For Writers, Writing Tips

To Stand or Not to Stand (the great desk debate)

Ernest Hemingway had one.

So did Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens and Thomas Wolfe.

If you use a standing desk to write then you’re in good company.

And if you’re still deliberating over whether to try one, then you’ve come to the right place.

Here I lay out the pros and cons of following in Hemingway’s footsteps.

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Let’s start with the bad news first.

Cons

They’re pricey

The Jarvis Electric Adjustable – which Business Insider considers the best on the market – will set you back a cool $470.

Given the average salary of a freelance writer, that’s a considerable investment.

The Uplift Sit Stand desk, chosen by Lifehacker readers as one of their top five desks, is even more eye-watering. The entire apparatus costs $769, although the frame is sold separately for $424.

Or you could do what I did and pay $53.99 for this cheap-but-sturdy keyboard tray and stick your monitor on a few phone books.

It’s not elegant, but it does the job.

There’s a steep learning curve

It took me a long time to get used to standing to write.

I know a writer friend who threw in the towel after a few weeks blaming bad knees and sore hips.

Also, it just feels plain odd.

When you’ve spent your entire life reading and writing from a sedentary position, it’s almost as if your creative brain needs a re-set before it can adjust to a different posture.

And then there’s your limbs. They’re not too happy either.

That’s why it’s really important to take regular breaks. Alternate your sitting and standing and ease into it gradually.

They don’t make much difference

According to a study from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, standing at your desk isn’t as beneficial as you might think.

Researchers discovered that standing required very little extra energy and had a negligible effect on either performance or health.

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Pros

They encourage activity

Everyone would agree that sitting for long periods of time is bad for the body, with some studies suggesting that it can take years off your life.

Standing encourages movement. When I write, I’m not just rigid at my desk, I’m moving around, shifting from foot to foot, taking walking breaks and occasionally sitting.

And the more movement you can get in the day, the better.

They promote greater mental clarity

Remember what I said about a brain re-set?

Well, that’s what my standing desk gave me. I’m at the point now where I think better on my feet.

I can concentrate longer, be more focused and multi-task better.

They encourage better posture

Sitting for long spells is not the best way to treat your back and neck.

Hunched over, bent forward and straining at the screen, your spine has been through a lot by the time you clock out.

Stretching regularly can help, but it’s no substitute for standing and moving during the day.

It’s important to set up your standing desk correctly to reduce any tension on your back and neck.

Your computer screen should be between 15 and 30 inches from your face, and at eye level. Your wrists should be flat and your elbows at a 90 degree angle.

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Treadmill desks

Having tried, and loved, standing to write, I’m now keen to see if walking has a similarly beneficial effect on the creative process.

A treadmill desk might just make it onto my Christmas list this year.

And if that’s not enough of a challenge, there’s always the desk bike (no, I’m not joking).

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