Writing is not a particularly hazardous occupation.
I mean, sure, we fight battles on a daily basis, have a suspicious knowledge of poisons and methods for burying bodies, have an exact plan for splinting a shattered shin bone, and occasionally ride dragons, but these tend to be adventures of an . . . imaginative sort.
We don’t generally risk life and limb for our books, although our egos regularly take a good beating.
In the end, writing generally looks like sitting on a couch or at a desk typing away at a computer. With a chocolate bar. And a pixie who steals said chocolate bar. And a gnome who chews on your computer cords and tears pages out of your notebook to make paper hats with.
You get the picture.
Not a particularly hazardous occupation, right? No broken bones imminent, no disasters, no two hundred pound linebacker tackling you from behind. Safe, right?
Except for the fact that you are working a desk job. You are sitting for long periods of time, and if you’re like me, you’re not sitting up perfectly straight with a board strapped to your back at all times.
That would tend to interrupt the creative flow.
From the first day I started writing, I have treated it like a job. I showed up, I sat my butt in that chair, and I got my work done whether I particularly felt like it or not. I spent a lot of time writing, and before too long, it started to take its toll. Because when you’re sitting for long, long stretches of time, it starts to mess with you.
Particularly, in my case, with your back.
I spent several weeks almost constantly in pain. My lower back did not like my latest life decisions, and it was letting me know. About then, I started realizing that one, it’s very hard to be creative while you’re in pain, and two, I was going to have to come up with some way to counter this, or I was going to be in big trouble long term. Because it’s one thing to be stiff and sore for a few months, it’s another to realize later that you’ve done permanent damage.
Not something you ever want to do.
So I changed my lifestyle. I’ve done all these things at one time or another, and I highly recommend trying them out to see if they work for you. It’s way, way better to take care of a problem before it gets serious than to wait and need professional care later. (Note: I am not a doctor. If you live with chronic pain or are recovering from an injury, talk to a professional. Take care of yourself, my dear!)
1) Take Stretch Breaks
When I first started dealing with back pain, this is what helped me the most. Taking the time to learn a few simple yoga poses and stretches was the only relief I could find. It didn’t work right away, but over time, as I began to put more effort into the practice and made it a habit, it made all the difference. Poses like the Cat and Cow, Downward Dog, Thread the Needle, and Sphinx were so, so helpful. Youtube is full of awesome instructors (I recommend Yoga with Adriene), or you can find a few simple stretches on Pinterest as well. It’s worth the effort, I promise.
I know. Everyone hates running, right? I definitely hated running when I was younger. I would cry when I was made to participate in fall series runs. I hated the competition, I hated that the people were watching me fail, and I hated that I couldn’t breathe.
Then, I started running alone.
I stuck my headphones in, put my head down, and stopped worrying about anyone else watching me. I ran from all my problems (haha), I listened to upbeat, fast-paced music, and I choreographed fight scenes in my head to get my adrenaline up.
Don’t laugh. It totally worked.
And it kept me active. Which, believe me, helped so much with my pain level.
3) Get a Fitbit
When I’m writing, it’s very easy to get so stuck in a scene that I forget to move. At all. For like three hours. Or longer. Getting a Fitbit helped me track my steps, make sure I was getting enough exercise, and stay active. So, so important while you are working a desk job. It buzzes to remind you if you haven’t gotten enough steps in an hour, and you know what? Jumping up and down or taking a quick two-minute walk to get your steps up can totally revitalize and refresh your writing. It helps. I promise.
4) Take Your Vitamins
This one doesn’t necessarily have to do with pain. But I tell it to everyone. My family, my friends, random people on the street who look at me like I’m crazy. Vitamin B and vitamin D help with depression and lethargy, something I have battled with for many years. Believe me. It makes a difference. Take your vitamins.
5) Take Care of Yourself
As an adult with a busy schedule, it is so easy to forget the most basic needs we have as humans. This week, make a point of doing things to take care of yourself.
Go for a walk outside and enjoy the fresh air.
Sit in the sunshine. Actually, bask like a cat in the sunshine. Because cats know how to love themselves.
Eat healthy foods.
Talk to someone who makes you laugh.
Get enough sleep.
Drink more water.
Smile at yourself in the mirror.
Drink so much water that you are pretty sure you’ve turned into a fish. Your skin, your brain, and basically everything else will thank you.
Take care of yourself, take breaks when you need them, and your stories will show the effects. You have endless potential and an amazing amount of brilliance. Don’t waste it by forgetting that you, too, are important enough to take care of.
Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.