If sitting is the new smoking then writers have a 20-a-day habit. Throw in another packet if you also have a desk job. To stop getting a writer’s hump – or worse – you need to stretch from the tips of your typing fingers to your plot tapping toes. Find out the importance of taking a break to stretch your creative muscles.
I look up from my screen, eyes blinking as they hit natural light. My neck hurts. My shoulders are tight, there’s pressure in my lower back. I’ve not moved in pages – I mean hours.
I don’t suffer from writers’ block – I’m plagued by writers’ cramp.
If you’ve listened to the famous TED Talk about the dangers of sitting, likening it to the smoking of our generation, sitting down to write can have significant health implications. We desperately need to get up and move to keep ourselves healthy and creative.
The writers’ yogi
I’ve practised yoga every week for nearly fifteen years. While touching my toes is still a stretch, and lotus position is beyond me, I dread to think how tight I’d be without it. As well as much needed exercise (I favour an athletic Ashtanga sequence) it gives my brain a break as I concentrate on my breath – and try not to fall over. This active meditation is a boost for my body and creativity.
I asked yoga teacher Caron May how we can best counter the effects of poor writing posture.
Caron knows writers – as well as being married to an award-winning novelist she organised writing courses for many years, and has taught yoga to writers on retreat. She’s a writing yogi and a whizz with words, describing writers turning into tortoises.
“Writers get that hump from sitting and typing,” she said, “with their head forward, eyes pushing out towards the light of the screen.”
To avoid our turtle fate, she suggests taking a break from writing. Start by exercising your eyes, turning your head, moving your neck and shoulders, coming down to elbows, wrists and hands. She says, “Writers need to think about the position of their hands in the same way pianists do to stop getting RSI.”
Building a writing and stretching routine
We might know the risks of sitting hunched at our desks for hours, but posture is a lower priority than plotting, especially when writing time is in short supply.
“Posture is a lower priority than plotting, especially when writing time is in short supply.”
Caron explains, “With many writers time is so precious they won’t interrupt that process. If exercises feel like an interruption, then they won’t bother doing them. They would rather have a stiff body and write a cracking paragraph.”
“With many writers time is so precious they won’t interrupt that process. They would rather have a stiff body and write a cracking paragraph.”
Like with our approach to writing, begin by taking small steps and start making movement part of your writing routine. For example, if you write in Pomodoros – 25 minutes of focussed writing followed by a five-minute break – you can build an exercise habit that feels integral to the writing process.
Yoga is fundamentally about flow. It’s the perfect approach to unblock and get your creativity moving. Just a few minutes of stretching each day can ease the strain and keep the words flowing.
“You can build an exercise habit that feels integral to the writing process.”
Our 5-minute NaNoYoga flow has been designed to help ease the pressure on all those writers doing National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo – but is perfect for all writers at any time of the year.
No need to abandon your work in progress – you don’t even need to move from your desk. There are eight exercises to be followed in sequence.