On the Edge

For weeks, my left arm throbbed, pain shooting down, leaving my forearm tingling and fingers numb. I was either going to die from the longest heart attack on record or from lack of sleep.

I did what any person in denial does – drank a huge margarita and pumped myself with Motrin each night. I also took a baby aspirin before bed, just in case it was indeed my heart. All those years of medical transcriptioning were finally coming in handy.

After tossing and turning in agony for far too long, I cried “uncle” and went to a masseuse with hands of a warrior. Those gladiators in 300 had nothing on her. She left bruises on my body and gave me pain worse than childbirth, but after 90 minutes on her table, she diagnosed my problem – writing.

Uh oh.

For the last month, I’ve been busier than ever. Each morning, I would sit at my laptop literally on the edge of my seat, mulling over my long, intense to-do list. I would write for a couple of hours before realizing I hadn’t sat fully back in my chair yet.

Just one more sentence… maybe one more. Another hour would go by, and I still hadn’t left my perch.

Then it dawned on me – I wasn’t just sitting on the edge, I was living on the edge, and my body was leading a revolt. It wanted to breathe.

I think your body should breathe too. Do it right now. Sit back in your chair and close your eyes, then inhale and exhale slowly ten times.

No cheating… shut your eyes and do it. Don’t make me come smack you aside the head, cause I will. You, over there… I see you not breathing!

1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… 7… 8… 9… 10

Look! The world didn’t come crashing down because you took a few moments to breathe. Imagine that.

Over the past week I’ve been consciously forcing myself to sit back in my seat. If I find I’m creeping forward, I stand up and stretch and take some deep breaths, then sit my ass all the way back in my chair.

The pain is dissipating… slowly, but it’s working. But more importantly, I’m listening to my body.

But I did just notice I crept closer to the edge. Damn, I need a seatbelt!

Maybe writers do need seatbelts to strap us down in the proper position. It might even keep our asses in our seats long enough to get more work done. I should market it and sell it to Staples. Wouldn’t it be funny if that were how I got my big break?

Pay attention to the signs your body gives you. It’s miraculous how it knows what you need. Your job is to get off the edge, sit back, listen, and breathe.

What are your tricks for keeping the aches and pains of writing at bay?

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4 thoughts on “On the Edge

  1. I’ve been wondering about your silence, Jeanne. Now I know, and I’m kicking myself because I should have emailed you. But see, I too have been strapped to my computer in a Finish-the-edits-or-else-bust mode. Well, last Monday I finished up but at a price. Having discovered the joys of a laptop a year ago I’d learned the art of leaning back on the couch while typing (truly a Godsend!) but my physical price was exhaustion. It’s amazing what writers, the dedicated workaholics we are, do in striving to reach our goals. That said, please be careful that your aches aren’t something that needs more medical care.

  2. Dear Marvelous Jeanne: I had to laugh reading this because I too have to remind myself not to sit on the edge of my seat whilst writing and to breathe deeply on a regular basis. It’s amusing to learn that there are others out there who do the same crazy stuff. I wonder what is is about word crafting that brings this tension to the work? Something for me to think about. Back to your question, for me what works is to get up and move around on a regular basis. I have a wall of windows (almost floor to ceiling) facing south in my living room, where my writing desk is. I often get up and walk over there to take in the beauty of my back fields and blueberry barrens. Frequently, there will be something from the animal world to observe and enjoy, which tethers me back to what’s important in life, appreciating the moment. Taking walks serve the same purpose and when I am lax about fitting them in, I suffer spiritually even more than physically. I love your idea of a standing writing desk, Jefferson used one and he was a prolific writer. I think when I can afford to get a laptop, I’ll get into carrying into my kitchen where I have an island that is the perfect height. Have fun and keep writing! XO, Sidney

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