For this week’s blog, I wanted to delve into some of the smaller, weirder tips and tricks that have helped me with my own writing. These tips focus on productivity, organisation and the minimising of physical discomfort when writing. As you may have gathered from my previous blogs, I’m not a doctor and I have no medical training. The below suggestions are tricks that have assisted me, but what you do with this information, and how you handle your own pain management, is entirely your responsibility.
Headphones and rain sounds
I got this tip from Joanna Penn who is the indie author behind the platform The Creative Penn. If you’re not familiar with Joanna or The Creative Penn, I suggest you get on that.
When I sit down to write, I put on my headphones, open iTunes and hit play on my favourite rain sounds album, Soothing Rain Sounds, believe it or not, there’s actually quite a selection of albums to choose from, so go nuts!
If you prefer to write in public places or if you don’t live by yourself then this is a great way of cancelling out distracting background noise, conversations, people hustling, you know, the sounds of life! If you listen to rain or thunderstorm recordings for an extended period, your brain will naturally slip into an alpha state and you may find that the quality of your writing improves. It certainly does for me!
You may be one of those rare writers who can work while listening to music with lyrics, and if you are, then consider yourself a freak. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big music fan and I certainly use it as a means for inspiration and as a way to generate imagery, but when it comes time to sit down and write, hitting play on The Misfits Collection 2 is not a part of my productivity plan.
Get your butt out of the chair
For writers, the above statement is counterintuitive as most of us are trying to keep our butts in the chair. But in case you haven’t heard, sitting is the new smoking. I know, total bummer, right? (Pardon the pun). A few years ago, this news would’ve been rather distressing, but thanks to the invention of standing desks writers have more than one option when it comes to designing their workspace.
Full transparency, I can’t afford a standing desk. Some weeks, I can’t afford toothpaste. However, I own a shit ton of book and as it turns out, you can stack those puppies up, slap your lappie on top and voila! Instant writing desk!
Switching up your writing positions can have great health benefits, but please know that standing for prolonged periods isn’t ideal either. If you write three chapters while standing, your muscles are staying contracted in one position, this can lead to joint compression, compounding muscle tension and cardiovascular disorders.
The truth is, our bodies are designed to be in movement, but this can be a tricky feat when you’re trying to write and disappear into the work. When I’m reading an essay or article on my laptop, I set up my “standing desk” and shuffle my feet while I read, stepping side to side as well as forwards and backwards.
Yes, I know this sounds dorky…you can stop giggling now…
When I’m engaging in creative writing I tend to sit, when I’m editing I stand and when I’m reading I keep my body in motion.
In this same vein, a lot of creative writers in the indie space are starting to experiment with dictation. Although I personally haven’t used this approach, I find this idea really exciting and think it could be a helpful tool during the drafting stage of an article or short story.
Keep the curve in your spine
Folks who spend a lot of time sitting in front of computers tend to have pain in their lower back, shoulder, and neck. There’s a bunch of blogs out there that delve into the designing of ergonomic workspaces, so I’m not going to unpack this topic. However, I did learn this nifty trick from an acupuncturist. Grab a towel and fold it in half widthways, in half again lengthways, and then roll it into a tube. When you sit down, wedge it between your spine and the back of your chair. This will keep your spine in the correct position while writing and may help reduce lower back, shoulder and neck pain.
Hand and arm stretches
If you write longhand, as I do, you may experience pain in your hands and arms following a prolonged writing session. Doing some basic stretches, and the inclusion of frequent breaks will help reduce this.
Stretch your writing arm out in front of you, keeping it parallel to the floor, then use your non-dominate hand to gently pull the fingers and hand back, then down, then towards you (if you need a visual demonstration, check out my video). Feel free to mix things up with some arm stretches, the type you learned during your high-school P.E classes are more than suffice; see, you did get something useful out of that drudgery!
I’m a bit of an organisation freak, so I keep five different notebooks, each dedicated to a specific purpose.
Random notes: This notebook is used for mundane tasks like grocery lists, reminders or small daily to-do lists. I also jot down book recommendations, articles, bands, or other bits and bobs that I want to check out later or that spark my interest.
Study: I’m currently doing a Bachelor of Arts (Honours), so this notebook is dedicated to lecture notes, ideas for assignments, recommended readings for my own research project as well as the notes, quotes, and ideas that are generated from those readings.
Research: Lately, I’ve been obsessively researching how the traditional and self-publishing industries work. Though you can make broad strokes regarding the pros and cons of these two models, there is so much information out there you could easily fill multiple notebooks.
Content: This notebook is for the drafting of blogs, YouTube videos, articles, essays and pitching ideas for freelance work.
Creative writing: I keep a notebook for each writing project. I’m currently self-editing four novels in preparation for an editor, so for the sake of sanity, I have to be able to easily and efficiently locate relevant information. I have no interest in flicking through six notebooks because I can’t remember where I wrote a particular fact, or where the notes from a formal interview went.
So, there you have it! My five small, slightly weird tips to improve your productivity and writing practice. If you have any tips of your own, feel free to leave them in the comment section below.