Hurting Hands, Neck, or Shoulders? Ten Tips for Pain-Free Writing

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It’s the best feeling: being in the flow, seeing the scene unfold in my mind as my hands hurry to record the vision. Words pour onto the page until…

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Pain jerks me out of the zone with all the subtlety of a midnight fire alarm. Hand cramps—wrist ache—stiff shoulders—cricked neck…do any of these sound familiar?

I used to think that writing was all about my brain coming up with ideas, sculpting words into prose. Lately, I’ve had to admit that my brain can’t do its creating thing very well without my body’s cooperation. And when my body hurts, it refuses to cooperate!

Fortunately, there are some easy adjustments you can make that will decrease the physical strain of writing—so you can get back to creating.

Ergonomics-Graphic2Ergonomic Tips for Pain-Free Writing

1. Pay attention to your body.

If your body starts sending out pain signals when you write, don’t ignore them. Trust me: pain is a warning sign that something isn’t working. If you ignore those signs, they’ll probably worsen until you do pay attention. Ask yourself: Is there a single activity that makes your hands, wrists, forearms, shoulders, etc., hurt? What position are you in when it hurts? Can you adjust at all? Keep reading to find areas where you might be able to improve your body position.Continue Reading

Transmedia Storytelling Blog Series

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Transmedia StorytellingThis May and June, we’re taking a look at this “new” buzzword in the writing industry, transmedia storytelling–what it is, how it works, and how you can use  transmedia storytelling techniques to reach more readers and provide readers with a deeper, richer story experience. Posts will share plenty of examples, as well as ideas for ways to incorporate a bit of transmedia storytelling into your next writing project. As each post goes live, I’ll share the link here to help you navigate the entire series.

Please check out the articles in this blog series, share your thoughts, and join the conversation on how writers can leverage “transmedia” techniques to broaden our audiences and give our readers an unforgettable story experience!

Contents: Transmedia Storytelling Blog Series

The Myth of Simple

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I read recently that the brain tends to see everything as far more simple than it actually is.* It was remarkably refreshing to read that this is a problem common to humanity, since it’s one I struggle with all the time.

Take writing, for instance. I get an idea for a new book project, and as soon as I start brainstorming, ideas for characters, plot elements, and cool world concepts come flying fast and furious. I might even write a skeleton outline of the story structure in those magical first days when I know that the story is THE BEST IDEA I’VE EVER HAD and that WRITING IT WILL BE SIMPLE.

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Simple? Ha. Once I actually put pen to page (or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be) I have to face reality: The characters and scenes I thought I’d envisioned so clearly are no more substantial than mist. It’s one thing to have the idea, but quite another thing to bring that idea to life on the page.

I’m sure you’ve experienced this, too. It’s easy to forget, somehow, that the beautiful language, witty dialogue, and sparkling characters we want to create are the result of a hundred rewrites. This is the reason that Anne Lamont instructed writers to “write shitty first drafts” in her classic guide for writers, Bird by Bird. There’s always a gap between that first story vision and the first words you write. This is also the reason we practice things like freewriting and participate in challenges like NaNoWriMo, which help us learn to silence that inner critic long enough to get something—anything—down on the page. Once those first words are written, it always seems to be easier to see how they can be improved.

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Writing as an Act of Faith: A Case Study

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I have to admit, over the past year writing fiction has been much more difficult that previously. Months ago, I thought I was days away from finishing my novel—only I couldn’t quite seem to get those last few scenes written. I wasn’t sure exactly how they would play out, which made it extremely difficult to actually sit down and write.

However, I promised my son I would do NaNoWriMo with him this year—which means I am sitting down to write for an hour every day whether or not I feel like I have anything to say.

As a result, I’ve rediscovered a truth about writing that I’d managed to forget during this past year: Writing is an act of faith. If you sit down at the page—even if you feel like you have nothing to give—nearly every time, your Muse will produce something remarkable.

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Case in point: yesterday, I had a pen and notebook and was brainstorming a scene while waiting for a dentist appointment. I was early, so I knew I had some time, but I had ZERO inspiration. Nonetheless, I started writing:

Scene: in mine.

They go down the ramp and it’s all cool and exciting. Otto’s distracted; Elliot feels weird because he has the urge to shift. Maybe the SD is bearing down on Webb first and Elliot figures what the heck, if I have to shift, make it count… How do you write a good climax? Maybe the key is to have your theme pull it through—winning by conquering your inner demon blah blah blah.

At this point, I put down my pen, looked up at the ceiling, and said to myself, why am I bothering with this? I have nothing to give here. I’m writing worthless gobbledegook—what’s the point?

Because, another voice answered, writing is an act of faith. Every time you feel this way, if you just keep writing, you’re surprised at the result.

So, with a martyred sigh, I picked up my pen and kept writing whatever (stupid, I thought) words happened to come into my head.

1. Down ramp. 2. Seeing the mine. 3. Generator. 4….

And then—something shifted. I caught a snatch of conversation and the scene came alive in my head. My pen raced to capture the events I imagined unfolding.

“Oh, there’s something I should possibly have mentioned,” Otto says. “There might be some sort of Guardian down here.”

[He casts a spell to protect them from the approaching monster—an invisible sphere? Or maybe a wizard’s hedge like earlier]

“Where’s Webb?” Otto demands.

“He’s outside! You have to let him in!”

“I can’t,” he snaps. “Not without taking the entire thing down.”

And just like that, I had my answer to the scene problem. Okay, the prose isn’t beautiful, and the scene probably makes no sense whatsoever without context, but I’d been stuck there for quite some time with no idea how to get from Point A (the scene’s beginning) to Point B (the next planned event). Actually, I won’t be going to Point B because the writing process often takes you in unexpected directions, and in this case the unexpected direction is much better than the original plan.

Writing requires faith: faith that it’s worth it, faith to keep writing even when you’re sure you have nothing to say, and faith that the ugly prose that first hits the page will, someday and somehow, transform into a story worth telling. When I remember this, I keep writing.

What about you? Do you think writing requires a leap of faith?