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How dangerous is the life of a technical writer?

Sitting in front of the computer day in, day out. Sounds pretty boring and harmless, right?

Think again.

The Content Wrangler has an interesting article about the health complications that can arise from a lack of balance between work and exercise. The article’s author, Martha Tucker, discusses what happened when she was working on her novel, The Mayor’s Wife Wore Sapphires:

Most writers have dangerous issues they pay little or no attention to until it’s too late–their health! And yet, health can be more of a problem than writer’s block, complications of concentration, writing anxiety, daily output frustration and editor angst. What I’m talking about is sitting-related diseases.

Martha Tucker discusses some simple remedies such as regularly getting up and moving away from your desk to combat the problem of “falling apart”.

This might seem banal, or even silly to some people, but I do think that with all the sitting we do in front of computers in our highly technological world we need to heed her words. You might be developing into a variant of the couch potato – the desk potato!

Each hour you sit at your computer causes another part of the body to break down, atrophy, cells to die, muscles to sag. Those are just the results you can see. The body was wired to move. When it doesn’t move it rusts inside, and rust (oxidation) causes health problems. As simple as that.

Moving about will actually help with your writing. You can combat all the negative effects of sitting in your chair for hours at a time. Less locking of neck muscles. Less fluid retention in the ankles. Less of the bad stuff, and more of the good stuff!

Remember: I am not a doctor! I just found what I think is an interesting article that gets an important message across very simply, and I want to share it with you. Pass the message along to someone you care for.

PS The article was posted on The Content Wrangler nearly one month ago. I simply missed it in my RSS feed from that site. I also happen to subscribe to the TCW newsletter, and I discovered this article when it was mentioned in this month’s newsletter, which just dropped into my mailbox. Tom Johnson recently asked whether newsletters were dead. Well, here is your answer, Tom. Newsletters are backups for the slowpokes!

And now to go stretch.


  1. Tom Johnson
    Tom Johnson 30 April 2007

    I agree that newsletters can be useful to remind readers of your latest posts. I guess I shouldn’t have dismissed them altogether. I am still getting around to implementing a newsletter system for, which badly needs one. Few visit the blog, and I want to send out a weekly update of all the latest posts. Unfortunately Feedblitz charges if you want to send out weekly (rather than daily) updates. And Feedburner only offers daily updates. The Shift This newsletter plugin looks powerful, but costs $10 or something.

  2. Dian Kjærgaard
    Dian Kjærgaard 4 December 2007

    Thanks very much for the link to the article. Nothing I didn’t know really, but it is all pulled together in a very handy way.

    I have found a tool – RSIGuard – to help to implement the advice about getting away from the computer about every hour and doing something physical. You can configure it entirely to your liking. At the moment, I get “forced” to take a stretch break about every hour – and take 6-second micro-breaks every half hour or so. The product includes video demonstrations of interesting stretches. I’ve been using RSIGuard for about a month and my body thanks me every day. RSIGuard costs $65 for the deluxe “stretch” edition – $40 without the stretch videos. RSIGuard website

    I tend to “obsess” when writing and fear losing insights if I take a break. Taking my stretch breaks also forces me to take mental breaks and start trusting myself to pick up the train(s) of thought after the break. That’s an extra bonus!

    PS – About newsletters: Yes, they are a great backup for those of us who get “behind”.

  3. Karen
    Karen 4 December 2007

    Thanks for stopping by, Dian, and thanks for the RSIGuard tip.

    I have a desk that can be raised or lowered with the push of a button. I sit in an open office space where others have the same thing, so when I see another desk raised, it reminds me to raise my desk. When I stand, I don’t stand still for the most part. I rock back and forth a bit or stretch my legs. For some reason, I find it really great for when I have to proofread. Maybe it’s because I get the blood flowing to my brain again?

  4. Dian Kjærgaard
    Dian Kjærgaard 5 December 2007

    Glad to hear you have a height-adjustable desk. It should be an inalienable right! I’ve been using them for many years – and would probably be crippled without them! There are also some really neat devices for sitting on that can keep the blood going when you’re not standing and rocking – but I haven’t played with them yet (except for a large exercise ball used as a chair).

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