If, like me, you spend a fair portion of your life sitting down, reading, writing, and typing, the chances are you might experience neck and backache at some point, as well as pains in your hands and wrists. Things got bad for me about two years ago when I first started blogging and I became half-woman, half-laptop, such was my passion for connecting with the wider world through the internet.
When I experienced uncomfortable pain in my upper spine and neck, the first thing I did was to come offline for three days, and that helped enormously. Then, with a quick flurry of activity involving a saw, wood, screws, and an electric drill, a solution was supplied by my husband, Andrew. He made this simple writing ledge from materials already available in his shed (that magical emporium at the foot of our garden). You can see that it’s basically two pieces of wood, joined together at an angle that both raises the keyboard, so my hands are not typing on a flat surface, and raises the screen of my laptop, so that my neck doesn’t have to bend too far.
So far, it’s worked a treat. I even took it with me when I stayed in Swindon recently for the poetry festival. It doesn’t collapse, and it is quite heavy (although not excessively) because it’s solid enough not to slip around on the table/desk while I’m typing. But it fitted easily into a jute shopping bag and I was glad to have it with me.
I think there are solutions like this available to buy online and in computer accessory shops, if you’re not in a position to be able to create one yourself. But you can see that you really don’t need to spend a lot of money to make something that works very well. (at least, it works for me).
Another thing I do to try to avoid getting backache is change my body position while I’m working on computers. I have a separate laptop for my job with The Reader Organisation. Initially I set this up on the opposite side of the table where I (mostly) do my writing. But this meant that I was spending even MORE time sitting down, so, instead, I’ve set up a standing desk, by putting my work laptop on top of a bookcase.
I know there are far more sophisticated (and expensive) ‘standing desks’ on the market but my solution might be worth trying before you dip into your life savings.
You will note from these photographs that there is a television (and it’s on!) in the room with my laptops. This is because I share my house with two teenagers, and a husband, and there are times when my ‘writing room’ doubles as a teen hangout or a snug place to enjoy a beer and Match of the Day. That’s another reason to adapt a piece of furniture you already have (a bookcase, in this instance) to suit your needs rather than buying something specifically for the purpose. Where would I put a standing work station? Perhaps I’ll have a room of my own one day but, until then, making do with what I have seems to be doing the trick.
Something else that seems to work for me (in avoiding/reducing backache) is moving around my house and writing in different places.
Early drafts of my work, especially poetry, are always written by hand in notebooks, so there’s no need for me to be sitting in one area.
Here I am writing in different locations around my house. What tips do you have for keeping the aches and pains to a minimum? I’d love to hear what’s worked for you.
Post update: Writer and illustrator Howard Hardiman sent these useful tips on Twitter.
Thanks, Howard! Some good advice in the comment section below, as well.