My tai chi teacher is fond of saying that in terms of ill effects on health, sitting is the new smoking. She urges never sitting still for more than ten minutes at a time. Treadmill desks and Hemingway-style standing notwithstanding, most writers spend a lot of time sitting. So, here follows my humble suggestions about how writers can keep moving during their work days. And I’ll start with my personal favorite, stay flexible.
No one can produce the Great American Novel with carpal tunnel syndrome. One possibility is to use all your digits. If that doesn’t particularly work for you, consider these alternatives to keep typing—or, as many say today, “keyboarding.”
Then there is the pencil twirl, which is good for dexterity and also good as a party trick. Keep an array of pencils and pens around and when you’re on the phone or whatever, weave a pencil (or pen) through the fingers of one hand, first one direction and then the other.
Hand function is crucial, but flexibility is truly a full-body need. Try these moves.
Of course, it’s also important to jiggle one’s brain occasionally. Whenever you feel especially groggy or frustrated, try banging your head on the desk/keyboard.
Which reminds me, use scrap paper to improve eye-hand coordination. Crumple all those discarded draft pages into paper basketballs and lob them toward the wastebasket—if you can find it.
Attend to heart health with aerobic walking. The ideal might be a 60 minute walk every day. But if that isn’t possible, consider 360 10-second walks around your desk chair, breathing heavily.
Flexibility and breathing are crucial, but so is strength. If lifting your coffee cup (or whatever beverage) isn’t doing it for you, consider these moves.
And yes, ladies, one can do the squats in pencil skirts: just jut your butt out and keep your knees behind your toes, while keeping your back flat.
There’s much evidence that exercise goes better with companions. Consider bringing exercise into your next critique group meeting.
But More Seriously…
Many successful writers urge physical activity as necessary for writers. Everyone knows about Sue Grafton and Stephen King.
“The writer must have a good imagination to begin with, but the imagination has to be muscular, which means it must be exercised in a disciplined way, day in and day out, by writing, failing, succeeding and revising.”
But testimonials are out there, all over the place. Here is a list of writers who have publicly endorsed physical exercise. Look them up for details.
New York Times bestselling author of ten books, also an award-winning professor at The New School and NYU.
Wolf has had the #1 best-selling book on Amazon and was ranked #2 for all historical romance authors.
Meidav won the Kafka Award for Best Novel by an American Woman and the Fiction Prize for writers under 40. She teaches at U. Mass Amherst MFA program.
Her novel The Fallback Plan made the “highbrow brilliant” quadrant in New York magazine’s approval matrix. She’s published three books.
Author of 17 books, The Mango Bride won the Philippine counterpart of the Pulitzer Prize as well as Best Contemporary Fiction at the 2014 San Diego Book Awards.
Bottom line: Consider the collective wisdom of many productive writers and figure out how to get more active! Here are two places to get started.