Nathan Bransford, Author

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How do you cope with staring at screens so much?

Many of us look at screen all day as we work. We look at screens when we are reading the news. We look at screens when we're watching TV. We look at screens when...

Okay you get the point.

Looking at screen all the time can make writing very difficult. To wit:
  • We often write on the same devices that have access to email, Twitter, Facebook, and any number of other distractions. So blocking out the outside world is a challenge.
  • It can cause eye strain, especially as day shifts into night. 
  • Perhaps most importantly, it can feel claustrophobic, like you're in a very small room whose furnishings don't really change much.
So how do you cope? How do you force yourself to keep staring at the screen when you really need to write, especially when you don't really have an alternative to screen-staring?

Devices? Apps? Screen settings?

(Thanks to Olivia Clements for the question!)

I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.

Art: A Writer Trimming his Pen by Jan Ekels the Younger


Arizela said...

I spent $$ on a pair of computer glasses - glasses that have a slightly different prescription than my usual near-sighted mess and a strong anti-glare coating. I can't walk while wearing them, but they do a really good job of reducing the eye strain. I also try to remember to look away from the screen and into the short or long distance every little bit to let my eyes adjust.

As for the claustrophobia, when it gets too bad, I change venues altogether if I can - move the laptop to the library or a restaurant or even one of the tables at the gym. The people at my gym are used to me showing up, sitting in a chair in front of my laptop for two hours, and then spending 20 on the elliptical before heading out again. And I try to get away from screens altogether sometimes. There's something to be said for paper (or even e-ink) books.

JOHN T. SHEA said...

Thanks to Nathan and Olivia Clements for some good question, and Arizela for some good answers. Online distractions and claustrophobia don't bother me much, but eye strain is a challenge.

I still read mostly paper books, but a lot of online articles. Sometimes I print things out. I like a high level of ambient light, which some experts warn against, so I may have to rethink that. I never heard of computer glasses, so thanks Arizela! They sound interesting.

I do take breaks, and don't stare at the screen much if I'm not actually reading or writing. My 'incorrect' typing technique, mostly one-handed and often looking at the keys, probably helps too. I don't have a dedicated e-reader, which might be worthwhile for the e-ink.

Like I said, claustrophobia does not bother me, but Nathan is not alone in using the NYC Public Library's magnificent Rose Reading Room as his office! Another author, whose name escapes me at the moment, recently expressed a similar preference. Incidentally, the ceiling alone cost $12m to renovate recently!

Marilynn Byerly said...

All Macs, including the desktop versions, now have software where you can change the screen after dark. It's called Night Shift, and you can find its controls in Displays in System Preferences. This is particularly useful for those of us with insomnia.

Real life is a big help. Back away from or only limit yourself to a certain time for all the social media that you do because you want to, not because you need to, and go do something else, preferably physical.

You can also get content in different ways. Podcasts, audiobooks, and text-to-speech (TTS) apps take you away from the screen, too.

Friends even use TTS to go back over manuscripts.

OHClements said...

Very helpful! I have f.lux on my computer and Night Shift on my phone. I also bought one of those silicon keyboard covers because it provides a nice little cushion (my fingertips hurt after typing a lot).

Cristen said...

I keep the brightness function on my screens as low as possible. My dog needs potty breaks, walks, and love. She makes me take breaks. I use a timer for "my job that pays" and have recently bought an old fashioned one. I also bought and old fashioned clock/alarm lately. These are little changes, but I just get sick of using my phone/tablet/ whatever for everything. I have disabled almost all notifications on my phone except for my calendar. I check up on everything else when I can. The job that pays involves giving people 100% of my focus which breaks up the screen stare as well. Closing your eyes and meditating helps, too. :)

Unknown said...

Many of us look at screen all day as we work. We look at screens when we are reading the news. We look at screens when we're watching TV.

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