Does writing make you sick? Moira Butterfield

 Full-time writing seems like a safe enough physical job, right? Well, yes, but let’s check a few things about our working situation. I’d like to hear any thoughts or solutions that you may be trying to ensure your own workaday health. 


Sitting for hours 

Any job that involves sitting at a screen for hours isn’t that safe. We risk weight gain and lack of fitness creeping upon us. Apparently it generally slows the metabolism. In fact, looking this up online I’ve rather scared myself! 


I am guilty of not addressing this. I did buy a fitness watch that buzzed and told me to move every half an hour. I found it really irritating and haven’t worn it for ages! I also fail to take lunch breaks – when I could be doing a quick walk. I’m attempting to build in a lunch break, without much success, I have to admit, as I keep forgetting to stop. 


So what’s the answer? Does anyone have any good tips on moving around regularly when you are busy working? 


Repetitive strain injury 

This is a painful thing, when continual typing causes the arm to become inflamed – with pain in the wrist and sometimes right up to the shoulder. I can give you a tip here – Get a wrist support for your desk. I used to have a long bar-shaped one and I have one built into my mouse mat. I find it has solved things for me but you might need to experiment to get the one you like best. 


Back pain 

This is down to your typing chair, and the wrong one can have a big effect. You need to experiment to get the best one for you. I have an Ikea gaming chair with a small long cushion right at the base of my back, to support it. I find the cushion gives me good upright posture. A gaming chair is designed for computer gamers who spend long hours at the screen, so they are ergonomically good for writers, too. 

My Ikea gaming chair with back cushion 



This may sound weird but the angle you look at your screen can give you headaches. I have found that adjusting my monitor height and angle helps here, so I’m not straining my neck muscles. I have my laptop raised on a box and my big monitor raised on a stand. Experimenting with this is worth trying as one possibility to improve headaches. 

My work set-up, with raised screens and a wrist support mat 


Mental health 

Working on your own is weird. It’s isolating. Trying to make a living from writing is weird, too. It comes with a lot of mental challenges – from self-confidence failure to imposter syndrome, from self-destructive jealousy of other writers to problems with publishers, disappointment and dashed hopes…It takes a lot of strength to get through it sometimes. 


I was given a good tip on why it’s worth spending time addressing your own mental health. People in other professions get plenty of career progression training, so think of yourself as your own employer. Give yourself that training. Mix with other sympathetic writers in a safe supportive arena where you can discuss feelings. Maybe even arrange some counselling for yourself. Here are two UK links to explore.

PS: I also have a 'pinboard of positivity' by my work station. I pin on images/messages to help me stay upbeat. I have neglected it recently so I'm now revamping! It's only a small thing but it's there to help my state of mind. 

My pinboard of positivity - going through a revamp. 


Please do add your own writing health tips below. 


Stay well, and happy writing! 


Moira Butterfield

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