In honor of November’s National Novel Writing Month, we salute the writers, the novelists, the next Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, or Dan Brown.
Writing takes talent, research, muse, and sometimes a bit of luck. But if you have all four of those elements, adding in a sprinkle of ergonomic best practices can help elevate any novelist to the next level.
Setting the Tone
The first step toward the next great American novel is the tone set by the writer, for the writer. Of course, the tone in the novel itself is critical as well, but before you can attend to that, you must set the tone and control your writing environment. Six tips to do so:
- To organize your thoughts, stage your area with the research you need and the necessary notes.
- Adjust the room temperature to your liking.
- Consider musical inspiration that is conducive to your writing (or, if you prefer silence, set it up as golden).
- Prepare to hydrate and feed your brain with plenty of water and nutrient-rich foods that will nourish you without distracting you.
- Find inspiration by selecting something to focus your attention on when you need to pause and gather your thoughts: flowers, rocks, shells, photos . . .
- Commit: Set a time and amount of time for daily writing. Set the timer so you can stay the course. Though writing is a creative process, organizing and structuring it releases your mind from worrying about those details and frees you up for creativity.
Some writers work in an office or library; other prefer to work in nature or in a Starbucks. Regardless of your choice, prepare the tools of your trade and always consider tools that are kind to your health and well-being. For example:
- A laptop: more transportable than a desktop computer, a laptop is a must for any writer who plans on crafting away from the office or home.
- A monitor: in addition to a laptop, having a stationary monitor at your main writing desk is being kind to your neck.
- A monitor arm: additional optimization of height placement is added TLC for your neck (after all, you neck holds your head and your head holds your novel!)
- A keyboard and mouse: also for when you are at your desk, peripherals will improve your posture (see below). Always set the speed of your mouse to the faster options to minimize required mouse movements. You can find this setting under your system preferences.
- A footrest: keep your feet flat and supported with a footrest that is between 2-6 inches if your desk is 29” and you are 5’7” or shorter.
- A document holder: give your neck a needed (and deserved) break by positioning any research notes at an easy to read angle. This will raise the angle of your neck and allow you to relax those neck muscles.
In addition to empowering yourself with the right tools, there are some tricks to keep in mind. These practices are easy to implement and have great effect on your health and stress levels.
- If your wrists rest on the edge of your desk, raise your chair, get your feet propped, or lower your desk. A keyboard tray is also a good option, as long as you make sure there’s enough room for both your keyboard and mouse.
- If you have a lot of writing to do, some easy exercises will help: shake out your hands, clasp your hands together and reach out in front of you for a good stretch. Then get back to creativity.
- If you invest in a fully adjustable chair, make sure you are using it well. Lock in the back tilt angle for upright back support and ensure that the seat cushion has 2-4 fingers between back of knees and front edge of seat.
- Try standing sometimes. If you have a sit/stand desk, alternate between those options. If not, set yourself up to stand for a chapter or two per day. When you stand you access the most creative part of your brain.
- Vary your work area: try writing from the couch, the desk, a coffee shop, your kitchen counter, or on a porch.
- Take breaks. Try placing your printer in another room to force yourself to get up from time to time.
Probably the most effective change you can make (and possibly also the easiest) is to your posture. Remember these 3 pointers:
- Sit so that your knees are level with your hips and your elbows are level with your wrists.
- Your shoulders should be rested naturally; your neck and head upright and supported.
- Exercises are essential: do shoulder circles (5 forward, then 5 back), and neck circles, and always remember to breathe!
Be Healthy; Be Inspired
Setting yourself up with the tone, the tools, the tricks, and the posture will do wonders for your physical and mental health. And, when you feel well, you will write well. Writing a novel is a journey; these best practices will empower you to make that journey a comfortable, healthy, and enjoyable one.
For more information about optimizing your workstation, read this post.
Happy National Novel Writing Month! May your writing always be inspired and inspiring.
About Karen Burke
Karen is the founder and president of Kare Products, specializing in active ergonomic solutions. She has 30 years experience in ergonomic product design and consulting.