Monthly Archives: December 2015

A Writer Battles the Butt Bulge–or–Get Up Off of That Thang!


I really need all this space for writing!

I really need all this space for writing!

We’ve all read the stories: Sitting is the new trans-fat (or sugar, or gluten—name your favorite poison). According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, “A recent study suggested that sitting for prolonged periods increases risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and death, even among people who exercise regularly.”¹

Well, y’all, guess what I do all day. It’s pretty hard to write fiction without spending several hours each day sitting. My mantra, posted on my wall, is BICFOKTAM:  Butt in Chair, Fingers on Keyboard, Typing Away Madly. Plus, in order to improve at my chosen genres (blogging, women’s fiction, mystery) I have to read widely and voraciously in those genres, not to mention books, magazines and websites about the craft of writing.

I find that reading while pacing about the house is a good arm toner, especially if the book in question is heavy, but leads to stubbed toes and worse. I do have one piece of furniture at about the right height for reading in a standing position, and I can sometimes be found there, plugged into my ancient iPod, doing a little shuffling dance while reading. Somehow, though, I find it more difficult to concentrate when reading or writing in a standing position.

Research bears this out. According to a study by the Draugiem Group, “…for tasks which require a creative approach—for example, thinking about a possible coding solution, or writing a great article—then the urgency provided by standing is more of a hindrance. We found that for creative tasks, sitting and not paying attention to your corporal self was helpful in letting your mind wander and explore creative options.”²

And writing requires more surface area than my little sideboard offers; in addition to my little laptop, I need note cards, pens, coffee, snacks, pages of comments from my critique group, reference books…

I do go to the gym pretty often, but one hour of exercise doesn’t counteract spending the rest of the day in a chair—and I’ve got the butt to prove it.

My internet search for “workout for writers” and similar terms led mostly to writing tips and prompts—all very well, but that won’t get me out of my chair. I did find this one, good for improving blood flow and de-tensing muscles, but most of these exercises are performed while seated.

In the meantime, I’m trying measures like these:

  • Set a timer at 30-minute intervals. When it rings, get up and clean something. I tend to ignore most housework until it reaches out and grabs me—say, my feet encounter a sticky spot on the floor. This technique could kill the proverbial two birds with one stone, if I can only force myself not to ignore the timer. Or,
  • If it’s not pouring down rain (I live in the Pacific Northwest), suit up and go for a walk around the block. Or,
  • When the timer rings, get up and dance vigorously to one song. Making a playlist for this exercise will be fun. I’m particularly fond of fast Latin music.
  • I could get up and talk to Hubs. He’s currently recovering from knee surgery, so he’s at home all the time, poor man, when he’s not in physical therapy. But once I get involved in a writing project, I tend to temporarily forget the existence of other humans. It’s good for me to switch focus for a ten minutes and go connect, preferably while standing.
  • At the end of a chapter, get up and do an online exercise video. You Tube is a rich source of these. My favorite there is a Lebanese belly dance workout that lasts twenty-seven minutes. Here’s the link: also offers a whole library of exercise videos. This twelve-minute Pilates abs     workout is tough:

So far, my results are spotty, but I’m making progress in getting my butt out of the chair more regularly. How about you? Do you work in a chair? What do you do to break up long spells of sitting?

¹ Prolonged Sitting Linked to Serious Health Risks, Death, AAFP

² We Tested Standing Desks—Here’s Proof They Make You More Productive, by Julia Gifford




Book Review: Provence, 1970, by Luke Barr

Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste 
This book is a delight for foodies and Francophiles. The grand-nephew of eminent American food writer M.F.K. Fischer writes about a winter she spent in Provence in the company of Julia child, James Beard, and other influential food writers. Barr uses the extensive letters and journals of the participants, as well as interviews with a few who are still living, to reconstruct this period in which the American cooking scene took a new direction–away from bland convenience foods and stiff, complicated formality and toward freshness, simplicity, and fusion. I loved Barr’s descriptions of Provencal towns and cities, and especially of the meals prepared and shared there. If you’ve enjoyed the writings of Child and Fischer, you’ll love this.

A Few of My Favorite Things

“One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.”

                                                                –Iris Murdoch


Coffee with creamer
and Triscuits with cheddar
bright belly dancers
and big Zumba classes…

Oh dear, that doesn’t rhyme at all.

Years ago, I read Sophia Loren’s 1979 autobiography Sophia: Living and Loving: Her Own Story. (I can’t wait to read her newest memoir, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: My Life.) In the former book, Sophia gave this bit of advice: Always combine a chore you dislike with something you enjoy. I believe she used the example of listening to your favorite music while ironing. Imagine that—Sophia Loren ironing! In any case, that’s very sage advice, and I forget it all too often.
It’s funny how seldom I take the time to remember my favorite things. Is that true for you too? I find myself schlumping through my ordinary routine wearing ordinary clothes and thinking ordinary thoughts. It only takes a few simple treats to light up my day, but far too often I forget to include these small treats.

And so, for the record, here is a list of things that bring me joy. Henceforth, I resolve to do at least one of these every day. If I can manage to do five items from the list, I shall paste a gold star upon my calendar. (I like to start resolutions with “Henceforth”—makes it sound very official.)
• Listening to my favorite music: samba, blues, jazz
• Belly dancing
• Lighting a scented candle that smells of pine, or orange
• Attending a live music performance
• Zumba class
• A good workout at the gym
• Reading a cookbook or cooking magazine while eating breakfast or lunch. Weird, huh?
• Reading a girly magazine in the bathtub
• Plopping down on the couch with a good book in the middle of the day
• Going out for coffee—with a friend or by myself
• Taking a walk through the park, or along the waterfront, or just through the neighborhood
• Belting out jazz standards. No one will ever pay to hear me sing; nevertheless, there’s something so satisfying about a classic like “Come Rain or Come Shine.”
• Petting a friendly dog or cat—or horse, or sheep, or… Animals always lift my mood.
• Wearing something fancy. I have some lovely, sparkly jewelry, some artistic clothing, but I tend to reach for the same old jeans and sweaters over and over again.
• Making soup
• Strolling through antique shops and other funky emporiums. I seldom buy anything, but I enjoy browsing.
• Going to the library. So many books, and all free!
• Visiting an art museum or gallery
• Visiting a book store
• And of course, spending some—ahem—“quality time” with my beloved.

Let there be treats! What are your favorite small treats?