Maureen Johnson ones again reveals the truth of what it is to be a writer:

Sitting plays a bigger role in writing than you would think. I mean, a lot of people say, “Oh yeah, I want to write a book one day.” And I smile and nod. Some of them will—but a lot of them can’t sit still for more than fifteen minutes if the TV isn’t on.

You have to sit like a champion when you write. Oh, you’re laughing. You think you can sit like a pro. But when it starts to all go rocky, when your characters don’t behave, when the wolf is at the door and the plot is starting to quake like a jello mold on a trampoline . . . . I defy you to keep sitting.

The sitting thing is why I rarely join my writer compadres in coffee shops. I’m only there if I absolutely have to get out of the house.1 My back is so destroyed by the whole sitting thing that I need an entirely ergonomic set up. I’ve got my ergie chair, my ergie desk, my ergie keyboard. All of it the right amount of heights and distances and blah blah blah. Even with all of that the end of every book I’ve ever written has seen me spending considerable time and money at the chiropractor’s. Oh joy.

Except this last book. I started going to the gym four times a week with a trainer—oh, yes, I’m now one of those wankers—and working mostly on my back and tummy muscles. Result: I finished a book without having to go into traction. I could achieve the same thing by swimming every day but there’s not a 50 metre pool within coo-ee. Buggered if I’ll swim in one of those annoying short course pools. Aargh. Yoga’s good too. But I’ve never found a yoga teacher as good as the one I had back in Sydney. Le sigh.

Anyways, writing = sitting. And sitting can get very bloody ouchy. I’ll never understand why people think being a writer is glamorous. Hah!

  1. So I don’t wind up climbing the walls and rending my hair with writerly frustration and madness. []


  1. Rebecca on #

    this is why you should utilize the rachel method. if i can find the link later (i’m not lazy, i’m just in class, mwahaha), i’ll post the video, but this amazing 15-year-old girl i know from nanowrimo lies face down on her bed, puts the keyboard where her pillow would normally be, and then stretches her arms up and types on it. i’m making it sound ridiculous, but if you see it, it’ll make more sense. i have tried this before and it is awesome. you can practically fall asleep and write at the same time. (though this can be dangerous if your hands accidentally slip and you wind up typing on the wrong keys).
    i type in all manner of strange positions, none of which include sitting. hehehehehehe. i even tried typing upside down once, b/c i saw this kid who could play the piano upside down. that one didn’t work out so well.

  2. Tim Walker on #

    you’re so right about all of this. I’m a fidgeter in general, so I’m constantly up and down (which I think also saves my back), but in the end it’s all about a**-in-chair time. in my experience, many creatively-minded people simply have a hard time coming to grips with the need to drudge it out, hour upon hour, with the butt in the chair and the hands on the keyboard.

  3. Laini Taylor on #

    So so true! I heard a writer at a conference say of the butt-in-chair principle: “I sit on my muse.” ha ha. I haven’t had any serious “sitting complications” yet that require medical care, but I write on a bench rather than a chair, as it not only allows me to spread notebooks and atlases and piles of ms at my sides, but lets me fidget into weird childlike sitting positions–“indian-style” etc. Luckily though, I’m a “natural born sitter.” What a thing to be!

  4. Patrick on #

    strange. doesn’t your secretary, who you are dictating to, let you stand?

  5. hillary! on #

    I hate it when I realize I can’t feel my butt anymore.

  6. Penni on #

    I have a bad habit of sitting on one leg and getting terrible pins and needles, which I don’t notice until I don’t want to do sitting anymore, I want to do standing vacantly in the kitchen boiling the kettle. At least once a day I have to stagger around the house trying to get the feeling back in my legs. If I ever write about a paraplegic, you will know where I got my inspiration from.

  7. Karen on #

    the gym? that is drastic. though apparently drastic sometimes works. who knew?

  8. jenny d on #

    I am pro-gym!

    Have you tried the yoga at the Iyengar Association in Chelsea? I really like how they do it there–but obv. everyone has totally different preferences, it may not suit…

  9. aden on #

    i’m still reaping the benefits of having spent some of my free time in college as a yoga/t’ai chi/shaolin kung fu instructor. aside from having a metabolism like a blast furnace, the musculature in my back is much sturdier than it ever used to be.

    the yoga form also saves me the money i would be spending on a gym membership…

  10. Robin L on #

    Yes! Writing is much harder on the body than you would think. I always end up getting a frozen shoulder from using the mouse so much during revisions. This is so regular that my chiropractor now calls it Revision Shoulder.

  11. Elle on #

    being a writer-in- waiting… or no, should that be a writer waiting to make some money.. no that’s not right either… okay I’m waiting for my first couple of books to be published and can’t afford the gym so have resorted to getting a part time job that gets me away from the keyboard and moving around… really stuffs up my writing time but has improved my musculature immensely(and soon I may be able to afford the gym!)

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