Friday, November 6, 2009

Work Habits II -- The Laptop

Because of NaNoWriMo, I've put 14,600 words into my laptop in less than five days... and boy are my hands tired! And I am reminded of those crazy videos they showed us back in high school... SPEED KILLS! Or in this case, causes carpal tunnel and a host of other problems that could put the pinch on your writing comfort right quick. After all, what good does it do to win the world by writing your novel if you're unable to sustain production and parlay it into a writing career?
"The reason is simple - with a fixed design, if the [laptop] keyboard is in an optimal position for the user, the screen isn't and if the screen is optimal the keyboard isn't. Consequently, laptops are excluded from current ergonomic design requirements because none of the designs satisfy this basic need." -Cornell University
In the picture I posted of my little writing nest, what's missing is a lap desk or pillow that would raise my workstation up to a level where neck and shoulders wouldn't have to slump at a disagreeable angle in order to type. (Being a touch-typist helps, because I can keep thundering away without looking at the screen as I am doing right now, but that it's not a panacea.) Every writer I know uses a laptop almost exclusively. According to statistics delivered at a recent distance-learning conference my friend Andy Duckworth is tweeting from, 88% of college students own (and presumably use) laptops. Carpal tunnel doesn't care if you're a Mac or a PC. The Cornell website I quoted above includes some great tips on keeping your body from suffering for your writing habit. CUergo is a site dedicated to helping Cornell students (and everyone else) survive the demands that working at a computer place on the human body. I know that a lot of people tune out the moment I start talking about ergonomics. But if you want an extended writing career, it's going to require an appreciation for the demands you place on your body as you type furiously away in the passionate embrace of the muse. Nothing will make a laptop ergonomic. You can plug a keyboard and a monitor into the thing and use it like a regular compter, but that sort of defeats the whole purpose of having a laptop. So at least take those minimum steps unless you have more faith than I do in the future functionality of VOIP dictophones.

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Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).