Writer’s Cramp



When I was young, I thought writer’s cramp was a joke much like I thought older people always exaggerated their woes. I thought people were talking about the mental inability to write – more like writer’s block. Or freezing up.

My right arm first starting telling me this was not a joke and not a metaphor somewhere in my 30’s. I started seeing an acupuncturist around that time, and he helped me tremendously with getting my computer chair set up correctly with a keyboard and a bean bag rest for my wrists. I have also used the mouse with my left hand for years to take the pressure off of my right arm with all that I need it to do.

But I insisted upon journaling curled up in a chair with my notebook in my lap scribbling across the page. Something about this pose connected me to the page and made me feel like I could do what I had done in my teens and twenties — ignore repetitive injuries and keep going in spite of slight nagging pains.

Two weeks ago, I could not keep this up. My right arm ached all the time – in bed at night, while I was teaching, cooking for my kids, and sitting to read or watch repeats of my little boy’s movies. I think I have ‘tennis elbow’ rather than true writer’s cramp. Writer’s cramp, or dystonia, comes not just with pain, I read, but also involves coordination difficulties, even causing writers’ hands to jerk across the page. It is most certainly not a joke. When I looked up this writerly condition, I dropped my jaw to think that Botox injections are an accepted treatment. Botox. My arm, I will add, does not yet have wrinkles. And I so clearly remember my parents warning me of the dangers of botulism that I doubt I’ll ever willingly let someone inject it into my muscles except as an absolute last resort even if I develop dystonia.

So for now I am sitting up to write. I’m writing only one page in my journal with the puzzle piece cover instead of three. I’ve made a new appointment with my acupuncturist who has this annoying but effective habit of getting me to change my ways in order to lower my pain. And then, of course, he sticks needles (without Botox) in me and that helps. Really.

I also found a new way to hold my pen from a writing contact named Christi Krug who recently said we should all write by hand for the day. When I told her it was a grand idea but my arm was screaming, she shared this video with me about a remedial grip with the pen placed in the V of my first and second fingers.

I’d love to think I could study calligraphy or something fun to make this sitting up straight in my chair instead of comfortably curled business more fun. Then maybe I could also read what I’ve written. That might be nice.

And if you’ve got any suggestions for me about gripping the pen or a better pen to buy, I’m wide open to ideas. Just don’t suggest Botox. No botulism for me, thank you.