PACING is the key and TIMING your sessions is the goal. Firstly, buy a timer if you don’t already have one or use the one on your phone. It’s tempting to rely on the computer or laptop clock but it’s easy to ignore. You need something with an alarm or beep that goes off. Years ago I bought one from a Dick Smith store and it’s a ripper. You can program it with counting down, counting up, preset time amounts and a memory for your favourite settings.
When you sit down at your computer, even if it’s only for email or checking Facebook, set the timer for 30 minutes. When the beep goes, stand up and do some simple stretches. (see below for some suggestions). If you find yourself ignoring the beep, set the timer or phone away from your desk so you have to get up to turn it off. The exercises should only take you about 5 mins. Then reset your alarm and away you go again.
By doing this small thing, you will get up before your back, shoulders and/or hands get sore and its far, far better to move BEFORE you actually feel pain or discomfort. By doing this method you will be able to keep writing for longer. After 2 hours though, it’s time to take a decent break - at least 10-15mins (or call it quits and resume writing later in the day). Use this bigger break to get a coffee, water your aspidistras or feed the cat that’s been bugging you.
Sometimes when we’re writing we hit a roadblock. And what do we do? We sit and think and stare at the cursor. How is this plot twist going to work? Should I reveal this information now or later on? Etc etc.
But we SIT and think and often for a long time as we wrestle with our writing questions. May I suggest you go for a walk instead? It’s simple, free and doesn’t require any equipment other than some walking shoes. Free your mind and on your walk you may just come up with the answer to that gritty problem. Not only will this refresh you but give your muscles some much needed stretching and exercise. As a specialist back surgeon once told me, walking is the best thing you can do for your back
Another way to shorten your actual sitting time is to prepare in detail the scene you are about to write. If you know what you’re hoping to achieve in the scene; the conflict, rising tension and even some of the dialogue, you can fly through your 30mins and get a lot down without risking your back or hands.
Here are some simple stretches that you can do, standing next to your desk.
Stretch arms above head.
Tilt pelvis backwards and forwards slowly.
A couple of squats or (sit on your chair, stand up), repeat 10 times.
Lean hand against wall and straighten arm. Hold stretch for 20secs
Shake hands and roll each finger clockwise and anti-clockwise.
Scrunch fingers through each knuckle.
If you look after your back and hands they will serve you well for many years. It’s easy when the muse strikes, to keep going and push past the 30min stop, but your spine will thank you for a break and it won’t be that difficult to pick up the thread again after 5 mins.
Hoping that your writing journey is as healthy and enjoyable as you can make it.