Writing Ergonomics: Tips for a Healthy, Happy Writer

August 22, 2016 at 12:11 am | Posted in creativity, health, Living creatively, writers' habits, writers' health | Leave a comment
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Don’t do what I do; do what I say…

It wasn’t as if I could plead ignorance. I’d done the Alexander Technique course on how to sit properly and how to iron out the kinks in my spine every day. I’d been told about the importance of taking a break every thirty minutes. I also knew about Feldenkrais and yoga and callanetics and swimming and walking and tai chi.

But I had a pressing deadline, and I forgot about all that. I was writing a commissioned book, that last one on the history of the Churchill Trust—and as often happens, the project grew organically into something much bigger than anyone had envisaged at the beginning, and I simply had to get it done on time.

So every day I’d wake early, make a café au lait, and sit at my desk and type. I wrote for hours, maybe had a bit of lunch, made some phone calls to people I’d interviewed, or emailed them to make sure I had their facts correct, and basically, I’d sit at my desk until it was time for dinner (or way past it).

I didn’t have weekends, I didn’t go to dance practice or out on Saturday nights, and the breaks I had were mostly flinging myself on the sofa with a glass of cabernet sauvignon to watch The Gruen Transfer or boxed sets of Masters of Sex or Borgen.

My back felt odd sometimes, but I did about two minutes of Sarah Key’s back blockexercises before dinner, hoping it would be fine. This went on for months and months until one Saturday morning I decided to have a really good scrub at the shower tiles (I’d say the grout between them dates from when the house was built: 1962). I got down and scrubbed, and when I tried to jump up and go back to my desk, I howled in agony. I was stuck.

Sitting—the occupational hazard for writers

I had to crawl to the telephone for help, which came quickly. My osteopath made a home visit. After solving the initial problem, she recommended taking a break every 30 minutes of sitting. Walk around the house. Run on the spot for 30 seconds. Walk around the house again.

After the second 30 minutes, walk around the house again, run on the spot 30 seconds, and lie on your tummy with arms out in front and kick your legs as if you’re swimming, for 10–30 seconds. Get up and walk around the house again.

It’s awfully hard to break every 30 minutes when the deeper we are into a piece of writing, the more we want to stay with it. However, there are programs you can install on your computer—try the free apps, AwarenessTime Out FreeBreaker and Big Stretch Reminder.

The Alexander Technique

‘You translate everything, whether physical or mental or spiritual, into muscular tension,’ wrote F. M. Alexander (1869-1955). The Alexander Technique gives people practical skills to gain a high standard of poise, muscular tone and breathing for general wellbeing, management and prevention of injury, and postural and ergonomic issues. Canberra practitioners, Michael Stenning and Léonie John, have a studio in O’Connor, and more information on the Alexander Technique can be found on their website.

Feldenkrais Method

I was explaining to a friend about what we did in a Feldenkrais class and she said, ‘It sounds like tiny yoga’. That’s a good summary. This method, after Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984), improves posture, flexibility, coordination, self-image and alleviates muscular tension and pain. It promotes awareness of the body and gives the ability to move with grace and elegance, precision and power. Google for Feldenkrais classes in your area.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi improves posture and coordination, and increases circulation and flexibility. The teachers of Canberra’s Tai Chi Academy claim that it will make you ‘feel relaxed, calm and connected with your inner peace.’ Courses and DVDs are readily available and the graceful movements are a refreshing counter to too much desk work.

Sarah Key

Australian physiotherapist Sarah Key’s books on the back are excellent, as is her The Body in Action (Allen & Unwin, 2006). They have simple exercises and illuminating images on how our bodies work, how they go wrong, and how to prevent and cure injury. Sarah Key demonstrates her easy exercises on You Tube.

Meditation

Thousands of peer-reviewed studies show that mindfulness enhances mental and physical wellbeing and reduces chronic pain. Meditation decreases stress, improves memory, quickens reaction times, improves stamina and improves the immune system.

Dr Danny Penman wrote Mindfulness for Creativity (Piatkus, 2015), which includes a meditation CD. You can find out more at www.franticworld.com/resources

**

PeninStudyFranzePenny Hanley has been a film critic, book reviewer, artists’ model, caterer’s assistant, and deck hand on a yacht. Then after a 20 year editing career, she became a freelance writer. She has had a novel and 20 short stories published. Books commissioned include Creative Lives: Personal Papers of Australian Artists and Writers (NLA, 2009) andInspiring Australians: The first fifty years of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (ASP, 2015). She has a PhD in Communications from the University of Canberra and a BA (Hons) in English Literature from the Australian National University. Penny loves books, cinema, travel and dancing the Argentine tango.

This blog was originally published on the ACT Writers Centre’s blog, CAPITAL LETTERS, 22 August 2016.

Continue Reading Writing Ergonomics: Tips for a Healthy, Happy Writer…

What is story? Intercultural Perspectives on Narrative 

August 16, 2016 at 12:55 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

[Feature image: Christine Napanangka Michaels’ painting “Lappi Lappi Jukurrpa” © Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation] What makes a good story? Blogger in Residence, Sophie Constable, expl…

Source: What is story? Intercultural Perspectives on Narrative 

Psychic space and an unusual recipe for mitigating a cold

August 7, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Posted in Books, creativity, health, Living creatively, writers' habits | Leave a comment
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When I was chosen to be a blogger in residence at the ACT Writers Centre I planned to supplement those once a month blogs with more frequent postings on this personal blog. But I’m going to have surgery soon (nothing serious) and I’ve been psyching myself up for that and doing all the things I wanted to do before being incapacitated for six weeks, and the weekly blogs I’d planned – even though I had a million ideas for them – just didn’t get written!

My interior life is rich and tumultuous, and I felt happy. For a writer it’s a matter of always learning – through both absorbing other people’s art and/or practising one’s own, and I’ve just been in a phase of drenching my brain with other people’s work while not doing much of my own, merely living in the present and appreciating the joy of others’ creative efforts and of nature – wet and wild as it’s been in this Canberra winter. My submitted novel MS went up a rung of the ladder towards acceptance to a place I was told very few MSS get to, so here’s hoping. Continue Reading Psychic space and an unusual recipe for mitigating a cold…

Food Blogging- more than just a love of food

August 7, 2016 at 12:11 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

https://actwritersblog.com/2016/08/01/food-blogging-more-than-a-love-of-food/

 

 

A divided world – depicting the lives of refugees

June 19, 2016 at 11:31 pm | Posted in Australian memoir, refugee writing | 1 Comment
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Australia to Z


‘Refugees live in a divided world, between countries in which they cannot live and countries which they may not enter.’ Elie Wiesel, Romanian-born Holocaust survivor, writer and Nobel Peace Prize winner, said this. He believes that it is the moral responsibility of all people to fight hatred, racism and genocide.

After World War II the international community set up a system for helping refugees, those who could not return to their countries ‘owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular group or political opinion’ (United Nations). Continue Reading A divided world – depicting the lives of refugees…

Diving into the River

May 24, 2016 at 11:02 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My first blog as a Blogger in Residence at the ACT Writers Centre is up on the CAPITAL LETTERS site. It is on screenwriting. Future posts will be on writing and refugees, prisoners’ writing, the health of writers (all that sitting, for one detrimental thing!), food blogging, writers dreaming … all topics I’m interested in and things I really want to do more research on. They won’t be once a week, more like once a month, because there are three other Bloggers in Residence, but you can get access to their posts through the same URL below. And between ACT Writers Centre posts I’ll write my personal ones here more often.

You can find it here: https://actwritersblog.com/2016/05/24/diving-into-the-river-screenwriting-in-the-digital-age/  

Wear books like hats upon your crazy head…

May 13, 2016 at 4:29 am | Posted in creativity, Inequality, Isabella Blow, Living creatively | Leave a comment
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IsabellaBlow‘You must write every single day of your life. You must read every single day of your life. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy head. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories … may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.’

That’s from Ray Bradbury (www.Aerogrammestudio.com – accessed on May Day, 2016) and it reminded me of that walking work of art, Isabella Blow, (pictured) English stylist, wearer of outrageously wonderful hats, and famous nurturer of young people’s potential. I also thought of Australian hat maker, Rosie Boylan, more of whom below. Continue Reading Wear books like hats upon your crazy head……

Patricia Highsmith’s handbag

May 5, 2016 at 11:48 pm | Posted in creativity, writers' habits, Writing | Leave a comment
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Writers' daily rituals

Writers’ daily rituals

Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995), prolific author of crime novels plus the novel Carol, recently made into a film directed by Todd Haynes, was a prolific drinker and smoker as well. She smoked a packet of Gaulloises a day. Famously not very good with people, Highsmith had an intense connection with animals.

She loved cats. Snails made her feel tranquil.

‘She eventually housed three hundred snails in her garden in Suffolk, England, and once arrived at a London cocktail party carrying an enormous handbag that contained a head of lettuce and a hundred snails – companions for the evening, she said (p. 12).’

Such details of writers’ habits can be found in Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals: How Artists Work (Knopf, 2013), the book published from the author’s blog, Daily Routines.

Continue Reading Patricia Highsmith’s handbag…

A Sense of Style

April 15, 2016 at 4:32 am | Posted in English Language, Winston Churchill, Writing | 3 Comments
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chapbook2Style is ‘the mirror of an artist’s sensibility’. That was what Truman Capote thought. I think style is what comes naturally because it’s an expression of who you are, a projection of your personality. Edith Wharton wrote about the ‘unassailable serenity’ of being at home in ourselves, just as the French talk about being ‘happy in one’s skin’ and when we express this self acceptance with clarity, that is our style.

I heard a young Police Officer say on TV: ‘Oh yes, we got a massive haul of … I mean, a significant amount of cocaine …’ He started off in his own voice, with his own style. This came across instantly with all his enthusiasm of being proud of a job well done, along with his instinctive expression of an exciting narrative. But then he corrected himself to talk in the way they must be trained to talk to the media, which was dry and boring.
Continue Reading A Sense of Style…

Boy, Lost – a compelling memoir

April 5, 2016 at 11:57 pm | Posted in Australian memoir, Kristina Olsson | Leave a comment
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Boy,LostCroppedJPGBoy, Lost (University of Queensland Press, 2013) is a fascinating and compelling memoir by Kristina Olsson and her luminous prose elevates it to an even higher level. This book feels transcendent with a mother’s love. The author gains profound insight on her journey to trace the steps of her mother and of her lost brother, and she shares these with her readers in a gripping narrative.

As Yvonne, the author’s mother, boarded a train on Cairns railway station in 1950, attempting to escape from a brutal marriage, her abusive husband appeared and snatched her baby son Peter from her arms.

Later the authorities persuaded Yvonne that the boy was better off with his father and that in any case, as a deserting wife, she had no rights, nor any means of financial support. Yvonne was pregnant with a second child when she escaped. Some months later, Peter’s sister (the author’s older half-sister) is born ‘to a mother already grieving the things she cannot give her: a father, a brother, a home.’ (p. 68)

Continue Reading Boy, Lost – a compelling memoir…

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