Writing Hurts...Our Bums, Our Legs, Our Backs
by Elaine Galllant


Is it possible to sustain a writing injury?

If while creating a wonderful tale, you’ve ever felt numbness in your bum and hamstrings, tingling in your back, or aches in your shoulders, necks, or elbows, chances are the answer to that question is a resounding, yes.

Writing can and does hurt.

So how can we combat these inflictions as our protagonist sails aboard a luxury liner destined for exotic ports of call? At the minimum, we can stand every hour on the hour as if addressing the ship’s Captain.
Real time passes quickly, though, and the bing of a timer is disruptive when we’re ensconced in the rise of climatic plot twists. Heck, three hours could glide past without notice. And why? Because our main character’s sudden death grip on the vessel’s handrail indicates a forward pitch of the bow into frigid waters. I mean, c’mon! Who’d remember to stand up with all that going on? Decisions must be made…right this minute…especially since we’ve a heaving ship and a death grip to grapple. So what to do?
Fortunately, today’s market offers many choices, from the separate side table to the installed uplift or desktop riser, or even the lightweight, aluminum laptop cooling stand.
I use a locked-into-place cooling stand that becomes a light-as-a-feather keyboard and mouse station to put atop my miniscule desk so that I can stand for several minutes…or several hours… or until my legs are cold and achy and my ankles are swollen to the size of miniature pontoons. Which means it’s time for me to sit again by returning to the scene of the crime. You know the one--that bastion of comfort that caused my legs to hurt in the first place. Meantime, my character’s frozen fingers have yet to be pried from the balustrade of that damned ship now plunging deeper into a deadly slap-switching arctic churn.

Exercise while seated.

One such way to approach the perilous activity of writing is to incorporate exercises.
• Begin with a warm up. Before sitting, stretch every part of your body. Reach up, out, and down. Rotate your shoulders and shake your limbs. Prepare to flex-ercise your fingers by palming a pair of tennis balls, beanbags, or small hacky sacks and squeeze. Get your character’s heady blood rush by bending over into downward dog and then rising to stretch your body some more.
• Declare laundry day as writing day. The buzzer’s alert will do your body good and perhaps even help shape that scene of passengers scurrying around in mass panic at the Captain’s blast of the mighty horn.
• Adjust your chair to allow room for a hard, deep-tissue roller under your feet. Then row, row, row forward and back. This will elevate the heart and get your circulation pumping.
• Use a lumbar pillow, gel or buckwheat husk cushion. Or better yet, an electronic massage pad for instant relief.
• Consider keeping hand weights within reach for a quick 20 rep. No weights? Run to the pantry (hey, another exercise) and steal away some canned goods. You know…the very kind your fearful adventurer might need for a day’s survival in a life raft.
• Switch seats by moving from your cushy office chair to smaller dining chair to giant yoga ball and put some bounce into your tail. (Or is it tale?)
• Grab a blowup beach ball or anything squeezable. Pull out that old Suzanne Summers’s Thigh Master hiding in your closet and work out your tension. Your thighs, hamstrings, and knees will thank you. Do isometric stomach crunches by repeatedly pulling them in and holding them for a few seconds.
• If you snack while writing, eat healthy ones. If you drink, drink sugar free.
• Wear tinted computer-screen glasses to protect your eyes. Enlarge your “working” page to 150-200% or more. Also exercise your eyes after close up work by looking out a window in search of any hospitable land on the far horizon.
• And whenever you stop, be it during or at the end of your day, make it a habit to stretch again. Work those kinks out before joining the rest of your crew.

Implementing these daily practices will help you fare far better than your panic-stricken characters, especially since you’ve decided to pummel them with waves crashing over the ship’s bridge on the eleventh deck.

Minor ailments sometimes become major problems.

As a freelance writer, I went from active, but eventual-arthritic-kneed athlete, to fulltime novelist. Consequently, I worry a bit about deep vein thrombosis, i.e. blood clots that can develop anywhere in the body, but usually in the legs, and are often asymptomatic. Should I ever develop one of those clots, it could break loose and lodge in my lungs to cause blood flow blockage, a.k.a…a pulmonary embolism. That’s pretty scary, but then so are all the other conditions the Mayo Clinic warns long sitters about at: www.MayoClinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005
“…obesity and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Too much sitting also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. One study compared adults who spent less than two hours a day in front of the TV or other screen-based entertainment with those who logged more than four hours a day of recreational screen time. Those with greater screen time had:
• A nearly 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause
• About a 125 percent increased risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease, such as chest pain (angina) or heart attack
The increased risk was separate from other traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as smoking or high blood pressure.”

My goodness, these incentives should be plenty to make you stand up, move from chair to chair, or exercise while seated. If it isn’t, then expect to be dragged down as if tethered to your protagonist while that towering ship slips into the depths of that icy sea…because sitting long hours does no “body” good.

Therefore let’s go!

You’re a declared writing athlete and the arriving Coast Guard for your own body, so exercise before, during, and at completion of your day. Stand up hourly, but if you forget, do so immediately. Snack smart. Also, make all of this a daily habit as if your life depends on it, because in fact, it does. Besides, wouldn’t you like your body to survive beyond the fate of your imaginary characters?
So make your health a top concern, and as a fellow writer, accept my thanks for allowing me to share creative ways to improve it.

Elaine Gallant travels the world armed with a Journalism degree, a member of Women Fiction Writers Association, a founding member of Maui Writers Ink, and founder of West Maui Book Club. Her freelance work appears in numerous print and online publications. With the launch of her début thriller The 5th C: A CIA Novel (available on Amazon), this Maui girl now treks within the more complicated world of fiction. Follow Elaine at: www.WestMauiBookClub.com and ElaineGallantBlog.wordpress.com.