I don’t usually go all confessional in this blog. I’m a pretty reserved person and while I hope my books are interesting to others, I’m not sure that my private life is. But. Here goes. To all you writers out there – a warning. This writing life can be a health hazard.

Does that sound a bit dramatic? Isn’t writing just sitting at a desk, plus the odd thoughtful walk or session in a cafe with a notebook and a couple of lattes? Well, yes. And no. In my 20s and 30s, I could write without a break for four or five hours at a time but as I’ve got older, the back and neck and shoulders have begun to complain. I’ve learned to take breaks every hour. To vary things with a standing desk. To have regular appointments with a chiropractor or physio or masseur. I thought I was doing OK until about five months ago, when I made the acquaintance of the TMJ.
That’s the temporo-mandibular joint. Basically, it’s your jaw. Mine started clicking. And hurting. It got better. It got worse. And worse. For the past five months, it’s been mostly worse. The physio reckons the pain is referred from my neck and shoulders due to – yes, you guessed it – my posture when I’m writing. It’s bad but not severe, just – at its worst – completely unremitting. It’s meant visits to the dentist and an expensive mouth guard-ish device that, sadly, I’m not able to use. (It worked with my jaw, but sensitized my teeth. Not fair). Hours of chiropractic and physio and acupuncture (not to mention the dollars to pay for them). Anti-inflammatories (Voltaren, Nurofen) work, but I can’t take them because I feel like I’ve been kicked in the stomach. There’s been sleepless nights. Stress and tension and worry about deadlines. Smiling and laughing and talking and eating hurt. I’ve felt like my brain isn’t working. And any kind of chronic pain is so tiring.

“Something’s Gotta Give”, as the song says.

So I’m taking a break. I’ve been working on a children’s book and I’ve had to put that aside – thank goodness for understanding agents and publishers – but it’s a thing I’ve never done before in my 30 years of writing. I’ve always been able to push through and deliver a manuscript. In fact, once I wrote a Dolly Fiction title in 10 weeks from start to finish (while working three days a week as a youth worker) because another author had dropped out. I’ve found it difficult. If I’m not writing, am I still a writer?

Anyway. I’m thinking of it as long service leave. After all, I’ve had a project of some kind on the go, with contractual or self-imposed deadlines, for the past twenty years. For the last year or so, I worked on two books at the same time. I’ll do the odd blog. But mainly I’ll go to work in the bookshop and read and think and play in the garden and walk the dog and hopefully stop hurting. Hopefully, soon.

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2 Responses to THIS WRITING LIFE

  1. Kate C says:

    I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been having a bad time, Susan! And you certainly do deserve some long service leave. I hope it does the trick and your misbehaving jaw does the right thing.
    All the best and have a good break. You’ve earned it.

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