Most people wouldn’t think of writing as a physical activity. It’s a solitary, sedentary activity accompanied by the tapping of keys or the scratch of pen across paper. A strenuous brain activity, a mental exertion. Although, those who don’t write assume that it’s not hard for those of us who do write, a natural talent that comes, well, naturally. If only that were true. And if only my back didn’t tell me that my bouts of writing are also a physical exertion that takes it toll.
There are periods of time (sometimes as long as a month) when my back doesn’t bother me at all. Usually this is a good indicator of the amount of writing I’m doing – not much. And then there are times when my back and neck ache, tighten, send pins and needles down into my wrists and leave with me headaches which a dose of codeine and a sleeping tablet are the only cure.
I walk, stretch, use heat packs and have a close relationship with my osteopath. I do yoga and ballet all to help my back and neck from totally seizing up, but the best thing I could do to relieve the pressure and strain on my spine is to stop writing. But that just isn’t going to happen.
Last weekend I had a massage, something I’ve looked on as a bit of luxury, time-wise and budget-wise. Before I completely spaced out, as the hot stones were placed along my backbone and the aroma of goanna ointment filled my head, I realised two things. Firstly, the mental space, the dream-like world you enter in such a nurturing environment, frees your creative thoughts and it’s amazing how many tricky problems can be resolved in quite unexpected ways. Secondly, that having the tender, tight muscles along my back, across my shoulders and into my neck so soothed by the massage is so beneficial, it should be deemed an occupational workplace safety feature, like Blundstone boots on a film set.
So, just as I try to regularly nourish my creativity, I am now going to have regular massages for my writer’s back. I’m not going to consider it a luxury, but a necessity for the longevity of my writing career and the communal sanity of those near and dear to me. I have too much writing and rewriting to do to be blocked by my writer’s back.