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Written on the Body: How to Sit, Stay Fit, and Create a Writing Space to Protect Your Body

Most of us writers take our ability to sit over our keyboards unencumbered as a given—until our comfort is snatched away by injury or strain. If we preventatively pay attention to a few healthy tenets of sitting posture, stay fit and active, and take time to create a positive writing space and good at-home writing habits, we’re protecting our body’s health and ability to continue to support us as we write.

A writer needs very few tools, but those tools need to be sharp: a good computer or comfortable pen, a nice writing space to sit and think, and a body able to comfortably write are all you need to generate worlds upon worlds of  ideas.

It is also our job to protect our tools, so we can continue to write until our last days. These good habits are applicable for anyone who sits for long stretches for work, so whether you classify yourself as a professional writer or are simply someone with a desk job, take note, start today, and begin protecting yourself for the long term.

How A Writer Should Sit

Sitting may not be the new smoking, but it should nevertheless be done conscientiously.

Borne of desk jobs and ever longer work hours, sitting has been refined into an art form during COVID, which is a fancy way of saying we’re doing a lot of it. Luckily, research has shown sitting in and of itself isn’t particularly evil, but we should sit the right way to protect our bodies.

I, for example, sit in every manner of incorrect position: with one leg up on the table, slouched down like Judd Nelson in Pretty in Pink, or wizened and crouched over like Ebenezer Scrooge as I try to fend off an offspring:

mother trying to write at desk with child sitting on her shoulders

My husband used to stand at our kitchen island with his laptop perched on the toaster because he has done research with kinesiologists and knows it’s better for you to stand, but now during the pandemic, he’s finding gravity increasingly alluring.

Nowadays, we tend to find him on the sofa, but with his chin tucked in so he can see his laptop screen through his progressive glasses, which makes him look like a lazy if angry schoolmarm.

My kids sit at the table or their desks and always start out looking quite aligned, but once we turn our backs to do … basically anything, they race to their beds (whoopee! Bed school!)

In essence, we’re all basically ticking time bombs before one of us ends up with a big fat physical problem that can’t be easily undone.

Exercise to Prevent Injury

Our friends at Pilates studio Coreworks have put together a fantastic brochure that shows the best positions for sitting and standing. Keeping this two-part sheet taped near your desk is a terrific way to remind yourself to unfurl that leg from around your other leg and give your spine a fighting chance.

Download your copy: CoreWorks Brochure

Set a Reminder to Get Up!

Another way to remind yourself to not sit for too long, which even if done according to the sheet is still welcoming a host of systemic ailments such as diabetes, heart problems, and obesity, is to set a timer to go off every 40 minutes or wear a device such as a Fitbit. These reminders push you to get out of your stiff sitting position and walk around, stretch, get a glass of water, whatever you need to get up and moving, which will keep you nimble and relaxed.

You can also build fitness opportunities into your writing schedule.

Where writers used to rely on the holy trinity of scotch, cigarettes and stories, nowadays, most writers understand the relationship between the body and the creative self and make time to walk, run, or simply stay active in order to be able to write and have the creative flow borne of a healthy happy body.

runner in sneakers going up stairs

Running in particular seems to be the preferred sport of choice by many writers. This is no accident; running, particularly long-distance running, is very similar to writing a novel or other long-form book project. The same mental preparedness, requirements of good but light tools, support from others and a community, and a training plan apply.

But even if you’re casual about it, a few laps around the block is still terrific for elevating your mood, grabbing some fresh air and vitamin D, and giving your body a chance to do what it’s designed to do, which is move.

(Plus some of the best story ideas come while we’re mobile- after all, if a story is designed to travel, it stands to reason, we would be in the best position to think about plot and development when we’re travelling, too, even if it is only to the corner and back).

Take Time to Create a Writing Space You Like

Lastly, make sure your writing space supports good sitting and standing habits as well as makes you feel happy (happiness is one of the best ways to avoid illness and injury!)

side table beneath mirror

This excellent and comprehensive blog speaks to how to set up a home office or workspace that isn’t only utilitarian but that makes you feel warm, contented, and safe, including best practices for ergonomic placement of your useful items, lighting and paint color, and also how to manage yourself as a home worker including how to connect with clients and co-workers and making sure your work is serving you as you’re serving it …

Or as much as can be when you have a kid sitting on your head.

Whether you write sitting, standing, or upside down, your stories matter. Contact us any time to talk about your work and how you would derive inspiration, motivation, and maximized productivity with our support!

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