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Butt In Chair: A Cautionary Tale

photo by Alice Popkorn [1]
photo by Alice Popkorn

This is not the way I planned to do this. My idea was to simply slink quietly away for a few months, then just as quietly return to my monthly posting. But the Blog Mama decided a different approach was in order, and so here I am, announcing that I will be taking a temporary leave of absence from Writer Unboxed. Talking about it like this feels a wee bit personal, like I am oversharing or burdening you with TMI. But perhaps, instead, it can be a cautionary tale that will help keep you from following down a similar path. Let’s call it that, shall we? Or else I’ll never be able to hit the post button…

The truth is, it has been an amazing three years since I first posted on WU. They have been richer and fuller and brought more exhilarating experiences than I could ever have imagined. But they have also been demanding and exhausting in ways I never anticipated. I have talked before about how, although I consider myself a prolific writer, the deadlines for the assassin trilogy have been hard for me. It has been one grueling deadline after another for the last three years. Coupled with the fact that I had been on deadline nearly continuously for the three years PRIOR to that as I juggled two middle grade series. And while all of that has been hard on my muse, it has been even harder on my physical self. The truth is, all that butt-in-chair has driven my body into the ground and I have a number of ergonomic issues that are demanding my attention. They go far beyond remembering to wear my wrist guards to bed and do a few sets of crunches each morning.

This is not something I’m proud of. It makes me feel weak and stupid—weak for my body not holding up under the demands I made of it, and stupid for not having foreseen this and headed it off.

I know there are many, many writers who struggle with ergonomic issues and other physical hardships daily and still manage to produce lots of words and great work. But apparently I am not one of those writers. And maybe, just maybe, that’s part of this whole acquiring wisdom thing—learning where one’s own limits are and how to accept them.

I also suspect it is more than simply ergonomics at this point.

I have never been a very physical or coordinated person and have always lived very much in my head. While this has worked very well for my writing career, it has been far less successful as a road map to physical vitality. And now my body is fed up with that arrangement and is insisting on its turn.

I have talked before about how writing requires little discipline from me because it is almost always my first choice activity. Next to spending time with those I love, I adore writing more than just about anything else on this earth and I’m not willing to let anything take that love of writing away—especially not physical pain.

The warm, wise, and brilliant Susan Elizabeth Phillips often says in her workshops that we writers must protect the work. Of course, that protection can take many forms: not showing it to someone too soon, not allowing our self-doubt to get the upper hand, not sharing it with overzealous critique partners. But for me, right now, protecting the work means not producing any words for a while and focusing solely on physical therapy and rehab and getting my body back to being a functioning entity. It means getting physically strong again so I don’t have to associate writing with pain. It means stepping back from the internet in a big way, FB, blogging, Tumblr, even just general research and reading, and living more fully in the physical world while my body recovers.

I suspect it will do my mind—and my muse—a world of good, as well.

What about you? What have been some of your greatest physical challenges about maintaining a regular writing schedule? What are some of the best ergonomic tips and strategies that you’ve employed?

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About Robin LaFevers [2]

Robin LaFevers [3] is the author of fourteen books for young readers, including the Theodosia [4] and Nathaniel Fludd [5] series. Her most recent book, GRAVE MERCY [6], is a young adult romance about assassin nuns in medieval France. A lifelong introvert, she currently lives on a blissfully quiet hill in Southern California.