My Stand-Up Desk Experiment (Day One)

For those of you following, my week of solitude was a success. I spent a lot of time getting the writing done that I wanted, I watched a few movies, and I spent time with my great-nephew. Daughter had a fabulous time at camp and can’t stop talking about it, which is wonderful to hear.

As a matter of fact, I had such a wonderful week in my office that my back was starting to yell. Sitting in a chair too much can be quite painful, especially for anyone with prior back/spine issues. Considering how bad it is for you to sit in a chair all day, I decided to get/create a standing work station to see what all the fuss was about. First, I talked with Sean Preuss, a trainer to friends of mine and an author who writes standing up. Then I searched Pinterest and the Internet for stand-up desk DIYs just to get a feel for what I needed. Here are a few of the sites I visited:

1. One Year at My Standing Desk

2. The Standing Desk Experiment: Five Months In

3. Forbes Magazine: What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Standing Desks?

4. Lifehack: The True Benefits of a Standing Desk

What did I learn? The desk should be at elbow height or just below. Your arms should be at right angles from your body, including your wrists, while typing. An anti-fatigue mat for standing is a good idea. Get ready for a sore back and legs at first. Move around a lot if you can.

My Standing Workstation

My Standing Workstation

So, after all that research I started the search. I was planning on stacking books on my desk until I searched my teenager’s room and found a study computer desk we had bought for her a few years back. Since she doesn’t use it all that much anymore, (the dining table worked fine and she just graduated). It has two heights, and the lowest height is perfect for me. As you can see from the photo, it’s wide enough to put a mouse/trackball to the right. There is actually a built-in mousepad there. Too bad I don’t need that. There is also a light on the left for late-night reading.

Day one: I find myself shifting my feet a lot, side to side. I finally decided to put a box under the desk and rest one foot on it, similar to standing at a bar (except nobody served me a martini here. This bar sucks!). I have even stood for a bit with my foot propped behind me on the chair I’m not using.

The space right between my shoulder blades is screaming at me. I think this is just my body telling me that my posture is pretty damn bad and I should just sit down, but I’m not giving in that easily.

This little table gets cramped quickly with the laptop, trackball, and speaker. (What? I need my Pandora when I work.) The wire is too short to sit on the desk. But the good news is that there is a lot of room under the desk to put things. And, it can be folded down in case I want to sit for a little bit and take a breather.

I need better shoes. I think I need to invest in some really good shoes to stand in all day. It’s like walking all over Disneyland but without the big annoying mouse. My feet hurt like crazy, but I didn’t get any ice cream shaped like a mouse head.

From what I’ve read, it does get a bit uncomfortable the first few days. Some people say don’t do it all day on the first few days. I may sit after finishing this post, or I may take a walk. I will definitely be finding a gel mat to stand on soon, and hopefully one that doesn’t cost the same as my computer. Have you priced those out? Geez! I suppose it’s worth it, but I may be trying to make my own.

So for now I’m shifting side to side and shrugging my shoulders a lot. I have actually found myself swaying to the music and walking around my little office a bit more.

If you have one of these, let me know what you do to ease fatigue and soreness. I’m hoping this will be a great solution. I have heard that people lose weight after doing this, although that is not my goal. This is just my first step at trying to get a bit more fit, work out a little more, and live a bit longer.

Stay tuned for updates. I’ll let you know how the long-term standing sits with me. (Get it? Standing-Sits. Hehe, I’m crack myself up!)

Thanks for stopping by!

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Creating art, no matter who likes it

“The arts are not a way of making a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

This quote by Kurt Vonnegut has been making the rounds on Facebook and it really spoke to me. I love the line, “Write a poem, even a lousy poem.” Writers/artists are always so worried about what others think about their work. But the reward should not be who likes it, but the amount of joy we got out of creating it. There will always be someone who does not like it, and there will always be someone who does (even if that’s just you). Do it anyway.

I sent out a short story to a contest yesterday and I was sweating while I did it. I imagined the judges reading it with scowls and grimaces. “She thinks she’s a writer?” “What the hell is this?” Nightmares. Then I tell myself I’m supposed to be positive and that brings good things, right? At least that’s what all those cute sayings and photos tell me on Facebook. So I picture them saying, “Wow, brilliant writing. Check this out,” as they hand it around the table. (Yes, they are all sitting around a big conference table sipping martinis and reading short stories. It’s my dream, shut up.)

I’ve created all kinds of crappy art while trying to copy Pinterest. Who the hell does all that stuff anyway? But I had fun doing it and it’s all over my office where I can see it, but  everyone else doesn’t have to look at it. It might be brilliant, but more than likely it’s mediocre at best.

We’ll see what happens with the story, but I felt great while writing it. I felt great editing it. I felt uneasy sending it, but once it was gone it was out of my hands. And if, by chance, they don’t like it, that doesn’t take away any of the joy I got while writing it.

 

The trend toward one-word titles and what I think about how short they are and what they mean

Tucked away in my little studio, writing away at a book that may be published in the future (note the insecurity), I begin to contemplate the title of said book. Yes, I’m that far along with it. And even though I know that publishers usually end up scrapping the original title and stamping their own without a second thought, I want to make as little work as possible for them so they have more time to sell, sell, sell.

So while I rack my brain trying to think of titles, I do a little research and find a fascinating phenomenon. One word. That’s it. Just one word is all I need. How did this trend happen and more importantly, where was I when that memo came out? Did Twilight start this mess, I asked myself? No. You have to go back even further (said a strange, whispering voice) to Jane Austen’s miserly use of words for Persuasion, Stevenson’s Kidnapped, or even Benchley’s pint-sized title with a punch, Jaws. Who needs pesky details in a title, right?

So even though these types of titles have been around for a long time, no other time is it as obvious a trend as today. Just look at a few of the titles out now: Defiance, Slammed, Thoughtless, Wings, Rapture, Predestined, Insurgent, Divergent, Forbidden, Devour, Touch, Twilight, Outpost, Boneshaker, Hemlock, and Room. Lovely words, yes? I’m not sure I know what any of these books are about, except for the few that I have read.

My question, and excuse me if I’m just not seeing it, is the relevance of these titles to the book. Does the title (word) tell you enough about the book to make you want to read it? Is that one word sufficient? In most cases, unless the book takes off and it doesn’t matter what you call it (like Twilight or Jaws), most books will be seen online or a store shelf and have about 5 seconds to grab the reader, intrigue him enough to read the blurb on the back cover or description and then decide to buy. That’s a lot of pressure to put on one word, don’t you think?

The present-day trend of one-word titles brings to mind beloved classics, and just what word would be used if they were being published today.

Farenheit 451 – Banned

The Catcher in the Rye – Defiance

Little Women – Loyalty

The Count of Monte Cristo – Revenge

Great Expectations – Prospects

Gone with the Wind – Avarice

The Great Gatsby – Regrets

The Cat in the Hat – Disillusion

Green Eggs and Ham – Resistance

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It all comes down to having a good story behind the title. People don’t say, “You should read this, it has a great title.”

I’m still thinking of a title that will knock the pencil right out of the publisher’s hand. Oh yeah, and a story to go with it.

Do we really hate other writers?

Along with reading a novel from an aspiring writer as a favor, I’ve been watching one of my favorite movies a lot lately. Midnight in Paris, one of Woody Allen’s best in my opinion, has some great dialogue and a beautiful plot line. I love the characters, and the dream-like romp in 1920s Paris, complete with Gertrude Stein, Picasso, and of course, Hemingway.

One scene in particular stands out for me. The main character, strangely transported to Paris in the 1920s, has a chance to meet Hemingway in a bar. After a little small talk, he asked Papa if he’ll take a look at his novel and give him his opinion. Hemingway’s response?

“My opinion is I hate it,” he says.

“But you haven’t even read it yet,” Gil says.

“If it’s bad, I’ll hate it because I hate bad writing,” Hemingway explains. “If it’s good, I’ll be envious and hate it all the more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer.”

This quote really made me think. Is this true? As writers, we always seek feedback from other writers, we want insights, criticism and tips, right? I’ve had great feedback from friends who were writers, but we were also good friends way before the reading began. I admit I do feel a little apprehensive about sending my work out there for writers to comment if I don’t know them well.

Now, as I read the novel of a newly acquainted writer, I’m thinking how great his book is, and how jealous I am. Yes, I admit it, I’m jealous because it is pretty good. But, I don’t think I hate it because it’s good. I just wish I’d written something this good, although it’s not my genre so there’s no way I would have.

Confusing enough? My question is this…do we hate other writers who are successful? Do we secretly envy their success? Or does it make us just that much more determined to go out and do the same thing? I’ve heard other writers say, “If Stephanie Meyer can do it with that, I can certainly do better.” Well, what are you waiting for? Sometimes the difference between the published writer and the unpublished writer is not the quality of their writing but their determination to get it out there.

Celebrating the success of others

Cheers to you, Ladies!

So many great things are happening for writers I have been following lately, it’s quite encouraging and exciting. Allow me to take a minute and pat them on the back:

C.J. Redwine has sold her book! And not only that, it’s a three-book deal. I’m so excited for her. Check it out here on her blog. I took one of her query-writing classes and learned so much. It’s so very helpful to have someone critique your query and pitch, especially if they have not read the book. I also have a soft spot in my heart for C.J. since I’ve been able to share in her journey to China on her blog as she adopted her daughter. I have two beautiful daughters from China and it was so nice to relive that joy once again with her.

Rebecca Cantrell has published the third book in her Hannah Vogel series, A Game of Lies. Brilliant! I was hooked on this series after first hearing about it on Twitter. I quickly started following Rebecca and have since had a chance to meet her as she traveled the country on a book tour. Lucky me! She’s a warm, intelligent person who can also write. Complete package! Check out the series, it’s a wonderful, intriguing and well-written series. I blogged about her before, here.

Kathy Cano-Murillo’s first book, Waking up in the Land of Glitter, was a huge success and she’s followed it up with another book, Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing, all based on what she knows best-crafting. She’s built a crafting empire (Crafty Chica) doing what she loves. How great is that? I have followed her career since I worked at the newspaper years ago and loved reading her stories. She started her own business, then was approached to write a book. Not only is she a wonderful writer and creative person, but she has always been willing to answer questions about writing, plot, etc. from an amateur like me. Thanks Kathy!

That’s it for now. I’ve got a lot more, but these three are on top right now. It’s inspiring to see them succeed, and gives me the courage and determination to continue on my quest. (Plus, my envy creates a strong, valuable amount of rage that I can tap into if I need it. OK, there, I said it!) Thanks Ladies!