Climbing toward Creativity


My new stepper desk.

Did you know that sitting down will kill you? I didn’t either, until recently. I did know, however, that I was logging a lot of sedentary hours with my ass-in-chair approach to living a writer’s life, and it was starting to show. (One does not develop a bikini butt by sitting on it.)

Would standing be a better option? Hemmingway wrote standing up. According to George Plimpton, “[Hemingway] stands in a pair of his oversized loafers on the worn skin of a lesser kudu—the typewriter and the reading board chest-high opposite him.” An article by PR Daily revealed that Vladimir Nabokov, Phillip Roth, Lewis Carroll and Thomas Wolfe did too. But despite the fact that I would be standing in exalted company, standing (still) isn’t very comfortable.

So I continued to sit. I traded my beautiful handmade chair for one that had an exercise ball for a seat, but it wasn’t adjustable and I felt like I needed a little nibble of the mushroom the Caterpillar gave to Alice to achieve the right size. After that, I tried a fancy ergonomic chair so that I might at least mitigate my hunching over, and rationalized that my daily strength training and taekwondo exercise would offset a declining metabolism.

Then my health-minded friend John sent an article, “Why not even exercise will undo the harm of sitting all day.” The results of a meta-analysis concluded that “the increased risk of cancer seen in individuals with prolonged time spent sedentary is not explained by the mere absence of physical activity in those persons.” That very day, I started researching options.

There are some clever DIY-types out there with lots of great advice on how to build treadmill desks. But I don’t have a treadmill, nor do I have the space for one. But I do have a great old Schwinn upright stair-stepper that I used for my two-a-day cardio sessions back in my fitness competition days. My husband offered to help me make a desk for it, and for about $20 in materials plus $50 for a Targus Chill Mat, he put together a simple but sturdy work surface.

Yesterday I wrote for more than an hour at my new desk, which is next to my old desk in my office. I have a great view out the window, and can still hear my windchimes above the hypnotic slewwsh slewwsh of the hydraulic pumps as I climb. Today, I’ve been on it for more than two hours already. My feet are tired and I’m drenched in sweat, but I’m happy to be moving instead of sitting.

And there’s something else interesting to note: the movement doesn’t distract me at all. In fact, I find I’m able to focus even more intently on what I’m doing. There is a correlation between movement and creativity. That’s why the muse often visits while we’re busy showering or taking a walk.

Whether this will improve my writing remains to be seen. But at least I won’t sit to death before I finish my next book.