I was listening to NPR this morning talk about the debt ceiling, the country’s credit, and the way that Congress couldn’t seem to find its own ass with two hands and a flashlight, and I was thinking about asses in chairs. I moved on from thinking about the ass in the Fed chair, and all the other asses who are the chairs of the various finance committees in the House, and moved on to thinking about actual asses in actual chairs, and how not sitting right can really make your work not sit right with you.

If I’m uncomfortable, I’m unfocused. It’s my job to approach uncomfortable subjects in storytelling (hopefully with a little bit of humor in ’em so’s to soften the blow). But if I’m not comfortable in my work area, I can’t give my attention to the discomfort that raises awareness of a human truth about experience.

When you sit, make sure your feet can rest flat on the floor, without jamming your knees up beyond a 90-degree angle to your body. Your chair should ideally have lumbar support–something to support the hollow your lower back makes when your hips are aligned properly.

But one significant thing too many people neglect when they have their nice office chairs and special cushioning is the position of what they’re working on. Your desk height should be placed so that your main tasks keep your elbows and forearms parallel with the floor. No scrunching up your elbows–that’ll in turn curve your wrists and you’ll find yourself worn out long before your word count goals.

Your monitor or screen needs to be placed at an angle that allows your head to lift straight up–bending your head to see a too-low screen will drag your shoulders down into that slope, too. So unless you want to sport a hump for your art, lift that monitor so you can lift your head up high.

And finally–just as our good friends and inmates in the Congressional loony bin have aptly demonstrated, being there doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting work done. There are no prizes in writing for sitting your butt in a chair for 8 hours–the prizes come from what you do while your ass is in that sling. If your word count is slowing, stand up. If you have a laptop, take it with you and change positions. Recent studies have shown that long stretches of sittin’n’thinkin’ don’t just slow the pace of your book to a drag, they also slow the pace of your body’s ability to process sugars and make you more prone to diabetes. So get up and move, even for just a little bit when you find yourself slowing down. And when you do sit, make sure your posture is helping your focus, not hurting it.

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