Writing Ergonomics: Laptops

In my previous post, I sneered at the current litter of computer desks available out there as being largely unsuitable for sustained writing. Writers need to work without interruption for two to four hours minimum. Many write in eight-hour shifts. Of course, when a deadline’s looming or the story has you by the throat, you may go even longer.

Trouble is, the human body wasn’t designed for computer work. The screen’s hard on our eyes. Long periods of sitting affects our body. We get stiff and sore. Our circulation grows sluggish. If we slump, our organs suffer. Poor posture takes its toll on our shoulders and lungs.

The laptop computer is ideal for writers who prefer to work away from a desk. I have friends who like to write on the sofa or outdoors or in bed. However, the laptop brings its own ergonomic problems, chiefly from the size and position of the keyboard.

Maybe you enjoy writing with the laptop balanced on your knees. But if you ever try to use it on a desk or your kitchen table, you’ll quickly find that the keyboard is too high. Your shoulders are pushed up, and that position can eventually bring strain, discomfort, perhaps even pain.

My best recommendation is to comb through used office-furniture stores or garage sales for an old-fashioned typing table. These inexpensive tables are generally small and low. Many of them have wheels and may feature drop-leaf extensions. They were originally designed to support a typewriter. I’ve found them to be ideal to hold a laptop at an optimal height.

I own about three or four of these versatile little tables. One has a wood top, but the others are all metal. Cost has ranged from free to $30. I’ve spray-painted them to spiff them up, and find them equally useful for occasional sewing or craft projects. Their small footprint makes it easy to tuck them into a corner when they aren’t in use. Presently, I have one supporting my copier.

If you’re lucky, you may find a table fitted with a small undershelf. This was designed to hold typing paper, carbon paper, or envelopes, but it can also be a terrific place to store the laptop.

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