Tag: silly stuff

7 Reasons Summer is a Problem (for Writers)

7 Reasons Summer is a Problem (for Writers)

Sun! Sea! Boats! Sunburn…

Spring has, apparently, sprung. This time last week we were emerging from what seemed like an eternity of unending rain (yes, I realise that it was unending only in the sense that we’re not used to it down here. When I used to live in the UK it would have just been a normal week in April), and the ski stations had just received a ridiculously large dump of snow the day before closing.

Today I had to walk into town with SPF50 and a t-shirt rather than a singlet on, because yesterday I burned my shoulders. Last week I was still in my woolly slippers, complaining about being cold. This week I’m seriously wondering how warm the water is and already doing battle with the flies that want to come in through all the open windows. Every conversation you overhear has some variation of “Il fait chaud!” in it. And the cat’s taken to sleeping on the outside furniture after dinner rather than snuggling into a blanket on the sofa with me. It’s officially warm.

Which is fantastic – I love being warm. It means I can stop wearing shoes and socks and a hundred layers, and that I have feeling back in my toes for the first time since September. I’m not designed for cold weather. I can take it in small doses, but the novelty wears off quickly, and by the end of January I’ve retreated into a wintery sulk, surrounded by heatable toy hedgehogs and fluffy blankets, imbibing copious quantities of hot chocolate and tea.

But hot weather brings its own problems, not least the start-of-season unexpected sunburns and blisters from the first long walk in jandals (flip-flops, thongs, whatever you want to call them). For us writers and readers, a whole host of other problems present themselves, because by nature we’re not exactly well-suited to the summer.

1. Writer fuel.

*Drools* *Gets caffeine jitters*

Everyone knows that writers need to be kept topped up with caffeine and sugar in order to function properly. Tea and coffee are our friends, and for best results should be accompanied by generous slices of cake, or a pile of cookies (preferably home made). But summer means hot drinks aren’t everyone’s (heh) cup of tea. I know it’s a very British thing to drink tea even while sweltering in the sands of the desert or on the banks of the Nile, but I’m not British, and I go off the hot drinks pretty quickly. The best option I’ve found so far to keep my caffeine levels at a good elevation is making cold brew coffee – it’s about the only way I do drink coffee, and it both tastes wonderfully indulgent and has enough caffeine in it to set your newly defrosted toes tingling.

2. Snack issues.

I wouldn’t say I go off sweet stuff in the summer, because that’s physically impossible, but I supplement it with a load of fruit, especially watermelon. Which is decidedly healthier, but also more dangerous for the keyboard. Cookie crumbs brush off. Watermelon juice? Not so much. Then there’s the problem of chocolate melting before you can eat it properly, having to think beyond cuppa soups for lunch, and the difficulties of eating salad while reading. And that’s before we even mention the dangers of combining laptops with ice cream. It’s a risky business, summer bookishness.

3. Writing space.

We have a problem. Where is the cat space?

I love being outdoors, but in winter it’s obviously not an issue – I’m cold enough sitting inside virtually on top of the portable heater, so outside is limited to walks and hikes. As it gets warmer, though – well, it’s just too nice to be inside. So you have to tackle the issue of finding somewhere out of the sun, but still warm, with a good spot for at least a chair and preferably a table as well. Then the cat wants to join you, so you need to have enough space for her, too. And when you’re finally settled, the kids from the apartment next door decide to sit just outside your garden playing French rap music on their phones, plus the mosquitoes that were living under the table launch their attack. After which the sun gets low enough to sneak under the shade and start both roasting you and rendering the screen impossible to read, so you move inside, then pine about wanting to be outside.

4. Writing buddies.

Never mind. She’s good.

I love my little furry muse. I’ll forgive her no matter how many times she stomps across the keyboard and deletes things, or wakes me at five in the morning, or bites me for petting her that one second too long. But while I welcome her hot water bottle tendencies all the rest of the year, in summer it’s just not nice. First she slides around on my bare legs, so uses her claws to hold herself in place. Then she’s just so warm. By the time I kick her off she’s both shed hair everywhere and made me sweat horribly, which the hair then sticks to so I bear a startling resemblance to a sasquatch.

5. Clothing.

I feel my stance on the undesirability of shoes is both reasonable and suitably eccentric for a writer, but I’m not sure I can say the same for my summer uniform of shorts and singlets. I can’t shake the feeling that writers are best suited to dramatic greatcoats and sombre clothing, as befits the weighty thoughts they wrestle with on a daily basis (you know – dragons. Talking cats. That sort of thing). I don’t think my ancient denim shorts and cat t-shirts lend me quite the right gravitas.

6. Drama.

It’s very hard to be dramatic while scoffing one of these. Plus it’d melt on your coat sleeves.

As with the clothing issue, getting the bike out for a ride down to the beach and splashing about in the ocean doesn’t seem to be in quite the same league as striding across moors in the aforementioned greatcoat. And it’s very hard to be dramatic when you’re trying to eat your ice cream before it melts. I mean, I’m not saying I’m any better at being solemn and dramatic when it’s cold, either, but I do at least have a big coat.

7. Actually going out.

I went for my first beach picnic of the year last week. I mean, there were only two of us, and between us we had the salad she’d made for her lunch, plus some strawberries and breadsticks I’d picked up on the way from home, but we had it on the beach, so it counts. And it reminded me that, while I can effectively hibernate for most of the rest of the year, it’s already staying light until after 8pm. Which means there’ll be more beach picnics, and evening gatherings, and even parties, and I’m going to have to be social. And while somehow that does come to me much more easily in the summer, I’m also going to have to, you know, dress to go out. Which means toenail polish and defloofying my legs. Ugh.

I have to draw the conclusion that, as much as I adore the summer, winter really is a writer’s season. We can hibernate, grow floofy, dress dramatically, and shut the outside world out while we write. We can imbibe as much tea and keyboard-safe snacks as we want, and embrace the pale and semi-nocturnal creatures we become.

But I’d still rather be warm. 😉

 

Yeah. Worth it. 🙂

How about you, lovely people? Do you prefer warm weather or cooler? What do you love or hate about the summer? Let me know below!

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.

 

An A-Z of the Writer’s Life

An A-Z of the Writer’s Life

Don’t be ridiculous. Of course I haven’t run out of blog ideas. It’s only the end of January. This is important stuff!

Okay, important might be stretching it, but this was actually really fun. So, without further ado:

The A-Z of the Writer’s Life

(Because you always wanted to know, right?)

This is fine. This is absolutely fine…

A: Authors. That’s us. Even if we don’t feel like that’s what we are an awful lot, and need constant reassurance and regular infusions of chocolate to believe it.

B: Blogs. First because we think we should, later because it gives us an excuse to inflict our thoughts on unsuspecting internet readers.

C: Caffeine. Lots of it. Lots.

D: Drafts. So many drafts. Why are there so many? Why is there never really a final draft?

E: Editing. The word we don’t like to talk about, because there’s even more of it than there are drafts.

F: Fans. What we want. The kind that read our books, not the kind that move air around. Although in summer they’re nice, too.

G: Goals. Those things that shift a lot.

How we hope it works.

H: Headaches. Because our characters do things that we didn’t say they could do, and very rarely do what we want them to do. Also grammar, and real life interfering with our Work.

I: Insecurity. Lots of it. Will I finish this horrible draft? Will I make it less horrible? Will other people think it’s horrible? Will they think I’m horrible? Am I a horrible writer, or a horrible person, or both?

J: Jokes. Things we’re sure we tell badly, or else something that we suspect we may actually be. Not sure.

K: Kettle. Vital writer equipment. Enables us to fuel our caffeine habit, make pot noodles, and serves as a fantastic procrastination tool.

L: Laughter. Used as deflection when someone asks us how our little book is coming on. Often has a slightly desperate edge.

M: Murder. What we research more than is probably healthy, and said searches are probably why we’re on FBI watch lists.

N: Nightmares. In which we find ourselves at a writers’ conference, pitching an erotic comedy to an agent who represents only literary fiction.

Yep.

O: Oh. As in oh my god, oh help me, oh hell, oh no what have I done, and other things I can’t print here.

P: Proofreading. Because editing wasn’t enough. Editing is never enough.

Q: Quiet. What we insist we need, then get a little uneasy about when we actually get it. Is there a tap dripping? I think the fridge is coming on too often. I did not know the cat snored that loudly. Wow. All this quiet is distracting. How am I meant to work like this?

R: Research. Where we find out about interesting ways to kill people, untraceable poisons, how to dismember a body, and other titbits that don’t really help us in small talk situations.

S: Sighs. Many, and escalating as the drafts mount up.

T: Twitter. Where we ‘connect with readers’ and ‘build our audience’. Also known as hanging out with other writers, sharing bad jokes and pretending to work.

U: Unclear. Our characters’ motives, the plot, and our own memories of where we were going when we started this piece. Also our motivations for ever getting into this madness.

No, no. We just think it is. Hopefully.

V: Vague. Our behaviour when forced to leave the computer and socialise. Also known as ‘unsociable’, ‘awkward’, and sometimes ‘weird’.

W: Wikipedia. Where we fall down rabbit holes of unrelated research and emerge days later knowing the exact breeding cycle of the lesser red-spotted yak fly, but nothing more about the historical relevance of penny whistles, which is what we went in for.

X: X. Usually written large, in red, across vast swathes of manuscript while editing.

Y: Yowl. The sound the cat makes when we step on her in the dark while going to write down an amazing idea that’s just occurred to us at 3 am. Alternatively: Yelp, the sound the dogs makes, and also the sound we make when we walk into the bathroom door.

Z: Zero. The amount of regret we have about any of this. Most of the time, anyway.

 

 

So let me know, lovely people – any additions to this alphabet? Any substitutions? Tell me your thoughts!

The Writer’s 12 Days of Christmas

The Writer’s 12 Days of Christmas

They’ve got their thinking caps on, right? RIGHT? Sigh. Fine.

The last blog post before Christmas, and I have no idea how we got here so quickly. I hope you’ve been looking after yourself, and aren’t feeling too stressed about the day itself. It’s only a day, remember. I wish you a wonderful one, whether you’re celebrating or not – let me know what you’re up to in the comments!

Anyhow, last year I may have got a little ahead of myself and decided that I could actually write poetry. Not poetry poetry. You know. Rhymes. The Night Before Christmas, to be exact.

And there might have been, as Bill Nighy so delightfully says on Love Actually, an extra syllable shoe-horned in there (or several), but it was fun.

Fun enough that I decided to try it again, this time with The 12 Days of Christmas (largely because it’s one of the few Christmas songs I can kind of remember, and it didn’t seem too complicated).

And somehow, the SO allowed himself to be volunteered to sing it.

So – enjoy!

 

 


The Writer’s 12 Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas,
My writing gave to me,
Frightful insecurity.

On the second day of Christmas,
My writing gave to me,
Two chosen ones
And frightful insecurity.

On the third day of Christmas,
My writing gave to me,
Three bad boys,
Two chosen ones,
And frightful insecurity.

On the fourth day of Christmas,
My writing gave to me,
Four tangled plots,
Three bad boys,
Two chosen ones,
And frightful insecurity.

On the fifth day of Christmas,
My writing gave to me,
Five comma splices,
Four tangled plots,
Three bad boys,
Two chosen ones,
And frightful insecurity.

On the sixth day of Christmas,
My writing gave to me,
Six epic typos,
Five comma splices,
Four tangled plots,
Three bad boys,
Two chosen ones,
And frightful insecurity.

On the seventh day of Christmas,
My writing gave to me,
Seven tenses shifting,
Six epic typos,
Five comma splices,
Four tangled plots,
Three bad boys,
Two chosen ones,
And frightful insecurity.

On the eighth day of Christmas,
My writing gave to me,
Eight tropes a-troping,
Seven tenses shifting,
Six epic typos,
Five comma splices,
Four tangled plots,
Three bad boys,
Two chosen ones,
And frightful insecurity.

On the ninth day of Christmas,
My writing gave to me,
Nine cliches clashing,
Eight tropes a-troping,
Seven tenses shifting,
Six epic typos,
Five comma splices,
Four tangled plots,
Three bad boys,
Two chosen ones,
And frightful insecurity.

On the tenth day of Christmas,
My writing gave to me,
Ten spellcheck failings,
Nine cliches clashing,
Eight tropes a-troping,
Seven tenses shifting,
Six epic typos,
Five comma splices,
Four tangled plots,
Three bad boys,
Two chosen ones,
And frightful insecurity.

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
My writing gave to me,
Eleven viewpoints jumping,
Ten spellcheck failings,
Nine cliches clashing,
Eight tropes a-troping,
Seven tenses shifting,
Six epic typos,
Five comma splices,
Four tangled plots,
Three bad boys,
Two chosen ones,
And frightful insecurity.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
My writing gave to me,
Twelve grammar crashes,
Eleven viewpoints jumping,
Ten spellcheck failings,
Nine cliches clashing,
Eight tropes a-troping,
Seven tenses shifting,
Six epic typos,
Five comma splices,
Four tangled plots,
Three bad boys,
Two chosen ones,
And frightful insecurity.

 

And there we have it. Huge thank you to the SO for lending his voice – you’re a star and very, very good at humouring me. 🙂

 

 

What’s your favourite Christmas song/poem? Let me know in the comments! (Bonus points for a link to you singing it somewhere…)

 

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