I’ve noticed quite a lot of posts on this topic this year, and I think the subject deserves plenty of attention.
Being an author is, for the most part, a sedentary occupation (not to mention solitary!) which can cause plenty of health issues.
I chose today to talk about this because I was prompted by the arrival of my new ‘healthy living’ toy.
This is a ‘spinal mobiliser’.
Now of course most of you know I’m pretty active – in fact, I’m still a sports professional as well as author – and this, in itself, can cause added problems. I only ride 2 horses a day these days, where it used to be up to 7, but I’m getting older, and over the years of doing such a risk sport (yes, even dressage horses dump their riders on the ground, as well as treading on them and knocking them around) we rack up any number of injuries.
As sports people do, we deal with the injury at the time and put off the long term effects ‘for the future’.
Well, for me, the future is now here, and I’m paying for all those injuries in back and hip problems. I’m still working, but with chronic low level pain, which is only exacerbated by sitting still to write after an active day. Hence, this post.
I’ve been getting physio very regularly for a couple of years, but that isn’t cheap, and while I wouldn’t dream of stopping because of the cost, anything I can do to reduce the need seems sensible.
I’ve hired the mobiliser for a month’s trial at £199 for the month. To buy it is over £3K, so I thought a trial sensible. I tried it out at a show recently and was impressed with how much looser I felt afterward. It has a pair of notched rollers that move up and down the back in a pre-programmed sequence, opening the gaps between the vertebra to promote blood flow and break down adhesions. Not overly comfortable at first, but I’m assured it will get easier. The MOD (Ministry of Defence) is their biggest user, and if they consider it worth employing in their rehab centres, I think it worth the trial.
Now not everyone needs such an expensive piece of kit. One of the most important things for a writer to remember is to TAKE A BREAK! It’s really easy to get ‘in the groove’ and sit for hours typing away. You may have your work station set up ergonomically (and if not, why not?) with a good chair at the right height and angle, foot rests, wrist rests etc., but your body will still seize up if you don’t move regularly.
One of the best things that happened to me over the last year was discovering the POMODORO TECHNIQUE, which tells you to write in 25 minute bursts, then do something else. For me, this was mostly about time management, but it has also improved the physical side of things for me, so that, as instructed, every 25 minutes I get up and do something else! That might just be make a cup of coffee, or it might be anything else around the house (like housework, oh dear), but I would advise you to make your something else a physical action, rather than another computer-based activity.
The 25 minutes is based around how long the human mind can concentrate efficiently on one topic (actually more like 20 minutes in reality), so you could write for 25 minutes and then switch to marketing/social media/emails etc.
I would like to suggest to you that the healthier option is to get up and do something physical.
After all, if we become unhealthy, everything suffers along with that, including our ability to write. Muscles and joints need to move to maintain health – don’t sit there allowing yourself to stiffen up unnecessarily.
At the 20 Books London conference I reported on earlier this year, an alarming number of people put up their hands when asked if they woke up in the morning with pins and needles in their hands and arms. Please, don’t join them!
Obviously weight gain is another issue for writers (one that can be addressed a little by taking more exercise), and then, of course, mental health issues are a huge topic too, though I’m not going into either of those today
What I will suggest in addition to scheduling regular activity breaks into your writing day, is that you check out Joanna Penn’s recent book, THE HEALTHY AUTHOR – she was also at the 20 Book conference and as appalled as I was to see that response. You can find her book HERE.
How do you address your writing-associated health issues? Or are you fortunate enough not to have developed any? Yet.