Thursday, January 19, 2012

Me and My Wrists. A Writer's Life.

My weak point
Carpal Tunnel is the occupation disease of authors, I guess.

I'm very foolish.  I start typing and I get all involved in the story.

I'll be sitting typing any which way with my laptop in my . . .  well, in my lap, and the wrists are all awkward and hanging at the wrong angle.

Not ergonomically correct
I don't notice, even when the muscles start to hurt.   In fact, I'll get to the end of a scene and straighten up and every muscle in my body will suddenly let out a long-suppressed scream.  Head to foot, I ache.  I mean, like, my jaw will hurt.  My auricular muscles will hurt -- those are the three muscle that allow you to wiggle your ears, (if you can wriggle your ears.)  My fingers hurt.

You remember the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Harrison Ford points to a spot on his elbow and says, "This doesn't hurt.  Here."  I'm like that, except I don't have a spot on the elbow.

So anyhow, the other aches go away, but the wrists keep at this ouching thing and I feel very stupid. Is there a Carpal-Tunnel-Stupid Syndrome?  That's what I have.

Me, in a couple few years
CTSS was interfering with my ability to get work done, so I went to a drugstore in California, being as I was in California at the time, and I bought a wrist brace.  (They had a selection of twenty.  Who knew?)

So now I put on a brace when I sit down to work for a long session.  Everyone who sees this thinks I have injured myself in some accident, so I try to look like I ride horses or ski or engage in other enterprises more interesting than staring at a computer screen.
Somehow this role playing makes me feel less like the old body is just falling apart.

There is interesting and useful information about this over at Word Wenches.  Here


  1. I face the same problem. I type to write, I type continuously at work all day. Probably at least 8 hours of my day are spent typing. In doing some research I found that quasi-preventative is at night to sleep with your wrists level. I practice this habitually and got used to it after about 30 days. It helps a bunch. There's also special keyboards, and other things to alleviate wrist stress. I haven't invested in them yet.

  2. I'm toying with the idea of learning the Dvorak keyboard . . .

  3. Hi Joanna!

    Carpal Tunnel is evil. I write long sessions too (though I don't feel productive but that's another story) AND I play a lot of tennis. Did you know there's a CTS for elbows too? Not the same name but it's just as painful. I'd wake up during the night and my whole arms would be numb.

    Something very simple helped me a lot: Vitamin B6. It takes time, but after four months of 2 Vit B6 a day, my symptoms went away. They'll come back if I exaggerate, but then, we all need to learn moderation, right?

    Great post!

  4. Hi Carole --

    I am so sorry to hear you have this problem. Well, two problems. Or three if we count in lack of productivity.

    I think the basic problem is the human body is designed to do a variety of activities every day. When we take one thing and do it over and over and over again, it's unnatural and our bodies get damaged.

    I don't know quite what t do with this piece of realization, since I'm not going to stop typing.

  5. I ordered some Dvorak key covers from Amazon. $2.99 for a full set, and they will convert any keyboard to a Dvorak. Your computer has to be able to use a Dvorak keyboard, though. I thought for that price I could give it a try without sinking a huge amount of money into it.

    On another note, have you found a word processor you like? I know you were frustrated with some aspects of Scrivener, and the more I get written, the more I'm finding that to be true. I've started just using a single "Scene" folder for chunks of scenes that ties together, and putting hash marks when I jump to the next thing that happens. But I can see where that will get to be a problem in a few months.

  6. I'm not sure I have the brainpower to switch to Dvorak. Are my fingers that smart?

    I'm pretty sure the Mac will be happy to do the electronic switching part. *g*

    I'm using Bean right now, and it pleases me. It does nothing but process words. It doesn't interrupt me to suggest I'm writing a letter. It doesn't have a huge set of icons up top, none of which I'll ever use.

    It just processes words and creates a .txt, .rtf or .doc 97 file. I find this refreshing.

  7. I'd never heard of Bean. I've downloaded it and will give it a try.

    I have the little stickers for my keyboard but haven't had time to sit down and give it a try. I think I'm scared.

  8. I know people who have done this, successfully. I think it just takes a while. Let me know how it goes . . .

  9. If you sleep with your wrists curled under your pillow.... sleep with the wrist braces on. And ask your doc for some good, medical grade braces and none of that drugstore stuff. Makes a world of differece. I've had CTSS since I was 24. It's awful.

  10. The whole sore wrists business is so discouraging and unfair. When you use your body, it's supposed to get stronger. This wearing out and hurting strikes me as counter-intuitive.