Living the Dream – My New Writing Space

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One of the reasons for my lack of blogging in December was that I moved house. And one of the results of that move was that I now have my most awesome writing space ever. It’s a loft conversion at the top of my new house, with enough space for my standing desk, my sitting desk, a sofa bed, a scratching post for Elmo and masses of other stuff. There’s a skylight above the desk that gives me great light, and the furniture I had has turned out to be a perfect fit. I can theoretically stay here all day, even taking my breaks by chilling out on the sofa. In reality, I leave to make coffee fairly regularly.

Maybe I should get a kettle in here…

So here it is. Welcome to my new writing life.

Less Pain, Less Exhaustion and Now More Writing

Standing desk, how I love you.
Standing desk, how I love you.

So long, crippling pain. Hello, productivity. A month or more on from setting up a standing desk, I’m seeing huge benefits.

Where I Was At

Working at home, I no longer have a facilities department and HR taking care of my desk and posture, and a few months ago I was really feeling the effects. Bad posture was causing huge pain in my neck and shoulders, which then turned into tension headaches. Despite various experiments with my desk setup, within a week of seeing the physiotherapist I’d be back in pain.

Is It A Desk? Is It A Shelf? No, It’s Superdesk!

I’d long wanted to try working at a standing desk, but couldn’t afford to buy one, both in terms of space and finances. Inspired by my wife Laura, I instead turned a set of Ikea bookshelves into a standing desk, adjusting the upper shelves to put my laptop and a monitor at good working heights.

At first the standing desk was exhausting to work at. I was wiped out after the first day and had to pace myself at using it. The real test was always going to be where I was at a month or two on.

So Very Good

As I’m writing this it’s been over six weeks, and I’m amazed at the difference the desk has made. Despite not seeing my physio in nearly four weeks, I’m feeling almost no pain in my neck and shoulders. I haven’t had a headache in weeks. Having got used to standing a lot, and alternating that with sitting on a tall stool by the desk, it’s improving my fitness rather than exhausting me. I’m the most productive I’ve been in goodness knows how long.

The last few years have been a health rollercoaster for me. Between clinical depression and muscle problems, it’s been hard to get to the place I want to be – working full time at writing. The standing desk has made a huge difference, and I can’t sing its praises enough. After trying it for a decent amount of time I can confidently say that if you work at a computer and suffer from muscle pain you should give it a go.

Writing at a standing desk – one week on

Ikea to the rescue!
Ikea to the rescue!

When I wrote a week ago that I was starting to work at a standing desk, several people said they’d be interested in hearing how I got on. As it’s also been an instructive experience for me, I figured it was time for a quick update.

First up, my neck and shoulders feel vastly better. My habitual slouching or hunching forward is impossible with this setup, which means I’m treating those muscles much more kindly. Less neck and shoulder strain means less tension being passed on into my head, which means no tension headaches and better concentration. It also means that, at the end of my working day, I’m more likely to be able to do something productive and enjoyable, and less likely to be reduced to slumping in front of the TV. It’s been well worth the effort.

That said, there was one significant bump along the way. It’s entirely my own fault, and a useful lesson for anyone thinking about using a standing desk – build up your use gradually, like I didn’t do.

The day I set up the ‘desk’ (actually a cunningly adapted set of shelves) I was very excited. This looked like the perfect way to improve my health. I worked standing for about nine hours, with just an hour’s break in the middle. And by the end I was exhausted. I felt like I’d spent three whole days on my feet while wearing a solid mass of chainmail (a comparison I make based on personal experience and curious hobbies). My feet were sore. My calves ached. My thighs and lower back were stiff and awkward. I had totally over-done it.

The day after my new desk, I was completely exhausted and spent most of the day resting.

Since then, I’ve brought a tall kitchen stool up into the study, letting me alternate between standing and sitting at the desk. I’ll work standing for an hour or so, then sitting for between ten and thirty minutes. I can feel the difference in my neck and shoulders when I switch to sitting, muscles shifting awkwardly like they did when I sat and typed all the time. But I also feel the sweet relief in my legs and give a happy little sigh.

Even over the course of a week, I can feel my endurance improving, meaning I can work standing for longer without wiping myself out.

So on the basis of a week, the standing desk has been a huge boon to my health and my writing, but one that I shouldn’t over use without practice.

I’ll try to remember to provide another update after a month, but if I forget, and if you’re still interested, then remind me. And in the meantime, take care of your posture. Because unlike a nest of angry hornets, good health doesn’t grow on trees.

No, wait, fruit grows on trees, and fruit is healthy. Good health does grow on trees. Curse you poorly thought out cliché!

And now back to work.