Earlier this week my manager heard that a study had shown physical discomfort aids concentration. Regular wearing of a hair shirt was suggested, to keep my mind on the job (which was a joke. I’m sure it was a joke), but aside from that I didn’t think much about it. However, sitting as I am in an elegant but impossibly uncomfortable wooden library chair, the idea has come back to me. Have we all been heading in the wrong direction with our ergonomic office chairs and comfortable studies? Is the armchair in the bedroom which is oh so convenient to sit in with a laptop the reason why I get so distracted from writing, or is that just the view from the window next to it? Does this support the need of an artist to starve in a garret in order to create?
While I often find that over a very short period I focus well if I’m uncomfortable, I think that’s because I tell myself the quicker I get this finished, the sooner I can get up and get a cushion, take my jumper off, get a drink etc. Any longer than a few minutes and whatever it is that’s making me uncomfortable envelops my mind, until the only thought that filters through is of the succinct ‘I am cold’, ‘I have pins and needles in my foot’ variety, and nothing more can be achieved until I’ve rectified it. It’s concentration of a sort, but not the right sort.
I don’t think I’ll replace my adjustable chair at the bureau with a straight-backed dining chair, or set my laptop up just out of comfortable reach. All that would achieve is aching muscles and stiff joints, which my mind would focus on much more firmly than on my writing. I am content to sacrifice some concentration for comfort; I might get there slower but I’ll do so with a smile on my face.