Tag Archives: posture

Notes on bad posture (symbol much)

I have a bad stance. I stand, walk and sleep with my feet pointed out. It’s always bothered me, but only mentally. I suspect it’s why I’ve never been much of a runner. It never hurt, however, nor derailed my skiing and skating. I thus never got serious about stretching the tight butt muscles that cause this splaying.
Now in my advancing years, I walk night hallways to soothe my infant son. My knees click. They click less if I point my toes straight. I can force that to happen, but for it to be natural I have a lot of stretching ahead of me, both in discrete sessions and in changing my postures of habit (goodbye cross-legged sitting).
The other day my dad came to visit. As I sat, he corrected me sharply, as only a parent-surgeon can. “Why sit sideways like that? You’ll hyperextend your knee.” He started naming ligaments. I just tuned out and shifted in my seat.
Later, as I forced myself along another oddly straight night walk, I considered the moment. I do often sit so one leg lies sideways across the chair, with my other leg over it. Had I ever thought about it, I might have called it my reaction to a world too short for me, like my leaning back on the rear legs of chairs. Now I see another adaptation to my bad stance — muscles so out of balance that it is more natural to sit like the Tarot’s Hanged Man.
This is a little story but for me an instructive one. Things that seem unrelated or rooted in different causes turn out to be the same buried problem, layered over and accomodated like a tree growing around a fencepost, creating all kinds of distortions. My last few years have involved re-seeing much of my life in this way, an unpleasant and humbling process but one for the long-term good. If nothing else, my knees should make it a bit longer. Perhaps I along with them.
Also, perhaps, another instruction: that the world is full of good advice and it comes out when one needs it, but it takes a modest attitude to hear it all.

Posture for writers (standing desks)

For a decade now, I have worked at a standing desk: first on boxes and books piled on a seated desk, then on hasty constructs made from scrap lumber. Now I stand at a custom-built desk, my bare feet on a thick gel mat. There is an obvious and immediate ergonomic benefit for any computer user* — straighter back, continuously engaged body, deeper and easier breathing. I also believe it helps my prose.
Most writing advice goes to helping your plot or consolidating characters, to making things more identifiable. No one ever suggests posture as a tool for writers, the way it is for musicians and actors, so, let me.
Writers play a lot of roles in their heads, and it helps to stand while acting them out. If I want to write a sexy dance, or the discomfort of injury, or a shallow-breathed panic, the freedom of movement gives me more freedom to imagine, to act and to feel.
Writers tend to like cafes, as a balance against the solitude of writing. I wonder if the ability to study other people casually, their looks and movement and ways of being, without the distraction of, say, a film narrative, doesn’t play a role. But cafes are often distracting too.
If you’re looking to liven up your prose in the productive quiet of your garret, why not pile up some boxes and get on your feet? It takes a few minutes to measure your own ideal heights, and possibly some configuring – the distance between hands and eyes is greater standing than seated, so laptop users may need an external keyboard and mouse.
It also opens up some possibilities you might not have considered. I use my monitor portrait now – in fact, I use two!
standingdesk
Of course, you can still sit down from time to time. I don’t stand to pay bills.
*You can write longhand at a standing desk too, but I find it’s better to use a sloped surface so you are not staring straight down. These are less easy to find than they used to be. Search “writing slant” or “writing slope,” or try back sites, calligraphy sites, and of course auction sites.