The Standing Desk: A Writer’s Perspective

Written by: Casey Miles

Primary Source: Writing Rhetoric and American Cultures

The typical, or maybe fantastical, writing set-up usually involves a desk, a chair, a clear surface, paper and pens (plural cause you’ll be burning through them), or maybe a laptop, no powercord of course, pristine. I don’t know anyone who writes like this. Most writing usually involves a cluttered desk stacked with books, papers, cups, bills, junk mail, a million pens buried underneath it all, and that one sock you can’t find the match to. Or maybe a tiny table at a coffee shop with your laptop next to your latte next to your muffin next to your notebook next to your smartphone. Or maybe you write sitting on the couch with syndicated TV shows on in the background, a kitten curled next to you and nag champa wafting through the air. Now, have you ever imagined writing at a standing desk, your feet free to dance to the latest too-embarrassed-to-admit pop star’s album?

I’ve been using a standing desk at work and at home for the last couple of years as a component of better back health. However, this post is not a rage against sitting and whether or not that’s good or bad for you. In fact, this might just be the first body-positive blog post about standing desks ever to appear on the internetz! I’ve found there are two types of blog posts about standing desks; first, SITTING IS SO BAD FOR YOU WHY WOULD YOU EVER, and second, Be More Productive By Getting Off Your Ass. Both of these fall into that preachy health morality genre that I find repulsive. But they also offer tips for building or buying a standing desk, as well as what your body might experience at first. To be fair, there’s also a “Sitter’s Manifesto” out there too.

As a writer, the standing desk engages my creativity in a much different way than sitting at a desk or on the couch. I can move around, I can pace, I can walk away from the monitor to gather my ideas or work through a thought. I can stretch. I can dance! The world around my body is much more alive and tactile when I’m standing and writing. However, introducing a standing desk to my workflow definitely took a few months. Standing is hard on the feet if you’re not used to it, and I knew from my many previous retail jobs that my feet were gonna hurt. So I started with an hour, then slowly increased my time. I also invested in an anti-fatigue mat, which is a dense foam mat used in commercial kitchens, pharmacies, and at check-out lanes in convenience and grocery stores.

Lifehacker recently featured DeskHacks’ four-week Stand Up and Work Challenge. While the overall tone of this challenge preaches to that health morality, I like the idea of a four-week challenge to get people who are considering a standing desk started in the process. Jesse Noller, a programmer/writer, wrote about his experience after 5 months, finding, “I feel more refreshed; and switching “into work” and “out of work” (meaning, in and out of a task) is easier/more approachable.” Don’t get me wrong, I still sit and write, just not as much. And most (if not all?) public writing spaces like coffeeshops, offices, and libraries, are designed for sitting. And mama needs her lattes.

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Casey Miles
Casey Miles is PhD student in Rhetoric & Writing, with a master’s degree in Digital Rhetoric & Professional Writing. Casey’s research focuses on queer rhetorics, specifically looking at butch ways of knowing, doing, and being in academic spaces, as well as documentary and video composition. Casey continues to work on her documentary series, The Gender Project, which explores gender, gender identity, and sexuality in everyday lives. Follow her on Twitter @soulsmiles