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Survive Your Writing or Editing Career

As a full-time freelance manuscript editor, I do all of my editing on-screen and online, using Microsoft Word Track Changes, so I’m sitting at the computer all day, editing and sending and receiving documents, with comments, by email. I have a PC, a laptop, and, for the past year, a smaller Netbook. I like to travel, so use the laptop or Netbook when I’m away.

For the last year, I’ve been taking my Netbook for plane trips, as it’s light and compact for my carry-on, and small enough to fit on the airplane’s flip-down tray, with room for my cordless mouse and a cup of coffee or tea. But I notice when I’ve been using this smaller notebook-type computer for hours that my shoulders, back and arms become tense from hunching over, my fingers ache from the small keyboard, and my eyes get sore from squinting at the small screen.

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When I’m at home, I stay away from my laptop or Netbook and stick with my large-screen monitor, my curved ergonomic keyboard with padding at the front to support the heels of my hands and my wrists, my ergonomic mouse pad with a cushion rest for my wrist, and my padded chair with its armrests and lower-back support. That way I can type for hours without pain in my hands, wrists, shoulders or back, and my eyes aren’t strained.

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For aching fingers, hands and wrists, I use several things. If my wrists get sore, I’ll use a wrist brace at night. You slip your thumb through a hole, then close the rest quickly and attach it with Velcro. I also have heat mitts with heat pads that you put inside them, and a pair of those special thermoskin arthritic gloves that Shon Bacon mentioned on Feb. 14.

For typing during the day in the winter, I also bought some thin cotton gloves from the drugstore and cut the ends of the fingers out of them. They don’t hamper my movements at all, so I can type easily with them on.

Also, I now exercise regularly, especially rotating my shoulders, doing arm movements, raising my hands in the air, and doing leg, knee, and hip movements. That has helped a lot. I really notice it when I neglect my morning (and sometimes afternoon) exercise routine.

And lastly, I find the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin supplements to be very helpful for arthritis and joint pain.
Guest blogger Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction manuscript editor, specializing in thrillers, romantic suspense, mysteries, romance, YA, and historical fiction. Jodie’s services range from developmental and substantive editing to light final copy editing and proofreading, as well as manuscript critiques. Check out Jodie’s website at and her blog, dedicated to advice and resources for fiction writers, at

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  1. Interesting--I have a laptop which I love--do all my design and writing work on it. What I don't love is that danged keyboard. I invest in a keyboard and mouse. It's a little bit more, but it really makes work easier for me. I have some of the things to which you refer, but generally fall back into my simple standby--laptop, keyboard/mouse, good chair, kitchen table.

  2. So far, I'm okay with my laptop, although my back does tend to let me know when I've been hunched over for too long!

  3. Editing for hours, using the mouse, just kills my neck and shoulder. I don't know what to do about it other than force myself to get up and stretch occasionally. I also use a topical pain-reliever called Stopain that is similar to Biofreeze. That helps a lot.

  4. I went through a period where I wore the gloves, but eventually I was able to quit. I think I'd like some heated gloves though.

  5. You have a lot of cool gadgets! I don't need them because I am self-employed. This allows me to say things like, "I'm not going to sit in one place all day." I know, I'm a brat. I take the hard copy pages I'm editing (yes, they arrive by Pony Express) and go sit in my favorite comfy nook, by a window, with a lapboard, a notebook, and a bunch of pencils and highlighters. It is exceedingly pleasant, and I am happy doing it every day. I love to read from paper. My butt is thrilled to leave my desk chair, my hands are happy, my neck is happy, my eyes are happy. And I am thrilled to practice another lost art--"handwriting."

  6. Sometimes I get so involved I forget about taking breaks to loosen up. That's where the kitchen timer helps.

    I have no problems with my keyboard, but my back gets sore sometimes after a long bout of typing.

    Morgan Mandel

  7. A variety of great ideas, Jodie.
    I never thought of gloves! Heck, now we can even take the laptop outdoors.
    My career is Massage Therapy and I'm imprssed with all the self-help methods you've all come up with. You don't need my info. Congrats.

  8. I have a small notebook, too, that I use in the evenings if I want to check e-mail and do some blog hopping. Like you, Jodie, I do find it more of a strain on body parts than my big monitor and keyboard in my office. Plus, I am always hitting the wrong keys on that smaller keypad. LOL

    And thanks for the reminder about the stretches. They are important when you spend hours at a desk.

  9. Thanks for your comments, all. Sorry I didn´t stop in sooner, but I´ve been traveling by airplanes all day to get from Canada to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for a writer´s conference - and editing all day with my small Netbook! I do have a wireless mouse, though, which helps.

    Kathryn, all my clients send me their work by attachments through email, and I do all my editing on-screen, then email it back. A lot faster than snail mail, and saves on paper! I really like the markup feature of Microsoft Word Track Changes, and I can add comments in the margin.

    Well, it´s sunny and warm here in Mexico. A nice contrast from shoveling snow at home!

  10. ...but yes, Kathryn, it sure would be nice to take my editing to the couch or dining room table. But then I´d probably get cramped fingers from holding a pen!

    Seriously, though, I do have arthritis in my hands and find typing a lot easier than using a pen for any length of time. Does anyone else find that?

  11. Jodie, I cannot write with a pen anymore because of arthritis. Makes book signings a challenge. LOL

  12. Maryann, have you tried the special ergonomic pens that have grips for forefinger and middle finger? I think they're called ring pens. Also this sort of special-shaped pen:

    Could help.


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