Writers tend to be very sedentary sorts. Human bodies were not built to be as sedentary as we are as writers. Yet our job requires that we sit and write, read, plan, revise and think. So, it is important for us to be conscious how long we sit at a time and to change our writing routines by adding some stretch and stand up breaks every 30 minutes or so.
There is nothing worse than sitting in your chair in one position for hours on end. Our bodies are not meant to be in one position all the time. Naturally, we are meant to be active and to do things that we really want to do, as well as being active. We need to put some balance of activity and rest into our day. And that is especially important for writers, given that we have to sit and write for long periods of time in order to be productive.
Many writers and thinkers believe that once they sit down they have to keep sitting until they are finished with their writing. Although it is true that we must write for long periods of time to be successful, it doesn’t mean that we have to sit without taking stretch or stand up breaks every 30 minutes. In fact, any doctor or physiotherapist will tell you that you MUST get up and move even if it is for a few minutes.
Here are a few ways that I have learned to get up every 30 minutes without it negatively impacting my writing productivity but actually helping me to become even more productive.
1. Use a timer or stop watch to write for 30 minutes. Otherwise you will have to keep watching the clock. This will distract you and you probably won’t be doing your best writing.
2. Once you set the timer, sit down and write for the allotted time. Once the beeper goes off, stand up and stretch for the first 30 minutes of writing. While you are stretching, take a few deep breaths.
3. Sit down and set your timer for another 25 minutes. This time when the beeper goes off, take a five-minute walk. You don’t have to go outside. Just go anywhere where you have a bit of floor space in your house. While you are walking, think about what your next steps will be in your writing.
4. Now that you have written for about 55 minutes, it’s time to start your next hour of writing. Set your timer for 30 minutes. Then sit down and write for the 30 minutes. When your beeper goes off, stand up right away and stretch. Then take some time to take a few deep breaths and do a short 3 minute meditation. There are a lot of CD’s of meditations on the market and at your library. Experiment with one that really works the best for you. Then use it at this time of your writing day.
5. Sit down, set your timer for another 25 minutes and write. When the beeper goes off, take a five-minute walk around your house. Again, reflect on what you are doing at the desk, and what your next steps will be. You may even want to make a brief assessment of how you are doing so far. Are you working well? Is there anything that you could do to improve your writing in the next session? If there is, take steps to make these small tweaks.
6. Sit down and set the timer for another 30 minutes. Sit down and write until the timer beeps. Then do a few stretches. Once you have done them, it is time to sit down to your last 25 minute session before taking a much longer break away from the desk.
7. Once the beeper goes off this time, take your 5 minute walk if you wish or go out for a longer walk outside. Once you come inside, it is time to have a snack or a meal. Then once you have eaten, you may want to read for a half an hour or so, and then you could start the whole process again from the beginning, depending on how long you want to write.
If you want to write for one more hour, then only follow tip 1 to 3 above. Then you could quit for the day and read for pleasure or do something else completely. If you would like write for two hours, then follow steps 1 through 6.
By following these steps, you will be as productive as you can and you will stretch and get some exercise too. Your body will feel a lot less stiff and you will also feel much more productive and self-confident.
Writers are sedentary. But they don’t have to sit all day for five to six hours at a time. We could take breaks and we could ensure that we are doing all that we could to be healthy, happy and have a good quality of life. Writers have to try to be healthy in order to be most productive. If you are in pain and stiff and your back becomes wonky, you will not be as productive as you can be. So, please take steps to avoid that. And what is best, you could use these time outs to regroup and to assess how you are doing. So, it is not time wasted.
Irene S. Roth