When ‘gluing one’s butt in a chair’ takes on new significance


My post on Facebook yesterday was the truth: “Went to Staples for a glue stick this afternoon… and came home with a new office chair (… and yes, I remembered the glue stick, too.)”

There was this unfortunate combination of things – sore shoulders and a “$100 off” price sticker – that sidetracked me in the centre aisle. I was on my way to the cashier, honestly, I was, but…. With the glue stick clutched in my hand, I gingerly settled into a black leather chair and was still there when my hubby came looking for me.

I have a perfectly acceptable computer chair, one that’s comfortable by everyone’s standards but mine. It just doesn’t fit my backside. I know the fault is mine – my backside is generous, to say the least – but the coaxing voice in my head told me I was still entitled to some comfort as I work at creating my fictional worlds.

So yes, I now have a new  and very comfy chair in my office. (And where am I currently sitting with my laptop? Um, I don’t think I’ll answer that completely irrelevant question.)

OHI_0155-WriterHealthTipArmsThe point is, ergonomics is an important consideration for writers. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety defines ergonomics as “a process of matching furniture (including tools, workstation, equipment, and environment) to the workers and their work tasks to reduce the hazards for injury and discomfort without undermining productivity.”

There’s nothing wrong with using a pad of paper or laptop balanced on our knees to write as we’re propped up in bed, but as a continuous practice over the long term our backs, necks and productivity are bound to suffer. I know most of us aren’t going to spend big bucks on equipping our writing spaces – at least, not until we’ve signed a publishing contract that will offer us a little expendable income – but it’s not a bad thing to keep sound ergonomic criteria in mind if we happen to run across a particularly good sale.

The ideal list:

  • a workspace designed to minimize distractions (including comfort, noise and temperature)
  • good lighting (a mixture of direct lighting (60%) and indirect lighting (40%), plus desktop task lighting in a 20:1 ratio with the surrounding light)
  • windows with glare control (adjustable blinds or shades)
  • a fully adjustable chair with height-adjustable armrests (and the knowledge of how to set it for our needs)
  • an adjustable desk, or one of an appropriate height for us (Dr. David Brandenburg, a UCLA certified ergonomist, says, “The standard 29 to 30 inch desk is way too high for women.”)
  • a foot rest
  • convenient accessories such as a copyholder, plus, if we use one, a computer placed at the correct height and distance, and a mouse that fits our hands and doesn’t require a stretch to reach

If you had your “druthers” (and no cost restrictions), what would be your first move towards a more ergonomic-friendly writing environment?


Cartoon used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Inkygirl.com 

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Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

14 thoughts on “When ‘gluing one’s butt in a chair’ takes on new significance

  1. I think I’d buy a desktop computer. The screen of my faithful laptop is just so low; I get a sore neck and shoulders from stooping at the desk. But I need the keyboard low to prevent carpal tunnel…

  2. That’s why I’ve hesitated to buy an iPad because it seems too easy to not use good posture. But then it sure would come in handy right now. Can’t imagine what sort of problems the next generation is going to have with their wrists and fingers from all that texting.

    ps. I’m so excited that I was finally able to comment!

  3. I’ve found that if my chair is slightly uncomfortable, I’ll take more breaks from my work. That’s not always a bad thing; too much sitting wrecks more than just posture! Personally, if money were no restraint, I’d like to try something I’ve only heard about: a treadmill desk. Apparently, the user walks–slowly!–on a treadmill and the desk part is adjustable. Just sit the laptop on it, start walking, and hope you can work. I’d like to give that a try to see if I can concentrate, or if trying to multitask that way is too much for my little brain to handle.

    Got to say, I love that you used the word “druthers”; I haven’t seen any other writers use it, except maybe Rick Bragg. 🙂

  4. Good morning to all of you! (The sun is shining… it’s definitely ‘good’.)

    Hi, Sharon. Thanks for visiting today. I also have a desktop computer but have become very lazy about preferring my laptop since I can sit anywhere I please with it. The only time I use my laptop in the office is when I have a project going that requires both computers… like updating a website or comparing documents.

    Joylene, I think these various ‘toys’ each have distinct advantages. Now that there are stands and keyboards for use with the iPad on a desk, I can see them being favoured over laptops as long as the desired apps (like MSWord) are available, too. (I’m glad the WP problem has been fixed.)

    Darlene, I didn’t associate the chair with my now-clean office, but I’m sure there’s a connection. Maybe it’s early spring fever. (BTW, your book has finally been mailed!)

    Laura, the cartoon and I agree… taking breaks is important. I have to remember to look away from the monitor occasionally, too. The treadmill desk sounds like a good way to stay fit while doing an otherwise sedentary job. I can’t walk for extended periods anymore so it wouldn’t work for me. I’m not sure I could multitask well enough anyway! I know Paul Greci in Alaska has one, but don’t know what he thinks about it.

  5. I’m guilty of having a very uncomfortable chair so I’d probably go with that. And if Aliant would see fit to bring high-speed to rural areas I’d be even happier. Not that high-speed is an essential for writing, but it would come in handy for research purposes, you understand. 😉

  6. My workspace is adequate. I’m very comfortable. A huge hardback copy of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible placed beneath my computer monitor raises the screen to the right spot for comfort. Lighting is adequate, too. I share this office with my husband. One side of the room is mine; the other is his. We enjoy being together but separate, as each of us pursues our respective projects simultaneously. Life is good. Blessings to you, Carol…

  7. Laura, I remember the days of dial-up here and its frustrations. I’d like satellite TV but we don’t have the necessary sight lines for it.

    Carol Ann, one day when the time comes to downsize I may end up having to share office space with my hubby, but right now we each have our own. I can do a lot of work with someone else around, but I do better with my writing in solitude. I’m glad to hear things are going well for you.

    Helga, you might be right! 😉

  8. Good for you, Carol, in getting a proper fitting chair.
    I think I would like a laptop, although I have an iPad which – if I would learn how to best use it for working on my blog – may work nearly as well. Interesting topic.
    Blessings for a Happy New Year!

  9. Hi, Susan. Writing infers a lot of sitting, and I’m already finding a comfortable, properly adjusted chair can make a big difference.

    Lynn, depending on the generation of iPad, plus a few extras like a stand and keyboard, I think there isn’t much you can’t do on it compared to a laptop. However, whether it would be suited to extended use with its much smaller monitor is a big question. Thanks for visiting here. Happy New Year to you, too.

  10. I was having a lot of back pain, went to my chiropractor and discovered much of it was because I was sitting with my laptop in my lap in a plush chair. Not good. So I’ve been sitting upright at my desk since. What a difference!

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