In praise of inactivity

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Like many writers, I often fantasize about having a physically active job — something like carpentry or construction, where I’d use my hands to do more than type and scribble, and end each day with an actual object I’d created. If you break it down, I suppose those are two very different dreams: the first about just being able to get off my bum more often, the second about creating something that’s not so maddeningly conceptual. I don’t know if visual artists share the same anxiety (it probably depends how you work), but if you spend an entire day writing, it’s quite possible you’ll have literally nothing to show for it when you’re “done,” or not until much, much later.

Of course, the grass is always greener, and the reality of a physically demanding job is doubtless very different than I picture it to be — for one thing, the exhaustion. From where I sit right now, elevating a sprained ankle on my desk as I work (dark porch, one too many steps), writing is a pretty great occupation, at least until I have to hobble downstairs to make my coffee.

Do you fantasize about having a less deskbound career?

7 thoughts on “In praise of inactivity

  1. I did fantasize about having a less desk-bound position, and became a contracted employee for a while. That got old fast, and I was constantly on the computer that was not set up ergonomically. I had more right shoulder problems, and started to look into other jobs elsewhere. I landed an Assistant job, kind of like a clerk, secretary, and budget person all in one. I like it so far – I make it a point to print to the far printers so that I have to get up and walk. I’ve taken to sitting on an air disc, which is like sitting on an exercise ball – it makes you balance, which I used to notice more (or maybe now it just doesn’t take so much effort because my core muscles are more toned), and found that this alone keeps me physically interacting, as well as being able to sit and get a lot of work done in a chunk of time – writing with my mechanical pencils as well as my fountain pens to sign forms and documents (grin).

    I do keep some things under the desk, so that I have to squat and get them. That offers a nice stretch to the muscles that are not activated during the day. I wonder how the women at work in their heels can manage.

  2. I was just thinking about this recently. From the time I was 13 until I graduated college, my jobs involved lots of activity/being on my feet: babysitting, drugstore, library. Then I worked in a newspaper and then became a secretary: lots of sitting down in front of a computer.

    And I wonder why I can’t lose weight. I don’t think I could go back to retail though. By the time I left the pharmacy, those nine-hour shifts (and then some) left me hobbling in pain once I got home.

  3. I have dreamed of opening a bookstore-cafe-crafts store. It’s more of doing something I love rather than earning. LOL! But yes, this is not a desk job as it will involve a lot of footwork and traveling, but at the moment, I stay at the desk. 🙂

  4. I recently began volunteering for a Bike co-op project where I get to spend a couple hours a week fixing, and learning how to fix bikes. I find it very nice to leave my office job and spend an evening working with my hands.

    I used to make jewelry and sew, and very much miss being able to step back and look at what I’ve constructed.

    At the same time, I’ve worked in retail long enough to know that I can’t do a 100% on your feet job.

  5. i am in my residency (pediatrics) — and i was just thinking that i find it a good mix of active vs sitting around 🙂 just did an ER shift in which i was marveling on how much i was running around for the first several hours of it. when you are examining kids, you have to be quick and clever and not be afraid to squat down to get a peak inside of a 2-year-old’s ears, for example.

    then, things quieted down, and i got to sit at the computer for a while. i think that ALL jumping up and down (which does happen sometimes) is draining, and all sitting (as in studying, med school, etc) gets so old as well! so for me, a mix is best.

  6. Definitely – so much that I decided to go to nursing school. I have been working in IT for a decade now and it’s not something I felt like I could live with for the rest of my life. School starts in June, and I feel like my dream is coming true.

  7. I’ve been on both sides of this point. I have worked in property management, wearing the suits and pushing papers all day (no thanks!). I left that to powerwashing houses and seal decks with my father, which is ALLLLL physical. It was very rewarding work, but it has it’s pitfalls as well, mainly that it doesn’t pay well. My true passions are writing and wood working, and I think now I have a great balance. I make pens, writing boxes, and other objects as I want and as there is a demand, but I retail fine paper products for my ‘base job’. I spend a good amount of time on the computer, and a good amount of time on my feet. I have a video blog, a 2-month old son, and plenty to keep me busy around the house. I think that the grass is always greener on the other side, so the perfect balance (at least for me) is to straddle the fence and keep one foot on each side!!

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