Ugh. The schedule for writing my weird west serial, Jeremiah Jones Cowboy Sorcerer, has been truly insane. I expected the back pain, the headaches, and the mental anguish that comes along with hours spent behind a computer screen every day, but there was one part of my body that I didn’t expect to take such a beating. My eyes.
The major cause of eye strain for writers is long hours of staring at screens, which emit blue light. Staring at screens also makes you blink less, which dries out your eyes. Unfortunately, screens are basically unavoidable for writers (or really anyone) in this day and age.
The symptoms of eye strain include headaches, teary eyes, trouble focusing, and blurry vision. Not fun.
Since I want to keep writing for years to come (and I bet you do, too), I compiled this of 8 tips on avoiding eye strain for writers.
Follow the 20/20/20 Rule
The 20/20/20 rule is simple and easy to follow. Every twenty minutes, look at something that is at least twenty feet away for at least twenty seconds. Bonus points if what you’re looking at is outside in bright sunlight.
I suggest setting yourself a timer. Personally, I have a hard time sticking to this rule when I get really into the story I’m writing, even with the timer!
Wear Blue Light Filtering Glasses
I’m going to show you guys a particularly unflattering photo of some of my “workplace safety gear.” Ready? Here it is:
Those attractive goggles are my blue light filtering glasses. I usually wear them when I write.
If you write on a laptop (this isn’t as much of an issue for desktop computers), your eyes are constantly being assaulted by blue light, one of the big contributors to eye strain. Unlike phones and tablets, which are also big blue light offenders, most laptops don’t have a built-in blue light filter on them. Wearing blue light filtering glasses while writing can help mitigate the effects.
I noticed a difference as soon as I started wearing mine. I wanted a pair that filtered as much blue light as possible and also didn’t break the bank. They also happened to be the least attractive option. There were also options that you could possibly wear outside your house, and even clip onto your glasses (if you care for that kind of thing.) Just remember, the less orange it is, the less blue light it’s filtering.
As with just about anything health-related, drinking water is super important to preventing eye strain. Every time you blink, your eyelids moisten your eyeballs. If your dehydrated, your body has less moisture to devote to this, leading to dry eyes. So grab a water bottle (the largest one you feel you can easily carry around with you) and do that trick where you write how much you want to have drunk by a certain time on the side in Sharpie.
Take Frequent Breaks
Give your peepers (and yourself) a break every hour or so. Get up and refill that water bottle, grab a snack, go to the bathroom. I, personally, like to have quick fetch-breaks with my dog.
…Just don’t look at your screen so much, duh!
This was a tip I got from the 20Booksto50K Facebook group. Just don’t look at the screen. Look down at your fingers as you type, or close your eyes and imagine the scene you’re writing about playing out. I’ve tried doing this and can’t keep myself from opening my eyes to check for typos, but I like the idea of visualizing my scene. I might try wearing a blindfold to keep myself from looking… perhaps I’ll post a link to a screenshot of the writing (I can only imagine the typos.)
Use a humidifier
This is another way to make sure your eyeballs stay as hydrated as possible. Another thing you can do is lay a warm, wet washcloth over your eyes for a few minutes. I like to do this whenever I take a bath.
Cut back on screen time elsewhere
It seems like everything these days happens in your phone, in your tablet, or on your laptop. If you’re serious about spending several hours a day writing, you may have to consider reducing screen time in other areas of your life.Instead of reading on your tablet or phone, go old school and read a paperback, or invest in an ereader such as the Kindle Paperwhite. Another option is to listen to audiobooks while working out, walking, or doing crafts.(Worried about the steep ticket price of audiobooks? Pro librarian tip: your local library probably has digital access to thousands of audiobooks.)
Upgrade your tech
While most laptops don’t have a built-in blue light filter, there is software you can download. May I present f.lux, a free download (though you can donate money if you’d like to say thank you to the developers) that filters out blue light and dims your computer screen based on the time of day. I just downloaded it, and the relief was immediate.
You can also purchase glare reducing screen covers for your laptop. In addition to reducing eye strain, they also protect the screen from damage.
What do you do to protect yourself from eye strain? Have you ever experienced eye strain before? Leave a reply in the comments below!