About 8 months ago now, my husband and I were very excited to buy a home, one that was big enough to house the children. We had been searching for the perfect house for months, had put an offer in on another house that fell through when the inspection revealed fatal flaws in the old place… but this one was all shiny and newly renovated and the only minor flaw was that it didn’t have a fourth bedroom to use as office/guest bedroom. No problem, I thought. I’ll make the dining room into my office. We can put the First Reader in our (very large) master bedroom so he has the quiet he needs, but I’ll be out in the public spaces so the kids stop invading our bedroom all the time to talk to me.
Right. So that was a tactical error, as I am certain any parents reading along have already realized. But then, I compounded it. See, at work we’ve been transitioning folks into standing desks – cool ones you can raise or lower depending on what you need at the time. I looked at the price of one, shook my head, and went looking for cheaper options. I allowed myself to be seduced with the idea of a counter-height desk with a drafting table top. I could sit at it in a tall task chair, I could slant the writing surface to use it for art, I could mount the monitors (I currently work with two) on adjustable arms. So in theory, it could be used for standing work, sitting, art, writing… Yeah. I think you’re already ahead of me here.
About six months into this whole experiment, I was very painfully aware it was Not Working for me as a writer (or an artist, but that’s a different story). It’s not just the sit/stand desk that isn’t quite the right height for either (I’m short. The task chair I bought gives me no back support because little Hobbit legs, unless I sit crosslegged on it, which I do, but then I have other issues). The big problem is that I can’t get away from the hubbub of daily life going on around me. I dearly love all of my teens, I really do. I treasure the times I get to spend with them as they are nearing the day when they will fly the nest and I’ll sit here lonely staring at my phone awaiting their call. Ahem. It’s not that I want to be… oh, heck. I’m excited about becoming an empty nester. But in the meantime, my little (note: they are all taller than I am now) monsters need me. And they try to tiptoe around when they know I’m writing, and that might possibly be worse than walking up and starting to talk to me about their favorite Twitch streamer (don’t ask. I have no idea).
So I discovered the only real way I could write was to retreat into my bedroom, to the armchair by the fireplace next to my husband’s desk, and use a little tray table I bought for crafting as a writing surface for my tablet and keyboard. Essentially, my travel writing setup had become my all-the-time setup. And this still had flaws. For one, the height was still wrong for my hands versus the keyboard. The ergonomics were bad. So… it went on. I wrote less and less and struggled with time for writing and because it hurt, wasn’t wanting to write even when I carved out time.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to find the writing posture that works for you. I’ve discovered a few things over the last several years – this changes, for one. What worked for me as a writing environment in 2013 doesn’t work for me in 2019 and it’s not just that the house around me has changed. What I finally started doing was experimenting with different things. For one, I now have an office that is remote from the house, where I can go and write. I don’t play music there, I don’t have background noise of a video playing, I just write. And it’s working for me. The other thing that is working for me is a lap desk. Oddly enough I hadn’t considered one, until I was down visiting Dorothy and Peter Grant, and I picked up Dorothy’s and used it. I ordered one as soon as I came home, and I’m using it almost every evening. It allows me to write comfortably in my bedroom armchair hideaway, and I can sit in bed with lumbar support and write there, too.
I’ve gone from struggling to get a thousand words a week, to reliably averaging a thousand words a day. I’m also keeping myself accountable in my tiny writing group online, using an app with a word tracker, and just plain making writing a priority. But the place to write comfortably was the biggest hurdle in all of that. If it hurts, you will avoid it, even if subconsciously. Take the time to evaluate the ergonomics of your writing set up, if you find yourself starting to dread sitting down to write. It might be part of the problem.
In the coming weeks, I am going to be testing out a walking desk, another idea Dorothy Grant gave me. We have the treadmill, just have to figure out how best to create a surface at the correct height to hold my keyboard. I’ve already played around with it, and discovered that I can write and walk at the same time. This should be interesting!
(header image: photo by Cedar Sanderson)