Writing with Dyslexia and Carpal Tunnel

I’ve been writing for 12 years now. I have carpal tunnel, back problems, and neck problems. And carpal tunnel. Oh yeah, and dyslexia. Did I mention carpal tunnel?

That’s right, I’m a writer with carpal tunnel and dyslexia. And I do pretty well at my job, but some days it’s no fun.

My dyslexia holds me back to an extent, but it’s that pesky pain in my hands, fingers, wrists, and forearms that gets me. Sometimes I feel like I’m destroying my body in the name of my career, and when I think about my mother’s carpal tunnel surgery from a few years back (she’s a career accountant, so lots of keyboard time), I know I’m right.

I learned to deal with my dyslexia awhile ago, and with Grammarly Premium I’ve had a much easier time weeding out the mistakes it causes. No, this isn’t sponsored, and I get nothing if you click that link, but Grammarly had made me quit looking like such a dope to my clients who don’t understand dyslexia.

If you also don’t understand dyslexia, my husband (fellow dyslexic writer) wrote a great blog post that’ll fill you in.

Making a Hard Call

Recently, I made a decision. I’m going to change my career.

I just restarted my writer’s blog, and now I’m making a post about wanting to change careers? Well, kinda, but it’s not what you think. I’ll still be a writer, but I’m going to branch out into work that’s less taxing on my hands and better supported by dyslexia.

I’m planning to start offering photo editing services, graphic and logo design, and even animation. I’m also going to start training as a yoga teacher (as soon as I can, not yet though), and digging into passive income sources.

This is a hard call for me because it means spending long hours studying/improving new skills, spending money on training, and starting at the bottom with these things. But I can’t write forever. My hands will quit on me eventually if I don’t do something different soon.

For those who are thinking that a dictation program would solve my problems: I’ve tried. A few times, actually, because the carpal tunnel thing isn’t new. My dyslexia doesn’t get along with dragons.

How I Cope with Carpal Tunnel

I wasn’t the best to my body when I started writing from home. I was a teenager and would spend all day slumped in my bed against the headboard, staring down at my laptop, typing. Before that, I was prone to 12-hour days on PC games like Morrowind, though funny enough, I did this at a desk with better posture…

I’m including this section for anyone with carpal tunnel setting in because I could’ve used a quick list like this when I started. FYI, I believe that if anything hurts while you type, you should probably also follow these tips. Just sayin’.

Fix Your Ergonomics

You might not have the money for a fancy standing desk or a futuristic workstation chair (I’m saving up…), but you can afford my setup and plenty of other alternatives. I use two yoga blocks from TJ Maxx to elevate my laptop screen to eye level, a Bluetooth keyboard on my kitchen table, and a Bluetooth mouse that uses my journal as a mousepad.

Is it fancy? Hell no. But it works, and my carpal tunnel pain isn’t as bad anymore.

Do Yoga

I do yoga every morning, and I take time to do yoga for my hands at least once a week. This has helped TONS. Here are a few more great videos to keep your hands healthy. Try them!

Take Breaks

Do you ever notice the gradual creep of your shoulders to your ears as you write? The onset of tension while you trudge through a tough project? Or the tension building in your hands? This is why I take breaks at least four times per day, but preferably every hour.

I get up, clean, have some water, make a snack, go outside, or even just talk to my husband about work while we stand in the kitchen. When I sit back down, my hands, back, and neck are feeling much better. And my brain is grateful for the rest.

So, What Now?

Carpal tunnel advice aside, I’m excited for this new chapter of my career. I am changing my career, but I am not changing careers. My job will be different, but I’m not saying goodbye to my writing clients any time soon. In fact, I’m currently taking on more writing/SEO clients, looking for editing work, and increasing the hours I work every week.

Despite having more work, I’m feeling higher levels of excitement about my work than I have in years, and it’s fantastic. I highly recommend changing your career without changing careers.

Tips for Working at Home

I’ve worked at home for eighteen years, but I’m not even thirty yet. Let me explain…

At 12, I was making thousands per year selling handmade masks on eBay.

At 13, I was training dogs as a side business.

At 14, I earned a Personal Trainer/Nutritional Specialist certification.

At 15, I finished my online high school courses.

At 16, I graduated online high school and enrolled in online college for interior design.

At 16, I also started working as a writer for local health and fitness businesses.

At 18, I dropped out of college and started working full-time as a writer.

At 22, I added project management, editing, SEO, and social media to my job description.

Aaand now, at 28, I’m writing this post.

Working at Home is Hard

Even after being my own boss for my entire life, and completing high school online, working at home is hard.

It’s hard to motivate yourself. It’s hard to wear all the hats at once as an entrepreneur. It’s hard to find new clients. It’s hard to choose the path less taken.

How to Make Working at Home Easier

I’m not a millionaire, and I still work all week, but I’ve found some secrets that make working at home easier. If you’re working through stress and life’s many demands, same as I am, maybe my tips will help you too.

Fight the Urge to Rework Your Schedule Every Month

When I first started working athome, I redid my schedule all the time because things weren’t going the way I wanted them to. This year has been hard, I fell back into the habit a bit, and I paid the price.

Instead, make one good schedule that’s flexible enough to accommodate your scope of work. Stick with it for at least 100 days. The 100-day rule is from Mark Manson, and it changed my life.

After 100 days, THEN you can draft up a new schedule. That’ll help build habits and force you to adopt more mental discipline.

Pay Attention to Your Diet, Hydration, Sleep, and Exercise

If you’re not getting enough sleep, eating right, drinking enough water, and exercising often, your mind isn’t up to par. I’m not judging; it’s science.

I aim for between eight and nine hours of sleep, two liters of water (approx. 70 oz.), a 50% raw vegan diet, and daily exercise.

Find similar goals that work for you and prioritize them. When you quit living on junk food and being sleep deprived, everything changes. Trust me.

Find an Organization System You Love

I read Getting Things Done (GTD if you’re a cool kid) and started using Nirvana thanks to the suggestions from r/productivity. It helped me rework my organization system and find a way to stay on top of life.

Whether you end up with a comprehensive day planner like the Law of Attraction one I use, head to Nirvana, or invent something new, find a way to keep track of things that makes you happy. You’ll be much more likely to use your trackers if you like them.

Apply the first tip, though, and don’t give in to trying a new system every time you see a dip in productivity. Stick with one system and make it work, even if you start to dislike it, for at least 100 days. Then find something better!

Use a Dedicated Workspace

This verges on advice everyone’s heard before, but if you can make a dedicated workspace, do it. I work from a kitchen table, but I don’t ever sit here to do anything but work. Until I have an office, that’s my workspace.

When you settle into your workspace, you help provide productivity triggers just like going into an office can.

I’ve heard it’s even better to have a computer you use only for work, but that’s not practical for me right now. I just keep my space clean and bright and respect my work when I sit down to do it.

That’s All for Now!

Yeah, I could go on with several more tips that have helped me, but they’ve been done before. These are my personal keys to success, in addition to the usual advice.

Share your own keys in the comments! Even if they’re “the usual,” I’d love to hear them! I mean it, I can always use new advice from new people. 😊

What to Do When Life Gets in the Way of Work

One week ago, my husband and I had to deal with family stuff. A loved one in the hospital, five pets in need of care in our home, and hours of back and forth driving every day.

We got the call at 6:30 am on Monday, right after yoga and talking to each other about the productive day we wanted to have.

Instead of falling into crisis mode, I contacted each of my clients and informed them of the situation. I then talked to my husband about taking time off until everything was calm again.

I gave up projects, put off something for a week past its due date, and placed everything on hiatus.

Finding Your Balance Again

Today, I’m back at my computer. I still have five new foster pets, making eight if you include all the pets in this house. Things still aren’t perfect. But it’s time to get back to work.

When things like this happen as an entrepreneur, it can feel impossible to stay positive. When I come up against those barriers, I remind myself that many out-of-home jobs would not have allowed the week I took off.

I remind myself that working for myself allowed me to clear that hole in my schedule, and I think about it until I summon a bit of gratitude.

It isn’t always easy, but it helps me find a level ground from which I can regain my balance.

I remind myself that I am an entrepreneur, and I roll with life’s punches. The moments when my schedule can be as flexible as life demands are part of why I deal with the extra work of being my own boss.

Remembering that I’m an entrepreneur and that this is what I work for helps me. I then use that mindset to start putting everything back together.

Find Step One and Go from There

My first step today? Find something to do while my PC took over an hour installing an update I unwittingly agreed to.

I caught myself going into a negative mindset over this and stopped it as quickly as I could.

I tried reading, but it started giving me a headache. Isn’t that how bad days start?

I said no and then played some video games with my husband until the update finished. Then I got to work one and a half hours later than planned, but I no longer had a growing headache. In fact, I was smiling.

So, once my PC was back in working order, I went from my step one. I decided to write a blog post to clear my head and get into my flow state.

And here I am.

After I edit and publish this, I’ll use it as a cue to update my neglected social media accounts so I can check that off on Nirvana.

Then, I’ll organize everything I need to do on Nirvana, so I’m back up-to-date with my to-do list. And I’ll pick my next step.

I’ll keep going from there until it’s time to get off work, and then I’ll go from there. This process will continue throughout the week until I find my rhythm, and it once again becomes effortless.

Why is Time Off So Disorienting?

For me, taking an unplanned week off work rocks my world. It disorients everything. Sometimes, like this time, it also changes significant parts of my routine. Taking care of five new pets requires new habits.

It’s disorienting, though, because you actually need a new orientation when you come back.

You were full speed ahead on goals, and then something demanded you stop and go in a different direction for a while.

When you finally stop going in that different direction, you are not where you were when the event started.

You now need to regain your orientation on your goals. Then you can slowly build your speed back up to move toward them.

At least, that’s my experience with my approach to life…

Is the Freelancer Life Worth It?

Most people who’ve been living the freelancer life for a while have questioned whether it’s worth it on hard days.

Maybe you woke up not feeling like being productive, or you lost your two best-paying clients on Monday when you sat down to work. It could be any life happening that triggers it.

Why Freelancing Doesn’t Feel Worth it Some Days

As a freelancer, you’re doing the work of an entire business—or at least a manager, a finance person, a marketing person, a social media/outreach person, and a whatever-you-tell-clients-you-do—every day. Working from home in the nude doesn’t change how much work you have to do.

Freelancing also means:

  • Not having a reliable paycheck.
  • Having to foot the costs for insurance (or live with your fingers crossed).
  • Hearing that you don’t have a “real job” from friends and family.
  • Working alone (or tuning of the distractions of a café/paying for a shared office).
  • Needing to self-motivate every day and be invulnerable to diversions.

The list could include many other negatives and several positives, but I think you get the point.

These are all valid reasons why freelancing doesn’t feel worth it. And don’t get me started on the negatives and positives I could add in about freelancing side-by-side with your spouse

Is it Time to Quit Freelancing?

Any time I ask myself if it’s time to quit freelancing, my mind rings with a resounding “no!” It’s a defensive “no,” though, defiant even, and one that I give without thinking.

How many times have you known someone who’s waiting for you to fail at freelancing and get that real job?

If you’ve never had people who doubted you, I’m jealous, but how much self-doubt have you overcome?

There’s a desire to make it as a freelancer, to prove the doubts and the nay-sayers wrong. To do it and not go back to the soul-sucking rat race that is working for others (or at least, that’s how some of us start to see it).

At the end of the day, though, you need to sit yourself down and stare your hard truths in the eye. Find the fearful or stressed freelancer within and confront them.

Ask yourself, “Is this worth it to me anymore?”

Is it Worth It?

The answer will be personal. I suggest journaling, mind-mapping, or brainstorming about it.

Throw in a five-minute guided meditation from YouTube while you’re at it to really clear your mind.

Then, ask yourself, “Is it worth it?”

This morning, my answer was “no.”

My answer two months ago (when I decided to look for steady, salaried remote work instead of just freelancing) was “no” too.

But then, I started to find my yes again. My compromise to look for a full-time remote position has helped a lot, and it’s helped me look at other projects I want to start. Most of which are startup or freelance projects.

And so, the cycle continues.

At least, for me, it does.

What about you?

When You Work at Home With Your Significant Other

I work at home with my significant other. We sit less than three feet from each other all day, and we are never apart.

My SO and I have one car, so we even drive everywhere together. Our computers match, our careers are similar in that we’re both writers, and we’ve 100% synced our schedules.

Some of my friends tell me that I’m crazy to work at home with my significant other, but I’ve come to love it.

How to Make it Work

When I started working at home with my spouse, it wasn’t easy. He had never worked from home before and lacked the discipline needed to stay focused. I was a control freak who wanted to micromanage his every move while hypocritically ignoring my advice.

Today, five years later, he’s more disciplined than ever, and I love letting him do his thing. We’ve both grown so much, and I’ve learned some things about making it work for us. The best lessons I’ve learned include:

Don’t talk about personal stuff during your workday.

This kind of conversation leads to wasted time, arguments, days off, and lack of productivity.

Unless it seriously can’t wait (i.e., death in the family), make a note of what you want to bring up and go over it in the evening.

Don’t talk too much about work during your workday.

My husband and I have lost entire days of productivity because we got started talking about work.

Again, unless it can’t wait or will certainly take less than two minutes, make a note of what you want to bring up and go over it when you shut down your workstations.

Show support, no matter what.

The workday is a time to encourage and support each other, even if you don’t feel like doing so.

Save your hard doses of reality for a time when it doesn’t have the risk of sapping your SO’s your desire to work for the day.

Understand how you influence each other.

My SO and I have found it nearly impossible to be at 100% when the other one is working at 50% three feet away.

If this happens often, you might think about separate offices, but I usually use it as motivation to pick up the pace, so I don’t bring my SO down.

Find a calm habit that balances the stress.

My SO and I do yoga and meditation together every day. We also run together, and in a couple of months, we’re starting therapy.

Without ways to find calm and sort your mind, working so closely to your SO can be terrible for both of you. It can lead to fights and chaos, especially if you have kids (we don’t, for the record, just furry family members).

Finding Your Way to Work at Home with Your Significant Other

Working side-by-side is a challenge, and you’ll need to find your own way to make it smooth.

People are always changing, and that means your strategy for working with your significant other will need to improve continuously. You might even grow in different directions, and that’s okay if you adjust your plan accordingly.

I’ll post more on this later, but feel free to ask questions in the comments section! I’m not a mental health professional, but I have years of experience, and I’d be happy to offer my advice.