How Writers can Manage Lower Back Pain

Every coffee shop has one: the guy standing at the bar with his laptop. He’s parked his stool right next to the neighboring one ensuring neither seat can be used. The baristas try to wash their dishes without staring at him, but how can they not when he’s leering at eye level? Anyone stuck sitting on one side of him mistakes him for someone approaching with a question, because he’s looming over them like a boss with new instructions. Every so often he pushes away from the bar to grab his foot and stretch his hamstring. He’s that guy.

If he could he’d put his heel right up on the bar, grip the neighboring chairs, and do squats. It’s not his fault you don’t respect his extreme posture culture.

If there’s no room at the bar he just moseys over to a two seater and puts a chair right on the table. This makeshift MacGuyver isn’t too proud to make himself at home. He’s in the middle of a screenwriting sprint, he’s composing his master’s thesis, and marathon coding for 8 hours straight.

I’ve scoffed at this guy, with his ergonomic keyboard, his arthritis glove, and magic wristband that tells him when to move around. What a spinally mindful millennial. What a abdominal oblique elite. What a nerve savvy yuppie.

I am currently typing this from a slapdash desk made from an ironing board, a stack of books, and my laptop. I’m doing this because that standing room dick was right.

My back has gone out in a way where changing the cat litter involves tapping the scooper to a broom handle, in a way where I’m seriously considering the logistics of sleeping standing, in a way where things at the bottom of the refrigerator are lost to me.

Last night limping through the grocery store to pick up some Bayer was a Herculean challenge. Today I crawled out of bed, literally.

I’d like to say this condition came from a feat of strength gone wrong like pushing two separate cars out of the snow, helping someone carry their prize anvil collection into a fifth floor apartment, or bench pressing a picnic table filled with attractive people, but I’m pretty sure bad posture is my major trigger. Sure I’ve had a few spills this winter and I’ve lifted a few weights without taking the time to stretch, but of all the things attacking my lower back I think my couch was the biggest culprit.

You know you’re a writer when chronic lower back pain is a hazard of your line of work.

I’m in such chronic pain that I didn’t believe I could deliver a blog entry this week. When your nerves keep sending you the same pain signal it’s hard to get inspiration to flow. Then I thought: what if I wrote a quick blurb on lower back pain? I’ve spent the last few days learning how to manage it and how to prevent it in the future, and since we writers spend so much time hunched over in 45 degree angels, it’s something we should talk about.  Continue reading How Writers can Manage Lower Back Pain

The Art of Power Slacking

Work has the power to emotionally exhaust everyone. Customers, clients, and coworkers can drain us faster than iPhones with Location Services turned on. Artists are at a higher risk of burnout, because the moment our shifts end we punch into our creative vocation. If you’re a writer it doesn’t matter how much copy you wrote while you were on the clock. When you get home you have to put another 2,000 words. Everyday is a double shift.

This leaves us with even less time to reach total zen.

When it comes to distractions we have an embarrassment of riches. We don’t know how to spend our time off, so we spend it debating; what to watch, where to go, who to hangout with. We over schedule and no matter what we end up doing we feel like we’re missing out on something. Even when we stay in we feel like we’re losing out on the best possible lounging.  Continue reading The Art of Power Slacking

When Perfectionism Goes Wrong

Visualize that perfect novel you’ve always wanted to write. See the simple yet elegant design. It’s covered in medals like a four star general’s chest: the Newbery Medal, the Noble Prize for Literature, and the coveted Oprah’s book club sticker. Feel your name bulging from the dust jacket, feel the perfect stitching in the binding, and the deckled edges of pages.

Flip the book over and see your flawless portrait filling out the back. You look so well read, charming, and confidant, nothing like a fraud at all. Crack the book open, see the inside flaps littered with endorsements from authors you’d wet yourself upon meeting.

Within this book’s pages are the most profound prose you could pry from your soul. It’s your personal philosophy laundered into a story. Your life experience is spread throughout its contents. Every least comma represents a broken shard of your heart. Your every skeleton is laid out between its lines.

Readers will think of their lives in terms of who they were before reading this novel and who they became afterward. They will carry it with them like a bible. They’ll quote it in arguments. They’ll page through it in moments of quiet desperation.

Hold this novel out in front of you like an offering to the Heavens. Now drop it and kick it like a football. Watch it go over the horizon. Accept that this false ideal will never happen. Continue reading When Perfectionism Goes Wrong

How to Tighten Up Your Dialogue

When I’m writing a novel my train of thought needs to stay on track. If I loop around to edit I run out of steam. So I keep shoveling coal into the engine and words onto the page. Sometimes there’s nothing but rails all the way up the horizon. Sometimes curves in the mountains keep me from seeing where I’m going. Some routes are ideal while others are just serviceable.

The process forces me to wear many hats. I’m both the conductor and the stoker, tasked with staying on schedule and fueling the creative process. If I overthink the path the crankshaft screeches to a halt. So I keep chugging along until the first draft is done. No sense in letting writer’s block derail me.

When I write dialogue I get a sense of where the scene needs to go and let my cast say the first things that come to mind. I let their upbringings, attitudes, and professions dictate their speech patterns. For the characters I pick up along the way I try to find their voices while writing. I’m not too worried if I can’t on my first try because all writing is rewriting and I know I’ll be back this way again.

These are the most important lessons I’ve learned while tightening up dialogue for the second draft. Continue reading How to Tighten Up Your Dialogue