If there’s a writing rule that you should never break, this is the one.
You might have come across the concept of ergonomics before, in relation to workplace safety, repetitive strain injuries, or posture. It’s vital to everybody regardless of their job, but right now I want to focus on why it’s especially important for writers to learn about.
How can ergonomics help writers?
An ergonomic work station is kind to the body that does the writing. Most of us scribblers work at desks or tables, so in order to produce the most writing with the least amount of pain we need to adapt the “standard” design of things to make them more body-friendly. Productive Writers has a great diagram of how this should look and recommendations for where everything should be positioned.
Here are a few things I prioritise for myself:
- Frequent breaks (I use a timer so I don’t forget).
- Feet flat on the floor, legs uncrossed.
- Wrists in a neutral (straight) position, resting lightly on a keyboard or pad without pressing down.
The last tip was a huge help for me – I used to type with my wrists held above the keyboard, which strained my forearm muscles and made me tense my shoulders. The chronic pain I live with now is partly due to years of incorrect posture, and it has taken months of physiotherapy to alleviate it. I still have trouble with pain and muscle fatigue, but ergonomics have been key in preventing further damage.
So I implemented some of the tips that physiotherapist Rebecca Roland mentions in her article for SFWA. Adjustments like these allowed me to finish my degree and work on my NIP.
I’m still learning. My latest physiotherapist – who managed to see the differences in my skeletal structure that nobody else could – is working on the alignment of my back and shoulders. We’re hoping this will ease the wrist pain I’ve had for the past eight years; if it does, I’ll finally be able to seek full-time work and move out of my parents’ house.
I’m not ashamed of my disability, but I’m deeply frustrated by the way it limits my opportunities. More research into assistive technologies and different therapies might be beneficial. For now, I’m watching my posture and taking lots of breaks.