The Cindy Syndrome

I love The Healthy Writer blog. Maybe they’ve already covered this topic, but I’m new to their site, so have not seen coverage of The Cindy Syndrome, which is a disease that comes from being a slave to writing, being chained to the keyboard by the enchantment of the current story. 

Once upon a time, my diet and exercise regime was so unbalanced that I took all meals at my keyboard. Those meals consisted of whatever was quickest to consume and least likely to fall into the keyboard. Chips and chocolate were the staples, with cookies and an occassional peanut butter sandwich thrown in. My exercise routine consisted of walking into the kitchen to grab food or make a cup of tea.

That was a while ago, when I took the adage for writing success “butt in chair” literally. I love writing, never get tired of it, and can sit for hours happily dreaming my way into a new story. I also love the part when the story’s finished and I move into my cozy chair for five or six hours to read through the draft and make revision notes.

A few years ago, I made a major effort to clean up my eating patterns. Different, healthy food became the norm (although I still have lapses) and I no longer eat at my keyboard. I usually eat standing up. The tall countertop in my kitchen is perfect for this. More on why I now eat standing up in a minute.

In January of this year, I had finished a draft and was happily ensconced in my cozy chair for the day, reading and making revision notes. I was in the chair maybe eight hours. The next day my back really hurt. And the pain didn’t go away. In fact it got worse and traveled down one of my legs. Fast forward to now, November of the same year. 11 months later. After many doctor visits, two rounds of physical therapy, massage, chiropractor adjustments, Xrays and MRIs, the verdict is in: too much “butt in the chair” is bad for my back.

Sitting for all those hours for so many years had done a number on my spine and the only thing that would correct it was regular exercise (daily!) and getting up every hour to stretch. Plus a lumbar roll for my desk chair.  

I don’t like to break my concentration, but I like constant pain even less.

It only took 11 months for me to figure out that I can keep my back feeling pretty good without pills, shots or surgery if I just remember that “butt in the chair” doesn’t mean “until you break your back.”

So that’s why I eat breakfast and lunch standing at the nice, high counter between the kitchen and living room. I have dinner at the dining room table with my husband, but taking my other meals while standing allows my spine a new position. I’m learning to save my daytime sitting for my favorite activity: writing. And because I now know my spine appreciates some breathing space, it really likes to be upright and moving for at least part of the day, I also have a cleaner kitchen, folded laundry, and a treadmill that is more than a clothesline.

Even if I don’t have chores, I get up from my desk every hour and do some stretching. Every single time I get up from a seated position, I lean back as far as I can and look at the sky. I do this ten times, and I can almost hear my spine thanking me.

The body is a wonderful, resilient thing. Mine put up with my obsessive “butt in the chair” behavior for a good ten years before it began to scream. Now that I’m paying more attention to my spine, I’ve discovered that when I return to my keyboard, my story hasn’t gone away, in fact, it’s waiting with even more enthusiasm. Sometimes I even get a great idea while folding laundry.

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  1. Here’s to healthy habits! Glad to hear your back is better and your writing benefits, too. I’ve fallen into some unhealthy eating lately, too many sweets, and need to get back on track before my body starts screaming at me:)


  2. I’ve recently started working from home and am negotiating seating arrangements with my puppy. She seems to think that my lap is the only place she can sit, but that results in me contorting around her to type. And then my back and hips ache. I’m working to move her to the ottoman at my side so that I can type comfortably. We’ll see how it goes.

    I need to remember to build time away from my desk into my schedule so I don’t develop back or other problems. Thank you for the reminder!


  3. I need to get a handle on my sugar intake as well, Sharon. Good luck to us both as we head into the Christmas cookie season!

    For me, exercise has been, for awhile now, just one more thing to add to an already overwhelming to-do list. That I was forced to make the adjustment is a good thing. It’s like my body said, “Okay, we need to convince her once and for all!”


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