I exercise every day. Every day some form of stretching and strengthening, and a hike or a walk must be done. Why such dedication? Because I’m in training, not for a marathon but for a sit-a-thon. And as we are all learning these days, sitting is not for wimps.
Writers, risk-takers that we are, subject their bodies to the most maligned of activities—prolonged sitting. The physical side effects range from back pain to high blood pressure to premature death. Several years ago, sitting gifted me with a bulging disc in my lower back, the numbness starting in my foot and winding around my calf and thigh like a boa constrictor. After a year of physical therapy, a year of restricting the amount of sitting, and therefore writing, I could do, the numbness receded. On occasion, a dull ache returns in my foot—a reminder that I need to move more.
Historically, scribes and clerks stood while performing their duties, though they did have a stool to periodically rest upon. The advent of the typewriter brought about the literal descent of the writer to the current desk and chair with all its attendant ills. Hemingway stood while writing. But for me, sitting is essential to getting words on the page. When I sit in my writing chair, muscle memory takes over—my body relaxes and my mind goes into that dream state where the words aren’t forced but rise to the surface of my consciousness.
Just like an athlete saves their strength for their sport, I save my sitting for my writing. I have a homemade standing desk—a breakfast tray perched on a shelf—where I pay bills and check emails. A board wide enough to hold my laptop balances on the treadmill, where I walk slowly while perusing Facebook, and reading blog posts and articles. I often eat lunch standing in the kitchen reading the newspaper spread out on the counter.
Recently I’ve had some hand issues, specifically numbness in my left thumb. Apparently writing strengthens certain parts of the hand, while other parts weaken. After another visit to the physical therapist, I now have a tub of putty in my writing area. Like an athlete preparing to compete, my hands must warm-up before writing.
My ability to sit and write is tied to my activity level, the desire to perform the one leads me to practice the other. I have learned that the better I train physically, the more sitting, and thus writing, I can accomplish. And anything that produces more writing is something worth doing, daily.
Have you found creative ways to sit less? What helps you write more? Do other aspects of your life require the traits of an athlete? Love to hear from you in the comments.
May 2, 2016 at 10:25 am
A writer must never forget about the physicality of this writing career with its long stints of sitting. Good topic. Didn’t know Hemingway stood. Every time I enter an office and see the secretary standing at a raised desk, I am taken aback, and then I say–that’s probably a good idea.
I begin my day with two glasses of water and 35 minutes on the treadmill. Some days I do yoga. If I can keep my mind off the pain in my back, I can keep it on my story.
May 2, 2016 at 6:48 pm
Thanks, Nancy. Yes, it’s all about keeping focus on the writing, not our achy bodies.