Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Writing Healthy

 Where have I been lately?

Well, three rounds of physical therapy in less than 12 months and the pain associated with the problem ate up a lot of time and energy. On the bright side, the third time was a charm. The” last resort” physical therapist watched me walk and immediately diagnosed the problem.

My gait was flawed. 

Now to look at me, you would never guess any of this. I didn’t limp or anything. And two medical doctors and two physical therapists who worked with me missed it. Their consensus opinion pointed to my IT band being inflamed. 

Yeah, like I’m a runner. 

Anyway, I was lucky and someone told me about a nontraditional type of physical therapy. One visit with someone who specializes in whole body movement and I was on the road to recovery. I learned that my off kilter walking stressed my right side, which torqued my back, which then sent burning nerve signals to my left leg. 

Weird, right?

What Was Happening?

My right side was doing all the work, pulling my left side along. Not that anyone except this guy noticed. So, how is that fixed? No more meds, no surgery, just retraining my body to walk correctly. 

Walk correctly? At my age? Yep. 

Because once you start walking incorrectly, your brain stops connecting with those muscles and telling them to work. The fix was simple–exercises to re-educate the brain-to-nerve-to-muscle function of the whole left side of my body. More exercises to strengthen the muscles to do their job.

Where am I going with this for writers? Well, I had spinal fusion surgery over ten years ago because my back went all wonky. Many many years of sitting at the typewriter (yes long ago in another galaxy there were typewriters) and then sitting at the computer contributed to my back problems. At some point after the surgery, I started walking incorrectly.

Writing and Movement

Writers tend to block out our surroundings while we write about our make believe worlds. Tapping away at a computer precludes moving around for most of us. Who wants to leave the story in the middle of a riveting scene? 

Oh my, hours have disappeared–but look, those tricky middle of the book scenes have all but written themselves. 

Of course, you haven’t moved anything except your hands for the past five hours.

We’ve all been there, done that. But writers need to insure their daily routine contains more than hitting a word quota. Taking time to exercise each day isn’t time wasted. First of all, it helps to keep your body healthy and extends your writing life. Second, you can use that time to give your brain a chance to hash out plot points, conflicts, or motivations of your characters. 

While writing, remember to take periodic breaks. Stand, stretch, or go fix a cup of tea. Our body’s musculature and skeletal systems need to move. It’s part of being a healthy human.

If you get too caught up in the story to remember to move, set a timer in another room to remind yourself. Make sure it’s loud and annoying so it forces you to get up and turn it off.

Protecting your body from writing ills now will ensure you avoid doctors and physical therapists in the future. Leaving you more pain free time to write. It’s a win win.