By Kim Allman
Rock Hill Chapter Co-Leader
Mama always used to say, “Sit up straight, Kim.” One of Dad’s favorite lines was, “Take care of your tools, and they’ll take care of you.” Both these adages still hold value today. I’ve spent too much time slouching over my keyboard, squinting at a monitor, and paying the price in joint trouble, headaches, backaches, and poor eyesight. I’ve taken too long to learn how to write healthy.
Disclaimer: I’m not a physician, so check with your own doctor before implementing any of these changes. Some joint conditions may worsen with exercise, so always follow your own provider’s advice.
Like any good habit, writing healthy is simple, but not easy. The writing experience is improved by nimble fingers and good eyesight. Who of us doesn’t live in dread of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? Fortunately, there are steps we can take to improve our ergonomic environment and physical fitness for the task of filling page after page.
Healthy hands begin with good posture. (Thanks, Mom!) So mind Gail and “Sit up straight.” As much as possible, keep your shoulders from rolling forward. This may lessen nerve impingement, which causes shooting or tingling pain in the arms and hands. Your breathing will improve as well.
Better yet, try a standing desk or work at counter-top height. Standing rather than sitting whenever possible has both orthopedic and cardiovascular benefits. Placing one foot flat on a small (6”- 8” tall) stool can help alleviate lower back strain while standing.
If you must sit to type, keep the keyboard below your elbows. This keeps your wrists in a neutral position. Use a chair which allows your knees to be level with, or slightly above your hips. A small footstool or short stack of books – you do have a few extras lying around, yes? – can be helpful here as well.
Simplest of all, take frequent breaks. Even your most dedicated muse should be willing to wait 10 minutes or so every hour while you stop to loosen the kinks. Try some of these simple stretches before you dive back in to your next chapter.
Neck Rolls: Tuck your chin to your chest, then slowly roll your head clockwise and counter-clockwise 3 times each direction. Press your shoulders low; don’t shrug.
Shoulder Rolls: Hang your arms loosely by your sides. Push your shoulders forward, then slowly roll them up into a shrug, then back and down. Reverse direction. Repeat 3-5 times.
Desk Pushups: While seated, place your palms flat on the underside of your desk, about shoulder-width apart. Gently press upward and hold 5-10 seconds. Breathe deeply. Repeat.
Spider-Doing-Pushups-on-a-Mirror: Hold your palms together in prayer-position. Spread your fingers wide then bring your palms apart while drawing your fingertips all together. Repeat 8-10 times.
Extensor Stretch: Insert the fingertips of one hand into the loop of a rubber band. Stretch the band by spreading your fingers apart as far as you can. Repeat 8-10 times with each hand.
Kim Allman is co-Facilitator of the Rock Hill SCWW chapter. Writing as Kimberly Lynne, she is currently querying her debut spec-fic which won SCWW’s 2014 Scott Lax scholarship to Wildacres. She writes flash fiction at her blog, Commendable Soap. She lives near Rock Hill with her husband in a nest that would be empty except for all the dogs. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.