Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Writer's Health and Fitness

Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge - Day 4
In September 2001 two years after my first book, Creative Acts of Healing: after a baby dies was published, my right arm went on strike. An intense pain from fingertips to shoulder —a sensation I likened to, but knew was not a stroke— forced me to carry my arm around on a pillow. Cooing, "I'm so sorry," I stroked my fingers, wrist, forearm and biceps. My physical therapist said I'd done to much, worked too hard on too many things. Between stretching of large canvases, painting, cutting mats, pruning fruit trees, weeding, cooking, cleaning and writing I had worn out my poor arm.
The verdict: Rest. 
This was relatively easy, since I couldn't even hold a lock of my hair between forefinger and thumb. Learning to use my left hand for tasks normally performed with the right turned out to be possible. For a while I typed with only one hand, and learned not to delete, but highlight, cut and move/paste instead, to save time and energy.

In my studio I finished four paintings in bold strokes I, nor my husband recognized as my own. The gestures of my left hand, connected to the right —creative—side of the brain, weren't hampered by the editorial power of the right hand, directed by the left side of my analytical brain. That was quite the discovery. The reason why I stopped painting at this crossroads, is three-fold. The landlord raised the rent by 100%, basically forcing artists out of a building that could house more lucrative businesses. The work involved in being a studio artist was beyond my physical and monetary means. No longer able to stretch canvases myself, I'd have to buy them ready made. Doing everything with my left arm and hand in order to give the right one the required rest would mean an overload of work, and the possibility of hurting my left arm the way I had hurt the right.

Of all my activities typing was the least harmful. Adjusted armrests and a lumbar pillow helped with the correct ergonomic position, a splint kept my wrist aligned. I was off to a good start, yet slowly but steadily I was turning into the office version of a couch potato. Writers joke amongst themselves that they need to apply glue to their seats to get a project done. Glued to my seat I was. Staring at the monitor day in day out, I discovered my thighs were turning to pudding.

A year and a half ago, I started working out with a personal trainer, and eleven years after my arm went on strike, I feel more fit, and stronger than I did before that time. Remembering what happened back then in 2001, is a reminder to take care of myself. Working too hard on too many things will wear out the best of us.

What do you do to stay fit while writing?

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
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