The Downside of Butt in Chair

Originally posted April 26, 2010.

Ack! I wrote this post nearly two years ago and NOTHING has changed except I've gained more weight. My pop is running the Boston Marathon this morning–he would not be amused.

The good news is I've got a finished novel–almost feels worth the added poundage. But as I start my new writing project today, maybe it's also time to start re-incorporating some good eating/exercise habits into my life.

Fellow writers (and everyone else) how do you keep Butt-in-Chair-itis at bay?

Actually, I should really call this post the "Upside" of Butt in Chair, or perhaps the "Backside."

There are loads of writing tips on the Internet. Heck, there are even some here on this blog. But one of the most simple (and yet ironically hard to do) is this: Keep your butt in the chair and write.

If you do this daily you will almost certainly have something at least resembling a first draft, a polished novel, or whatever other goal you set for yourself. In fact, keeping your butt in the chair and writing is the only way you'll accomplish these goals.

But I'm not here to discuss the effectiveness of keeping your butt in the chair as a writing tool. I'm here to talk about a wicked side effect: Keep your butt in the chair long enough, and not only will you have a finished novel, you might also begin to notice that chair has gotten smaller. Because you, my dear, have gotten bigger.

And I have. I've struggled with my weight my entire life, but five years ago I lost about twenty-five pounds and kept it off for about three. In the past two years, I've gained most of it back, and coincidentally, that's the time I've been working on my novel.

Obviously, it's not the writing that's making me fat, it's the eating. And the not moving. One of the ways I lost that weight and kept it off was a pretty rigorous running schedule, and right about this time last year I was diagnosed with achilles tendonitis. I haven't really been a runner since. To top things off, I tore my ACL two weeks ago while skiing and my capacity for exercise has diminished even further. So yeah, I'm going to have to find a way to keep moving while not damaging any of my already wonky body parts. If you have some suggestions, let me know.

Back to the eating part though. I definitely eat more now that I'm writing, and here's why: it takes mental energy to be continuously creative, and the first thing I think of when my mind freezes is "I want a snack." I don't think "I want to go for a brisk walk," I think "I want a doughnut." Unfortunately, my mind freezes (by this I mean you're happily typing along and you hit a point where no words come and you want to get out of the chair, surf the internet, or in my case, have some ice cream) a lot.

I'd love to offer some solutions beyond "Keep the pantry door closed and KEEP YOUR BUTT IN THE CHAIR" but really, isn't that the only real solution? It's no fun, but it's a fact.

My fingers, at least, are still skinny–they get plenty of exercise on the keyboard.

Holly West

3 Comments

  1. Replace your chair with an exercise ball. You will use your muscles to balance while sitting and in distracted moments you can roll around doing situps, bum lifts and leg lifts. Also, if it is not there in the house you cannot eat it. Do not buy (regularly) the food you know you should not eat. As I write, my fridge is empty. Get your hormone levels checked. I think hormone supplements are risky, but being aware that something your whole body, including your brain, has gotten used to for decades may be changing is useful.

  2. I “retired” to write Children’s Books about 5 months ago.
    I have gained about 30 pounds during that time. I agree that not having high calorie food around helps but I honestly think its the lack of excercise.
    It all goes back to discipline. I have just enough to keep working. If I use that on watching my waistline I do not use it to keep writing.

  3. Most people think better in the morning. This is has been demonstrated scientifically in studies that look at, to give one example, the ability of an individual to solve logic problems, take multiple choice tests, etc., at different periods of the day. Most internal biological clocks are circadian, and people are at their best mentally when they are bright-eyed and bushy tailed in the morning. That being the case, I save mornings for writing. But I force myself to get my butt OUT of my chair every evening to run for two miles. It isn’t much, and it can’t be because my joints are terrible. But its enough to keep me within 5-10 pounds of my ideal weight if I eat in moderation. I’ve tried the stationary bike but it doesn’t come close to the bang for the buck you get with running.
    I’ve come up with some cool ideas during my runs too, so its not all bad. (I have a natural aversion to exercise.)

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