Most of us don’t put “healthy” and “writing” into the same sentence, much less in the same universe. If you’re like me (and Gawd help you, you are not), the better you get at writing, the better you get at sitting. And the better we get at sitting, the better we get at eating, and the better we get at eating, … well, you can imagine the rest.
I am not a particularly healthy writer. (OK, you might say, then why is this woman bothering me about it?) However, I am a writer who wants to become healthier. And, that might describe you, too. (And even if it doesn’t, why not read a bit further and see how easy it just might be?)
Writing is a sedentary career, for the most part, with hours in front of a computer screen. Some of us can dictate while we walk or exercise, typing it in later, some few and quite fortunate of us have a secretary or assistant (and I want to meet you if you do!), but the rest of us end up in front of our computer, pounding away at the keyboard… sitting….on our bottom.
So how can we make writing and our chosen calling a healthier profession? There in one way to begin:
Well, what would you call it? We are all anatomically similar (most of us are human), and most of us probably don’t type standing, however, a few writers are quite well known for writing while standing.
“The sedentary life (das sitzfleisch—literally “sitting meat”) is the very sin against the Holy Spirit. Only thoughts reached by walking have value,” said Nietzsche about Flaubert’s innocuous statement that “one cannot think and write except when seated.”
According to the author of Madame Bovary (1856), Flaubert previously informed Guy de Maupassant, “a civilized person needs much less locomotion than the doctors claim.”
We are all civilized persons here, and to write our best, we also do not need as much “locomotion” as our doctors would have us do. Yet, to be a healthy writer, we actually do.
This is where “buttonomics” comes in. You have two choices:
1. Avoid bottonomics by standing while writing
2. Practice buttonomics while writing
3. Don’t write
Some of you more fashionista-types might know all about cellulite and liposuction and silicon injections and even butt-padding. Others of us go “ew.” Either way, you can help avoid all that by practicing buttonomics.
While sitting in your favorite writing chair, squeeze your buttocks together for several minutes at a time, either constantly squeeze or squeeze off-and-on. If you are especially sedentary (like me), you might like to start slow, say five squeezes, rest five minutes, then five times more, or rest 5 pages, whatever works for you. In a few weeks buttonomics will be habit and your bottom will be healthier while earning it’s dollar with your writing.
Or maybe you’d prefer to stand?
Virginia Woolf, Lewis Carroll, and Fernando Pessoa all wrote standing, while Mark Twain, Marcel Proust, and Truman Capote took the Flaubertian creed to its ultimate extent by writing lying down. Capote went so far as to declare himself “a completely horizontal writer.”
It was the early twentieth century labor journalist and suffragette, Mary Heaton Vorse, who pithily described the art of writing as “the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”
However, Earnest Hemingway declared, “writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind and I like to write standing up,” which he did by perching his typewriter on a chest-high shelf, while his desk became obscured by books.
Thomas Wolfe, at six-foot-six inches tall, wrote his novels using the top of the refrigerator as his desk. Of course, refrigerators were a bit smaller in his time than today, but at his height, it wasn’t a problem.
Roald Dahl, the author of such books as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, also six-foot-six, climbed into a sleeping bag before settling into an old wing-backed chair, his feet resting immobile on a battered traveling case full of logs to write. Dahl claimed that “all the best stuff comes at the desk.”
Another stander, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.—the Supreme Court justice who coined the phrase “clear and present danger” to limit the First Amendment when its practice endangered the state—wrote his concise legal opinions while standing at a lectern because “nothing conduces to brevity like a caving in of the knees.”
And not to be outdone, the former secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, when handed a list of approved torture techniques being used at Guantanamo Bay, infamously scribbled a query on it: “I stand for 8-10 hours. Why is standing [of prisoners] limited to four hours?”
Indeed, if they can do it, can we? Probably not, or at least, not often.
But there are ways to help counteract the settling of our body into an unhealthy blob of humanity while we are writing and sitting, and many of these methods we’ll discuss in my upcoming class: Me & Chi: Increase your creativity and health with Tai Chi and mediation for writers scheduled here in July.
Pat Hauldren writes speculative fiction in Grand Prairie, Texas, and has just returned from a conference with 4 out of 4 agent requests on her current urban fantasy. She’s training to become a tai chi instructor and has taken tai chi training around the world. She enjoys chanting and meditation as well. Pat also writes 5 gigs for Examiner.com and writes and edits freelance. Learn more about Pat Hauldren at www.pathauldren.com
I hope you will join my class
ME & CHI:
Increase Your Creativity and Health
with QiGong and Meditation
Fantasy-Futuristic & Paranormal
This 7 Day class starts July 16th
For more information click HERE
Ernest Hemingway preferred to write standing up.