Featured Writer on Wellness: D. J. Lutz

Filed in Writers on Wellness by on January 8, 2015 • views: 2255

D J LutzIn 2007, I retired from a very successful career as a performing musician and bandmaster in the Marine Corps.

Along with many gifts and letters of appreciation, I left the Corps with backaches, sore feet, and arthritis in my shoulder. I also discovered I had a form of tendinitis in my right hand and wrist. No more sax for me!

Now, as an administrative assistant and mystery writer, I see many of those same physical challenges coming back to haunt me. Ten hours a day clacking the keys on my laptop and PC does nothing to help me out, physically; everything hurts at the end of day. I consider most of the pain as a mere hazard of the job and don’t let it hold up my writing schedule.

The exception is the tendinitis. I know from experience my right hand will become almost non-functional if I let it get out of hand. No pun intended. Well, maybe a little.

Caring for Yourself with the Right Equipment

Writing is a job, and writers must have the best tools they can afford. The first thing I did was buy a laptop chill mat. It sits under the laptop and disperses the heat away from the machine, and my legs. An extra benefit to using the mat is the adjustable top. Depending on the chair or table I am using, I can set the mat’s rise for the best ergonomic benefit. I also use a wireless mouse, which I often use with my non-dominant left hand. The less work I force on my right hand, the less chance of bringing back the tendinitis.

Desk SetupWhen working on at my desktop workstation, I use an ergonomic mouse, mouse pad, and keyboard—on an adjustable tray. The keyboard angles the left and right keys outboard so my hand, wrist, and forearms are in alignment when typing.

I found a standard keyboard forced my wrists to remain at a 45-degree angle, which after a while really started to hurt. I’ve done some research into non-QWERTY keyboards such as the Dvorak system, but the longer you have used the traditional layout, the steeper the learning curve. No time for such a quest right now.

Maybe voice recognition software will be my next venture? Not sure on that one. True, it would reduce the strain on the hands, but will the baristas at my “office” think I’m now talking to myself? More than usual?

The Struggle to Maintain Self-Confidence

The biggest challenge to me as a writer has been maintaining confidence in the quality of my writing. I know my work isn’t going to rival Hemingway’s, but it is getting better with each iteration. And I have had some great reviews from my Book Country workshop group, but also a scathing one. What to do?

My left brain says my self-doubt stems from the fact I have a great educational background, but not in English, literature, creative writing, or any of their ilk. An MFA is out of the question; and I have only recently begun to read many of the books most writers experience in their early college years.

Still, I wonder if I am on a fool’s errand when I find other writers cranking out two or three very good novels in a year. I don’t begrudge them. I applaud them, actually, for having put in the time and effort.

So again, what the heck am I doing, sitting in a coffee shop at 5:30 am, staring at my keyboard when I could get another hour of sleep?

The Author Must Be Mentally Ready to Write

In their submission statement, one publisher has said the story needs to be ready, not just the author. I agree with that statement, but think you can’t ignore either side of the equation. My novels can’t be ready until I’m mentally, emotionally, and spiritually ready to write them. My faith in Christ and my natural stubbornness from being a Marine help immensely, giving me the knowledge it will all work out.

But those advantages do not, and should not allow me to ignore my body and spirit. My wife and I have signed up for Tai Chi. I am hoping the class will give me an hour away from the stress of work and writing.

Along the same lines, I have a fantastic massage therapist. She can tell how much writing I have done just by watching my posture as I walk into the room. Again, an hour every other week well spent. It took a while for my wife to convince me regular massage would be beneficial, but she was right.

Holy cow, did I just admit to that? I’ll never hear the end of it.

The Darkest Moment: The One Negative Review

I try to think of setbacks as opportunities to improve, so I can’t say I’ve had a darkest moment. I suppose my first interview with a national online periodical was borderline. I loved the fact I was recommended for the interview by someone at Book Country, but the one review of my first novel quoted by the writer was a negative one. What? They couldn’t mention the five other great reviews?

Anyway, after a minute of thinking about it, I realized this was a great interview. Now people will be able to say “DJ wasn’t always famous. See? He had bad reviews, too!” And as for the negative review—it brought up good points to consider and I ended up using some of the suggestions in my revision process.

I would rather have an honest review, wouldn’t you? Otherwise, how could you improve your writing?

The One Thing That Has Kept You On Your Path

I have always had something to say. For twenty years I said it through music. Now, I channel my imagination into my writing. So many stories, not enough coffee. Just enough wine.

Advice for a Young Writer: Ignore Those Who Say You “Can’t”

There will always be people who use the words can’t and shouldn’t. Ignore those people. Unless they’re your editor.

* * *

D.J. Lutz is a corporate executive assistant who spends the early morning hours writing culinary-themed cozy and historical mysteries. D.J. has a short story being published in the literary review, The World Unknown, due out in late 2014.  An avid proponent of social media for writers, D.J. is active on Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress. He is also a member of the Mystery Writers of America and Penguin Book’s online writing community Book Country, where he has been a featured writer and commentator. D.J. lives on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, with his wife, two dogs, and Tink the cat.

Find more information about D.J., along with his writings on food, at the following sites:

Food Blog, “Exploding Potatoes
Facebook: AuthorDJLutz
Twitter: @AuthorDJLutz
For writers, connect with D.J. on Penguin’s Book Country.

Photo by Ms. Miranda Munson

Books: Currently, D.J. is revising his first novel, The Apple Pie Alibi, a cozy mystery about a college graduate who learns adult life is not what she expected when her grandmother is accused of murder. Written as a locked-room mystery, this novel has been described as whimsical and fast-paced, with enjoyably and quirky characters. The sequel, The Milk Chocolate Murders, is in progress.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Chere Hagopian says:

    Thanks, DJ! I love your attitude, and I’m going to try to emulate it. Setbacks are opportunities to improve. (Not a reason to eat a gallon of Chunky Monkey.) And I would prefer honest reviews- but only the awesome honest reviews. Bad reviews can go jump in a lake! (Just kidding.) All feedback is helpful. Right? I’ll try to remember that.

    • D.J. Lutz says:

      Hey – never underestimate the power of Chunky Monkey!

      Remember this about reviews: you never know the qualifications of the reviewer, or the reviewer’s motivation. Some people just love to be a naysayer, especially when hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet. A negative review is of value, though, when it has a suggestion or two on how to improve. If it doesn’t, then I would just move on. And keep writing!