Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Quest for a Standing Desk

If you’re trying to minimize the time you spend sitting, you’ve probably looked into a standing desk. Me too, and after investigating my options, I’ve reached two conclusions.

#1) If you use notes, books, etc. while working, your desk needs are different from people who don’t use reference materials.

I’m a note taker, and I edit my work on printed drafts. For me, a desk has to be big enough to accommodate my piles of paper, my coffee, and possibly a sandwich.

Last year I ordered the Oristand, a cardboard device you can set on top of your workstation to create a standing desk. I was attracted by its low price and ease of storage, but I soon discovered a major drawback for me: no space to put anything next to the keyboard.
You can see my marooned notes to the right of the Oristand
On days when I was working on a rough draft and not using notes, the Oristand functioned just fine. It accommodates the computer and nothing else, which I’m sure many people would find totally acceptable. Unfortunately for me, this severely limited its usefulness. 

And while it was easy to fold and put away, I found it to be too large when fully extended to set atop my regular desk, so I wound up using it on my dining room table. This wasn’t an issue on days when everyone else was out of the house, but the rest of the time the area tends to be noisy and interruption-filled. (I’m a writer. My hubby is a woodworker. Oh, what fun it is when he’s sanding.)

Sad to say, my Oristand has been collecting dust for quite a while now. Even sadder, their website says they closed forever on December 15, 2017, however, they are selling Oristands for $20 while supplies last. 

That experience led me to my second and most important conclusion:

#2) If you’re serious about using a standing desk, replacing your whole desk is probably your best bet.

I’ve tried replacing almost everything in my office, all in an attempt to avoid spending $500+ on a new desk. Since I still have issues with my neck, arm, and back, a new desk is the logical next step.

I know a few people who have adjustable height desks--an important distinction from a standing desk at a fixed height. Just as sitting all the time is bad for you, standing all the time comes with issues, too. Ask any hairdresser or bartender.

I’ve looked at other options for desktop add-ons, but haven’t seen anything that would work with my small desk, or that provides sufficient space for notes.

Trying to narrow down the best options can be challenging. Google “standing desk” and take a look at the plethora of results. I considered going to the office supply store and buying one, but I wanted to have more information before shelling out such a substantial sum of money. 

If you’re looking for a reliable and thorough reference, has done some serious homework on adjustable height desks. They started out with 71 desks and narrowed the list down to the top 13--and they explain their entire evaluation criteria, from ease of assembly to the motor's noisiness. If you’ve been searching for an adjustable height desk, chances are these folks have taken a look at whichever model you’re considering. Bookmark that page, because you’ll come back to it.

In my case, I have an ace up my sleeve, so to speak, with the aforementioned woodworking hubby. I know at least one person who purchased the hardware and made his own adjustable height desk (something the piece also mentions as an option). This should come in at a much lower cost than buying a pre-made desk, and I can customize it so I have plenty of desk space for my many piles of papers. Not sure how long it will take before I have a new desk (spouses of handy people everywhere are laughing right now), but I'll be sure to post an update when I do. 

Are you using a standing desk, or do you have plans to buy (or make) one? 

Photo of Ikea standing desk courtesy of Mack Male at Flickr

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Oristand Standing Desk

Sitting is the bane of my professional life. I sit all day at work, then come home to sit while I write at night. It adds up to a lot of sitting every day. All that sitting is a health risk, and sometimes it's simply physically uncomfortable. I decided a while ago that a standing desk was the obvious answer, but they're expensive. 

When I read about the Oristand on LinkedIn ("The Everyday Habit That's Killing You: Here's a $25 Fix"), I realized I'm not the only one on a budget who's tired of sitting. Instead of having to buy a whole new (and did I mention expensive?) desk, the Oristand is a collapsible cardboard stand that sits on top of your desk (or in my case, on top of my dining room table). Brilliant.

At $25, this was a price point I could afford, plus I loved its portability since I work at different places around my house. I scanned their website and wondered, “Can I use it with just my laptop, no wireless keyboard?” I suspected the answer was no, but I wasn't certain. I went ahead and ordered the Oristand anyway, figuring I'd sort it all out later.
Does this work on your Oristand? For me, nope.

When it arrived, I was thrilled to find it was easy to assemble and store, plus its sturdy cardboard is at least as durable as many assemble-yourself pieces of furniture I've owned. It folds into a step-shaped configuration that can hold a computer and withstands being leaned upon without bowing.

As far as to whether or not you can use it without a secondary keyboard, the answer is no, at least not for me. I tried it and it was a terrible fit in terms of my neck being at an odd angle and my wrists and shoulders in a bad position, no matter which little ledge I put it on. On the other hand, for my teenaged son (a person who regularly contorts himself into the oddest positions while using a computer), the lack of a secondary keyboard was no problem.
Who needs ergonomics when you're 18? Yeah, not my kid.

I immediately went on Amazon and ordered a wireless keyboard--but neglected to thoroughly check the dimensions and wound up with a teeny-tiny keyboard that is far too small for my fingers. Actually, it's far too small for anyone over five, but it's adorable. We decided it would be perfect as the living room TV keyboard. Also, it was hard not to say “awwww” when holding it.

I went back to Amazon, armed with a tape measure and the Oristand. I wanted enough room for a keyboard and a mouse. Voila, I checked the dimensions of several keyboards and found one that was 15 inches wide. Or so I thought.

“Mom, that's the dimensions of the box,” my kid told me (complete with eye rolling), after I ordered it. Great. And I thought shopping online would save me time! At that point, I'd been itching to take the Oristand on a full test drive, but without a workable secondary keyboard, there was no way I could evaluate it. When the keyboard arrived, I found I'd still gotten the dimensions wrong. It's about 11” wide, but fits the space perfectly and leaves plenty of room for the mouse.

I used the new setup to write most of this post, and am incredibly pleased with the functionality. 

Aside from the obvious health concerns associated with sitting too much, I like having the option to stand while I write. I tend to write and ponder and wander around, and standing for part of the time is definitely preferable for me. 

The design of the Oristand lends itself to leaning your elbows on the lower ledge while resting your chin in your hands to look at the computer screen, which is probably seriously ergonomically incorrect, but at least I'm not sitting.

I think the Oristand is going to work really well, especially for the big project I just started working on. I've been excited about the project, but was dreading the additional hours spent sitting.

I like the design and wish I'd been more attentive to the need for a keyboard so I wouldn't have had to wait the whole week to give it a true test.

The real result, of course, will be how I feel (and how the stand endures) after the next couple of months, when I expect to log a lot of hours on it. Also, my wood-worker hubby is determined to make a wooden version, which I insist will be too heavy (he disagrees). Stay tuned for updates.  


Do you like to stand or sit while writing? Some well-known authors liked to stand while writing--Hemingway, for instance.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Summer and Other Writing Prompts

It’s almost time for the traditional start of summer, Memorial Day. The Summer Solstice in June may mark the official arrival of the season, but as far as most of us are concerned, the last weekend in May is the start of BBQing and swimming. Think of long, sunny, warm days and see if you can come up with a story from one of the prompts below.
  • It wasn't Memorial Day yet, but the heat.... 
  • The last thing she remembered was saying, "Isn't it time to get in the pool!" before....
  • What's your favorite summertime memory?
  • Did you go on summer vacations as a child? To Where?

My summer vacations as a child were road trips to Texas. How about you?
Photo courtesy of Holly Salzman at flickr

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Typewriter & Other Writing Prompts

Typed up on my trusty Sharp typewriter. I've got an even older Brother in the garage. Sure wish I had an old IBM Selectric!

Fun But Fake -- Internet Memes and Quotes

I found my old typewriter in my office closet the other day, and the first thing I thought was, “Memes!” followed by “Etsy!”

Although I’ve been writing for most of my life, I officially became a freelance writer just as this wacky Internet thing took off.  

There are things I miss about the pre-Internet days. Longer attention spans. Letters in the mail.

But I have to admit that I love ebooks. And social media. And the profusion of all those chipper and funny and inspiring sayings that I’ve plastered all over my Pinterest page.

Here’s the thing about all those pithy sayings: a lot of them are fake.

At one time, I diligently checked every quote I came across in social media, and then I realized I didn’t have enough time for that. It’s entertainment, not a research paper. And problems with misattributions have been going on for quite some time—since before the Internet.

With all that said, I’m still thinking of unearthing my Bartlett’s and whipping up something creative. #GenuineQuotes #QuotesForReal 

Hmmm. I’ll have to think about that.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Feather on the Wall and Other Writing Prompts

In our first prompt today, we have an odd accessory pinned to the wall. What room do you think they’re in—whoever “they” turn out to be? Grab a pen (quill optional) and see what kind of story you can weave from one of the prompts below. 

  • “Why is that feather pinned on the wall?” asked….
  • What’s your favorite kind of bird?
  • Jane was shocked when she heard the parrot say….
  • An ostrich wanders into your backyard. What happens next?

Personally, I think ostriches are scary.

Comments and stories welcome below!

Photo courtesy of Marie Hale at flickr

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

A Shaky Situation and Other Writing Prompts

What is that person standing on in the first prompt, and why is it a bad idea to stand on it? If you don’t get any sparks from that prompt, keep reading until you find something that inspires you. 

  • “I wouldn’t stand on that,” she said, right before ….
  • A lot of people thought it was a mistake when I….
  • Linda realized that she’d turned the wrong way when…
  • What do you think of the idea that nothing’s a mistake if you learn a lesson from it?

Common writing advice is to “start with the day that’s different,” and the day something goes wrong is always “different,” isn’t it? Comments (or good stories) welcome below!

Picture courtesy of Newsome Antiques on flickr

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Thoughts of Summer and Other Writing Prompts

Pick one of the prompts below and cook up (or would that be "barbecue"?) a story about summer. 

  • Summer makes me think of....
  • Ellen said, "Camping always sounds like a good idea until...."
  • Define "summer beach read." 
  • What was summer vacation like when you were a kid?
Photo courtesy of Klearchos Kapoutsis at flickr