Writing with Carpal Tunnel

Handwritten manuscripts of seven novels

I’m excited to announce that a first draft is almost complete. And, it’s all because I returned to handwriting my manuscript. There was a point where I couldn’t hold a pen. The doctor confirmed my suspicion: Carpal Tunnel. 

I started writing seriously (as in, hey, I’m going to write a book) in roughly 2005. I wrote with pencil on lined paper. That’s what I had at the time. Then, I transitioned to pen and blank computer paper because ink is easier to see than graphite. 

At first, I wrote rather large with decent spacing between each line. Then, my writing got smaller. Words crowded the page. Pens sacrificed their ink quickly. I started using whatever pen I had in arm’s reach. Sometimes, those pens were cheap stick pens. They cramped my hand. 

Until late 2016, I wrote prolifically. Novels, short stories, flash fiction, articles for others. With the exception of these blog posts, all those were handwritten first. 

All that handwriting caught up to me. Pain and numbness. I had to abandon my process. Typing drafts happened, although it doesn’t flow the same. Still, words appeared on the page. 

Pain has been my fiddly companion for decades. I injured my knees about a week after my sixteenth birthday. Pain comes and goes, but is manageable. And, I know when it’s going to rain and how heavy it’ll be. 

The pain doesn’t bother me. I can live with a little pain. However, I will say this: Pain is the indicator when something is wrong. Do not ignore pain. 

The loss of strength concerned me. Not just in my hand, but in my entire arm. Actually, concerned is a poor word choice. I should say scared me. 

Now, I did not get surgery. Not yet. I wanted to see if I could heal. Surgery, for me, is a last resort option. 

The first thing I did was stop. I stopped carrying heavy things. I stopped any movement that hurt me. 

The second thing I did was change how I did things. My old, regular computer mouse hurt my hand and wrist. I bought a vertical mouse. It immediately relieved my hand. I began holding a thicker pen differently, which eases any cramping. And, I do small exercises to bring back my strength. Some things, I had to learn to do with my other hand, such as brushing my teeth. 

The third thing I did was to give myself time. Healing takes time. It’s been a couple of years since the pain started. Now, it doesn’t hurt too much. I get an arthritic ache when it rains, and recently, that has lessened. 

I figure I probably have another year of recovery. And, after that, I’ll still have to do things differently and be careful with it—exactly how I manage my knees. 

My writing now is a bit sloppier and I am writing larger. But, I am writing. Physically writing. Sure, I take breaks. I need to. I can’t overdo. Or else, I’ll go backwards. 

I’m on a path of tiny steps. I walk it happily.


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