Boost your creativity with a standing desk

Much has been written about standing desks being potentially beneficial for your health and productivity, but a standing desk can also engage your creativity.

As a writer, I have to be creative in lots of different ways for lots of different purposes. I’m not the lone writer with pen to paper contemplatively cranking out novels or epic melodramatic poetry. No, I’m a web content manager, a filmmaker, and a PhD student in Rhetoric & Writing at Michigan State (i.e. I study writing).

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I define “writing” very broadly. For example, I manage two writing-focused websites, The Writing Center @ MSU and the department site for Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures. For these roles I write blog posts, reports, emails, social media content, as well as collaborate with other writers. I’m also a filmmaker exploring the everyday lived experiences of gender, gender identity, and sexuality. As a filmmaker I spend big chunks of time, like 4-5 hours, watching and editing video. And I’m also a grad student, meaning I spent a lot (A LOT) of time reading and writing.

I’ve been using a standing desk for about two years now, and I can tell you that the way I creatively approach my writing has changed. My creativity is now less stagnant, quite literally because I am moving around more at my standing desk. I started using a standing desk as a component towards better back health (along with stretching, exercise, and therapeutic massages) and really didn’t anticipate that it would change my creativity. Creativity is where I have the most fun – coming up with ideas, brainstorming, trying to find new and innovative ideas to play with.

For me, creativity is color, movement, bursts of energy. I like to have vibrant pictures and decorations around me when I’m writing, as well as things I can touch. I actually keep a small ball on my desk so I can toss it around while I’m working. When I write in a sitting position there is a sense of settling in, stagnancy, but at a standing desk the world around me feels more alive. I’m up and moving around, looking at images, touching the things around me. And dancing! For as long as I’ve been a writer, music has been a constant. At a standing desk I can move to the beat. This mostly just means I’m swaying, but even this movement helps me write.

Using a standing desk unhinges you from the computer screen. Think about artists like painters, sculptors, and photographers. This work usually requires being on your feet, moving around, rearranging, finding a new angle. This movement also works for creativity in general. Ideas come faster when I’m standing and writing, which is especially useful when brainstorming and writing short pieces. I actually get more of these types of bursty tasks done when working at my standing desk. For example, as much as I dislike believing this, email is my job. I usually take about an hour every few days to respond to emails that need more than a quick response. I respond to more emails and communicate better when I’m at my standing desk.

On the other hand, using a standing desk while editing video has actually allowed me to dedicate more hours at a time to an editing session. Editing video requires both a broad big picture type of focus as well as a more granular attention to detail for a continuous loop of miniscule cutting, trimming, and rewatching. I edit video on a large 27-inch monitor that I’ve raised to a comfortable eye height. During that broad focus I can actually step away from the computer screen and see the piece from a viewer’s perspective. And for moments of precise editing I can lean in really close and make a cut exactly where I want.

One of the most common pieces of advice for overcoming writer’s block is “take a walk,” to walk away from whatever you’re working on and reenergize your creativity by getting up and moving about the world. Interestingly enough, my solution to writer’s block has always been to move to a different section in the piece, large or small. I think there is something to this idea of movement that fosters our ability to powerfully harness our creativity. With a standing desk I’ve found that writer’s block happens less, maybe because I’m already up and moving yet still connected to the work.

As you introduce a standing desk to your work life, start paying attention to the ebbs and flows of your creativity. I acknowledge that the first phase of transitioning to a standing desk is physical and habitual, but once you’re on the other side of foot pain and breaking old habits (and there is “the other side”), there is a new sense of creativity that just might surprise you.

Casey Miles is a PhD student at Michigan State studying queer rhetorics through documentary filmmaking and digital rhetoric. You can find out more about her work at www.soulsmiles.com, or follow her on Twitter @soulsmiles.

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