Writing

It is worth experimenting with different types of pen to see which you find the easiest, then you can stick to that type and stock up on refills. It can make a surprising amount of difference to pain levels and the length of time you can manage to write. Possibilities to try are good quality gel pens, propelling pencils with a soft lead (no need to sharpen), and pens with rubber grips. You can improvise by wrapping a rubber band around the pen. Ballpoint pens vary enormously in their ease of use and ink flow - it may be worth buying the more expensive types. Pen grips, and different shaped pens are available from disability catalogues. Lean on a hard surface such as a clipboard.

Address stickers and headed notepaper save writing your address and can be obtained from many sources including some charities. Labels can also be used for messages such as ‘Happy Christmas, with love from Sophie.’ Some stationers sell cards printed with a message such as ‘Dear …, Thank you very much for the Christmas present. Love from …’ Pre-inked stamps can be made with an address or even a signature; ask a good stationers.

Standard letters, which can be sent to more than one person, can save energy. These can be done on a computer or handwritten and photocopied. Computers can also be used to print out labels for addressing envelopes. Use highlighters and different coloured pens and paper to make filing systems and lists more user friendly. Post-it notes are also useful. Writing or dictating post cards or note cards rather than letters is enough to keep in touch. It doesn’t have to be finished all in one go, but can be written or dictated a few lines each day. Some people exchange talking letters, recorded on cassette.

It may be possible to dictate into a tape recorder or dictaphone and then get someone to write it out later. A personal stereo/ dictaphone, which uses full size cassettes and doesn’t need earphones, is available from ARGOS. Some tape recorders record when you speak and stop when it is quiet so there is no need to keep pressing buttons. It is also possible to dictate into a computer with the correct features. Other programs can minimize the number of letters typed by guessing the word or phrase as you type it (e.g. newer versions of Word for Windows).

Some friends might be prepared to send you postcards or letters without receiving a reply. Creative writing such as poetry can provide a means of expression and enjoyment, but it can be difficult to switch off and rest when your brain is in the middle of composing a poem. Write lists and notes as an aid to Memory. Keeping a diary or journal may help express your feelings.

Shortening words (as in texts) will cut the number of letters you have to write/type, which can make a difference when writing is painful. Shorthand ('Pitman's Script') is designed to be the most efficient way of writing. It takes time to learn in full but you can use selected bits. Using a letter opener saves energy and fitting a cage to the letterbox means you don’t have to pick up mail from the floor.

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