Autumn Whitefield-Madrano is a seasoned writer and creator of The Beheld, a smart, post-modern blog devoted to deconstructing beauty: its conventional notions, its impact on us, and “how our appearance affects the way we move through the world.” Check out her Blogger Space below.
I wanted a standing desk for some rather prosaic reasons: back pain, ergonomics, the news that we’re all going to die from sitting, etc. My boyfriend assembled it for me (I may be a feminist blogger, but I have exactly zero problems letting him do the “man work”), and afterward said, “You’re like those people who read early reports about smoking in the ‘50s and thought, Wait, putting this shit into your lungs can’t be good for you, and I’m going to do something about it.”
I’m self-congratulatory about my standing desk, and evangelical too. After standing for eight hours my feet may be tired and my legs may ache a tad, but I have more energy than I do after sitting for the same length of time. My back pain is gone, and I find it easier to take actual breaks; instead of “taking a break” by looking at Twitter, I take a break by sitting down, giving myself a chance to actually recharge instead of staying glued to the glowing box.
But here’s what I am loath to admit: I cannot write from my standing desk. I can blog just fine at it, sure. I can look at links, curate them, write up my two-second thoughts on, say, the share prices of Estee Lauder or the labor of modeling. Blogging and standing are compatible. Writing and standing are not. Writing requires not quick mental reflexes and immediate connections, but a willingness and ability to dive beneath. The reflexes of blogging may be the entryway to that deeper thinking, but they’re not the same thing.
When I write, I need a space of meditation that is incompatible with standing. Standing requires muscles to be at attention; the meditative space of writing requires muscles to sometimes be at attention, sometimes to be relaxed, sometimes to be in motion. It requires as much physical variety and flexibility as it does mental acrobatics.
Blogging may be mentally acrobatic as well, but it’s so immediate that there’s not really time to stretch as you must with writing. Blogging is social, the cyberequivalent of standing in the kitchen during a party–and who minds standing in such times, as long as the beer keeps flowing? Writing, for me, is not social; it’s hermit-like, even if my isolation lasts only for the 20 minutes it might take me to get to the truth of what I’m attempting to articulate. Perhaps other writer-hermits stand? I wouldn’t know. They’re reclusive for a reason.
So my blogger space is here, and I’ll happily share it. As for my writer’s space? I couldn’t show it to you if I wanted to. It’s a bucket seat on the subway, or a long walk along the river, or my seafoam green Ikea recliner that’s just comfortable enough to let me relax but not comfortable enough to allow me to sleep. It’s curled up on the couch, laptop precariously balanced on my hip; it’s at a crowded restaurant, wincing to my dinner partners and asking them to hold that thought so I can jot it down in my steno pad for a later meditation.
I’m trying to change this, for when I’m in long stretches of writing I want to feel as physically astute as I do after working at my standing desk for a spell. I’d like to find a way to harness my writing space and make it compatible with my standing desk, but for now it eludes me. Of course, two years ago the mere process of hammering out words on a daily basis eluded me: Every day, my goal was to write something, anything; today, hardly a day goes by that I’m not either writing or blogging. Writing evolves, and the process can too. At least, for the sake of my lower back, I hope it can.
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