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Ergonomics and the Freelance Writer – I Should Know Better

ergonomics and the freelance writerI started writing professionally in my early 30s. I acquired my first computer before I was 35. I’m guessing I was around 45 years old when I first discovered how important ergonomics could be to a freelance writer.

I was working for Hewlett-Packard in Silicon Valley as contractor writer when I actually got fitted ergonomically at my desk. They had a professional come around and measure me and watch me as I typed. Before long I had a different chair – one with arms and that I could adjust in height. She also adjusted the height of my monitor.

I was surprised how those few simple adjustments meant I could spend much longer at my desk. We were just beginning to understand that people ought to move away from their desks every hour or so for a few minutes and maybe do some stretching. The idea of the standing desk was still decades away.

Mostly I’ve paid attention to ergonomics and the freelance writer

That lesson about ergonomics and the freelance writer stayed with me for the most part. There are times when I get careless and find myself slouching. I’m of an age now where when I failed to sit properly I start to ache pretty quickly.

Currently I use a kneeling chair and I have a pair of articulating armrests. Somehow, however, in the last few months I’ve gotten very careless. I don’t have an explanation about why, but I’ve let uncomfortable sitting and uncomfortable arm use ride into live almost crippled myself.

I should know better. I do know better! How and why we get into occasional self sabotage is beyond me.

Somehow between my poor sitting habits and less than stellar exercise programs, I developed some sort of kink in my shoulder. It got really painful. My chiropractor initially helped some, but it wasn’t until I went back and complained that he realized he needed to investigate more.

Investing in change

In the meantime I spent a considerable amount of time adjusting my chair and finding a better way to set up the armrests so that while I’m typing I can can sit up straight rather than slouch. I already had an ergonomic keyboard and I added a vertical mouse which leaves my hand in a more natural position. Currently I have both mice on the desk and alternate as I get used to the new one. I also took considerable time off, away from the computer which also helped. Although the shoulder eased some, it seemed every time I reached over my head or behind me I’d tweak it again. I never knew how often I reached up and back!

Finally I went back to the chiropractor and told him I was miserable. He did some range of motion work to figure out exactly what was going on, then popped my shoulder in a certain way and the relief was immediate. That was yesterday and today my shoulder is still better although feeling bruised.

He gave me a set of exercises to do with an exercise band and this morning I started on those.

I’m also using Dragon Naturally Speaking more even though parts of the program drive me bonkers. I’m gradually learning to write by talking and dictating to my computer rather than typing. It helps.

In other words I’ve gone back to taking good physical care of myself.

I wish I could promise you I would never let my ergonomics or my posture slip again, but I suspect that would be a lie. I have hurt enough this time to make some significant changes and once I get a longer cord for my monitor I’ll be able to go back to using the standing desk part-time.

The take away? You know what it is. Don’t ignore your body. Sitting isn’t good for us call; slouching is even worse. What works when we were teenagers quits working pretty quickly after we reached so-called adulthood.

The information we need to stay healthy is out there. All you need to do is take advantage of it. I encourage you to do so.

How do you take care of yourself physically?

Write well and often,





{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Found this post while searching about kneeling chairs in the home office. Been doing a lot of research on them and looks like you had a good experience with one. Hope all the other things you’ve tried at helping too!

    • John, I still use everything except Dragon… and I pay more attention… Dragon, while certainly better than it used to be, is still a bit cumbersome imo and I let it go as I began to feel better. I like my kneeling chair still, although it’s getting time to replace it.

  • Sue Chehrenegar

    One time a client paid me for a series of articles about ergonomics, as it relates to both the position of an office worker and the repeptive motions made by a professional sports player (or even an amateur player).

  • Ergonomics is really important for freelance writers and for all people who spend a lot of time in front of the computer. I try to have breaks every hour so that I won’t hurt my back and shoulders and most of the time I feel ok but not always. Great post Anne!
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  • Linda Rosencrance

    But throughout the article you say economics a number of times.

  • Hi Anne,

    I may be wrong here, but I think the headline for this post should use the word ‘ergonomics’ not ‘economics’. But the article itself is a helpful reminder about ergonomics and I enjoyed it.


    • darn, Matthew, you’re absolutely right… which is why I’m not a proof reader. Thanks… (blushing)

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