A sore neck, a horrible ache between the shoulders, and other physical problems associated with poor posture, can bring my creative process to a halt. Also an all work and no play attitude can lead to fallow periods of creative and physical exhaustion. OH&S is, in my opinion, not so much a fear based be-careful-and-be-aware-process as much as it is a common sense approach that helps me to spend more productive time at the keyboard, doing what I love.
Construction workers learn how to bend and pick up heavy items. An author needs to be able to do that too. I'm getting ready for when the promo copies of my first published book arrives from the publisher (positive thinking at work here). Lift with the legs, keep your back straight and hold the precious box of books close to my body. When sitting and typing for long periods of time I need to be realistic. It can take a toll on my body and mind if we don’t observe some OH&S guidelines to keep me in the best condition for creativity.
There are many websites available on Google that will give you exact measurements for sitting at a computer and I advise you visit some and get the facts. I’ve done that, but if I need to get out the measuring tape I won’t bother. So here’s what works for me. I sit on an ergonomic chair that is adjusted so that my knees are at a right angle and both feet rest flat on the floor. If I weaken and cross my legs, I have to jump around on one foot when I get up because the other has fallen to sleep.
The small of my back is supported with a cushion and my shoulders are back and neck is erect so the keyboard placement reflects this, as does the screen height. The mouse is kept close as possible to my keyboard. It may sound obvious to make sure the keyboard and screen are directly in front of you and you aren't twisting your back or neck to view it, but I've often become out of alignment. I place my screen about an arm and a palms distance away and have special had reading glasses made up to focus at this distance.
I get up and take breaks. Wow, that can be so difficult. When I’m on a roll, I can sit and type until my bladder is as big as a fit ball and have to walk cross legged to the loo. So I have learned this is best avoided by keeping track of the time in the bottom right hand corner of the screen and taking a break every hour. Yep every hour. I go to the loo and then refill my glass of water. I've found my brain works so much better when it isn't resembling a prune.
I stop for lunch and weather permitting I eat it outside in the courtyard. I look at the trees far away and then at the flowers up close and I breath deep. This gives my eye muscles a work out and gets my heart pumping oxygen around, fabulous for the brain too. You should probably do this every half hour but I can’t honestly say that I do. I do however repeat this routine in the garden whenever I become stuck. It seems to clear the blockage for me. Two to five minutes contemplation in the garden and I usually get a breakthrough.
I go for a walk at least three times a week. My favorite walk, in the current Melbourne heat, is up and down the air-conditioned, local shopping mall. On pleasanter days I like to visit a nearby lake.
Remember the RDO the construction worker has? Yes? Well, I totally agree with this for authors. It’s different from the weekend. This is a day you’d normally be working on your writing or other job. You can still exercise what fab romance writer and tutor, Anne Gracie, calls the writing muscle and put some words down but just do half an hour or so. Keeping happy has to be the most important ingredient in the creative process. The passion for writing may feed your happiness but someone who is so depressed they can’t get out of bed, isn't going to write anything.
I began taking a day for myself once a week. I called it Dora Day. Dora Day now happens about once a month and it involves doing anything I fancy. A massage, visiting an art gallery, going on a boat cruise from Melbourne’s South Bank to Williamstown, a stroll along the St Kilda pier, or lunch at the Block Arcade followed by a long browse in a bookshop. These are just a few of the things that constitute a Dora Day.
You get the idea. It’s day you give to yourself, to be filled with anything you like. I’m always uplifted and refreshed after my RDO. So, if I’m a little jaded and it feels as though I’m swimming upstream, I prescribe myself a Dora Day. It always does the trick.
I invite you to have a think. What would you do on your (fill in your name) Day?