Tag Archive for: typewriter history

Is “Author Fitness” an Oxymoron?

By Kay Kendall

Most writers now spend countless hours each day seated at their
computers pouring words into their machines. Oh, for sure, a few rare birds do exist
who live otherwise—British writer Graham Greene wrote his usual 500 words each
day and then called it quits. Few of us are that disciplined, however, and
besides, the literary pace has picked up considerably since Greene’s heyday (and
more’s the pity).

As Greene grew older, his daily word count even slid to 300
words. He said he couldn’t sit still longer than 90 minutes, comparing himself
unfavorably to Joseph Conrad whose ability to sit and write for twelve hours at
a stint was legendary.

Pity today’s poor authors. We no longer get the exercise
that our predecessors did decades ago. After all, they pounded typewriter keys. Surely that burned up a few extra calories
compared to the soft touch used on computer keys? And remember this—writers
from the 1860s to the 1960s also had to fling
their mechanical typewriter carriages when they reached the end of lines on their
pages. Until electric computers were invented, there was that nice little workout

Lately I’ve mused about the unhealthy life of a writer. Not
only am I getting creakier as I sit for longer hours at a time, but also I’m
reading that my lifespan is threatened if I sit too long each day. Health and
fitness gurus are now encouraging everyone to stand up—and walk too, preferably—at
least ten minutes out of each hour.

I think about
doing that, but so far that’s not been added to my routine. If I’m really
cooking on a chapter, I scarcely want to glance at the clock that’s telling me
to stand up, walk around—heck, and even smell the roses, for all I know. At
least when Graham Greene stopped after writing his required words, he then would
imbibe too much alcohol and consort with willing women who were not his wife.
That was some kind of incentive to get moving, I guess, at least for him.

I may not get up and move—or even wiggle in my chair—each hour
that I am writing, but I do exercise at least five times a week. I use a
stationary bicycle and recently added an elliptical machine to my workout
routine. Once upon a time I was proud of these exertions. I was exercising more
than the suggested number of hours each week. Yet that’s not good enough now. I
am still sitting for up to four hours at a stretch each day. My bottom gets
numb and sometimes—like now—my back aches a wee bit too.

So, I guess I’m ready for a new addition
to my fitness routine. Either that, or I could
adopt part of Graham Greene’s pattern and take up heavy drinking. Now there is
a topic for another blog one day—Let us consider the great number of writers
who were alcoholics.


Kay Kendall’s historical
mysteries capture the spirit and turbulence of the 1960s,
and her titles show she’s a Bob
Dylan buff too. DESOLATION ROW (2013) and RAINY DAY WOMEN (2015) are in her
Austin Starr Mystery series. Austin is a 22-year-old Texas bride who ends up on
the frontlines of societal change, learns to cope, and turns amateur sleuth….Kay
lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel
Wills. In her former life as a PR executive, Kay’s projects won international