How to Write Standing Up and Why You Should Do It

Ernest Hemingway Writing Standing Up
Ernest Hemingway Writing Standing Up

Did you know that sitting for more than four hours every day increases your risk of suffering from a chronic disease and reduces your life expectancy*? Now that’s alarming considering how glued we are to our desks and computers, to restaurants, cafes, and pubs, to cars and buses and couches. Writers are especially at risk of sitting too much. Whether we type or handwrite, we usually work at a desk or table, and whether we create or revise, we can lose the notion of time for hours on end. I certainly do. Now, getting up every once in a while and doing some stretching, some bouncing, or at least some moving about the house does help, but what is even more healthy and effective is writing standing up, if not every day, then at least several times a week.

Hemingway, Nabokov, and Lewis Carroll** used to write standing up, and so do I, so you can do it too, gracefully. Writing standing up on your own two feet may sound a bit strange, but it doesn’t take long getting used to. You don’t need to buy a special kind of desk or make any investments whatsoever.

You will need:

  • a bunch of large and thick dictionaries or other reference books (the thicker, the better)

  • a stack of paperbacks

  • an average desk or table

  • a mouse pad, or some other adequate surface for your mouse

  • a laptop

Here’s what I do…

I take my Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus, my Great Visual Dictionary, and a few other heavy tomes I have about the house and stack them up one on top of the other until they reach a comfortable height. Then I put my laptop on them. I accommodate my mouse on a stack of about ten paperbacks under an upturned old Kindle e-book reader that I have and whose smooth backplate provides an adequate surface for its gliding, and voilà, Hemingway would envy me.

So long as both the laptop and the mouse at at chest-level, my hands can reach them with ease and my eyes can easily view the screen, making any stooping or other contortions of the back necessary. This is important — if you want to enjoy writing standing up, you must be in a comfortable, naturally erect posture, that doesn’t put any strain on your back. Also, you may want to place your laptop behind a window, like I do, so that now and then you can throw glances at the dynamic image nature paints for you in real time, as well as the interesting persons who walk down the street and who may inspire you. Not to mention that if you want to stalk a pretty or a handsome neighbor from a safe distance, writing standing up offers you an excellent excuse to do so.

It took me an hour or two to get used to writing standing up, so I’m sure that you, too, will get the knack of it in no time. Of course, you don’t want to overdo it, else back pain and aching feet will soon take the fun out of it. Done with moderation, though, writing standing up is a great way to break the monotony of sitting, reduce its harmful effects, and prolong your agreeable existence. But make sure that you don’t stand upright like a statue and grow stiff — move every now and then, stretch a leg, flex an arm, bend a knee, do a pirouette… You’re a writer, aren’t you? You can be as eccentric as you want — nobody will mind you, really.

Will you try writing standing up? If yes, then do let us know how it goes.

PS: I wrote this post upright.

***

References:

  1. *http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-02/many-reasons-chair-killing-you
  2. **http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/5_famous_writers_who_stood_while_they_worked_8390.aspx
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15 thoughts on “How to Write Standing Up and Why You Should Do It

  1. I have this idea that I’m more creative standing up too… It’s not uncommon for ideas to come to me whilst I’m waiting for the train! The health benefits are of course, an important bonus.

  2. Yes I DO Even if I stand too long I get the same effect wit my disability. Simple up and down movements of the body is necessary.

  3. Love this idea and will try it! I’ve been wondering what to do with the giant Scrabble-quality dictionary I inherited from my mom when she got a bigger one…and this one is (excuse me while I go measure…brb) six inches, and I also have a bible the same size. Will let you know how it goes! Thanks!

  4. Hi Vincent,

    I can’t remember where I read about some famous authors who wrote their best creations while naked.

    This is a great suggestion, you have though. I’d definitely give it a try and see what happens!

    Luna

  5. This is such a great post. My wife has been suggesting I stand more, but I didn’t know how to make that work with writing. Thanks for some good tangible, practical advice. Now to put some of my massive books to good use.

  6. If Hemingway, with his reputation for imbibing, could do it, I guess I can. A back problem prohibits me from standing still for more than about ten minutes, however, so I shall have to put the whole thing on wheels – then I can write while walking!

  7. I find myself standing up to write when I can’t seem to get any ideas from brain to page.

  8. I have to write standing up, because I damaged a nerve from too many years of sitting.
    I used to work 9 hours at the computer every day, and then spent about 6 hours a day (round trip) stuck in traffic. I only lived 60 miles away from my job, but it the traffic was beyond horrible.
    Boy with a Hat–I was turning into the lady in the shape of a chair.
    Now, if I try to sit down now for very long, I have intense nerve pain that causes me to quickly stand back up. IF I had been wise enough to stand at the computer for those 15 years that I worked, maybe things wouldn’t be as difficult for me now. I didn’t know.

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