Henry James dictated. Hemingway wrote standing up. Tom Wolfe writes his prodigious novels longhand on yellow legal pads. Bodies in motion, eclectic because various. Let’s think about the need to respect the needs of the body that writes. We think, our minds make up stories, poems, ideas worth sharing, but unless we have the physical means to get the words out of our heads onto the page, they are mostly lost. I write in spiral notebooks on my lap, using what Natalie Goldberg calls a fast pen, one that flows smoothly and is easy to grip. At the computer I use a kneeler chair that keeps me upright and my arms bent at that nice 90 degree angle.
Recently though, my writing–which feeds on reading–gave me a pain in the neck. I was spending too much time looking down. So my fine doctor prescribed more frequent breaks that involve getting up and moving around, wall push ups, and gentle neck stretches. I added good posture, even when I’m sitting in my favorite chair or in the car. I’ve adjusted the rearview mirror so that I have to sit up straight to use it effectively. My neck is 90% better, and my trapezius muscles no longer feel like wood. Wood is good but not in my neck and shoulders.
If you have access to ergonomic advice, take it. Also consider what you carry. I use notebooks that fit in the outside pocket of my purse, so I don’t need my heavy attache case every time I leave the house. I can write anywhere without carrying cords and chargers. My eclectic body has tinnitus, so while I write I often listen to instrumental music to mask the buzz. My son-in-law–thank you, Scott–has included me in his Apple Music plan, so my smart phone and earbuds make music wherever I go.
My prescription for a healthy writing body? Ergonomics, easy portability, freedom of movement, good hydration, comfortable clothes and shoes. We can write only if our bones, eyes and muscles go along with the plan. Stand up straight, move often, be smart about your writing body.