      Thanks for stopping by and bringing a unique contribution to the conversation!

  4. So enjoyed your blog, Leslie—as usual! I always find inspiration and gems of value. {{=^J

    Keep ’em coming!

    ~Caroline

  5. Leslie Lynch says:

    For some reason, a line was cut out of my response to Kassie. It was:

    Repeat while scrubbing toilets: ‘meditative stretching and healthfulness time’

    Followed by: You know, I think it will work!!!

    :-)

  6. Don Mulcare says:

    Leslie, Kassie and Caroline,

    Do you find the math problems, the ones we have to solve to get into this blog, are getting harder? What is the cube root of 4,683, anyway?

    It looks like Leslie let loose long locked-up longings to Lysol the loo. Kassie! Housework? Aren’t writers exempt? The ash tray, brimming with butts. The coffee stained cups, the desk stratified with scraps and notes from the late Jurassic. If you could only see my desk, you would believe.

    Did you ever see those spherical chairs, like heavy duty balloons? You can bounce while you brainstorm and exercise during expository.

    There is of course the well know negative impact on one’s posterior aspect attributed to excessive sitting. We won’t stand for that.

    Alas, I have a cramp in my leg. I really have to get up and take a walk.

    Excuse me,

    Don

    • Leslie Lynch says:

      ROFL, Don! I’d forgotten about the heavy duty bouncy balls; those are supposed to be really good for one’s posture. I’m afraid I’d go over backwards on one, though!

      And yes, the math problems were getting progressively more difficult as the morning went on. Don’t know what’s up with that!

      Rooting for Mother Nature to give you a break on the snow shoveling. ;-)

      • We’re getting flooded with spam, so I think the math program is trying to up the difficulty automatically, to slow down the flow of ‘bots that get through. That’s my guess.

        Let me just say that if some guild member who had a genius for zero-cost spam-management on privately-owned WordPress sites wanted a behind-the-scenes technical assistant position . . . I could maybe find a little volunteer work for that person. Just sayin’.

        Meanwhile . . . we’re working on it. And um, maybe next month Leslie will write about “math skills for writers” or something? :-).

  7. Don Mulcare says:

    Hi Leslie,

    Remember the “Welcome Wagon?” When my parents moved to Elmhurst, Illinois a lady came to the door with all sorts of presents from the town and local businesses. I would liken you to the “Welcome Wagon Lady.”

    A relative recommended the CWG, so I signed up not knowing my way around. It really wasn’t until you responded to a comment on one of your earlier blogs that I learned more about the CWG and the whole process of professional writing. My previous publications rest in obscure scientific and educational monographs. Writing fiction, has a different set of rules. You shared your own advice, pointed me in the right direction with web links and then told me about the James Scott Bell “how to” books. I’ve thanked you but can never thank you enough.

    Maybe you could regularly blog a “Welcome Wagon” for those who are very new to the CWG? Others may have questions similar to mine when I first arrived on the scene:

    1) How do I make contact with authors with similar interests and a willingness to read and comment on each others’ manuscripts?

    2) Where’s the “Help” button? I did find this eventually.

    3) What happens in the chat room? I’m having Java problems and haven’t been able to join the chat.

    4) What questions do other new folks want to ask?

    5) What are the advantages of participating in CWG events and meetings?

    6) What is Catholic Literature? What isn’t? The descriptions of recent CWG award-winning publications ranges in content across the spectrum. What makes it Catholic?

    7) Are those who contribute to the main CWG blog invited to do so or may they just contribute on their own? Would someone like to see the contribution first?

    Hope you’re having a good day. Thanks again for all of your help. A stack of JSB books has arrived. I moved my book mark from the library copy to my own JSB paperback on Self-editing and Revising. JSB’s mystery slant has influenced my latest project. There’s even some romance in it. That’s from reading of your interests.

    Oh yes, the math problems standing at the door of the comment process aren’t actually that difficult. The cube root remark was a frivolous on my part.

    God Bless,

    Don

    • Leslie Lynch says:

      Hi, Don!

      I can’t address all your questions today, but here’s a start:

      Some of your questions have been blogged about in the past; you might try checking the archives for posts on the advantages of attending CWG events, etc. Focus in on the dates leading up to and including past CWG online conferences, which take place in February or March.

      For anyone trying to navigate the site for the first time, when you log into Catholic Writers Guild site (www.catholicwritersguild.com), look at the ‘home’ button, top left. By default, the ‘news’ page comes up, but there are other options in a drop-down menu. From the ‘home’ drop-down menu, click on ‘how to use this site’. A fairly comprehensive document is there and addresses many of your questions.

      “Where do I contact other writers?” Go to ‘forums’ and see if any of the topics pique your interest. I know you are interested in a critique group for writers of fiction, and that you are somewhat interested in the Young Adult genre; someone posted an interest in forming such a group a few weeks ago. Other than that, either join a conversation or toss a comment in to a dormant forum and see if anyone responds.

      Anyone is welcome to post a blog; check out Blog FAQs in the tab at the top of this page. Initially, submissions go to one of the blog administrators for editing and posting. It can work out to be a great opportunity for both you and CWG. :-)

      You’ve given me ideas for future blogs! By the way, any of the other bloggers on CWG are MORE than welcome to hijack ANY of the topics Don mentions for use in your posts!

      Thanks for yet another thoughtful and thought provoking conversation, Don! Hope this is helpful.

      Happy writing!