A September Of Ergonomics


It’s been quite the historic month over here. We’ve moved from the second Elizabethan era to the second (third? It’s complex) Carolean era in this neck of the woods, Ukraine performed a lightning counteroffensive to liberate a huge amount of territory around Kharkiv, the current Tory government managed to crash the pound into a crater, and I have a new desk.

Acquiring a new desk has been quite the journey, involving returning the previous desk, but we’ll get to that.

Writing has picked up this month, finally, despite many disruptions such as the Queen’s funeral procession, the creation of a modern artwork (Doppelganger), getting my wrist x-rayed (we’ll get to that, too), assembling, disassembling, and then assembling desks again.

We’ll get to the desks.

The writing project, right now, is one I’ve been promising myself I’d do for ages and ages. I am working on strange little novellas that aren’t… quite stories.

So, previously, I have mentioned that there’s an element of getting to know characters and situations and environments involved in figuring out a story. I haven’t done enough of that lately, and I took some time to think about it while picking at the Legacy of a Silver Age novella I mentioned last time.

(Tangent: Knowing what I’m trying to do, with absolute clarity, is basically a precondition for getting anything useful done. Taking a moment to figure it out is wildly important for me.)

The novellas I’m working on right now are, basically, an attempt to feel my way through what sort of projects work best for me right now. What’s going to get me writing happily, basically. As such, they have evolved, from ‘aim at something publishable’ to ‘aim at something that gives me a clear idea of where I am with a given project’.

So, the process is, every week I have a new ‘novella’ project, if they’re still really novellas, and I outline then write as much as I can over the week, see how it all feels. The outline might make up a story, it might just hit a few key scenes I’m interested in. The novella might wind up being a story or it might wind up being a very long scene or just a ton of snippets of practiced dialogue.

Whatever happens is good, y’know? This is about exploration, prospecting, not actually mining the material that gets built into something publishable.

Legacy of a Silver Age? Apparently I’m not quite sure about it – I got about 2000 words out of a very disrupted week (smeared across most of the month and some of August). I got a couple of pitch-perfect moments, and character interplay, but most of what I got done was yet moreworldbuilding.

Which is great, but as you may recall I spent a ridiculous amount of time working on worldbuilding for it while shaking off depression’s clutches.

Last week? Last week I wrote four scenes which lack a vast amount of connective tissue for a story with the working title False Fuse– I think this working title really, really needs replacing.

It’s the Fox Heist story, set in San Iadras. Some pieces flowed, some pieces dragged, but it really has legs. I am wondering how best to expand and remix it, even now, as I hit Monday and need to put it down. That? That got about 8500 words in a week, however I cheated and put in a bunch of work on Sunday to get it all done.

Some snippets from both will wind up Patreon exclusive, but, the point being… this is definitely an interesting way of exploring what writing project is going to work for me right now.

This coming week, I intend to do something similar about Scapes the swashbuckling fantasy cat in a sort of gunpowder fantasy world where a few centuries ago wizards made helpers out of animals – including, for instance, Puss in Boots – and the magic has been slowly draining back out of the world, leaving the animal-helpers gradually less like the perfect humans they were and more and more animal-esque.

We’ll see how that goes – Scapes could, maybe, be a trad pub project. Not sure.

Week after that I have tentatively pencilled in working on the second Troy/Jen novel, which is almost certainly going to wind up titled Mouse Factory, and it could theoretically start at Fran and Alaine’s wedding. (Which, due to the seasons in the region of Colombia that got turned into the MACP, means it has to take place by the end of June 2106. But it’s an almost entirely new standalone plotline. Theoretically.)

Week after THAT (Starting Monday 17th), I’m not entirely sure. My options are: The next War Dogs book (Most likely Grim Brach, centring Edane’s MilSim team leader Marianna, but there’s another possible Estian story…), something to do with a relatively conventional grimdark fantasy setting around a city that’s been under regular siege for decades in a fashion similar to Kyoto during the Onin War and its follow-on conflicts, something to do with my spookity and Halloween appropriate body-horror character Schuyler, and… I am sure there’s other options that might crop up as I go.

Regardless, though, I intend to use the last week or two of the month reviewing and revising what I’ve written, in hopes of figuring out just what I most want to work on next.

If you have ideas for what to do with that last uncertain slot starting Monday 17th, feel free to let me know about it!



In brief, ergonomics are important to me. I work in marathon sprints where I fail to do important things like regularly get up and stretch, so if I have something wrong with my ergonomics… I basically can’t work, because either I will injure myself or I will become too uncomfortable to settle into my working sprints properly.

The theoretical ideal for typing is the 90-90-90 posture, where your knees, hips, and elbows are all held at 90 degree angles. (Artists and those writing by hand will have different needs.) You probably don’t have this posture, not unless you have an expensive chair lifting you into place and a footstool to keep your legs up. Why?

Because almost every desk commercially available is built for people six foot three and above. That’s how tall someone needs to be to sit 90-90-90 with a desk at the standard commercial size. If you are smaller than that, you need a smaller desk. Almost everyone is smaller than that, but it’s very difficult to find a desk the right size.

Generally, and previously, like everyone else I’d just crank up my spinny chair on its neat little pneumatic piston thing until I was comfortable.

I would have continued doing so if not for the Desk.

The Desk arrived in my life with little fanfare, though due to logistical issues the delivery crew couldn’t get to me and I had to go run after them. Yes, run. Literally. I had to go to the local supermarket, and when I finally spotted them I started jogging over.

In my house slippers, which are designed for keeping my toesies warm, not for jogging.

So they see me approaching, waving, smiling. I pass out of sight for precisely twelve seconds behind a hedge.

In that twelve seconds I eat asphalt. I taste dirt. I make friends with the floor. The kindly little old lady behind me stares with wide eyes as I get back to my feet almost instantly, asking me, ‘Are you quite alright?’

‘No,’ I reply, ‘but I will be in a few hours.’

I emerge into the sight of the delivery crew bloody, bleeding from chin and hands, and woozily inform them how to get to where I live. Rather than leaving me in place they load me onto their truck and just STARE.

I assemble the Desk.

A beautiful piece of work, with tons of storage for all my notebooks and things, it sadly emerges that in order to attain the 90-90-90 posture without crushing my legs into the bottom of the over-lap drawer. Had that drawer been about an inch thinner, the Desk would have been perfect, with my chair cranked up to its maximum height anyway.

I then engage in classic conspiracy theorist research, realizing that expensive ergonomic chairs, foot stools, keyboard trays, sit-stand desks and all the rest are purely required because nobody can get a desk that fits them. Big desk wants you to be unable to type!

So, to return the desk, which is basically useless to me because of this over-lap drawer being one inch too big, I have to disassemble it. Flatpack furniture is not designed to be disassembled, let me tell you. Ugh.

Anyway. I got another desk – an Ikea UTESPELARE – which has adjustable screws so you can set it to various heights, including the height I need to sit here and type endlessly without hurting myself.

Important, because in order to rule out something awful, my GP sent me for an x-ray on my wrist.

The bones in my wrist are fine, but there is something screwy going on when I pick up something heavy. I’m totally fine right up until I, for instance, attempt to pick up my new desk. Typing for hours? Good. Hoisting up a heavy thing? Bad. Could be due to building, unbuilding, and then building desks repeatedly, rather than that fall.

Doctor’s advice is to take it easy for awhile.

And that’s my advice to you, too. Take a moment to stop, take a break, maybe think about what it is you’re doing, and what you need to be able to successfully do it. Maybe you need sleep and rest, a good meal, or a new desk that you can sit comfortably at.

Whatever it is, working out what you need and taking a little time to get it will be good for you.

As ever, thank you for your kindness and support. It’s something I need to help keep me writing, and I’m glad I get to keep you updated about all my writerly efforts – even running after desk delivery crews.

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By foozzzball

Malcolm Cross, otherwise known as 'foozzzball', lives in London and enjoys the personal space and privacy that the city is known for. When not misdirecting tourists to nonexistant landmarks and lurking at bus stops, Malcolm enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy with a furry twist.