Make Your Writing Space Work For You

I’ve tried standing desks. I’ve used sitting desks. And I’ve even used a device that would turn my sitting desk into a sit/stand desk, which only lasted for about a year before I gave it up and went back to sitting.

In the last year, thanks to that global event we’re all so sick of hearing about, everyone in my household has become a full time work-from-home professional, and all of us are working in the publishing business. We’ve spent the last year switching around desks, working spaces, and other details.

When I quit my day job in late 2015, I had an executive chair–one of those luxury cushioned-and-pleated things. It totally sucked for long term writing. Even at its highest setting it was too low for me to keep my forearms horizontal while typing.

So I switched to a kitchen chair, which was upright and the correct height. It worked great as temporary seating, but that chair stayed behind my desk for more than a year, until I acquired the sit/stand device. I was given a drafting chair to go with the sit/stand arrangement and loved it.

But now I’ve given up the standing arrangement (maybe temporarily–we’ll see) and switched back to sitting. One of the other writers in my house works at the kitchen counter (they actually moved back to the kitchen counter, so it’s voluntary, which I do not get). They took my drafting chair, which works really well for them.

I switched back to the kitchen chair, which worked just fine the first time. But I’d got used to the swivelling and posture-inducing benefits of the drafting chair…and now my back started to ache, using the kitchen chair.

So I bowed to the sensible and bought a new office chair, and oh, I do love it! (See right).

It’s amazing the difference that proper equipment and tools can make. This is something I’ve known for a long time but I kept compromising on the chair because it would take time away from writing to research and find a suitable replacement. Plus, I would have to order it online because of the lockdown, so I kept putting it off.

But I’m glad I finally caved.

Have you audited your working space lately?

Entropy is a real thing. Chair joints loosen, cushioning flattens. Computers grow noisier as they age. Dust builds, increasing allergens in your immediate environment. Light bulbs dim.

Did the tilt device on your chair stop working years ago?

Does the chair wobble?

Is your desk at the right height for your chair–or has the cushioning lowered you so that your wrists or arms rest on the edge of the desk (and your circulation is reduced as a result)?

Do you sit with your feet flat on the floor? Do you have a footstool?

And here’s a biggie: Do you have your back to the door or entrance to the room you’re in? You’d be staggered by how much more relaxed you’d feel if you switched the desk around so that the door faces you. Try it.

If you work permanently on a laptop, that head tilt to look down at the screen can do awful things to your spine over the long term. Can you build or make a stand for your laptop and add a cheap keypad? (Here’s a laptop stand made out of cardboard, as a temporary measure!). Or can you add a big screen and keyboard, and use your laptop as a processing unit?

The Internet has a small mountain of information on ergonomics and the best arrangements for long term health. And now a great many of us are working from home on a permanent basis, it will be of benefit for you to take a couple of hours and assess how and where you work in your home, and if there are ways to improve your set-up. It doesn’t have to take enormous amounts of money, either. Ikea has very reasonable office chairs that are just as ergonomically correct as the $1,000 versions (yeah, I looked at them, too).

Maximising my space is helping me write more (mostly by allowing me to write longer). It can increase your output, too. Give it a try.


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