Self Care for Writers


Please gift these general tips to your friends and family members that write in your life. If you are that person … consider these self-care suggestions.

“Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I vow to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.”  –Thich Nhat Hanh

Even a writer with mindful and loving kind actions can experience an innocuous task such as writing that can come with it’s share of risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Force, awkward postures, repetition and duration can all be associated with putting a pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. So for the writer who puts words down for a living … the best way to try to prevent a writing-related MSD is to minimize the impact of writing.

Adjust the placement of what is being written on, carefully select the shape and style of your pen, have the right chair, the right monitor height, the correct mouse and consider changing tasks or taking short breaks periodically.

More affordably … it could be that your desk or computer work station is not set up correctly for your stature and you are forced to constantly reach around your keyboard or desk. Simply altering your writing desk or workstation to fit your physical needs may be just the way to help prevent writing-related MSDs.

OSHA has a four-pronged comprehensive approach to ergonomics designed to quickly address musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that is worth a read.

Make your Space a Safe and Supportive Place for Writing

Step One:  Take the time to Properly Adjust Your Chair

Push your hips as far back as they can go in your chair.

Adjust the seat height so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are equal to … or slightly lower than your hips.

Adjust the back of your chair to about 100°-110° reclined angle. Make sure both your upper and lower back are supported. Use inflatable cushions or small pillows if necessary. If you have an active back mechanism on your chair, use it.

Adjust the armrests so that your shoulders are relaxed. If your armrests are in the way of this goal, remove them.

Step Two: Adjust Your Keyboard or Writing Desk

An adjustable keyboard tray can provide a more comfortable positioning of your keyboard and mouse. However … make sure that you still have enough leg clearance and the tray should not push you too far away from your desk that you have to stretch to get research materials or your telephone. If you don’t have a fully adjustable keyboard tray, adjust your workstation height or height of your chair or use a seat cushion to get in a comfortable position.

Start by pulling up close to your keyboard with the keyboard positioned directly in front of your body, adjusting keyboard height so that your shoulders are relaxed.

Keep your elbows in a slightly open position with wrists straight.

Tilt your keyboard to match your sitting position. Use the keyboard tray mechanism, or more simply the keyboard feet, to adjust keyboard tilt so that it is comfortable. If you sit in a forward or upright position, try tilting your keyboard away from you at a negative angle. If you are reclined, a slight positive tilt will help maintain a straight wrist position.

Wrist-rests help maintain neutral postures and pad hard surfaces. However, the wrist-rest should only be used to rest the palms of the hands between keystrokes. Don’t rest on the wrist-rest while typing.

Place your mouse as close as possible to your keyboard.

Step Three: Properly position your Monitor or Documents

Incorrect positioning of the screen and source documents can result in awkward postures. Adjust the monitor and source documents so that your neck is in a neutral and relaxed position.

Center the monitor directly in front of you above your keyboard.

Position the top of the monitor approximately 2-3” above seated eye level. (If you wear bifocals, lower the monitor to a comfortable reading level.)

Sit at least an arm’s length away from the screen and then adjust the distance for your vision.

Reduce glare by careful positioning of the screen.

Place screen at right angles to windows

Adjust curtains or blinds as needed

Adjust the vertical screen angle and screen controls to minimize glare from overhead lights

Other techniques to reduce glare include use of optical glass glare filters, light filters, or secondary task lights

Position source documents directly in front of you, between the monitor and the keyboard, using an in-line copy stand. If there is insufficient space, place source documents on a document holder positioned adjacent to the monitor.

Place your telephone within easy reach. Telephone stands or arms can help.

Use headsets and speaker phone to eliminate cradling the handset.

Step Four
: Be sure to Take breaks when Writing

Correctly and mindfully setting up your computer work station or writing desk area is a gran start however, no matter how perfect your environment is … prolonged, static postures at the keyboard or with pen in hand will inhibit blood circulation and has the potential to take it’s toll on your body … decreasing your effectiveness as a writer.

Take short one to two minute stretch breaks every twenty to thirty minutes. After each hour of work, take a break or change tasks for at least five to ten minutes. Always try to get away from your computer during lunch breaks.

Avoid eye fatigue by resting and refocusing your eyes periodically. Look away from the monitor and focus on something in the distance or rest your eyes by covering them with your palms for fifteen seconds. Or take an extra few minutes and practice Yoga for Your Eyes.

Use correct posture when working. Keep moving as much as possible.

And finally … please remember to RELAX your feet flat on the floor beneath you. Use a foot stool if you have short legs.

Take special note of our series of exercises called Yoga for the Keyboard … a good place to start.

Reprinted from

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