Most writers now spend countless hours each day seated at their computers pouring words into their machines. Oh, for sure, a few rare birds do exist who live otherwise—British writer Graham Greene wrote his usual 500 words each day and then called it quits. Few of us are that disciplined, however, and besides, the literary pace has picked up considerably since Greene’s heyday (and more’s the pity).
As Greene grew older, his daily word count even slid to 300 words. He said he couldn’t sit still longer than 90 minutes, comparing himself unfavorably to Joseph Conrad whose ability to sit and write for twelve hours at a stint was legendary.
Pity today’s poor authors. We no longer get the exercise that our predecessors did decades ago. After all, they pounded typewriter keys. Surely that burned up a few extra calories compared to the soft touch used on computer keys? And remember this—writers from the 1860s to the 1960s also had to fling their mechanical typewriter carriages when they reached the end of lines on their pages. Until electric computers were invented, there was that nice little workout too.
Lately I’ve mused about the unhealthy life of a writer. Not only am I getting creakier as I sit for longer hours at a time, but also I’m reading that my lifespan is threatened if I sit too long each day. Health and fitness gurus are now encouraging everyone to stand up—and walk too, preferably—at least ten minutes out of each hour.
I think about doing that, but so far that’s not been added to my routine. If I’m really cooking on a chapter, I scarcely want to glance at the clock that’s telling me to stand up, walk around—heck, and even smell the roses, for all I know. At least when Graham Greene stopped after writing his required words, he then would imbibe too much alcohol and consort with willing women who were not his wife. That was some kind of incentive to get moving, I guess, at least for him.
I may not get up and move—or even wiggle in my chair—each hour that I am writing, but I do exercise at least five times a week. I use a stationary bicycle and recently added an elliptical machine to my workout routine. Once upon a time I was proud of these exertions. I was exercising more than the suggested number of hours each week. Yet that’s not good enough now. I am still sitting for up to four hours at a stretch each day. My bottom gets numb and sometimes—like now—my back aches a wee bit too.
Kay Kendall’s historical mysteries capture the spirit and turbulence of the 1960s, and her titles show she's a Bob Dylan buff too. DESOLATION ROW (2013) and RAINY DAY WOMEN (2015) are in her Austin Starr Mystery series. Austin is a 22-year-old Texas bride who ends up on the frontlines of societal change, learns to cope, and turns amateur sleuth….Kay lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. In her former life as a PR executive, Kay’s projects won international awards.