In this post, we look at what writers need to look at being in it for the long haul. We explore the secrets of a long distance writer.
Writers aren’t sprinters, they’re long-distance runners. But to be this productive, they must be healthy. When writers experience pain or fatigue while writing, then chances are their workplace is not optimised for body mechanics.
In this article, we will give tips on how to set up an ergonomic workplace, how to use your keyboard in a healthy way, and how to take care of your eyes while writing. This way, writers can become true athletes in their trade.
The Best Habitat For A Writer
Most writers sit at a desk (Need proof? Read this article). If they’re lucky enough to write for a company, then experts will set up their workplace. Yet at home, most people are left to their own devices. They work with laptops, or even tablets, on whatever table is available. Unfortunately, this is not a healthy environment if you want to take writing seriously. Think about investing in this basic set-up:
- A sturdy desk, as large as you need it, not as large as possible. Buying a desk that can be adjusted to your height would be perfect (but these are more expensive).
- An office swivel chair, adjustable in height, with castors. The comfortable backrest should be flexible and should provide lower back support. You need to be able to move while sitting. Armrests are not necessary. Women especially should make sure the seat itself is not too big for them.
- A computer with a separate display is preferable; if you do need to use a laptop, then please invest in an external keyboard. Find something to prop up the laptop, so your eyes can look at the display in a straight line (there’s more information below).
Why is this necessary? Because this equipment makes a relaxed posture possible. But only if you know how to use it.
Find The Right Angle
Once the equipment is available, you need to set it up properly. The configuration takes time, but it’s not rocket science. Please refer to this image:
Source: By Yamavu – Own work, CC0
Notice all the right angles? That’s what you must aim for if you want to sit at your desk comfortably for a longer time, without getting cramped up. Proceed like this:
- Sit at your desk comfortably. Then have someone look at your posture from the side (maybe even take a picture, so you can check on your own later). Can you spot any right angles already?
- Adjust the height of your chair to create the right angles at feet and knees.
- Adjust the backrest.
- Adjust the display. If your eyes look straight ahead, then you should be able to read the top line of your text. If you work with a laptop, then use it as your display. Create a stand, using a stack of books or a box; make sure it has the correct height. Laptop-users must get an external keyboard (please do, it saves you a lot of neck pain!)
The more of these right angles you can create, the better. But we’re not done yet. Now, pay attention to your arms and hands, and the keyboard.
How To Become A Keyboard Athlete
Your arms should hang down, elbows at the side of your body. Don’t use armrests (They tend to prevent your arms from moving freely). The keyboard should be placed at the edge of the desk, and your hands should drop down like the hands of a piano player. Your lower arm, your wrist, and your hand should be in a straight line. Don’t let your hands become ‘pigeon-toed’ inward or ‘duck-toed’ outward. Check this article for pictures and more information.
Take Good Care Of Your Eagle Eye
Working with a computer is stressful for your eyes as well. Most people tend to blink less, making their eyes dry, red, and even irritated. Your eyesight can get worse. To avoid all of this, consider these points:
1. Distance from your eyes to the display:
Most eye doctors say the best distance is 50-70 cm or 19-27 inches. However, this varies greatly and depends entirely on your body. An arm’s length is a great measure. If your arms are short, your distance might be just 50 cm.
2. Correct prescription glasses:
Especially important if you wear bifocal or multifocal glasses. Without noticing, you might move your head up ever so slightly, using the bottom part of your glasses to read what’s on the display. This is an unnatural position and over time, this becomes painful. Please measure the distance from your eye to your display, then go see your optician to have them check which prescription glasses you need specifically for this distance. You might also want the new glasses to filter the blue light of the screen. Believe me, office glasses are a tremendous relief!
3. Microbreaks for eye health:
If your eyes tend to be glued to the screen, please plan microbreaks! All you need to do is simply let your eyes wander about. Look at that interesting mood board behind your screen, check on that plant next to your desk, or simply gaze out of the window. What your eyes are looking for, is a variation of distance. This ensures that the muscles in your eyes have plenty of exercise. We all know how important exercise is for the whole body, right?
Reap The Benefits
So now that you’ve set up the perfect workplace, would you like to know what you’re not getting? What you’re actively preventing? It’s awesome:
- Cramped-up shoulders.
- Tight neck.
- Back pain.
- Red, dry eyes.
- Headaches and migraines.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
- Sleeplessness due to pain and/or blue light exposure.
Sounds good? Then keep on checking up on those angles. Doesn’t it feel great if you can sit at your desk, do your favourite activity, and be completely relaxed? You’ll see that a healthy writer is a much more productive writer. Here’s more on self-care for writers and how to create a cosy writing space.
When To Call On An Expert
However, should you ever feel any of the above symptoms, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with an expert, like an orthopaedic doctor, an osteopath, or a physiotherapist. Don’t wait. If you need more information, click on this article.
The Last Word
Now that we have shown you how to avoid the most common mistakes in setting up your workplace, we hope that you will enjoy writing even more. Go for that writing marathon!
By Susanne Bennett. Susanne is a German-American writer who is a journalist by trade and a writer by heart. After years of working at German public radio and an online news portal, she has decided to accept challenges by Deadlines for Writers. Currently she is writing her first novel with them. She is known for overweight purses and carrying a novel everywhere. Follow her on Facebook.
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