As a child and adolescent, I used to whip out spare sheets of loose-leaf and write whenever the inspiration struck. I often finished my work in class early so that I could secretly scribble down the next scene in my novel. I miss those days. Now that I’m an adult, I find that self-doubt and fear follow me much like the eponymous octopus for which I named this blog. Despite knowing how to write and having decades of experience, my brain still freezes when I sit down on the couch with my blank laptop screen in front of me. Three years after I graduated from university, I concluded that I had lost my writing spark. Nothing else explained why paralysis descended as soon as my fingers touched the keyboard.
That changed when I started writing at a desk.
There’s something psychological about having a special place to write. While my conscious mind may be intent on putting fingers to keyboard, my subconscious mind still holds onto all the emotions about writing I’ve built up over the years: anxiety, fear, and shame. Sitting down at my desk gives my subconscious mind permission to let go of those feelings. It also forces my body into an upright, shoulders-back posture that boosts my confidence. The emotions in my muscles tend to affect me just as much as the ones in my head. Curling up, with my shoulders drawn in and my head low, immediately sends twinges of unworthiness through me.
Your writing spot doesn’t necessarily need to be a desk, but it does need to be a place where you can sit in an upright, confident, and relaxed position. It could be in front of the coffee table on the living room floor, a yoga mat beside the bed (if you can handle sitting cross-legged), or a specific spot at the kitchen table. In that space, you are a writer in mind, body, and spirit.
Try to tune in to your body if something begins to hurt. Keeping your knees level with your hips and your feet flat on the floor will help with hip pain. Your screen should be an arm’s length away, and should not force you to crane your head either up or down. Your writing surface needs to be low enough that you can type with shoulders relaxed and back. To avoid slouching, focus on engaging the muscles in your core and lower back – draw your navel in towards your spine and feel your side muscles engage to keep you balanced.
Most importantly, focus on being gentle with yourself. Your creativity is part of you, and always will be. Nothing can take that away. It may take some time for the ideas to start flowing, and that’s okay! As writers, our craft connects deeply to who we are, how we think, and what we struggle with. By creating a space for our writing, we also create a safe place for ideas, emotions, and sensations to exist. And in that safety, we are free to be ourselves.