Monday, February 05, 2007

Health and the Writer by Camy Tang

Whether you’re a writer who also works a full-time job or are a busy stay-at-home-mom, it’s hard to stay healthy. I researched and figured out a bunch of tips and tricks to help me stay in shape without carving out of my precious writing time. I also found some tips to help me have just general better health. Pick and choose which of these will work for you.

Keep your back strong!

As writers, one of the areas most likely to suffer injury is your back (the most popular injury-prone area is probably the wrists).

If you have money to invest, get an ergonomic chair. They can be very pricey, anywhere from $200 to $1200, but they’re worth it to save injury to your back. You’ll need to go out and try a bunch of chairs to find the one that fits your body the best.

Most of us, however, don’t have much money. Here are a few low-cost alternatives.

1) WALK. Yes, I’m shouting. I’ll even repeat myself—WALK. For ten minutes, every hour.

This will stimulate blood circulation to your back, keeping it healthy and allowing fatigued muscles and injured tendons to heal.

If you can, put on good walking shoes for your ten minute hike.

You can walk anywhere, from around the block to around your living room. Just make sure it’s ten minutes long and it occurs every hour you’re sitting in front of that computer. I have often walked forwards and backwards down my hallway (there are no windows, so none of my neighbors can see the crazy writer walking in her house!).

2) Stretch. At least once a day, preferably three times a day.

Don’t bounce—stretch slowly and gently. Use your breathing to allow you to deepen the stretch.

Touch your toes. Alternately, sit down with your legs in front of you and reach for your toes. Stretching your hamstrings releases any tension tugging at your lower back.

Stretch side to side. You can also twist side to side. Make the motions slow, gentle, and refreshing. Don’t cause yourself abject pain.

Stretch your neck forwards, backwards, sideways. A tense neck can also cause or be the cause of back pain.

3) Elevate. Your workspace, that is.

Standing at your desk and typing standing up can alleviate back pain, especially if you switch from standing to sitting a couple times during the day. has these fancy wooden stands for your keyboard, mouse, and monitor. I don’t have money, so I improvised and use empty boxes to elevate my keyboard and mouse to the right height. Boxes are also light and easy to remove when I switch back down to sitting.

For my monitor, I have a flat-screen which is lighter than a regular tubular screen. Flatscreen monitors are going down in price, so they’re not so impossibly expensive. I happened to be lucky enough to get mine at GoodWill for $70.

I lift my monitor from my desktop to a thicker-than-normal cardboard box, stuffed with packing Styrofoam popcorn and taped shut. The popcorn gives it more strength. The box is on its end and tall enough so that I’m looking straight at my monitor when I stand up.

Take care of your back! A bad back can adversely influence your writing!

Camy Tang is a novelist also fighting the battle of the bulge. She previously worked in biology research, and she is a staff worker for her church youth group. She runs the Story Sensei critique service, and her Asian chick lit novel, Sushi for One?, releases in September. Enjoy the read on her blog at



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