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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2008-04-06 19:21
Subject: [process] The unbearable lightless of typing
Security: Public
Location:Nuevo Rancho Lake
Mood:thoughtful
Music:house noises
Tags:green, personal, process, tech, writing
I'm not sure I ever explained why my MacBook went in for repairs. The lower left corner of the portion of the case where the keyboard sits was splintering. This is apparently because I rest the base of my left hand too hard against the machine while typing. There was a discolored arc there from skin-to-plastic contact, and the boundary where the faceplate meets the edge of machine had broken into long slivers. This actually happened back in January while I was drafting Green, and I'd wrapped that end of the machine in Scotch tape to keep it from pricking at my hand.

lasirenadolce and I were discussing this over dinner tonight. She thought it was pretty funny. I've only had this computer since last summer (the repair was covered under warranty), but I figure I've already typed over 600,000 words on it. The letter on the "E" key was worn off, and the "S" key was almost gone. Apple replaced the keyboard as well, which given its recent orange juice bath at Norwescon was all to the good.

Which lead me to wonder why I have virtually no issues with RSI. I mean, I killed a computer faceplate in about eight months from writing so hard, what am I doing to my wrists and hands?

I've blogged about RSI and carpal-tunnel before, here and here. More to the point, y'all have contributed some excellent comment threads there on the topic. This is near and dear to writers, for very obvious reasons.

Increasingly I have become convinced that the reason I don't have such issues is that with the exception of being on airliners, I never write in a fixed position. Anyone who's ever been around me when I'm writing knows I sprawl, shift, wriggle, fuss, interrupt, get up, move around, in a never-ending kaleidoscope of twitch. I hit all the checkpoint on those self-assessments for adult ADHD, and I'm sure I'd have been a Ritalin kid if they'd been handing that stuff out like candy in the early 1970s, the way they do today.

So many writers have their 'writing place'. It's one of the most common pieces of writing advice, to set up a special place in your house where you can do that. Helps build habits, train your friends and family to leave you alone, et cetera.

But a writing place means a fixed position in front of a statically located keyboard. My writing place is in my head. I very rarely commit fiction sitting up in a chair with my computer on a flat surface.

Certainly I have no data whatsoever to correlate desktop computer use and fixed working position to RSI. My anecdotal experience is that if anyone should get RSI, it's me, and so far I've been blessedly free. Laptop computer and highly randomized working positions, that's me.

I don't get RSI, my computer does.
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Greg van Eekhout
User: gregvaneekhout
Date: 2008-04-07 02:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My MacBook is also splintering in the same place, and on the right side as well. My girlfriend's MacBook, ditto. I never had the same problem with the half-dozen iBooks and PowerBooks I've used over the years.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-04-07 03:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yah, I've never had an iBook or a PowerBook do this either.
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Greg van Eekhout
User: gregvaneekhout
Date: 2008-04-07 03:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
They're cheaply made, this generation of Mac laptops. But it's good to know they're willing to fix yours. I just need to figure out how I can go a few days without my computer.

Interesting observations about RSI. My wrists and hands are in much better shape since I stopped writing up to a desktop computer.
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Elizabeth Coleman
User: criada
Date: 2008-04-07 03:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That happened to me, too. With the first MacBooks they made, the cover plastic wasn't as strong as it should be, so the magnetic closures at the top of the screen were constantly lifting the plastic whenever the laptop was opened, causing it to finally splinter off. And yes, it discolored too. They replaced the faceplate on mine, and I haven't had a problem since.
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miki garrison
User: mikigarrison
Date: 2008-04-07 02:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm another non-fixed position girl. Even at the office for my job - to a somewhat lesser degree, but no one is surprised to walk in and find me sitting on the floor, or curled up in my papasan chair, etc.

I went for about a year where I didn't have a laptop at home -- which meant that I didn't nearly as much flexibility in positions, and also meant that I was never able to write more than a page at a time. :p

What I *really* need, though, is a good, safe way to write while I'm soaking in the bathtub. I can make voice recognition work (although bathroom echoes throw it off some), but what I really need is to be able to type while wet. Surely a waterproof laptop isn't too much to ask for, right? :p
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calendula_witch: yoga girl
User: calendula_witch
Date: 2008-04-07 03:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:yoga girl
I've said it before and I'll say it again:
Yoga!
Yoga!
Yoga!
Specifically, weight-bearing Ashtanga yoga, holding my body weight with my arms (i.e. wrists). Bending them every which way during the practice. Keeping them strong and flexible...I'm convinced this is why I don't have RSI issues.

My laptop, on the other hand--well, it's not made out of plastic, but the left-front side is a thing of ugly.
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Gary Emenitove
User: garyomaha
Date: 2008-04-07 03:11 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
>>a never-ending kaleidoscope of twitch<<

I love it!
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Elizabeth Coleman
User: criada
Date: 2008-04-07 04:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
And in other writer-related physical problems, Therese Walsh, over on Writer Unboxed, recently talked about Deep Vein Thrombosis, caused by sitting too long. O_O
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biomekanic
User: biomekanic
Date: 2008-04-07 05:01 (UTC)
Subject: RSI/Crappy Tunnel
Makes sense to me. I know when I had carpal tunnel issues it was when I was doing 10-key work at a desk. Not a lot of wiggle room unfortunately.
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User: mmegaera
Date: 2008-04-07 05:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I have problems with my shoulders, caused, I am fairly sure for a lot of reasons, by mousing. The typing doesn't bother me. The mousing is a problem. I wound up having surgery on the shoulder attached to the hand I'd moused with from the beginning, and when I switched mousing hands, my other shoulder is starting to bother me. This is not a good thing. And, yes, I've tried all the alternatives I can think of...
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-04-07 13:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Switching to trackpads (years ago when I went all-laptop) eliminated mousing problems for me, though trackballs helped before that.
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User: mmegaera
Date: 2008-04-08 02:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Nothing personal, but I can't maneuver with either one (had to at work) to save my life. That's what I meant by trying all the alternatives I could think of. But I appreciate the thought.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2008-04-07 05:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Some years ago, the Mayo Clinic decided to do some statistical analysis on RSI, using their own typing pool as the data source. They figured that they should find a higher than usual incidence of RSI in their pool, just given the nature of the job, and that they'd be able to work up some correlations between what their workers were doing and how it affected them.

Problem was, that wasn't what they found. The percentage incidence of RSI in their typing pool was... exactly what they were finding in the population at large. Conclusion: genetic predisposition to RSI matters more to whether you develop the condition than what kind of work you do.

(This means that your lack of RSI is more likely the happy result of your good genes than your twitchy habits, although I recall reading somewhere that twitchy people lose more weight than non-twitchy people, so twitchiness can't be an entirely bad thing.)

Me, my biggest problem is falling asleep with my wrists flexed. I can guarantee waking up the next morning with numb hands, and the fingers will ache for the rest of that day. I've never heard anyone complain about that... is it uncommon?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-04-07 13:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I do have to be careful of wrist position in bed. I tend to sleep crammed up against the headboard, and every now and then will spend the night in Fighting Crane stance or something, which results in roughly the experience you describe.
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Elizabeth Coleman
User: criada
Date: 2008-04-07 14:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I get that too. And when I was a janitor, I had the additional pleasure of waking up with my fourth and fifth fingers semi-permanently curled into bottle-squirting position.
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