Tag: self care

Fitness for Writers (Does Not Include Running After Plot Bunnies)

Fitness for Writers (Does Not Include Running After Plot Bunnies)

Coffee and cake - the writers life
My preferred fuel is tea, of course, but it does look good…

I see the problem of fitness for writers being two-fold. Firstly, the fact that we’re sitting at a desk all the time, which apparently is slowly killing us (along with diet coke and wifi, so I doubt I have long left). Second is the fact that our haunts of choice tend to be home, near the biscuit tin, or in a coffeeshop, near the giant sugar-laden coffees and cupcakes. And while we tend to do an enormous amount of mental gymnastics (this scene will work, this scene will work, this – what? Why are the characters doing this? What are they doing? Who let the plot bunnies in here? Stop it! I’m in charge here! I’m – oh, bollocks to it. Pass the biscuits and the diet coke), we often spend rather less time doing the sort of gymnastics that breaks a sweat (other than a nervous one).

Therefore, in order to try and lengthen the life span of the endangered author, allow me to introduce:

Fitness for writers.

Firstly, some options I’ve come across on the internet:

homemade standing desk set-up for writers fitness
The biscuit tin lives under that counter. I should move it. Should.

A standing desk:

This I quite like. Apparently you can buy actual stands that you can adjust to the correct height, but I have a mini ironing board from Ikea that I put on the kitchen island (also from Ikea. Can I get this post sponsored?), which works quite well. Unfortunately it means I don’t even need to get up to walk to the cookie jar, so I’m not sure it helps that much at all. I also find that if I’m writing for extended periods my posture gets really bad, and there are also times when I just need to burrow into cushions and feel safe in order to write. On the other hand, it does fix my sore back from sitting too long, so I probably spend about half my time standing.

A walking desk:

Okay, so I can’t walk and text, so I’m not at all sure I wouldn’t just fall off the end of the treadmill every five minutes when I forget to keep walking (I’ve done this in a gym before. Another reason I don’t like gyms). And I doubt my writing would make much sense, as texts I send when trying to write and walk are already fairly unintelligible. Plus, how do you drink your tea and walk at the same time? I have doubts.

swiss ball - fitness for writers
Layla is firmly convinced these are alien eggs.

A Swiss ball:

I have actually tried this out – the theory is that you have to engage your abs a lot more, and your body is constantly making small adjustments to keep you balanced. First problem – Layla is terrified of Swiss balls. She may actually have a ball phobia (Sfairesphobia?), as even the little twine one I bought her (in Australia, no less, and carted back) sends her bolting under the couch. Second problem – I can’t sit cross-legged on it, and siting with one foot up on the opposite knee puts you at a funny twisted angle, which is rubbish for your back. As I’m incapable of sitting like a normal human being, this is no good for me.

I’m sure there are more things you could do while writing – maybe a stationery bike with your laptop on the handlebars, or a stepper of some sort. I don’t know. It’s all very equipment-intensive, and I don’t even like using much equipment for working out. But that’s all personal preference. So what else can we do, that doesn’t involve falling off treadmills or terrifying the cat?

Take a break:

The internet is crawling with desk exercises you can do, so I won’t rehash them here. But you know the sort – do squats, or jumping jacks, or use your office chair to do ab exercises. And why not? A break is always good, and these are all easy exercises to get the blood flow going. But it’s also kind of boring, and you need to have the discipline to actually do the jumping jacks and not just go make a cuppa. Which means they’re out for me.

I like breaks.

And wouldn’t it be better if we could work out while writing, without needing any fancy equipment? I say yes!

Without further ado, allow me to present:

Alternative writing positions!

TM. Can’t be reproduced without permission, etc, etc, because these are groundbreaking. Obviously.

writers fitness plank
Absolutely I can write like this.


Writing the plank:

Make sure your abs are tight with this one, and your back isn’t taking up the strain. Bonus points if you can convince the cat to sit on your back and add a little resistance.




Okay, I actually can stay like this. For a bit.

Downward dabbling:

Straight legs, tight tummy, and try not to drip sweat on your laptop. Also a good way to dislodge the cat.





This is where a heavier laptop gets you extra points.

The invisible chair of creativity:

Keep your knees behind your toes, and advanced writers may want to rest their laptop on their knees. Maybe. If it’s a cheap laptop.





Please don’t drop the laptop. Please don’t drop the laptop.


Character crunch:

Tight tummy, straight back, and don’t let those legs droop – unless you were after a new laptop anyway.




So there we go – absolutely doable while writing, right? Right?

Ach, fine. They may not be entirely realistic. But it’s still more fun than a treadmill desk, in my mind. How about you? Any tips on fitness for writers? Let me know in the comments!

And meanwhile, here’s a video of a guy doing a workout with his cat, because Layla refused to cooperate. I should have expected that, and saved myself the scratches. She’s so unhelpful.


Taking My Own Advice

Taking My Own Advice

Correct. And we don’t dislike people. We just, umm, like not-people.

I had every intention of working throughout Christmas, going to all the social things, and plunging into the New Year at the same pace. I know there are a lot of you out there trying to do the same thing – or feeling guilty that you haven’t. So here’s the deal – I’m not doing it. And you don’t have to either.

I thought I was doing just fine, until I put the wrong lights on the Christmas tree and had to take everything off to re-do them.

We almost had no Christmas tree, because my first instinct was to throw the whole damn thing away.

Which is a wee bit of an over-reaction, yes?

I probably also should have realised that not sleeping more than a few hours a night for three weeks wasn’t exactly a great sign. Or shouting at inanimate objects when no one was around to witness it. Or the rather driving urge to retreat into small corners and wrap myself in blankets and pretend the world didn’t exist.

And it’s surprising how little too much actually is.

But, although rather later than was sensible, I did stop. I cancelled plans. I considered the ones that I would keep carefully, and I made sure they were manageable. I looked at the blog and decided that a week off was more important than having January planned out and written up (ask me again next week if I still think that was a good idea). I looked at the big writing work – the important stuff, the stuff that matters most to me – and figured that a week of no writing followed by a week of focused writing would get me further than two weeks of checking twitter, facebook and instagram every ten minutes, followed by an evening of being furious with myself and eating too much chocolate (don’t get me wrong – there will still be chocolate eating. It’s part of my Process. It just won’t be angry chocolate eating).

Make a blanket fort and don’t come out until bribed with cookies.

I realise I probably shouldn’t give anyone advice about anything, because I’m clearly terrible at listening to myself (see all those blogs about self care that I re-posted but completely ignored in the run up to Christmas). But I’m going to anyway, because maybe if I tell you something enough, it’ll stick with me, too. Be gentle with yourselves this year, lovely people. Listen to yourselves.

Don’t worry about being the perfect guest or host or partner or parent or anything. Let’s face it – the only perfect things in this world are kittens, and they’re floofy little psychopaths. Oh, and probably AI, but they’re just terrifying, and will likely kill us all.

Be okay with not being okay. With not being perfect, and not achieving all the things we want to achieve, even if those things include just accepting ourselves where we are. Be okay with the fact that all of us are always works in progress, and even when we seem to be navigating life pretty smoothly on the surface, everything’s probably held together with duct tape and promises underneath. And that’s okay. Because who wants to be an AI?

See? Perfect floofiness.

Although, given the choice, I wouldn’t mind being a kitten. They’ve got life pretty sorted.

And if I were to make a New Year’s resolution (which is not something I do)? Be a kitten.

No, I mean stop fussing and just be not okay. Love myself for the work in progress I so evidently am.

And what do I wish for you in the New Year? That you can be okay too, however that looks, whether it’s more duct tape or more floofiness. I wish you all the complicated, messy beauty of being human, all the crazy frustrating chaos of it. I wish you dreams and thoughts and creativity, and hopes and joys and sorrows. I wish you everything, and I wish you the strength to be purely, utterly you.

And if you need any duct tape, let me know. I’m buying it wholesale.


Amateur. I haven’t been to a New Year’s party for at least a decade.


Oh, and did I go out for New Year’s Eve? Hahahahahaha no.

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? Or is there anything you’ve learned from this year that you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!


Talking Thank Yous & Fighting Over Cheese

Talking Thank Yous & Fighting Over Cheese

It being very nearly Christmas, this chat is, of course, partly to wish you happy holidays (very clumsily, as apparently I’m still having issues speaking. I should have got the little furry muse to help me out again). It’s also to say that I hope you’re looking after yourself this December, and have set some time and space away from the madness to do so.

The other part is to say thank you so much, lovely readers. You are completely and utterly wonderful, and have been the best cheerleaders anyone could hope for. Every comment, like and share has, without exaggeration, made my day. So thank you so much – and watch on!



How are you spending your December? How are you taking care of yourself? Let me know in the comments, and please know you can always message me if you need an ear.



You’re Doing Brilliantly

You’re Doing Brilliantly


Everyone’s struggling right now.

Funny how it comes in waves.

Or maybe it doesn’t, but that’s what it feels like – everyone’s struggling. Every writer I know seems to be second-guessing themselves, wondering if they’ve got what it takes. If it’s even worth it, if they do. As if in the shift from summer to autumn (in this part of the world, anyway), from September to October, everyone’s been plunged into self-doubt.

Because it’s not easy, is it?

There’s the writing bit, which is, well, variable.

Variable like, you know, English summer weather. Hail one minute, sunburned noses the next. Which is to say, some days there’s nothing I’d rather be doing, and other days the only thing stopping me throwing the laptop out the window is the fact that it has all Layla’s photos on it.

Horribly familiar.

But writing’s fun, overall. Yes, editing can be a pain, particularly when we discover that scene that we absolutely love, and which we’d be prepared to say is one of the best things written by anyone, ever, is entirely irrelevant to the story and needs to come out. That sucks. As does finding we changed a character’s name part way through chapter six, and now we don’t know which name we like better, or indeed which character we’re talking about at any given time.

But other than that, it’s all good. We build our castles in the sand, all spires and gargoyles and fanciful turrets, and we love them, because they’re ours. We get a little Gollum-ish, to be honest. Possessive and protective and terrified, all at once (and often with a similar complexion. Seriously, we don’t see a lot of daylight, and cookies can be argued to cover at least three food groups).

It’s still tough, don’t get me wrong. Uncooperative characters, panic over tropes (are we subverting them or perpetuating them? And who even knew a heavy metal badger was a trope?), vanishing sub-plots and plotlines with more snarls than the M25. It’s hard. But it’s also ours. Our precious. So, as tough as it is, we keep going. We edit, and re-edit, and re-write, and edit again, and re-edit again, and re-write, and take out the heavy metal badger, as much as it breaks our inky little hearts. We persist, because this is going to be good. GOOD, in capitals, and possibly with gold stars.

I don’t want to be a trope.

And finally, finally, we’re ready to share. Perhaps with our loved ones first, because if they want to stay loved they bloody well better tell us we’re somewhere between Hemingway and Rowling. Then, emboldened by the fact that all anyone has to critique are a few pesky typos, we decide to dip out toes into the world of beta readers. They’re going to love it. It’ll be the best book they’ve ever read, never mind the best beta read (okay, if anyone actually has this confidence, good on you and can I have some? I’m actually convinced that every beta read will come back with a “DNF – this is rubbish” tacked to the front. But, dramatic effect etc).

And instead you get, “The penguin did what? I’m confused. This is really unclear.” Or, “I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure triceratops were vegans,” thus destroying your whole storyline about a rampaging, ravenous triceratops. Or, “This dialogue is really formal. I’m pretty sure giant anteaters don’t talk like that.” Or the bits you thought were funny fall flat, and the tear-jerking bits are somehow hilarious, or it turns out that your grasp of certain aspects of the English language may be a little shakier than you thought.

He LOOKS like he’d call someone “old boy”, though.

Talk about a reality shock.

A really, really high-voltage one.

You’ve spent months on this, and someone’s torn it apart in the space of an email! Your precious lies in tatters! Your dreams are destroyed! How dare they? How dare they?

Except, then, you read it again and realise they’re right. Giant anteaters really wouldn’t refer to each other as ‘old boy’ and ‘chum’. And a quick google proves that, yes, triceratops was indeed vegetarian, at the very least.

So then you have two choices. Consign your masterpiece to become chicken bedding, or get out the editing pen. And most of us, persistent little weirdos that we are, choose the latter. We go in again. We edit and re-edit and re-write again, then (with slightly less Gollumness) ask for someone else to pick it apart. And I’m not sure I can really say it hurts a little less each time, but I can say that you begin to take it a little less personally. Call my cat fat and I’ll murder you in my next book. Tell me my story’s overweight, and I’ll probably say thank you.

This is how you do it, right?

So there’s one hurdle. The first thickening of the skin. But it’s like one of those hellish BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE infomercials. Because all through this, you’ve been doing the good author thing, and trying to be chirpy social media person, and keep your blog up to date, and instagram pretty pictures, and do all those things that eat up your days when you’d really rather be writing. You reply to comments, and you re-tweet others, and you try to be witty and clever and cute.

And then someone tells you that they hate what you write, who you are, your cat, and your second auntie twice removed. Or they proposition you then tell you that.

And meanwhile your blog stats haven’t moved for months, your posts wallow in internet doldrums, and every article you see is still screaming BUILD YOUR AUTHOR PLATFORM IT’S SUPER DUPER EASY AND MASSIVELY IMPORTANT! And, really? Re-writing thirty pages of penguins on the rampage was more fun than this.

Im here for the love triangle.

But what do you do? You’ve come this far. You pull your ever-tougher author skin up around your ears and keep going.

Then comes the Big Stuff. Because either we’re going to self-publish, in which case we’re going to be running around designing covers or having them designed, and figuring out how we’re going to promote our book, and who we can beg a review from, and steeling ourselves for the inevitable one-star review by someone who thought it was a penguin-triceratops historical romance, and blatantly didn’t read the description of it as a sci-fi adventure giant anteater fantasy. Failing that, we’re going down the query path, having minor emotional and psychological breakdowns over cramming our magnus opus into a one-page synopsis and crying into our hot chocolate with whipped cream as we wait – and wait, and wait, and wait – for the inevitable form letter rejections.

And then, whichever path we’ve chosen, we’re going to have to pick ourselves up and start again. Because if we’re in the lucky elite who land an agent, they’ll probably want the penguin written into the giant anteater love triangle, and if we’re self-publishing someone’s going to send us a private message asking if we realised that penguins don’t actually live at the North Pole, and the next thing it’s back to edit, re-edit, re-write, repeat.

So, yeah. I get why so many people I know are having a hard time. I get why some days I think I’d rather go be a cashier at Poundland.

It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at, there are hurdles that can’t help but feel personal. There are criticisms we must take, if we want to get better, and sometimes they hurt. And there are things that are so far out of our hands that all we can do is shrug in despair and promise to sacrifice a Lesser Green-Splattered Butterfly to Lady Luck.

Some days we want to give up.

Maybe one day we will.

But this is my shout out to all the writers out there, whether I know you or not.

I know it’s hard.

I know it can suck.

I know sometimes it doesn’t even feel worth it.

I know sometimes it feels like it’ll send you mad, but that it’s too late, because you must’ve been mad to even start.

I know that sometimes you swear to yourself you’ll punch the next person who says “You write? How cute!” (And I’m absolutely behind you if you do. I’ll even be an eye witness to the fact that it was self defence).

But if there’s still enough joy in it for you to keep going (and answer this honestly, because if not, if it’s become something so horrible and draining that you find nothing but horror on the page, you stop. Maybe you’ll start again, maybe you won’t, but remember this – there must be joy. It’s too hard a thing to keep going if there isn’t, and bollocks to anyone who tells you otherwise), if there’s still enough pure pleasure in the knit and punch of words and scenes and characters, then I’m cheering you on. If you’re earlier on than me in your writer’s adventure, if you’re further on – I love your indomitable little heart, and I’m cheering. And waving pompoms and blowing curly whistles and throwing confetti.

And if not, I understand that, too.

But either way – you’re doing brilliantly.


I send you cupcakes, confetti, and cute little rodents.

How are you doing at this whole writer’s life thing?



Stuff for Sunday – Poetry, Stars, & Stress Relief

Stuff for Sunday – Poetry, Stars, & Stress Relief

Another Sunday, another collection of oddities for you. I have to admit that I love some of the amazing things that can be discovered when trawling through t’interwebs, and this week I’ve gone for a rather mis-matched assortment of wonderful oddities.

Read on!


Writing About Writing – 17 Rules

I’m not a fan of writing rules. I think they’re too often sold as some panacea, which, if we follow them to the letter, will render us all literary geniuses. Failure is certain if we don’t. I am, in fact, generally wary of writing advice, as you may remember. But these are rules I can get behind.

The rest of the site is also well worth a read – it’s well-written, entertaining, and full of useful info.



100,000 Stars

An interactive map of our stellar neighbourhood, although it does warn that accuracy isn’t guaranteed, and we shouldn’t use it for interstellar navigation.

It is, however, beautiful, and you can either hit play to be taken on a guided tour, or explore on your lonesome. Completely hypnotic, but be warned you may want to turn your speakers off if you’re going exploring among the stars at work.



The Poetry Foundation

I’ve read very little poetry since school, but last year I signed up for the daily poem from the Poetry Foundation. There’s something quite wonderful about a little packet of beautiful words turning up in your inbox every day, and there’s plenty to explore on the site.





Pixel Thought

I stumbled onto this from another site entirely, and at first thought it was just quite a silly thing. But I tried it (I was probably meant to be doing something else), and it’s a quite lovely little meditation and stress reliever. Just type what’s bothering you into the bubble, and let it go into the stars, following the prompts to breathe deeply as you do. It won’t solve anything, but when you think you might be about to throw your yoghurt at Gerry from accounts, it could be quite handy.



What interesting things have you come across this week, lovely people?