The only way to get anywhere is by sitting still
Hello desk chair, my old friend...
“Hi Chrissy! I found myself wondering about your writing vs. working schedule, and how you manage to spend so much time on the computer without totally losing it. How do you deal with eye strain, back pain, and overall sitting-behind-your-computer fatigue?! How do you drum up the energy and motivation to dive back into the very device where I assume you spend most of your working hours as well?”
I received this question from a reader after my last issue, and thought it would make a great topic for a newsletter. We spend so much time rhapsodizing about the craft of writing, but the actual physical act - the sitting and staring and typing - gets little glory. And I get it - it’s far more exciting to discuss where to find inspiration then how to park yourself at a desk for 10 hours straight.
So how does one balance writing and working when, for those of us with desk jobs, they look alarmingly alike? I can only speak for myself, and I’ll start by saying this: Staring at a screen all day is really hard and kind of sucks!
All my working hours are spent in front of my laptop, even more so now that I'm remote and my meetings are virtual, too. By the end of the day I am stir-crazy, my body stiff and cramped, my brain an empty husk. I have nothing left to give.
Which is why I have learned to claim the first hour of the day for my own projects. This means, in order to write, I must wake by 6 at the latest, then write (and drink coffee) until about 7:30, when I start getting ready for my job. An hour or so is not that much time, but it's enough, especially when it starts to add up.
As for the endless sitting, it’s also hard. Working from home, however, has made it easier to get more movement into my day, and I’m extremely dedicated to my breaks. At 7:30am and 5pm I walk my dog for 30 minutes, a ritual I refer to as our daily commute. I use my lunch break to do short HIIT workouts or go for runs. I watch webinars in pigeon pose. I drink a lot of water, which requires many trips to the kitchen and the restroom. (Just keeping it real.)
More importantly: when I'm not working or writing, I try to dramatically limit my screen time. I don't watch a lot of TV, I don't use an e-reader, I’m addicted to Instagram but working on it, I don't bring my phone when I walk or run, I refuse to attend Zoom happy hours, etc. Even virtual literary readings are a no-go, which is a shame, because I love the accessibility, but I just can't do it! I'm also trying to find more hobbies that don't involve my laptop, like pottery and puzzles and cooking semi-elaborate meals, but those also require a lot of energy. I mean, there’s a reason this tweet has over 300 thousand likes:
Mostly, though, I try to focus on the fact that my day job, while time-consuming, isn’t a hindrance to my writing. Rather, it makes my writing possible by giving me stability, a schedule, and a steady paycheck. My job means I don’t rely on my creative work for money or validation. It means, when my freelance checks are woefully late, I’m not sitting by the mailbox, praying they’ll arrive so I can pay my mortgage.
It means I write because I love the excitement of creating something, the challenge of telling stories, the joy of connecting with others, the elation of getting a piece just right, the pride of finally publishing (or, in the case of this newsletter, hitting “send”). I write because I want to. Because it feels good.
Writing gives me purpose. I feel dumb saying that, but it’s true. It transformed 2020, which could have easily been small and sad, into a year of growth and adventure. For one hour every morning I was able to go somewhere and build something, to expand as a writer and an artist, and all I had to do was sit still. When I think about it that way, staring at a screen for 10 hours a day isn’t so bad. Some times, it even feels like a gift.
Snack of the Week
For Thanksgiving this year, my husband and I (plus our dog) fled the beach for the mountains and spent four nights in a secluded log cabin that did not have cell service or WIFI. We hiked many miles, drank many wines, and ate many, many snacks. Despite our significant appetites (hiking makes you hungry!) we returned home with some leftover cranberry sauce. I despise food waste, so I did a little googling and turned up this recipe for Leftover Cranberry Sauce Bars and they were so good - tart and sweet and crumbly and just perfect. In fact, I will go so far as to say Bars > Sauce, and predict that I will continue to serve cranberry sauce on holidays knowing it’ll end up as tomorrow’s dessert, and looking forward to it.
The Dream Job is Dead. Long Live the Good Enough Job, Refinery 29. “‘Pursue your passion’ and ‘do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’ might be well-intentioned job-hunting advice and Instagrammable quotes, but encouraging people to follow their hearts and hustle makes it seem like all there is to life is work.” YUP. 🎨
Turns Out It’s Pretty Good: Aging, The Cut. “Time, going forward, has been marked less by what happened in my past than what might be possible in my future.” As a woman in her late 30s and loving it, I really enjoyed this essay! 👵🏼
How to Tell Your Family You’re Not Coming Home for the Holidays, VICE. “[Y]ou might also want to emphasize that you know this plan isn’t ideal—that you had trouble accepting this reality at first, but that you’ve given it a lot of thought and that you know it’s the right thing to do.” I just made this decision yesterday and am feeling pretty bummed about it. If you’re also struggling with whether to stay or go, this article may help. 🎄
To Do List
The days are short, the nights are cold, and we still have to turn our videos on during Zoom calls. This week, carve out ten minutes to stand up, stretch your spine, and turn your face toward the light while you still can.
Many thanks to Liz L., Charlene D., and Carleen L. for last week’s coffee, which I sipped while looking at a mountain instead of a screen. Bliss!
Want to treat me to a ☕️ and support So Relatable? 💛 💃 🙌
Venmo: @Christine-Hennessey or PayPal Me.
Can’t afford a contribution? That’s okay! You can also click the ♡ below, forward it to a friend, or share the link on social media. Every little bit helps!