Some of the greatest writers of our time have neglected the conventional image of a writer at his desk and opted instead for more unorthodox approaches.
Vladimir Nabokov wrote standing up at a lectern. He also wrote longhand, and only on index cards, so as to write scenes non-sequentially.
Philp Roth took Nabokov’s lead and added movement to his repertoire –– Roth claims to walk a half a mile for every page he writes.
Then there’s Tom Wolfe,. Wolfe was 6 feet 6 inches tall, so his reasoning for standing up might have been less about innovation than it was about finding a desk that wouldn’t destroy his knees.
Then there were the horizontal writers.
Maybe the most horizontal of them all was Truman Capote, who has been referred to as a “completely horizontal author”, lying down in bed while balancing a typewriter on his knees.
Marcel Proust took to the horizontal approach after his mental health deteriorated due to frequent bouts with asthma, and Mark Twain made it a point of writing while lying down dressed in a self-designed nightgown that buttoned down his back. (link)
Learning the methods of great writers like these inspired me to ditch the desk and chair myself and give these two techniques a shot.
I attempted lying down first.
For an essay for my English course on Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, I thought I’d try writing my third paragraph in bed. Snuggled up in a warm blanket and resting my laptop on a pillow between my knees, I began typing away. Within 10 minutes I was out like a light.
I don’t know how Capote and crew did it.
Standing up proved to be less comfortable than lying down, but it did keep me awake. I only stood for 30 minutes and didn’t get the full effects of a prolonged stand, one such effect I imagine to be some serious leg pain.
In the end, neither position was right for me. My dorm room desk and light jazz suit me better.
What position is best for you while writing?