Twenty to life in the writer’s chair

Hrad_Střekov_(2005)_02I was visiting with my brother and his wife recently when we got on the subject of writing books. My sister-in-law recently wrote a professional text in her field and mentioned how much her back would hurt after each writing session. Her favorite place to write was on her large recliner couch. It was comfortable, but not for writing.

I could sympathize. I, too, when writing at home, used to write on the couch in our living room, and it would hurt my back. I’ve also written in all sorts of odd chairs and positions while following my kids around to their various activities (just this last week I wrote one of the best scenes I’ve written in some time while at a Pokémon tournament).

We don’t always have a choice where we will write, especially if we’re writing around our day jobs. We have to plunk out a few hundred more words whenever and wherever we can. If we only write when we’re in our perfect spot we’ll probably never finish anything.

But there’s no reason why we can’t try to make the spots we write most often as kind to our backs and bodies as we can. We just never get around to it, probably, because we want to grab a few more minutes writing rather than trying to figure out how to make our location more tolerable.

It’s worth the effort.

It only took me a few moments to realize that the problem with my couch was that I have short legs. The seat of our couch is deeper than I am long from my back to my knees when seated. My backside, therefore, would seldom be up against the back of the couch, and when I leaned back to get comfortable it put me in something of a reverse crouch that my back didn’t like and would start to protest over after half an hour or so. Either that or I’d fall asleep.

Eventually I tried putting one of the couch cushions behind the small of my back. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better.

Another typical problem I experience is the height of the chair/couch being too high. I use a laptop to write, and if my seat is too high my lap tends to slant away from me, putting my laptop at a weird angle. Usually I end up finding something to prop my heels up a little higher, like the base of my desk chair, or adopting some ballet-like toe-pointing position that makes my calves start to shake before long. I’ve yet to deal with this one, but would it really be that hard for me to find a section of two-by-four or get an aerobics step that would raise my feet up just enough to get the right angle on my lap without turning my calves to jelly?

I haven’t dealt with that one for one main reason (besides laziness). I found the perfect chair for writing at home. It was entirely by accident. My wife found a nice little chair at a yard sale that she brought home for us to use. It turned out to be the most comfortable chair for writing ever! It’s short enough that my legs are already in the right position, and it’s shallow enough that my back goes right up against the back of the chair without any trouble. And the back is curved slightly, making it harder for me to hunch to one side, which is just a bad habit I’ve picked up somewhere.

If I can’t write for hours there it’s only because I don’t have hours to write.

So think about it. If your chair is less than ideal for long-term writing, take a little time to figure out how to improve it. Good posture increases energy and decreases strain. A good chair makes writing that much easier. Take a few minutes to make your seat work for you, not against you.

Thom Stratton

About Thom Stratton

Thom is a Utah transplant, works for a regional bank, and spends his lunch hours working on his latest novel. His wife, three kids, and four pets find him amusing and somewhat useful, so they keep him around.

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