wine in the bathtub

I finished my second novel and all I got was this lousy repetitive strain injury…

Okay, I should probably start this post by letting you know that I’m having to use dictation software to write it (Speak it? Can I really say I’m writing if I’m just speaking into my phone?) so please excuse… well, everything, really.

Yes guys, I finished the first draft of my second novel… And I’ve rendered myself completely unable to write in the process, so lol, good to have known you all, what a wild ride it’s been. For once in my life, I’m actually not exaggerating when I say “unable to write: my right hand, forearm, and shoulder are so painful I literally couldn’t type at all for a few days– or even scroll on my phone for that matter. Which was the worst part of all, to be honest.

(Aside: have you ever tried to type something longer than a text message using dictation software? Because, let me tell you, it is not the one. As in, the above paragraph took me at least 10 times as long to dictate as it would’ve taken me just to type the damn thing. Then I had to go back and correct all of the mistakes it/I made — by hand, natch, so, yeah, MOAR TYPING. Then I was so frustrated, I ended up taking a break for a few days, and now here we are, taking a full week to write one stupid blog post. GOD.)

Anyway. I started writing this post on Monday. It’s now Thursday, and although my hand and arm are both feeling quite a bit better, I need all my strength for the second draft of the book, which means all of my other projects are having to go to the bottom of the list.

This is obviously a bit of a bummer when you make a living from writing, and while the obvious explanation is that it was the attempt to type 90,000 words in a relatively short period of time that did it, the fact is that RSI is something I’ve experienced fairly often in the course of my writing career, making it quite frankly astonishing that I have so far failed to do anything at all to avoid it.

(Actually, now, I come to think of it, this book averaged out at around 2000 words per day. Which isn’t significantly more than I would have written in the same time frame at the height of my blogging career, say. Or when I was a journalist. So, while typing a 90,000 word novel might sound pretty extreme, the truth is that when you break it down to a daily word count, it’s not actually all that unusual for someone who writes for a living.)

But no more. My previous bouts of RSI mostly affected me only when I was actually typing. This one, however, put me out of action for four full days – in work terms at least. I was obviously still able to use my other arm and hand, so I could go about daily life more or less as normal, but I couldn’t write at all, and, as I said, I was even struggling to use my phone for more than a few minutes at a time, unless I switched to my left hand, which is fairly useless.

So, obviously something has to be done. Thanks to this blog post, I have established that I’m probably not going to be able to dictate my novels /posts/ anything else going forward. My brain just doesn’t spit out perfectly formed sentences in a way that would make that in any way practical for me, and I change my mind so often about what I want to say that I end up typing almost as much as I would have done in the first place. I’ve always said one of the reasons I write is to make up for the fact I’m so useless at speaking, and this little experiment has confirmed that for me, because it turns out I literally don’t know what I’m going to write until I’m actually typing it. Then I have to go back and change it like a million times, and that’s much harder when you’re speaking rather than typing. Or at least it is for me, anyway. Oh, and also absolutely freaking hate trying to “write” like this. So there’s that, too.

So far, then, the thing that’s been most useful is a vertical mouse —which, as the name suggests, is a mouse you hold a bit like a joystick rather than a traditional mouse. Here it is:

vertical mouse for RSI

(I don’t normally sit it on a planner, btw, before you all tell me that’s why I have RSI. I just put it there to be all fancy for the photo…)

Anyway, this has definitely made a difference to my wrist and forearm in particular, but I’m still getting quite a bit of pain in my upper arm and, to a lesser extent, fingers, so if anyone has any suggestions for those, I’m all ears. So far I’ve:

* Adjusted the height of my chair and tried to make sure I’m sitting in the way that puts least pressure on my hands and arms.

* Bought wrist pads/supports

* The aforementioned mouse

* Various wrist/arm supports

* Deep Heat

* Voice dictation for shorter messages

But that’s it. So teach me your ways, people who’ve been here before me. And, in the meantime, I’m just glad this happened ATER I finished my first draft rather than before it, because there’s a lot less typing involved in the editing I’m doing now than there was in getting the words down to start with.

On that subject, book # 2 is currently scheduled for release in December (although I may have to push that if the RSI flares up again), and you can pre-order it here.

Back to the editing…

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books by Amber Eve
  • Fi


    Hope you feel better soon! Is the back of your chair high enough to support your shoulders? I get a really sharp pain in my shoulder if I sit on a chair with a low back and use a computer for long periods. And that usually involves my work buying a new, higher backed chair for me when I start there as I’m so tall. I also find chair arms help (the kind that move up and down, not the hoop ones) so that my forearms and wrists can be pretty much horizontal as I type.

    November 24, 2022
  • Lila athanaselis


    Sorry to hear you are suffering again😕
    What works for me is a comfy high backed chair with arms, padded mouse mat and wrist support, tightish velcro wrist support, it will ease as you know ❤️

    November 24, 2022
  • Delaney


    I’m a programmer and a hobbyist writer. I’ve had a lot of run-ins with RSI. My suggestion – don’t overlook physical therapy! Grasping exercises (like squeezing a stress ball) and hand extension exercises (like wrapping a scruchie around your fingers and opening your hand) have done a lot to alleviate my pain over time. Worth seeing a professional for, but of course, I’m sure that you could experiment with exercises from Dr. Google. Good luck! Can’t wait to read the new book!

    November 24, 2022
  • Jocelyn


    For me, I had to switch to a trackball mouse and use it in my non-dominant hand (left for me) and use an ergonomic keyboard. Also, I love to read in bed and invested in more/better pillows and changed the way I hold a book. (My problems were the ulnar nerve which affected my last two fingers.) Do nothing that torques my hand at an angle that pinched that nerve. Also, for me, acupuncture was the THING that made the biggest difference. It helped so much with the pain.

    November 24, 2022
  • Fiona


    I feel you on the voice notes. I take tons of notes when reading a book to review (otherwise I forget it all). Thought it might be easier to do voice notes rather than having to keep putting the book down to type or write notes. It was not.
    It got about one word in four or five right… Tech does not like Scottish accents!

    November 24, 2022
  • Amy


    My wife has had issues with RSI for years. She has a vertical mouse too, but also a ergonomic keyboard. I can ask her for specific recommendations if you like, but I know she favours machanical keyboards which you might not. I would suggest that you take lots of breaks. I know it is hard when you’re in mid-thought, but if you can stop and do some gentle stretches and move your hands/wrists/arms/shoulders/back it’ll help.

    I’m sorry you’re in pain and I hope you find something that helps.

    November 25, 2022
  • Curly


    Do you have the wrist supports with the metal bar that prevents you from bending your wrist? Those helped me manage my RSI for years but it’s gotten progressively worse so I think I’m going to go for a corticosteroid injection soon.

    November 26, 2022