11 June 2012

Are You Sitting Down?

Usually,  "Are you sitting down?" introduces conversations that deal with topics that are shocking--either tragically or wonderfully.  In this case, the question is meant literally and directed toward the writers among us.  Perhaps I should expand the inquiry to, "Are you sitting down when you write?When I first considered this, I thought that people with computers probably always write sitting, but with a laptop or the proper positioning of bed or couch and computer, writing can be accomplished while lying down.  Personally, I know a couple of writers who still write in long-hand before moving their work to a computer.This would make writing while reclining easier.  I also have a friend who writes everything on his Ipad.

Mark Twain, Truman Capote, and Marcel Proust were all inclined to lie down on the job when writing.  They weren't lazy.  Each of them was ambitious and prolific.  Mark Twain scolded writers who complained about the difficulty of writing.  He is quoted as saying, "Writing is the easiest thing in the world...Just try it in bed sometime.  I sit up with a pipe in my mouth and a board on my knees, and I scribble away."  Imagine how much more prolific Twain would have been with a computer on his knees!
Marcel Proust's housekeeper said that she'd never seen him write when he wasn't lying down.  He didn't even use a pillow to prop himself up.Truman Capote had a ritual of writing everything in long-hand, then editing and copying it over in long-hand before ever transferring it to a typewriter.  Revisions after the typed versions were typed on a special yellow paper.  Capote wrote lying down while smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee.  Whew!  No wonder he reclined to write.  Just thinking about this routine makes me tired.

The opposite extreme from the writers who lie down to write are the ones who stand to write.  Ernest Hemingway is said to have written A Moveable Feast at a stand-up desk.

Philip Roth claims he paces constantly when writing and that each page of his books represents about half a mile of walking.  His  Goodbye, Columbus would represent a 100-mile walk, but it did win a National Book Award, so perhaps it was worth the long walk.

Charles Dickens was also a stand-up writer, but when he needed inspiration, he became a walk-around author.  He commented that when walking in Paris, his rambling walks always ended up at the Paris Morgue.

Writers sitting, reclining, standing, or walking? Another interesting consideration is clothing. There are writers who wear their pajamas or nightgowns while creating.  The author of Cyranno de Bergerac, playwright Edmond Rostand, worked while in his bathtub.  D. H. Lawrence sought inspiration by climbing trees when nude.  This is one kink I don't recall reading about in his work.

During a spell of writer's block, Victor Hugo once gave his servant his clothes and had him lock Hugo in a room, forbidding the servant to let him out until he'd completed his day's writing goal. Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, frequently cured writer's block by hanging himself upside down in gravity boots.

What about you?  What's your favorite position to write?  Do you use any special kind of paper? What do you like to wear when writing?  Any unusual rituals?  Tell us about them.

What's that?  You have a question? 

Absoutely not!  I have no intention of telling you where I'm writing this or what I'm wearing.

Until we meet again...take care of YOU!


  1. I always wanted to try gravity boots. However, I'm afraid my writing posture is conventional, just a char and my pad or laptop.

  2. Good column.
    You might add Napoleon who 'wrote' by dictating sometimes multiple messages to multiple secretaries.
    There's a man who had problems!

  3. Nothing exciting about my writing posture, I'm afraid. I sit at a desk and tap, tap, tap. In fact, I'm doing it right now.

  4. Sitting, clothed, and sometimes in my right mind.

  5. Let's not forget Frederic Brown who liked to take long bus rides. As for me, I pace a lot between sitting down at the 'puter. I have written sitting in a delivery truck, feet propped on the dashboard using pen and spiral-bound notebook. Parked, of course!

  6. Herschel Cozine11 June, 2012 13:29

    My habits have changed with the times. BC I would often write longhand and then type, revise, retype ad nauseum. My handwriting is so bad that I often had difficulty interpreting it.

    Of course I now use the computer,(sitting down, naturally and cursing it for doing exactly what I ask it to do, even though that isn't what I want it to do.)

  7. (laughing at Eve's comment)

    J.K.Rowling wrote in a booth in a diner. I can understand that.

    I was sort of like Jeff and Herschel combined, pacing, then writing in longhand until I was satisfied, and finally transcribing to computer. Now I lounge with my laptop.

    One of my friends writes flat on her back with her legs elevated. (I feel compelled to add she would be clothed.)

  8. Thanks for tbe comments. I think more people write at desks since computers became so available. BC (I love that,Herschel) I wrote anywhere and everywhere, in all sorts of positions with varying attire. I still think through plots most often when I'm driving alone. I confess that I discuss them with myself aloud. Eve, does that make me sometimes not in my right mind?
    At this moment, I'm pecking out the words left hand only due to surgery on the right.
    Thanks and until we meet again..remember to use waterproof ink if you write in the bathtub.

  9. Nothing more comfortable than being in your room, wearing white cotton nightdress or shirt. That's the best place for me to write because it's my own personal space and I like the peace and quiet.


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