August 12, 2022

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  • Hand health in visual storytelling (and in pretty much everything else)

So, I’m now two surgeries in on my right hand. Yup– the one I draw with.

Sooner than later, most likely, I’ll have a first surgery done on the other hand, and that’ll make for three total, to date.

Sooner or later, most definitely, that number will hit an even ten– one for each and every finger as they fail me.

Chronic tendon issues– fun stuff.

I don’t talk about it much, and when I do– because sometimes, it’s hard to hide a bandage-mitt, and harder to draw with the horror show going on underneath– I tend to shrug it off and crack a joke about “suffering for my art” or some such.

I don’t much like to talk about it– nobody digs feeling weak, you understand.

But I’m supposed to be here to help build you up on our mutual quest to become bigger, better, more badass visual storytellers, and surely, there’s a cautionary tale to be had somewhere in here:

Look after your damned hands, so they can do what you need them to do for as long as you need them to do it.

Your real tools in this gig aren’t the sketchbooks and pencils, the tablets and styluses, or the what-have-yous.

Your real tools are your hands.

Now, your mileage is going to vary– I’m prone to a specific kind and level of tendon inflammation you may not be, and I’m prone to scar up on the inside as a result in ways you may not be.

And I have done stupid things.

But, over time, a million little choices along the way tend to add up and take their toll. Even if that toll never hits the “cut you open to fix you” point, there’s a price.

Call it the wear and tear of living a life. Or, you know, call it a repetitive strain injury, because that is a thing.

I am most definitely not a medical professional– if your clappers are crapping out, please go see one of those folks– but I’ll offer you the common sense I maybe needed to have shared with me once upon a time (assuming I would have listened when I was younger and knew everything about everything).

Set up your workspace to be as comfortable as possible for lengthy sessions. That means chairs and desks or tables at the correct heights and alignments, computers, boards, and whatever peripherals within easy reach.

All that will be pointless if you sit leaned and flailing like you’re trying to get someone’s attention out the passenger side of your best friend’s ride– sit with some semblance of decent posture, and no, I am not sorry for that horrendously dated reference, so you’ll just have to suck it up.

Take breaks— even a few short ones can make a world of difference.

There’s also all manner of stretches and exercises a person can do to help with repetitive strain injuries. I’ve found a few that help me. 

Working probably shouldn’t hit the point where it hurts, and if it does, you should probably think about stopping for a while. Like, for longer than a quick break. And if it keeps happening, this is probably the time to start thinking about maybe paying a visit to one of those medical professionals I mentioned.

Look, I’m not saying there aren’t times where we all need to push ourselves to get through whatever it is we’re trying to get through.

There are. Lots of ’em.

But maybe if we’re just a little smarter about how we treat our tools most of the time, it’ll be just a little less damaging when we put them through the paces some of the time.

Who wants a long, prosperous career as a visual storyteller? Go on, raise your hands…

Cheers,

Damien



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