My turn to continue our two-week theme of self-care tips for writers. No, I'm not going to talk about being sedentary or not killing the person in the house playing a musical instrument while you're trying to solve a plot issue.
I want to talk about eyeballs.
What? Why are you laughing?
(What's with the laughing…?)
Taking care of your eyes is something most people – especially writers – overlook.
We stare at a computer screen (or blank page, for those who use pen and paper still *cough*archaic*cough*) for hours a day, and a lot of it isn't even for writing reasons. Most of us use computers at our jobs, or just browse the 'Net, or whatever. There are some of us (who shall remain naMEless) who play computer games and so on.
Then there's the research, the social networking, and so on.
Most everyone forgets about the health of their eyes. Unless you suffer from chronic dry eyes or have contacts that dry out when you stare too long at the computer screen, most of us never even think about putting in eyedrops. That's medicine, right? If you don't have pinkeye, why would you use eyedrops?
Because your eyes are a part of your body that you use constantly. They need lubrication just like any other moving part.
Writers stereotypically have bad eyesight to begin with. What? We do! I said it was a stereotype. I'm no exception. I've worn glasses since I was three. I got contacts when I was ten. HARD contacts, or as they called them back then "rigid gas-permeables." This was supposed to slow the change of the shape of my eyeball (I said it again!) from year to year, and it did work to a degree. However, I'm what's called a "high myope."
Were it not for the wondrous invention of laser eye surgery, I would have worn glasses WITH my contacts at the age of eighteen. Fortunately LASIK technology came along and I was able to have it done – AFTER a different laser surgical procedure done on my left eye called "retinal scarring." This was done in order to strengthen my tissue-paper thin retina enough to survive the pressure of the LASIK procedure. (I won't gross out the sensitive amongst us with the details of it. And before you go looking it up online, remember that I had this surgery done when the procedure was in its infancy at one of the best eye centers in the country. For all the advanced technology, it was a little more brutal than it is now.) One of the side-effects is that I must always use eyedrops…sometimes more than once a day. Upon waking is the hardest time. I reach immediately for the eyedrops then. If you think this is annoying, well…it's a huge trade-up from all I had to do with my contacts and glasses every day. So I have to use eyedrops every day for the rest of my life. FAIR TRADE.
They warned me when I had the surgery done that I'd probably have to come back in a year or two for what's called "an enhancement." (Basically they'd have to do the whole thing again because my prescription was so high that they couldn't lower it all they needed to in one go.) I did this too. (That's surgery number three for those keeping score at home.)
It's been about ten years now since my last eye surgery, and a few years ago I started having problems with my right eye. I went immediately to the ophthalmologist (medical eye doctor – different from an optician/optometrist you see in your local grocery store or eyeglass place) and he ran me through a series of tests and made sure everything was at least functional.
He crunched numbers and pondered things and gave me eye medicines to use and made me promise to take "eye breaks." For three weeks I had a timer by my computer, and every fifteen minutes it would ding and I'd have to look away from the computer screen at a far corner of the room for at least a minute.
It got old quickly.
When it was time for me to get checked out again, he nodded in approval.
And then he wrote me a prescription for glasses.
This time, they're different however. This time they're for driving/distance vision only, and they're a very low prescription. They're so low that I could get away with not using them at all, but it's easier on my eyes if I do. (With all the time, energy and angst I've been through with my eyes, taking care of them is kind of important.) Also, I've had these glasses for several years now, as opposed to needing a new prescription every six months like I used to.
Since then, I haven't had a problem with my eyes. I am still conscious of them and the need to rest them. I'm aware (if sometime neglectful) of the importance of looking away from the computer screen or television or even a book I'm really into. Your eyes are such a vital part of you, and most people don't even consider their health.
Eyeballs are tough. They take a lot of abuse and a lot of strain. They're also delicate, fragile things. Take care of them.
Look away from the computer screen for at least a count of thirty. Right now. Go on, I'll wait.
How'd that feel? Pretty nice, eh?
Next time you're at the store, pick up some preservative-free single-use vials of a refreshing eyedrop, or get those nice ones made for those who use computers all day. Pop a couple drops in every now and again. (Unless you're like my mother and can't stand the thought of putting something in your own eyes and have to have someone else force your eye open just to put a drop in.) They even make some out there for you allergy sufferers for that itchy, watery eye thing.
Seriously. Eye drops. Get some. Use them.
Your eyes will thank you. Also, you may get more work done. No promises, though. I'm just saying that you're more productive when you're comfortable.
Also, you'll be able to better see those typos and plot holes.
SEE, mind you. Whether or not you catch them is between you and your mental prowess.