Strap in kids, this one gets a bit personal.
Around 6 months ago, I felt the first twinge in my right wrist. It was while I was at the gym, in the middle of a bench press, so I figured I had just overextended things a bit. I let up on the weight, and by the next day it was back to normal.
Fast forward 3 months, and I was experiencing sharp, shooting pains in my right hand at almost every movement. It came on quite suddenly, and rocketed fro, mild inconvenience to tear inducing pain in a matter of days, leaving me almost completely unable to actually use my right hand for anything.
Which as a copywriter who relies on her hands to do her job, was a very bad thing.
After I fought down the pure panic that I had developed rapid onset RSI, I dragged myself to a doctor. A few specialist visits and many tests later, I was diagnosed with tendinopathy – the tearing and inflammation of the tendons along the back of my hand and leading into my fingers, due to a combination of my 2 favourite things – typing and lifting weights. With the right treatment, it can be dealt with, but I will be prone to flair ups for the rest of my life. For a while, this felt like a hugely bad thing – a cloud hanging over the things I loved in life.
But actually, I’ve found it to be hugely beneficial. For one, it’s made me realise just how fragile our bodies are, and how much we take for granted simple things like being able to carry a shopping bag or fire off a quick email. It’s helped me adjust how I exercise to be safer, and more effective along the way. And it’s massively improved my writing. Since typing was such a big source of the injury, I was told I needed to adjust the way I work to avoid making it all worse. So I did 2 things – I bought myself an ergonomic keyboard, and I started playing around with voice to text software.
The keyboard has made much more of a difference than you’d think. Not only is it much more comfortable for me to write, but it’s forced me to re-learn how to type, since with that big hole in the middle (I’ll put a picture here so you can see what I mean), all the keys are in difference places. This in turn proved to me that I do indeed type like my father (with one finger on either hand, and quite hard). But now, I’m being forced to use all of my fingers to type, which is slowing me down while I learn. Sure, this means I can’t get as much done in a day, but that extra time means I can really think about what I’m saying in a way that I sometimes don’t when the words are flying out at lightning speed to try and keep up with my brain. In turn, my arguments are more considered, the words I choose fitting together more naturally the first time around (instead of in editing), and my own awareness of the processes I go through has heightened. I’m also much more conscious that I keep hitting the wrong keys at the moment, which has halved my proof reading time since I’m paying more attention to what’s going on the page the first time around.
The voice to text is a bit more interesting. I’ve only been using it on days when the pain is particularly bad, but it’s made an interesting difference. You see, as a writer I tend to flit around a lot. I’ll write one paragraph, then skip ahead and write a whole new section, before skipping around again and then linking them all together at the end and polish out any bits that don’t quite fit. It’s just how my brain works, and it’s worked perfectly well throughout my entire career. And when you’re typing, that’s easy to do. But when you’re dictating, it’s suddenly much more difficult, and everything often ends up in a muddle. So I’ve been forced to start thinking in straight lines, which is not something I’m used to in any area of my life. I bounce around as the inspiration and information comes to me, but having to know what I’m going to say in the exact next section is a relatively new experience for me. This in turn has led to improved writing, even if I can’t quite put my finger on why it’s better.
While it’s not like taking a course or reading a book, my journey through tendinopathy has certainly made some positive changes in the way I work. Just by being forced to re-evaluate how I do things, I’ve been able to improve a number of processes. Things I didn’t even realise were inefficient are suddenly glaringly obvious, and I’ve been able to take all of those positive changes and pass the benefits on to my clients. So yeah, I’d rather not have such a disabling condition in my hand, and living with the reoccurrences is going to suck, but would I go back and stop it happening.