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Thursday, November 13, 2014

On Writing, Health and Childhood Dreams.

It is week two of NaNoWriMo. My word count is not as high as I would have liked but there is a reason (other than procrastination). I quit my day job because I have decided to prioritise my health. For now, writing is my full-time concern. This does not change my current priorities – my health.

For the past two weeks, my stress culminated in major back and hip issues. The pain has been unbearable at times. Recovery is slow (too slow!) and not conducive to hours of sitting and writing. What bad timing! Just when my muse is gets into the swing, I need to take a break. Writing can take a toll on our back, wrists and eyes. What a perfect time to ruminate on ways writer’s can watch their health.

notebook stessBack: This one has been on my mind recently. Sitting in one position at a table or desk (or leaning your neck forward when sitting in bed) are not natural positions for our neck, shoulders or back. Muscles can be strained. They can spasm. They can cry out in pain. This is definitely not a time when you should work through the pain. There are many stretches you can do (depending on your own health levels and abilities).

The biggest thing is to stop writing (there goes that muse complaining again), stand up and move around. This week I am setting an hour timer – to remind me to get some mobility happening. Still having issues? See a chiropractor, physio or GP to ensure you don’t have back, neck or shoulder issues that need attention.

Wrists: We use them to write, whether we choose to hand write or type our manifestos. Take time to look at the positioning of your hands and wrists. Sitting in bed and tapping away may not provide the best wrist angle for long periods of writing. Take time to give your hands (and arms) a break. Don’t forget gentle stretches, circling your wrists or wiggling your fingers. If you still experience problems with your hands or wrists, get medical advice. If you are considering long-term writing you will need to ensure there are no underlying problems.

Eyes: Dry eyes? When you concentrate, or stare at a computer screen, you don’t blink as often. Look away from the screen every time you refresh the screen, turn a page, or are deep in thought. Remember to blink. Every bit helps.

Ever wonder what prolonged close work and electronic gadgets are doing to our eyes? Recent studies are showing that excessive close work and time indoors are strong environmental factors contributing towards an increase of short-sightedness in the population.

For years I have been encouraging my family to spend more time outside. (Optometry Australia recommend at least 30 minutes a day.) Garden, walk, play sport, drink tea and watch the birds fly by – it does not matter what you do. Just go outside.  Changing your focus (away from close work) is beneficial, especially if you have ocular muscle imbalances. Further studies suggest Vitamin D* and UV* may also play a part in regulating the growth of the eye and short-sightedness. (Not much can be done about genetics.)

Still having problems? See your optometrist for an eye check. We use our eyes constantly for writing (and reading). We need to ensure they are healthy and any focusing or ocular muscle issues are dealt with. (You can take the girl out of the day job but you can’t take the day job out of the girl).

General Health: Unhealthy eating and lack of exercise can effect our immune system, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, heart – everything. Try to have healthy snacks nearby. Eat as much fruit and vegetables as you can. (I munch on fresh carrot sticks and apples – as well as my dark chocolate.) Drink enough water. (I alternate drinks of tea and water.) Ensure you have enough vitamin C (for the immune system) and Vitamin D (health of the bones).

*I use an app called SunSmart, recommended by Cancer Council. It tells you the current UV index, what times sun protection is needed, how much sun exposure you need to get enough Vitamin D and gives a sunscreen application reminder to avoid excess UV. It is a fine balance.

If nothing else, open a window for fresh air. Better still, go outside and get some exercise. A healthy mind and body will benefit our writing.

When I was nine years old, I imagined myself as a little old lady, with grey plaits, ferreting around in the garden and writing novels. If I want to make that dream come true, then I will need to look after my health in the mean time. I invite you to join me.

NaNoWriMo word count. Day 12:
Total Words- first draft:  

On Writing, Health and Childhood Dreams.

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