Sitting is good. No, wait! It’s bad!
I know it’s obvious, but here you go: Writers write. It’s that simple. If you want to call yourself a writer, you had better spend a bit of your time putting words onto the page. As Mary Heaton Vorse summed it up, “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”
But herein lies the rub. More and more studies are coming out which say that sitting for long periods of time is bad for you, really, really bad for you. If you don’t want to Google it yourself, here’s a typical article on the subject entitled Sitting for hours can shave years off life.
From what I’ve read, after 15 minutes of precious, productive seat-time, your literary passions begin to kill you… literally! Who knew writing was so dangerous?
Of course, not all writers write sitting down. Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe wrote standing up as mentioned in To Sit, to Stand, to Write. These days, some folks have desks allowing them to stand (and in some cases even walk on a treadmill) as they work.
Good for them, but my writing habits are more akin to Mark Twain and Truman Capote; both men preferred to write while sitting, sometimes they even wrote while reclining in bed. Like them, I prefer to be comfy when I write, with a cup of tea or coffee nearby and my cat within easy petting range.
In light of recent studies, perhaps Monty Python was onto something with the “Comfy Chair” sketch:
Save Your Life with a Kitchen Timer
While I know what gets my words flowing, I also intend to live a long and healthy life. That’s why I’ve come up with a simple writing technique utilizing a potentially life-saving device you probably already own: a kitchen timer. I call it the On/Off Method and perhaps it will work for you, too:
1. Set kitchen timer for 15 minutes.
2. Write as fast as I can until it beeps.
3. Wrap up my sentence, but stand up as quickly as possible once it’s done.
4. Set timer for 5 minutes.
5. Spend that time doing laundry or some other mundane household chore, the more physical, the better.
6. When the timer goes off, start over at step one.
Unexpected advantages to the On/Off Method
In addition to potentially extending my life, my On/Off Method has some unexpected advantages. Knowing that I “only have 15 minutes to write” makes me writer faster, with less time spent staring blankly at the ceiling wondering what to write. Silly as it may seem, this mini-deadline keeps me on task.
Another surprise is how productive those 5 minute writing breaks are, not just because I’m getting chores done, but because they really help my writing. Something about mundane tasks frees up my mind and gets ideas flowing. I can’t help but write in my head during the break, so by the time I get back to my computer, I’m raring to get those words down.
What about you? Do you have a strategy for writing that keeps you from sitting for long periods of time while still achieving your writing goals?
Inspired by Catherine Ryan Howard
Oh, I should also mention that this post was inspired by Catherine Ryan Howard’s post A New Year, A New Routine (Or, The Problem With Goals). I recently discovered her fabulous blog and not only is Catherine a self-published travel memoir author, but she shares a wealth of self-publishing information on her blog. Yes, I could find this info elsewhere, but Catherine presents it in a clear, concise manner that really sinks in. I’ve learned so much from her that I also bought one of her travel memoirs as well as her excellent book on self-publishing. I’ll certainly be talking about her more in future posts. In the meantime, check out Catherine Ryan Howard’s blog for yourself!
Speaking of writing goals, here’s my weekly #Row80 check-in:
Finish my quirky Texas travel book by January 31, 2014: I put in several hours each night after work, but I kinda crashed on my first day off by sleeping much later than planned, then feeling tired and blah all day. Oh, well! Since then, I’ve been writing up a storm. And, yes, I use the On/Off Method all the time. Another thing that really helps is the next item:
Daily writing check-in via email: Morgan Dragonwillow and I have started checking in with each other each evening via text and email. It’s been really helpful.
Blog 3X per week: My 2014 blogging schedule is to post each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Mondays are for Texas travel, Wednesdays are for #Row80 and self-publishing updates, and Fridays are for quirky and/or world travel posts. So far, so good!
What is ROW80?
ROW80 is short for A Round of Words in 80 Days. It was created by the author, Kait Nolan, who describes it as, “an online writing challenge that knows you have a life.” Basically, ROW80 is a way for writers to connect online and share progress on their writing goals. Click on the aforementioned link for more information.
To join in and cheer on other ROW80 writers, check out the A Round of Words in 80 Days website. You may also simply click on any of the blogs in the following list: