Put any two writers over 40 years of age together, and eventually the subject will turn to issues of ergonomics: neck, back, wrist pain. A friend took on literary jury duty because she needed a break from the computer. Another friend’s son, a musician, had to take a course in university on how to protect his body from tendonitis and other crippling ailments. Such courses should be mandatory for writers and artists as well. It’s hard to be creative if you’re in pain.
Over the years I’ve used a variety of wrist supports for working at the computer. When I’m in full-writing mode, and putting in long hours, I set a timer to go off every hour, and place it at a distance from my station so that I have to get up to turn it off. I also have an exercise routine I try to do each time.
I don’t often work at a desk—preferring to be reclined on a daybed or couch with my laptop on my lap and my wireless mouse set on a book by my side—but when I do, I make sure that my monitor is at a comfortable eye-level, and that a keyboard and mouse is close to my lap. I also use a document support (shown at right) so that the book or papers I am working from are directly in front of me and I don’t have to crane my neck. A good chair is important too: the one I have in Mexico is fully adjustable, but it’s not as good as the chair I use in Canada, and I feel the difference. I’ve a box in my storage closet full of shoulder, neck and wrist supports I’ve resorted to over the years.
Ultimately, I think the key will be to cut down on typing. A friend is sending out scans of hand-written text to be typed. Although I’ve begun to explore dictation, I’ve yet to become comfortable with it. I need to push myself in this direction—a New Year’s Resolution.