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The Best Seating Solutions for Indie Authors at their Writing Desks

Debbie Young standing up writing in a notebook

“I’m not taking this issue lying down”

If, like me, one of your favourite writing top tips is “Apply bottom to chair”, you may have been alarmed by recent scaremongering reports in the lesser press with headlines such as “Sitting Down is the New Cancer”. Less sensationally, many writers report back problems as a result of staying seated too long. When the writing process usually involves being seated at a desk for hours on end, and for many indie authors follows eight hours of a sedentary day job, it’s hard not to worry about its impact on our health.

Even though most of us know the theory of how to sit correctly at a desk, when we’re gripped by a plotline or engrossed in a long editing session, it’s all too easy to end up doing the opposite. Although I have a proper office chair, a footrest and a desk at the right height, I still often discover when I get up to make a cup of tea that I literally can’t stand up, as I’ve been sitting on my left foot and have excruciating pins and needles.

Seating Solutions for Authors

photo of old-fashioned upright bureau

Desk #1 – for  creative writing by hand

While waiting for one cramp attack to subside recently, I put out a plea on Facebook to find out how other ALLi members manage their sitting habits while writing, and here is a summary of their solutions:

  • Get a standing desk, which puts your laptop at the right height for you to type while standing upright in front of it. A low-budget version is available from Ikea, but naturally more expensive and flexible options are also available, including those that rise up and down according to whether you want to stand or sit in front of it.
  • Use a treadmill desk, which includes a
  • Use a special kneeling chair, which keeps your back perfectly poised as you type.
  • Use a footrest to keep your legs at the right angle under your desk, especially good for shorter people (I’m 5’7″ and I still find it helpful).
  • Photo of a modern desk with computer

    Desk #2 – for everything else

    Sit on a Swiss ball – great for strengthening core muscles, once you’ve got the knack of not falling off!

  • Just get up and move around once in a while, setting an alarm to remind you to do so at pre-set intervals, so that you don’t lose track of time while you’re writing.
  • Invest in a FitBit – a kind of super-pedometer that you strap on your wrist not only tracks your daily steps (suggested target 10,000) but also monitors active minutes in the day (suggested target 30)
photo of orange spacehopper in the garden

Could this be my new virtual assistant?

Having considered (and fallen off) my daughter’s Spacehopper as the nearest thing in the house to a Swiss Ball, and realising that in any case I couldn’t fit on between my desk and the wall, and being reluctant to invest in a standing desk when I already have two different writing desks (how spoiled am I?! – more about my two desks and how I use them here), I opted for the FitBit. At first I wasn’t keen, thinking it looked like an electronic tag for criminals, but when I realised that it came in colours other than black, I splashed out on a pleasing slate blue one.

My FitBit Experience

Health warning: it is addictive! Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • my supposedly sedentary day was more active than I thought – I notch up 5K paces without even trying, simply by bustling about the house and village doing my normal chores
  • 17k paces makes my legs ache for two days (highest achievement so far on a day trip to London)
  • it’s an easy way to set an alarm to prompt me to get up and move around every 90 minutes without the annoying ticking of my previous method, the kitchen timer (it just vibrates gently on your wrist)
  • its facility to monitor sleep quality and quantity is making me get to grips with my permanent sleep deficit due to habitually staying up to write in the stillness of late nights
photo of wrist at desk showing Fitbit with paces below daily target

“Sorry, gotta run now…”

If you’re interested in a FitBit, be aware that different models offer different facilities – mine is the Chrome. Some also monitor your heart rate, but I couldn’t cost-justify that.

What’s your favourite solution to the author’s sedentary lifestyle? I’d love to hear your experiences!

(Note: I am not in the pay of FitBit, though if they wanted to make any special offers to ALLi members, I’m sure we wouldn’t turn it down!)

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#Authors: how to avoid occupational hazard of sedentary #writing life by @DebbieYoungBN #ww @FitBit Click To Tweet

 

 

 

 

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15 Responses to The Best Seating Solutions for Indie Authors at their Writing Desks

  1. Karl Drinkwater July 26, 2015 at 5:00 pm #

    This is important stuff! I generally get up regularly (e.g. to get more water, remind the cat where her biscuits are) and try to do a quick bit of exercise or stretches while I’m downstairs. Breaks, little and often.

    I wasn’t impressed with the “special kneeling chairs” – I found it just as easy to slump as on any other chair. The principle sounds good, but in practice the seats aren’t able to automatically correct bad posture.

    It’s good to check your monitor position, distance, keyboard angle and so on. Small imbalances can add up over time.

    I tried working standing up for a while, and quickly got used to it. However, I would no more recommend always working standing up than I would always working sitting down. As with most things in life, a balance works best.

  2. J.L. Callison July 23, 2015 at 6:02 am #

    Good article on a recurrent problem.

    I’ve not had much of a problem with sitting sedentary for too long now in a while. I’ve been disabled with CIDP for the last two and a half years, and if my legs are not elevated for more than thirty minutes while sitting I have trouble walking for some time after. Most of my writing is done in a recliner with my legs up and my laptop on my lap. I use a pad underneath it to prevent problems a laptop on one’s lap can cause a guy, and I’m able to write quite well for extended periods.

    I recognize a recliner for long periods is not good for us either, so I drink a lot of tea or coffee all day long, which necessitates frequent stops to refill my cup or for a bathroom break, which requires a trip up stairs. Perhaps it isn’t the best solution for everyone, but I’ve found it works quite well for me.

  3. Laura Roberts July 22, 2015 at 5:16 pm #

    I’ve been using the clip-on Fitbit Zip for a while now, but I’m thinking of upgrading to another model now that I know the wrist versions can vibrate to give you silent nudges throughout the day. That’s definitely more appealing than having to set a timer to go off once an hour as a reminder to get up and stretch!

  4. Christine Jordan July 22, 2015 at 4:41 pm #

    I try to do the 20 second fast exercise a couple of times in the day and also when the mood takes me I have a little boogie in the lounge!! But thanks Debbie I am concerned about the amount of time I sit at my desk.

  5. Jane Steen July 22, 2015 at 2:49 pm #

    Funny that, I’d just come to the conclusion that a FitBit would make me a lovely birthday present…

  6. Jenni Cornell July 22, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

    We have an adjustable bed, and the zero gravity position is my best for long writing stints, but does nothing for my butt! C’mon Fitbit, help a writer out! We’re poor!

  7. Joe Stephens July 22, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    I have the curse and blessing of a balky knee–doctor is sending me to an orthopedist–which doesn’t allow me to sit comfortably for too long, so I have a biological alarm. I hope that’s not a permanent solution. I tend not to be able to sit at my desk for hours on end either way. I’m usually up moving around when I get to a tough spot. Walking around helps me clarify where I want to go from there. I really would like a treadmill desk, but it simply wouldn’t fit in my tiny space.

  8. Alastair July 22, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

    Well Debbie, this article could easily have been written for me. I’m retired and started writing a little over a year ago and what with social media, email and actually writing, I can easily be at the writing desk from 8:00 am until 10:30 pm. Okay, I do get up for breaks but they don’t involve much in the way of strenuous exercise. Our nearest shop is about 4 km so that is a trip on the motorcycle and the nearest supermarket is about 20 km.
    I do have an exercise machine which is one of those pieces of apparatus which double as a rack. You know vinyl seats with bars, pulleys and stack-able weights. I get really enthusiastic for two or three days then find I can hardly hobble around the house for the next five.
    But now the sitting is really beginning to have an effect. I am putting on weight and after a couple of hours my feet swell to an extent I can’t get my shoes on. It appears as if a regular exercise regime is definitely required.
    Thank you for your post, it just what was needed to spur me into action.
    .

  9. Steph July 22, 2015 at 11:45 am #

    Really loved this post! It’s so easy to sit for hours at a time and not realise the consequences until you have to try and crank yourself back up and start walking. As someone with back issues already i do try my hardest to get up and move about, so I don’t petrify completely! 🙂 This fitbit thing is a good idea. In fact, my new phone comes with a choice of one as a free gift, so think I’ve already made up my mind to get one! Thanks for posting!

  10. Gordon Owen @ iGO eBooks July 22, 2015 at 11:03 am #

    What an excellent article on an impotent subject that is worth writers considering seriously. I am sure the same applies to PC’s but there is software for Macs [http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/12293/time-out] that can be downloaded that times-you-out for a break where you can set timings and it will give prior warning, then put your screen to sleep for a period so as to compel you to take a break, have a tea/coffee, or even walk around so that writers generate some form on discipline from being constantly view thing the screen which will have an impact of eye sight long term.

    There are an assortment of chairs that can be used including kneeler models with no back that causes you to maintain an upright body stance. Having cushions on chairs are nice but even if they are thick and firm, over time they will deflate and indent and the effects of this will be felt when you get up as the pressure will be felt o the bottom. I prefer a firm high hack chair and a footrest under the desk bit each to their own. A good kitchen or lounge chair that is comfortable but maintains its firmness is good.

    Monitor health with the wrist bands seems novel but in fact as Debbie says can be another way of consciously keeping check of our body condition and there are connecting apps which will maintain these records so you can monitor changes.

    The important balance is exercise so a routine that disciplines the writer to spend time typing but as the memory goes into deep thinks about the next part of the story, to walk away to cogitate on what to write next and take periodic breaks is good. Go for walks, shops library, and any exercise that will allow you space and exercise – obviously for many this will have to revolve around life styles, family commitments, work, and other considerations so what is good for one may not be possible for others so balancing something that works for you is the order of the day.

  11. Joe Cawley July 22, 2015 at 10:54 am #

    Great article, Debbie, and a subject that’s very apt for me right now.
    Due to too much writing with bad posture (leaning towards the screen), I developed a trapped nerve in my neck, which was not only agonizing for 8 weeks, but also put me out of action (and day-to-day income) for much of this time. I’m only just starting to recover now after multi-consultations, sleepless weeks, half a dozen drugs and 20 bouts of physiotherapy.
    Don’t leave it to late, writers! That ache at the desk might just turn into an income-stopping injury, so sort your seating arrangements out now!

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