The euphoria of last week has worn off a bit, but I’m still feeling good about feeling good. I’m really trying to do what I’m supposed to do to keep from getting a stiff neck again. But it’s so easy to fall back into bad habits.
When I get really focused on something I can stick with it for hours and not realize I have a problem until I feel my neck getting rigid. When it feels like that, I know it’s past time for a break.
This can happen to me when I’m in the kitchen standing in one place chopping or peeling for a long time, like preparing fruit for canning, or in the yard where I walk bent over weeding as I go.
But the computer is my greatest nemesis. I start off sitting correctly, but have a habit of scooting up and sitting on the edge of my seat, where my head then has to tilt back at an uncomfortable angle in order to see the monitor.
With the book deadlines of the past few years, I’ve spent long hours daily at the computer. When I wrote Crossings, I spent most of every day for a year working on it, and most of that time was at the computer.
When I had my first doctor’s appointment for a physical check-up after finishing it, my neck and shoulder area all across my upper back was hurting. My doctor––a woman who didn’t mince words––said that my head was tilted forward when I walked, making me look like an old woman. She had me take muscle relaxants and gave me a prescription for eight weeks of physical therapy. That did the trick. I straightened up in more ways than one.
But after a year or so, I quit doing the exercises. When I wrote The Crossings Guide, I put in just a few hours a day for a few months. So it was not nearly so stressful. By then, I thought my neck problems were no longer going to be such a problem.
Then last summer I allowed myself to be talked into doing the history of Florence while I was really busy with the co-chairmanship of the Florence Festival of Books. Between the two, I was putting in long hours every day for months. It was stressful, and I felt overwhelmed much of the time. Then after the Florence Festival of Books at the end of September, I kicked it up a notch and got up earlier and went to bed later and got the last eight chapters done in six weeks. On six of those chapters, I had the research done and the historic photos ready. The last two chapters had to do with the present. I had a couple of interviews done and some photos, but I needed much more of both. So I kicked it up another notch. I did the interviews and photos during the day and the writing until late each night.
I had given myself such a short deadline because the publisher said they needed four to six months to get a book together from the time I sent everything until it was in book form. Since I wanted it out in time for Rhody Days, which takes place the third weekend in May, I made the deadline mid-November. November 12 to be precise. I had the photos in and everything written by the 12th, but I wanted a few days to go over the edit of the last two chapters. They granted me that. I went over those last two chapters again and again and then over everything a few times and got it to them by November 16. The next week, the production department asked for five photos to be redone, which I did. Now, it turns out that the book won’t be out until mid-July. AARRGGHH!
Anyway, while working on Around Florence, my neck began bothering me again. Fortunately, I was able to take a break from the computer for the month of December.
It wasn’t long after I got back from California in early January that I started working on Colorful Animals I Have Known and, of course, I gave myself a deadline of getting all the writing done and photos figured out by the first of April. (Much of the writing was already done, thank goodness.) This was not a stressful project, but I was putting in long hours and getting in the same old groove of bad habits. So my neck and shoulders started bothering me again. So the stiff neck should’ve been no surprise.
The surprise was when my head actually became frozen and I couldn’t move it up or to either side and the intensity of the pain. It was worse than it had ever been. That was the trapezius muscle in spasm mode, according to the doctor. It was a wake up call. I now realize I have to get serious about fitting in the time each day to do the exercises and to keep myself comfortable at the computer and to take breaks more often.
I may also try to get a professional massage from time to time. That really appeals to me. More than a year ago, I ordered a CD on easy yoga movements and just haven’t taken the time to check it out. Well, now I will. The doctor thought anything that could relax those muscles would be good.
I know I’m not the only writer or person who spends a lot of time in front of a computer that has neck and shoulder problems. Those of you out there who have had similar problems, what works for you?
Just looked at the clock, and it’s time for a break. Until next week . . .
Note: After months of no bridge presentations, I’ve suddenly got four lined up for the future, two next week, one the first week of May, and one the first week of August. Check ‘Events’ on the Menu for where and when. The presentations and book signings for Around Florence are still tentative––not listed yet.