The novelist David Westheimer (Von Ryan’s Express, My Sweet Charlie) was my grandfather’s first cousin, although, born 20 years later, was closer in age to Grandpa’s children and attended high school with some of them.
I never met first-cousin-twice-removed David in person; he moved his family from our hometown of Houston to California around the time I was born. For a while in the 1990s, however, we struck up a friendly e-mail correspondence. He was kind and generous — inquiring about the leaves on my branch of the family tree and providing writing advice when I asked.
I no longer have easy access to our emails. On my end, they arrived via now long-retired AOL software — the kind you could load from floppy disks — on my IBM desktop with 14.4 dial-up modem. (I think the computer came with a coupon for a free Windows 95 upgrade.) If you’re 30 or older, you remember those heady days, right? My e-mails and other digital correspondence from that time are saved on a couple of CDs and, I suspect, are irretrievable except by the most savvy and costly computer sophisticate.
Anyway, while I may not recall the exact words, I do remember a helpful bit of writing advice from David Westheimer: Keep your seat in the chair. As in, keep your bottom in that chair and keep writing.
Sure, this advice may fly in the face of the current medical consensus on the dangers of sitting all day, but it’s great advice for making progress on your writing projects. The advice may seem obvious, but for us fidgety, short-attention-span types, it’s sometimes easier said than done. Lately, though, I’ve been pushing through more often, keeping my seat in the chair for longer stretches, even if they’re interrupted by bursts of activity to ward off premature death from a sedentary lifestyle (here’s hoping).
Doing this leaves me with a good, productive feeling, and for good reason — I’m getting more done, sooner, than I would otherwise.
Whether working on the great American screenplay or the next women’s literature bestseller, covering hedge funds or reporting on warehouse logistics trends, writers generally benefit from keeping seats in chairs. For the sake of health, the concept extends to standing desks as well. In that case, keep your feet on the floor? Keep standing, and keep writing. -By Dinah Wisenberg Brin