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Pen To Paper Tools

Updated on May 17, 2017

Set Up

Where you write is as important as the words you put on paper.

First it may be beneficial to carry a small notepad to jot down ideas in just a few words that would trigger the idea later, when you are ready to type out your ideas on the typewriter, or computer.

The location determines mood, energy, and successful progress. Your spot can be on a quiet beach (note: quiet), where you can look up, enjoy the view of waves rolling in, birds flying overhead, tall palms waving in the gentle breeze. The point here is that the beach is not loaded with an abundance of noises that distract from your imagination, thinking processes, or word choices.

No matter the location, make sure the surroundings are at least semi-quiet, comfortable, yet promotes a sense of well-being and energy.

In your own home, set up a corner, or room with your personal decor, maybe hang some pictures of your favorite locations, or designs that make you feel alive, motivated, yet calm. Remove any clutter that can cause an air of confusion. It's about having space to think, imagine, without distraction.

Once you've determined the area you can get down to business.

In my own experience, I find different settings to engage in the feel, or air of the topic I am going to write about. Travel, or 'getting away' articles, or situations in a book, may require surroundings that trigger thoughts about certain places, or feelings to convey with your first-hand experience. I live in Las Vegas, and was writing about a situation in France, so I went to the famous Las Vegas Strip, and found a small secluded space near the Paris Hotel. It was amazing how the visual 'took me there' to write about the situation!

If you need a beach, look for local swimming pools, or ponds you can visit, imagine you've taken a flight to a remote island in Tahiti. You get the jest of it...location sets the mood.

One of my favorites is the view from my backyard. It reminds me of Hawaii, where my husband and I spent a week for an anniversary. The view triggers memories of the trees gently rustled by the ocean breeze, birds sing just like some of them in the rain forests there! There is a difference between night and day as well. During the day, the colors are bright, active with life of various types, early evening the birds accumulate to bring a variety of songs from different bird families. At night one can hear, feel the calm, only one or two birds grunting, or singing a last night song. I have typed out many tales, and articles on the back patio inspired by the surroundings.


Backyard Haven

Looks like Hawaii to me...inspires writing!
Looks like Hawaii to me...inspires writing! | Source

Take a Break!

Equally important is to take a break at intervals to give your eyes relief, get the blood moving, and get your mind off the writing for a few minutes. Of course, if you are in a flow, and risk losing the train of thought, finish that segment, then take a break. It is amazing how much more the brain can function when stimulated with physical movement, increased oxygen, and giving the eyes a chance to focus on something farther away than the computer screen.

If you're like me, you have experienced sitting at the computer for a long period of time, typing like crazy, frantic to empty your entire brain onto the screen....before any of it goes away. Eyelids get heavier, bobbing up and down, you decide to take a break, get a beverage, use the restroom, but when you get up, wow! Stiff legs, sore back, heavy eyes, ugh..., that's why it's important to take a break every 20 to 30 minutes. If it is too difficult to realize how long you've been typing, use an egg timer, or alarm on your cell phone. Even a 5 minute break, moving around, drinking water can make a HUGE difference in our body's energy, and productivity.

Look at it this way, you have just spent the last half hour pounding out strings of words that convey an incredible message, whether copy-writing, or novel writing. It takes deep thought, considerable deliberation, and careful plotting. So, take the well deserved break! You might just come back with some fantastic fresh ideas!

One good break idea is to obtain a stationary bicycle, or ellipse to exercise for 5 minutes, followed by a beverage, protein snack, and restroom. Do a few stretches, inhale deeply, slow, then let it out slowly. Do this at least 5 times before sitting back at the desk and magical things will happen. First, you might just lose a little weight, instead of gaining from lack of motion, not to mention burning off the calories from the snacks. Second, motion and deep breathing promotes more oxygen to the brain, stimulating thought processes. Third, it helps you to stay healthy, and relieves stress.

Even I noticed that during intense writing, my shoulders tend to tighten putting tension on the muscles down my spine, and arms. Exercise, stretches and deep breathing help to relieve these symptoms.

It has been my experience to finish a complete chapter of a novel in one sitting, roughly about 45 minutes to 1 hour, during times when limitations dictate how long I can be dedicated to the project. On some days, I am diligent to express to family members and friends that I must work a certain amount of hours for a 'shift' to accomplish my goals. They treat it as if I have shift work on a job (which, technically....it is), so they respect those times and cause no distractions. Believe me, I take plenty of breaks on those days!

Our thoughts can get bogged down with clutter turning into writers block if breaks are not taken. A few minutes away from the pen, type writer, computer, allows thoughts to clear, eyes to rest, tension in the shoulders and neck to release, promoting relaxation.


Nutrition

It's easy to grab snacks to munch while writing. Problem is that no movement and calories will pack on the pounds. Suddenly there's 20 more pounds to drag around, in places where we definitely don't want it. Choose healthy snacks, carrot and celery sticks, sliced cucumbers and zucchini, proteins like tiny cubes of ham, or a few cubes of cheese.

Even though writing is a sitting job, calories are still being burned up, and healthy snacks promote better conductivity between the digestive system and brain. Some juices are actually brain food, like blueberry, pomegranate. However, be careful here, because of the natural sugar content. The key is; All things in moderation!

Web MD suggests blueberries, wild salmon, avocados, nuts and seeds, as healthy brain foods.

Computer Screens

Easy on the Eyes...

Settings on your computer, and lighting in the environment can effect the ability to think, much less become productive. Lighting should be comfortable on the eyes, even if you choose to write outdoors, choose a spot where light is not glaring, but consistent with easy reading. The same goes for inside, and on that note, consider adjusting the brightness settings on the computer monitor so it is easy on the eyes. Eye strain can be distracting, and adds to the feeling of being tired. By turning the brightness, and contrast up and down it is easy to determine where the vision is comfortable without strain.

Use a font that is easily read, so you can quickly scan your writing for mistakes without squinting, or having difficulty seeing. If you have vision issues, stores have various types of glasses that can suit each person's visual needs for computer use. Otherwise, prescription glasses for computer use are beneficial.

Another thing about eye strain is that it can cause dry eye, and pain...computer vision syndrome (CVS). According to www.allaboutvision.com, "To reduce your risk of dry eyes during computer use, try this exercise: Every 20 minutes, blink 10 times by closing your eyes as if falling asleep (very slowly). This will help re-wet your eyes. To ease eye strain, make sure you use good lighting and sit at a proper distance from the computer screen. (Apr 25, 2017).

And...Health....says, "The condition likely doesn't cause permanent eye damage, but it can still affect computer users' comfort. The most common symptoms of CVS include eye strain, redness, irritation or dryness, a burning feeling in the eyes, blurred or double vision after computer use, headaches and neck and shoulder pain." (Sep 13, 2012).

How to avoid computer vision syndrome? A writer for Time, Laura Newcomer, (Sept 13, 2012) has this to say about it:

"Have your eyes checked regularly.Follow guidelines for good posture. It’ll reduce strain on the back, neck and shoulders.Reposition the computer. The screen should be about an arm’s length away and positioned directly in front of your face, not off to the side. Position the monitor so its center is 4 to 8 in. below your eyes, which allows the neck to relax while you read and type.

Ensure proper lighting. Try the visor test to determine if current lighting is a problem: look at the monitor and cup your hands over your eyes like a baseball cap. If your eyes immediately feel better, then the lighting should be changed. Experiment with brighter and dimmer lighting, as well as the angle of the lights, to find what’s most comfortable for your eyes.

Reduce glare. Installing anti-glare filters on the monitor, adjusting window shades and changing the screen’s contrast and brightness can help reduce glare and reflections.

Blink frequently. It should prevent dry eyes. If that doesn’t work, consider using lubricating eye drops. Also make sure air vents aren’t blowing on your face (this can dry out the eyes), and use a humidifier if the room is super dry.

Take regular work breaks. Stand, stretch or just look off into the distance, away from the computer, every 15 minutes or so to give the eyes a break.

Clean the monitor regularly. Dust can decrease screen sharpness, making the eyes work harder.

Try computer glasses. Unlike everyday eye wear, they’re designed specifically for looking at computer screens.

Consider optometric vision therapy. Some computer users have issues with eye focusing or coordination that aren’t corrected by glasses or contacts. Vision therapy consists of doctor-prescribed activities designed to improve visual functioning (think of it as a workout for the eyes — though no guarantees as to calorie burn)."

As suggested by: Dr. Dominick Maino, professor of pediatics/binocular vision at the Illinois Eye Institute/Illinois College of Optometry, and Dr. Leonard Press, developmental optometrist at the Vision and Learning Center.

Eyes are not just the "windows of the soul", but intricately integrated with all our body systems, which can physically effect function, and pain levels when not taken into consideration.

Take care of your eyes!


Vision and Writing

Eyes, vision...are important to the writer. Take care of them!
Eyes, vision...are important to the writer. Take care of them!

Know When To Stop!

It's easy to get caught up in the moment of a writing frenzy, but make sure you keep track of the time. Don't neglect family members, daily chores, priorities, just to pound out words on paper. The easiest way to distribute your time is to make a list of goals each day, short term, that include a window of writing. If you are on a roll, and there are a couple of chores that can wait until tomorrow, as a rule of thumb I put those first on the list for the following day to make sure they get done. Then I continue to write. I consider writing my job, so I allow 8 hours of writing time with breaks in between for a few chores, phone calls, appointments, etc. And, I make it a point to finish by a specific time each day so not to cut into intimate time with my spouse, or for my children, (even though they are grown.)

I also have a couple of hobbies that I put on the list, so I get some "me" time each day, whether painting, making lizards out of tin cans, or gardening. It gets me off the chair with other creative juices flowing. You'd be amazed what I can dream up while trimming broccoli plants, or transplanting vines, watering tomatoes, making jewelry, or drawing.

These are just basic ideas for tools that helped me keep writing, that I wanted to share. I hope that these help because imagination, or reality, writing is one of the best ways to express life! Keep Writing!

Writer Tools

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Citations

All About Vision, (2017), Computer Vision Syndrome, at www.allaboutvision.com

Newcomer, Laura, (Sept 13, 2012), Time Online, How To Avoid Computer Vision Syndrome, at http://healthland.time.com/2012/09/13/computer-eye-strain-explained-and-how-to-avoid-it/

Sorgen, Carol, (2005-2017), WebMD, Eat Smart for a Healthier Brain, at http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/eat-smart-healthier-brain#1.

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