Category Archives: Writing

Preparing your blog for emergencies

As I went to finish and publish my post yesterday, the power went out. In fact, at one point most of Toronto and all of Mississauga, our neighbouring city, had no power. The streetlights weren’t working, and while I have about four hours of battery life on my computer, without internet I couldn’t actually post anything.

Yesterday happened to feature Toronto’s largest rainfall in many, many years, with more rain in just a few hours than we usually get in the entire month of July. Our power stayed out all night, subways didn’t run and one GO Train was half submerged in one of the many rivers surrounding our city. Power returned very early in the morning—some would have considered it late at night—and the internet came on just over an hour ago.

Of course, this was nothing compared to the three day blackout that took out the entire GTA in August 2003, but it certainly got me thinking about what systems I need in place for my blog in case something similar happens again, and what I need to survive without electricity in general.

So instead of the post I had originally written to get The Dabbler started, I’ve decided to share a list of things I need to have in case of emergency. If you haven’t thought about this in a while, now is the time. Don’t wait until there is an emergency to get these things, because if you do, you could end up miserable, hungry and trapped halfway across the city—which is pretty much how I found myself last night.

So what safety measures am I taking before there’s another big blackout? Check them out:

  1. Schedule posts in advance. I really should have three weeks worth of posts written and scheduled in advance at all times. This way, if my power goes out for a day or two, my blog is still active and your experience of The Dabbler isn’t marred. My emergencies shouldn’t change the way you experience this blog. On Thursday I’ll be sitting down and writing as many blog posts as I can pump out in a single day to make sure that this happens, and that you don’t suffer the next time I have a blackout.

  2. Carry snacks. Another thing I need to do is make sure I always have something to snack on. In our modern day world, you don’t think of food as something that’s hard to get, but when the power’s out all over your city, you’ll be going hungry. Grocery stores close without power, and most people have electric stoves, meaning they can’t even cook in a blackout. So I need to make a conscious effort to carry around snacks that don’t need to be cooked, even if it’s just cereal bars.

  3. Bring my flashlight everywhere. In the city, you don’t think of yourself as always needing a flashlight, but you never know when you will. It doesn’t need to be a particularly big or powerful flashlight. In a blackout, even a little bit of light can make a big difference. You’ll probably want a big one for home though, especially if you have a basement that might flood.

  4. Have a back up way to access the internet. I need to make sure I have a way to let my readers and clients know what’s going on and why I haven’t been online. This will probably look like using someone else’s smartphone, as I do know a few people whose data plans still let them go online during the storm. Every online business person should have a plan if the power goes down, even if it’s just someone they trust who lives elsewhere and can contact people for them.

  5. Have money in the real world. Without power, ATMs and Interac machines simply don’t work. It’s a good idea to always keep cash on you. An ideal amount would be enough for a cab ride home—that would have been a lifesaver last night, when the subway wasn’t running and there were delays everywhere.

Those are just a few ideas, and the things I’m going to be focused on building over the next couple of months. There are tons of other things that can be done to prepare for a blackout or other big emergencies, but these five things are key for anyone who works online, lives in a city and relies on public transit.

Are you prepared for emergencies? Will your business survive if you go offline for a couple of days? Please leave comments on the original post at The Dabbler.

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The New Name of Dianna’s Writing Den And Other Changes

Friday ended with the votes tied between The Serious Writer and The Dabbler, so I made an executive decision:

Henceforth, I will be blogging at The Dabbler.

I now have the domain and the hosting and I’ll be spending the next two weeks setting this site up. In order to set the site up, I’ll be extending my usual week long blogging break. There will not be another post here until next Friday, when the new site will hopefully be up. If the new site isn’t up by next Friday, I’ll definitely be in touch to let you guys know what’s going on and why it’s not there.

With the new website you’ll notice some other changes, too. I have finally chosen a few coherent packages that will be available to writers and other professionals who need help with their websites. The packages will include things such as a website consultation designed to make your website look and work better for its intended purpose email support while you implement the changes. These packages will be offered at a discount for the first three weeks the new site is open and will go up after that.

Of course, my ebook The Ten Commandments of the Serious Writer will be releasing sometime this summer and will be available through the new site. I am still looking for feedback on this 20 page booklet and the exercises within. If you’re interested, please leave your name and email in the comments below. I will be responding to email, just not writing blog posts.

If you’d like to be updated on the new site via your email, you can sign up on this page. This is also the sign up form for a monthly newsletter I plan to start showcasing both popular articles on the blog and articles exclusive to the newsletter itself, so if you’d like to support my work going forward, please sign up.

The Ten Commandments of a Serious Writer

Today is a very special day. It is time for me to tell you all about the ebook I’ve been working on, The Ten Commandments of the Serious Writer. The ebook is based on this post, with a slightly altered list of commandments.

Each commandment has been more fully explained, with exercises designed to help you become more fully committed to your writing. This ebook will give you all the tools necessary to plan the next stages of your writing career, including three potential schedules for you to base your own on. If you’re looking for help to make the transition from hobbyist, this is the ebook for you.

This ebook isn’t a comprehensive guide for becoming a successful writer, but it will walk you through the process of laying a foundation for your career. That said, this book isn’t quite finished yet. First, I’m looking for your help.

If you have committed to one of these commandments–you’ve written every day for the last six months and finished a book, or you’ve found and learned to work with a critique group–and it’s helped you grow as a writer, especially if it’s helped you make money writing, I’d love to hear from you. I’d like to add one short personal story from a different writer to each commandment.

This will be a free ebook given to my subscribers. Those who contribute their stories will be allowed to give the ebook to their own personal blog subscribers as well. This is your chance to be officially quoted in an ebook, and to get your name in front of my readers. If you’d like to share your success story, email me at diannalgunn@gmail.com.

I’m also looking for feedback. I’d like one or two people who in the process of laying the foundation for their writing career to give me feedback on the book and the exercises within so I can make any improvements. The ebook is now finished, but everyone needs a second pair of eyes on their writing. I’d like that second pair of eyes to belong to one of my readers. If you’re interested, once again just email me at diannalgunn@gmail.com and I’ll tell you what kind of feedback I’m looking for. Copies will be sent for feedback at the end of this week to any interested parties.

As for the new name of this blog: I’ve had such wonderful suggestions and there was a little conflict because the most popular name is taken by someone else, so I’ve decided to extend voting until Friday, when I’ll also be explaining in more detail my plans for the new site. Vote here.

What do you think of all the changes around here? Are you eager to read The Ten Commandments of the Serious Writer?

Progress Report June 2013

It’s June now, meaning it’s time to do two things: analyze how much progress I made towards my goals in May, and make my plans for the summer.

Let’s start by taking a look at what I’ve accomplished towards my various goals:

Editing Moonshadow’s Guardian– Last month I edited exactly six chapters and 42 pages. I should be finished editing before the end of this month, and I am going to start looking for beta readers this month. There’s less than a hundred pages to go and I’m thrilled to be this close to the end. So far, June’s looking pretty good month as I’ve already edited three pages and written a new chapter. I’m going to spend the next two weeks in a marathon with a goal of finishing by the time I graduate on the fifteenth.

Launch the Ten Commandments of a Serious Writer eBook– I’ve now got this ebook almost ready and I’ll be explaining in more detail what it is this Friday. I should be able to launch in June.

Make $5, 000 this year from my writing– in May I only made $300 from my writing, but I’m expecting more in the next few days and I’m now actively looking for new work. I also had several articles published this month at varying pay rates, which is awesome. And I’ve made a distinct plan for how to get this money, which I’ll show you in more detail later this month. My writing income goal for June is $750.

Launch an email newsletter– I’ve decided to move to a self-hosted blog, and finally decided what my newsletter will look like, so it will be part of the new incarnation of this blog. It will probably launch in July.

Write a new novel– I actually didn’t choose a plot for a new novel, but it’s percolating in the back of my head as I plan an event for Nanowrimo this year. Instead, I’ve created an outline for an ebook I’m going to release at the end of the summer. My goal for that this month is to have written the entire thing.

I finish school halfway through this month, and I’m using existing blog posts for sections of the ebook I plan to release in July, so I think these are totally reasonable goals. To achieve them, I’m dedicating one hour a day every Saturday and Sunday to each project. Once school ends, I plan to work on each goal for at least one hour Monday through Friday during the summer and take weekends off.

What are your goals for this month? How did you do last month?

Final Thoughts on Disturbances in your Writing

For the last couple of months we’ve been talking about disturbances in your writing and how to deal with them. We’ve discussed several types of distractions and strategies for each one, and two weeks ago we talked about making the sacrifice in order to have time for your writing. Today I’d like to wrap up the series with some final thoughts on distractions and how to deal with them.

There will always be things distracting you from your writing. We will always have families and friends vying for our attention, and we will always have laundry to do. There’s a good chance that you’ll always have either school or a job getting between you and your writing too. None of us gets to live in a bubble where we can write all day every day–unless perhaps you’re independently wealthy and have maids to cook your meals and wash your clothes.

Still, that’s no excuse for not getting things done. Yes, many of these distractions can’t be avoided altogether, but they can be minimized. As we’ve discussed over the last two months, for every distraction there’s a strategy you can use to get back to work. We must protect our own writing time. Nobody can do that for us. In fact, most people will detract from your writing time–often without realizing what they’re doing.

It’s your job to protect your writing time. This is why I cancelled my plans today. I realized that I’ve let too many things cut into my writing time lately, and that my plans for today weren’t essential. Now that I’m working for DJiZM, I have almost no time for my personal writing projects. This has led me to cut back on my socializing time. I’m still not perfect at protecting my writing time–odds are I never will be–but I get better at it all the time, and that’s the important thing. Slowly but surely I’m cutting away the non-essential things to make more time for my craft.

You don’t have to do it all at once. Commit to minimizing one distraction at a time. You’re not perfect, nobody is. You’re not expected to cut everyone out of your life, and you’re not expected to eradicate all these distractions at the same time. Take it one step at a time, one day at a time.

Most importantly, don’t make it a chore. Writing shouldn’t be a chore. While it’s important to create and defend your writing time, you shouldn’t do this at the expense of your enjoyment of life. Life is too short to be unhappy because of decisions you’ve made. So when you’re asked to do something that cuts into your writing time, ask yourself–in a year, in five years, in ten years, will I regret not being there? Or will I regret not having finished my book?

Don’t allow yourself to live with regret. Do the things that truly matter to you–and if you discover that writing isn’t that high up on the list, that’s fine too. You don’t have to pursue a writing career. You can write occasionally, you can skip the editing and just move on to the next piece–just make sure you’re doing it with the intention of remaining a hobby writer. If you want to make this a career, you will have to make sacrifices.

It’s up to you–and only you–to decide whether or not writing is important enough to make sacrifices are. I’ve decided that my writing is definitely important enough to make sacrifices for. You might decide something different, and that’s fine too.

How much are you willing to sacrifice for your writing career?

Progress Report April 2013

April’s been a pretty exciting month for me. I got a job writing, editing and promoting blog posts for DJiZM Disc Jockey Services and I’m thrilled to be working with them. I’m also working on becoming a paid contributor to a large Canadian music blog, but I can’t reveal too much about that yet.

I’m still behind on my personal goals, but I did make more progress in April than I did in March, so let’s take a look:

April progress

Editing Moonshadow’s Guardian– I ended up only editing four chapters of Moonshadow’s Guardian this month instead of six, but I am making progress. I’ve now created a concrete plan to make more time for writing, both personal and professional, and I’m hoping to actually do six chapters in May.

Write twelve guest posts– depending on what you mean by ‘guest posts’, I might have made a lot of progress this month. I had three posts published on the DJiZM blog published in April and I’ve got more scheduled in May. This isn’t a blog for my target market, so it’s of limited value in terms of bringing me readers, but it’s certainly looking good on my LinkedIn profile, so I consider this a success. This would put me at seven posts for the year, which is pretty awesome. I do still need to get into more blogs aimed at my target market.

May plans

As you can see, while I originally set myself up with several goals for the year, I’ve only been making progress on one or two of them each month. Since the seasons have changed and it’s warm outside, I’ve decided to re-evaluate my goals and make a plan for May involving as many as possible.

Here’s the plan, goal by goal:

Query 12 Articles– I’ve decided that this exact goal is going to be scrapped. Instead, I’m going to alter this goal to ‘Make at least $5, 000 from my writing and writing-related activities. I’ve already made over a hundred dollars through my writing this year, and not only am I working for DJiZM and negotiating with one other company, I’ve also gotten ideas for articles I’d like to query to different magazines because of these jobs. This may seem like a big goal, and as someone who’s only ever made a couple hundred dollars here and there, it is, but I still think it’s totally achievable.

My income goal for May? $650. That’s a little bit less than I need to make each month to reach my goal for the year, but I’m planning to do a lot more writing work this summer.

Launch 10 Commandments– this project has been put on hold, but really all it needs is an intro, some exercises, and a conclusion. I’m probably going to be working on that a lot this month.

Launch an email newsletter– I’ve decided to hold off on this project as I’m having difficulty choosing how I’m going to run it and I’ve got a lot going on right now. I might come back to it this year, but for now it’s off the table.

Create Dear Diary Workbook– I’d really love to get this done this year, but I’m not sure if I’ll have the time, seeing as how behind I am on my edits for Moonshadow’s Guardian. Still, I’d like to get it close to done, so my goal is to write at least one page of this book every month until the end of the year.

Edit Some Secrets Should Never Be Known– This will get started as soon as I’ve finished editing Moonshadow’s Guardian, which seems like it will be an eternity. I’ll probably end up working on this during the summer.

Write one new novel– this is for November, but this month I’d like to figure out what the basic premise of my story will be. I might end up using November to do a full rewrite of the second half of/sequel to Moonshadow’s Guardian. I don’t know yet.

This month I’ll be buckling down on my time. No more distracted procrastination for me. I’ve already started carving out more time for myself, but by the end of this month, I’d like to make sure I’m spending at least one hour every day on one of these goals.

What are you doing to reach your goals this May? How did you do in April?

The Beat Sheet

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Today’s post is very special. It comes from Michelle Ann King, whose short story Never Leave Me touched my heart so deeply that I simply had to invite her here. Please give her a warm welcome.

Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat revolutionised my writing–or rather, my storytelling. It’s primarily a screenwriting book, but the principles apply just as well to fiction. My favourite part is the Beat Sheet: a list of elements making up the classic Three Act Structure.

Snyder is quite exacting about the timing of these elements, down to the script page number. A story can be more flexible than a film, but this still provides a great sense of timing. Your Act 1 doesn’t necessarily have to finish at precisely 25%, but if it finishes at 72% it’s a good indication that your pacing is off (or your story needs to be a lot longer.)

Some writers find the concept of structure constricting, but for me it was liberating. I would often find myself with cool characters in an interesting scenario, and then sit there wondering what should happen next. Keeping the Beat Sheet at the back of my mind helps me realise what HAS to happen next. It provides a natural progression for the story.

Snyder’s 15 point Beat Sheet can be found here: http://www.blakesnyder.com/tools/

The blog section of the site also provides some fascinating breakdowns of films, which are well worth a look. Once you know it’s there, you start seeing this structural skeleton everywhere–it’s like having X-ray Vision.

I use a 12 point adaptation of the Beat Sheet, and it’s served me very well–even for very short stories. To show a working example, my dark fantasy Never Leave Me, recently published at Daily Science Fiction (free to read here: http://dailysciencefiction.com/fantasy/magic-and-wizardry/michelle-ann-king/never-leave-me) is only 1,280 words long–but the Beats are still there:

Act 1
Normal World: MC’s current struggles, in their current environment.

The opening paragraph is a reference to fairy tales, both to set the tone for the story and to introduce Katrine’s problem: the reality of her ‘happy ever after’ hasn’t matched her expectations.

Inciting Incident: An event caused by the Antagonist that changes the situation.
The Antagonist here is Aron–even though he doesn’t know it. He provides opposition by not being the kind of husband Katrine really wants. He sets things in motion by going hunting and leaving her behind.

The Challenge: MC debates what this means & what to do about it.
Katrine makes Aron swear not to leave, but it’s not enough–she’s not satisfied. She wants to guarantee it.

Act 2.1
Start the Revolution: MC takes action towards achieving their goal.

Katrine goes to the village witch for help.

Reactions & Progress: MC learns info, gains skills, discovers problems.
Katrine learns that the spell she wants does exist, but the witch won’t perform it for her.

Midpoint of No Return: A game-changer, risk or revelation that raises the stakes.
Katrine kills the witch and takes her magic.

Act 2.2
Setbacks & Complications: Antagonist fights back, MC is demoralised.

Aron is horrified by what she’s done. Their relationship sours.

All Is Lost: Defeat. The Goal looks lost.
The marriage breaks down completely: Aron no longer loves her and Katrine no longer wants him to stay–but the spell keeps them together.
Bonus Whiff of Death: an image of rotting fruit.

Dark Night of the Soul: Emotional reaction to the All Is Lost moment.
Demonstrating the flexibility available to a short story, the whole beat here is contained in a single line: Katrine wept, and he did not comfort her.

Act 3
The Comeback: MC decides to give it a final go.
Katrine tries to break the spell.

Final Battle: MC fights the Antagonist.
Unable to loosen the magical binding, Katrine attacks Aron and kills him.

New World: MC in their new situation.
In Never Leave Me, this beat is not actually on the page. It’s still in the story, but it takes place totally in the reader’s mind–which is probably why people have found it so haunting. As is so often the case, the scariest monsters are the ones you don’t describe.

Michelle Ann King writes SF, dark fantasy and horror from her kitchen table in Essex, England. Her stories have appeared in various venues, including Daily Science Fiction, Penumbra Magazine, and Untied Shoelaces of the Mind.
She has worked as a mortgage underwriter, supermarket cashier, makeup artist, tarot reader and insurance claims handler before having the good fortune to be able to write full-time. Find details of her stories and books at http://www.transientcactus.co.uk

Making The Sacrifice

For the last couple of months we’ve been talking a lot about disturbances in your writing, from writer’s block to family to repetitive strain injury. It’s important to develop strategies for dealing with each of these obstacles, but in the end it all boils down to one thing: making sacrifices.

Today we are blessed that we can do just about anything we want with our time. We have literally millions of options. We can read or watch anything almost instantly with the internet. We can communicate instantly. We can also do everything that came before the internet: go for a bike ride, travel, garden, socialize at the local pub.

With so many options, everyone’s always busy. We fill up our time without thinking about it and forget to leave time for ourselves. We forget to make time for our craft. We get caught up in everything else the world has to offer and we forget the most important things.

It’s fun to party all the time or to spend all your time after work lounging in front of the TV. Even better, it’s easy. But if you want to turn this writing thing into your career someday, you have to make sacrifices. You have to turn the TV off. You have to close your browser. You have to say no to that party or at least go home early.

Making these sacrifices is hard at first, but it gets easier all the time, and without making the sacrifices, you’ll never become a career writer. If you can’t make the sacrifices, maybe this business isn’t for you. Perhaps writing is just an emotional outlet for you or a hobby. That’s fine. Just remember not to treat it like a hobby when you’re trying to turn it into a career.

To be good at anything, you need to practice. To practice, you need time. To create time, you need to make sacrifices. So make a commitment to your writing and make the sacrifice. You’ll know it’s worth it when you have that first publishing contract.

The Writer’s Poison

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Today’s post is a guest post written by one Joelle Fraser. Please give her a warm welcome.

Last month, I became a published author for the second time. You’d think I’d feel successful, wouldn’t you? I have two books with prestigious houses, both of which received excellent national reviews; I’ve been anthologized and gotten awards, been flown by Random House on book tours and chauffeured around by media escorts, been interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air.

And yet, like every other writer in the world, I can name a thousand others who’ve achieved more. Much, much more—whether it’s money, fame, acclaim, awards, or a combination thereof, there’s always someone who leaves you in the dust.

Success, I learned with my first book, The Territory of Men, is a moving target that can cripple you with frustration. One day, for example, 75 people would come to a reading; the next week, in another town, eight might dribble in. I’d open my email one morning to find a great review in The Washington Post or USA Today, and an invitation to teach at a prominent conference. Then my inbox was empty for a month.

The longer your book is out, the more sporadic the attention; if you don’t publish another, it can fade away altogether, like a photograph of a fabulous event no one remembers.

Two years after my first book, I started a family, and for a long while, stopped writing. Meanwhile others continued to revel in success! For years, every Sunday morning I’d sit with my empty notebook while reading the steady cascade of achievement in The New York Times Book Review.

When my marriage fell apart, and I lost half custody of my son, I moved to an isolated cabin in the Sierras. For the next year I healed by walking in the wilderness and writing words on the page. Those pages became my next memoir, The Forest House. While I loved writing the book, I wasn’t looking forward to the publication process, and all the stress over whether it would succeed.

What helped was my peer, Alison Singh Gee, whose lovely memoir, Where the Peacocks Sing, came out at the same time. Even though we were ostensibly competitors, we were also friends who had much in common: we both teach college writing and are mothers of one young child. We even blurbed each others’ books. As reviews came in we’d “like” the links on each others’ FB pages; and we’d comment on the gleaming photos of our book covers. During our book tours we’d post promotional blogs about our respective events.

Yet over the months, we emailed and called each other privately. I knew her worry, understood her hopes and disappointment, and she knew mine. We’d both taken those long drives to bookstores on school nights—all the while wondering if more than a handful of readers would show up—and felt the same weight of the piles of ungraded papers and mounting chores waiting at home.

I shared the disillusionment that comes from watching your Amazon sales rank ebb and flow, then ebb again. I’d also tasted the same bittersweetness of the mixed review.

It was as if this time, with Alison, I had a constant reality check. She helped me see through the smoke and mirrors of the author’s “glamorous” life.

Like travelers on an escalator we’d wave to each other as we moved up and down the fickle ladder of success. We both know there’s a place you have to reach—no matter what stage you’re at as a writer—where you feel that someone else’s success is your success. If you can get there, it’s a wonderful, liberating place to be—and from it your own work will soar.

And so when Alison’s book was praised in Entertainment Weekly and People Magazine, I was happy for her; and when I was asked to do a guest blog for The Huffington Post, she cheered for me.

What I’ve learned over the past decade is that envy can poison your creativity—it’ll stain your writing like blood spilled across a page. It implies not only deprivation—something is missing in our world—but someone else has what we don’t. Looked at so simply it’s not hard to imagine envy has its roots in childhood. My son is in the first grade, and I’ve seen the raw expression of envy in children’s faces: I want what you have—give it to me!

The ultimate antidote for envy, which comes from our basest selves, is gratitude—which comes from our highest.
For it’s only from a place of plenty that we have something to give. And that’s what writing is, in the end—a gift, one we have and one we give to others.

No, it’s not an easy solution. Like any good habit, gratitude takes work. I have to remind myself to do it, and then it’s often grudgingly at first. So I’m grateful to the writers who write such wonderful stories and poems and articles, who’ve enriched my world with a lifetime of pleasure and enlightenment.

I’m grateful to my friends like Alison who remind me that I’m not alone, that my best is good enough, and that most of all, the words I write are worth it.

Bio: Joelle Fraser is the author of the memoirs The Territory of Men (Random House 2003) and The Forest House (2013). A MacDowell Fellow, she has an MFA from the University of Iowa. She teaches writing and lives in northeast California with her son. Find her at http://www.joellefraser.com.

You can purchase a copy of The Forest House here.

Dealing with Repetitive Strain Injury

I made this item the last on my list because it is the most difficult to deal with. While everything else can get in the way of your writing, most things won’t stop you dead in your tracks the way RSI does.

I’ve had RSI for about five years now. It gets better, then it gets worse. Sometimes it’s better for an hour, then it gets worse. Sometimes it gets better for a couple of months before it gets worse. Sometimes it gets consistently worse every day for a long time before slowly getting better. It never completely goes away.

Saying no to an extra assignment or night on the pub is challenging, but it gets easier. It’s also a good exercise as once you’re a full time writer, you’ll need to constantly defend your time against people who don’t understand that you’re still doing a job.

Writing through tears is much, much harder and isn’t any good for you when the tears are caused by repetitive strain injury. In fact, unless you have a do-or-die deadline in the morning, it’s probably a good idea to stop when you feel pain, especially if it’s a sharp pain.

If you have repetitive strain injury, your focus should be on preventing pain rather than working through it. If you don’t, you should be taking preventative measures anyway. Doing a few simple things can stop RSI from developing or getting worse. Ergonomic furniture and hand rests are great but can be expensive. I’ve created a list of simple preventative measures you can take with even the tiniest budget. Investing in your health is important, but these are things you can do when you just don’t have the money.

Preventative Measures

Stretch before writing. There are simple arm and wrist stretches you can do before and after you start writing that will keep the pain away. There’s even a website called Desktop Yoga that will give you a visual walk through of these exercises.

If you’re already suffering from RSI, it’s probably a good idea to also do these stretches when you first wake up and before you go to bed.

Take breaks. It’s a good idea to take a ten minute break every hour or two. Get up and make yourself a cup of tea. Stretch out your wrists. Go for a walk. Whatever you do, get away from your computer for a few minutes. Your wrists–and your eyes–will thank you. Those breaks might be enough to keep the pain away and ensure that you can keep working in the long run, so don’t feel guilty about taking a couple minutes away from your work.

You should also take a break the moment you start to feel pain and stretch your arms and wrists out. Often that will stop the pain from getting worse or eliminate it entirely. This is especially important if you already have RSI.

Buy a brace or tenser bandage. If you buy the latter, make sure you know how to wrap it properly. Keep one of these on hand and put them on any time you start to feel pain–and take one of those breaks I mentioned above. Stretch your arms and wrists when you take the brace/tenser bandage off, before you start writing.

Adjust your sitting and sleeping. You might not be able to get ergonomic furniture, but perhaps you could try working on the floor or in a different chair. You could try using pillows as wrist supports. Try different spots in your house until you find a way that you can work comfortably, pain free. If you can’t find or make one at home with your resources, check out your local library or coffee shop and see if you’re more comfortable there.

And if you do feel the pain: stretch it, ice it, rest it. If your pain lasts a long time or is recurring, go to a doctor and see if they can do anything to help you. They might not be able to do much, but it’s worth a shot.

The reality is that we’re all human, and human bodies aren’t indestructible. In fact, they’re quite fragile. These things might not seem important right now, but once you’re in pain you’ll wish you’d taken more preventative measures. And if you have RSI, you’ll need to take more breaks and every once in a while you’ll probably have days where you can’t work at all, but if you take care of yourself you’ll be able to write more often than not.

So make a point of scheduling breaks and memorizing these stretches. Your wrists will thank you.