Thursday, 3 April 2014

B is for...backache by Annie Burrows

Novelista Annie Burrows continues with April's installment in her A - Z of the writer's life

I had been trying to get something published for over ten years.  So when an editor from Mills & Boon wrote to me, saying that she liked the first 3 chapters of my story, and could I send in the rest, I got very, very excited.  I spent every spare minute up in my room, on an old sun lounger, my laptop on my lap, notes spread all over the bed, until the manuscript was ready to send in.

Unfortunately, by that time, I'd given myself a permanent crick in the neck.  (Chair was next to the bed, notes on the top, so typing with my head permanently turned to the right)  Instead of easing, once I'd posted my precious parcel off, the pain kept on getting worse, until the morning I woke up almost unable to move.

I'd already had some treatment from a chiropractor for a frozen shoulder.  But having my shoulder gently manipulated turned out to be totally different from the way he approached a solidly stuck neck.  You know in those comedy shows, where a white-coated man grabs someone's head, and wrenches it round to the sound effect of something ripping?  Very funny to watch, but not so funny when actually experiencing it.  But at least I was no longer in agony.

(And the picture shows the expression I imagined on the chiropractor's face as he tried to wrench my head off)

Until the publishers requested revisions.  And I spent another few frantic weeks, up in my room, going over and over my manuscript until I'd got it perfect.

The chiropractor gave me a stern talking to, (as well as half wrenching my head off to free my neck up).  I was not to type looking to one side all the time, but get myself a desk.  I was to throw away my sun lounger and get a proper typing chair.  And I was not to type for more than 15 minutes at a time.

I nodded, (well, at least I could!) smiled, and agreed with everything he said, whilst privately thinking how unworkable all his suggestions were.  I lived in a tiny house, with nowhere to put a desk.  Let alone throw away my comfy sunlounger, which I could fold up and stack away when I wasn't typing.  And as for stopping work every 15 minutes to go and do stretches - how impractical was that?  It sometimes takes 20 minutes to really get into "the zone", as any artistic person could have told him.  (Indignant toss of the head - since I could now move my head without flinching)

Still, since I didn't want to spend every penny I earned from my writing on physiotherapy, I thought I had better adopt some of his suggestions.

Hubby bought me a chair for my birthday, and to celebrate landing my first contract.  And I did buy a kitchen timer.  Instead of setting it to 15 minutes, I set it to one hour.  This has worked very well for me, for the last five years.  Every hour, the timer goes off, reminding me to get up and stretch, so I can just concentrate on my story, rather than clock-watching.

I won't say I am completely free from back problems.  It seems to be a hazard of the job, from what I can gather speaking to other writers.  But at least the chair, the kitchen timer, and the regular stretching keeps it at a reasonable level.

Annie's latest book "Portrait of a Scandal" is available from Amazon UK

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