Writing: the ergonomics and the aesthetics – Linn B. Halton

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By Linn B. Halton

As a full-time writer I’m working long days at the moment because my workload is exceptionally busy. I’m not complaining, in fact I’m extremely grateful to be busy and constantly count my blessings! But the downside is that sitting in one position for too long isn’t good for you and the risks are real – back pain, weight gain, RSI …♥

There have been days when I’ve been so firmly focused on the screen in front of me that I haven’t even noticed when the sun comes out, or when the rain begins to pour, until someone points it out. Snacking at my desk and fuelling myself with cups of strong coffee is all I need to keep me going but there is a price to pay and I paid it. Aches, pains and a few extra pounds … not in £££s but in fat!

There is so much information about ergonomics available online and I urge everyone who spends regular time sitting at a desk to read up on the subject. For me the main pointers that have significantly helped are:

1. Keep elbows bent at a ninety-degree angle.
2. Keep the forearms parallel with the floor. Wrists should be straight and shoulders relaxed. I don’t use a wrist support pad but some find it helpful. Never rest your wrists on the desktop while typing.
3. Have everything within easy reach on the desktop to avoid twisting the body.
4. The mouse should be next to the keyboard and when used keep the elbow bent and close to the body. I have small hands so I use a slim-line, low-profile mouse.
5. The monitor should be within arm’s length, the point at which you can most easily focus. Your eyes should be level with the tool bar.

My top tip:
Take a minute or two when you first sit down for a session to make sure everything is in the correct position. Be aware of what your body is telling you. If you aren’t totally comfortable, take that as a warning sign and do something about it.

It’s essential to get your seating position right if you want to avoid an aching back. Knees should be at a ninety-degree angle and if you use a chair it should support your lower back.

My top tip:
If you can’t find the right chair, try a typing stool – there are many on the market. I use a wooden one which came from a school science lab which has been cut-down to fit with the dimensions of my slide-out keyboard set up. The hollowing on the seat allows me to achieve the perfect, comfortable alignment. My lower back curves in and my shoulders go back and down a little. I haven’t had back ache since I began using it.

It’s easy to become so engrossed in what you are doing that before you know it several hours have passed. The good news is that means you probably have achieved the optimum ergonomically correct position for your body. If you haven’t then you’ll move because your body will start complaining!

But it’s bad in other ways and with muscle it’s true what they say – if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it!

Even the muscle activity associated with simply standing, or leisurely movement (going to make a cup of coffee for instance) will trigger important processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugar in the body.

My top tip:
I wear a Vivofit which alerts me when it’s time to move around by showing an increasing red line. Just a little walk around is enough to reset it but I also try to do two walks out in the fresh air, to hit 10,000 steps per day.

Walking is also useful planning time and I always take a pad and a pen. I can often be found leant up against a wall, scribbling away!

As a former interior designer, I’m very aware of the effect a well-designed surrounding can have on the mind. It sets the mood and lifts the spirits. Above all keep it clean and tidy so you don’t lose track of things, or begin to feel buried. It can be distracting to be surrounded by too many things, so think simple. Most writers end up surrounding themselves with lots of pieces of paper, so make room for the new chaos that comes with your work in progress.

And remember, you aren’t a mushroom, so good lighting is also another consideration. Whether you like your workspace to be prettied up with flowers, carefully organised work piles, or minimalist – pay attention so that it’s a space in which you can enjoy the hours you spend.

Please use this as a reminder to check you are doing everything you can to avoid unnecessary stresses and strains. All the guidance you need is just a click away. Click.

Happy writing!

Linn B. Halton is a hopeless romantic, self-confessed chocaholic and lover of strong coffee. “For me, life is all about family, friends and writing. At the weekend, I can be found either in the garden weeding, or with a paint brush in my hand – house renovation and upcycling furniture is another passion of mine!” With two new novels out this year by Harper Impulse, Christmas at Bay Tree Cottage is out now.


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