In my twenty-six years of life I’ve fluttered from job to job like a confused worker bee searching for the perfect flower. In the cold nights when I stand in a pile of unpaid bills, trying to ignore the unsettling number of zeros on my student loan payments, I tell myself that the myriad of work experiences have all taught me valuable lessons about living life. (It works about fifty percent of the time, the other times I drown out the noise with Uncle Whisky.) Now I’ll share one of those life lessons with you.
The year I managed a chiropractic clinic, I learned about the importance of good posture. I made a list of good advice I’d tell patients that came in complaining about backaches and neck troubles. Of course, I was running my ass off making sure the massage therapist and chiropractor were on time, the patients were happy, the filing was in order, the plants were watered and that I was properly caffeinated, so I didn’t need to test my theories. Now that I’m working full-time as a writer, however, I’ve gotten a chance to take my own advice.
The first thing is to start out in a good position.
It should look something like this:
Looks easy, right? Well, it isn’t. I’ll sit down in the correct pose, but less than five minutes later, I’m sliding all over my chair. My legs are up on the desk, my hips pushed forward, my shoulders are raised and my neck sticks forward like a turtle. The way to avoid this is practice (at least, that’s what I keep telling myself) and changing your position. Every time you stand up to get a glass of water or go to the restroom, you have another shot at getting it right.
That’s why I told my patients to keep a stopwatch next to their work station. It sounded like a good idea. Just set the timer for forty minutes, get up and do some stretches. (Forty minutes in one position is the max amount of time you should spend by the way, taking a short break every twenty minutes is the goal.)
Now, here is where I went wrong. As a fiction writer, I need to keep my focus when I get it. Having a timer counting down next to me makes sure I’m never fully committed to creating. Not to mention how bad it is for your flow to have to take a break mid-sentence to do stretches. Trust me, not the best advice I’ve given.
Instead, think of it like this: The longer you stay seated in the same position, the stiffer you’ll get and the more likely it is that you’ll experience neck and/or back problems. And the longer you stay locked in one position, the more likely is it that your writing’s growing stale. When I’m stuck at a phrase or unsure of how to move a scene forward, I go take a look in my fridge. I get a fresh cup of coffee. I do ten push-ups. Anything to break the slump. And by doing that, I’m making sure my back and neck suffers as little as possible from my choice of career.
See? If I hadn’t worked at a chiropractic clinic, I wouldn’t know how to sit. And if I hadn’t worked as a writer, I wouldn’t know how to stay seated. You think I could pay my bills with life lessons?