Tag Archives: Running

Gazette column: If we don’t look out for each other, what else do we have left?

It’s “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my weekly Gazette newspaper column to my blog so you can have a read…

This week my column for the Gloucestershire Gazette is about running, accidents and helping someone in trouble, because if we don’t look out for each other, what on earth do we have left?

To read it, simply click to my Column page.

What do you think? Let me know.

**Look out for  Wednesday Wafflings next, well, Wednesday, where I post the latest entry in My Diary of a Hopeful Author**

Diary of a hopeful author: How sports mantras can help your writing

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

So, there I was, at Christmas, up a mountain. I was bricking it. I could see over the edge. It was snowy. My skis were on and in my hands were my poles. I was with my ski school team and, bar the odd tumble, all was safe. So why, oh why did I lose it? And I don’t just mean lose it, but totally and utterly melt right on down and get scared on the mountainside.

The reason was this: I told myself I couldn’t do it. That’s it. No more, no less. I mean, sure, the previous day I had fallen off the edge of a chair lift BEFORE I had even gotten on it. And yes, my backside, along with my skis, were sticking in the air. And of course, the nice French ski lift operator laughed and said, ‘I will take a photo.’ And, indeed, the only way to handle it was to stand, smile and wave. But that was then. Standing on near the top of a mountain with a long way down? This was now. And I was not liking it.

So, two things happened. First up, I realised I was being an idiot. Why? Because I was telling myself I couldn’t ski. Trouble is, when that sets in, that negative thought, like a germ in a petra dish, it grows. Until what you have immobilises you and you f**k up. Second, was someone (our instructor…) said I was a chicken. He was being funny. We got on really well. But that was the thing – he’d clocked me, knew what I was like. You tell me I’m a chicken? Then I’ll show you…

And then it happened. I got down the mountain. And the day after that. And the day after that. I got down by telling myself, ‘I can do it.’  (and by making chicken noises…Got some strange looks) I got down by reminding myself that if I fell, I could get up. And if anyone – anyone – called me chicken, I’d show them just what I could do. And, tell you what, I had an absolute ball in the process. The best time ever.

I’m at home now. My limbs are in one piece. My mind is rested. I re-began the final editing of my book last week. And that is when I realised something: that I was better at knowing how capable I was; that anything was possible. Skiing had taught me something about myself. It had taught me that if you think positively, you can do it. You can, quite literally, conquer mountains. And that it is a whole heap of fun on the way.

So, on that note, I give you, below, a link to the mantras that sports people use for running (my favourite sport) to get them in the right mind set for a race. My advice? Adapt them for yourself and use them when you hit a low point in your writing. Feel you can’t write a paragraph, never mind a book? Feel as if there are so many authors out there better than you? Then apply a mantra. A positive mantra. For running, they use ones like: ‘Be steady. Be strong.’ Or : ‘Better. Faster. Stronger.’

Because you see, whether it’s running or writing or getting a promotion at work, a bit of positive thinking can help you go a long way. Or, in my case down a mountain (or to a big book deal!).

So, mantras: required. Broken limbs: optional.


Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

Diary of a hopeful author: The day I accidentally got into the wrong car

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

This week I’ve been impatient and I thought, hey, this sounds familiar. Turns out, it is, familiar, I mean, to me, this impatience thing, the jitteriness that makes me forge an inability to wait for the good stuff like a toddler struggles to wait to for the loo.

Rubbish analogies aside, while I now approach the end of edit number 3 of my second novel, I looked to my blog to trawl for posts on impatience and happened upon this one. The reason I like it isn’t just because it’s a memory road trip for me on self-publishing my first book, but it contains a very funny, real anecdote about me, basically, getting into the wrong car.

So, if you’re getting fed up with the pace of how your work is going, my message is this: hold  on. Get stuck in and keep going. Just don’t get into the wrong car.

Being impatient gets me into the wrong car

Last  week I had a cold, this week I have the sulks. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking toddler tantrums here, we’re talking a mild, lingering bottom lip, and like a case of bad flatulence, it won’t shift.

The reason for my dedums is simple: I am impatient. ‘You’re not checking your book sales again, are you?’ my husband asks as he sticks his head around the study door. I attempt to cover the screen with my palm, but, like a News of the Word Editor in a court room, it is useless.

‘I just wanted to see how it was doing,’ I say, knowing how whiny my voice sounds. ‘And,’ I continue, rising an octave to rival Mariah Carey, ‘things have gone quiet!’ My husband sighs. He is used to me and so deploys the only weapon he knows will work. ‘Do you want me to pick you up some chocolate for tonight?’ ‘Yes, please,’ I choke, and shuffle downstairs behind him to put the kettle on. ‘You know,’ my husband says, grabbing a mug and chucking in a tea-bag (actually, he doesn’t really make tea, but hey! I’m a fiction writer! I ‘m gonna run with it!) ‘you just need to be patient. You’re working really hard. It’ll all come together. You just have to wait.’

At this juncture, I must tell you a little story. As I said, I am an impatient sort. I want things to happen pretty much immediately, not only in work, but in almost all aspects of my life. Learning patience – after cooking for kids and understanding what’s happening in The West Wing – is the singularly most difficult thing I have learned to do.

So, to the story. One day, let us say three years ago, we were returning from a family trip to Wales to visit my husband’s grandmother. At the time our girls were aged 7 and 5 and at an age when we needed to stop at the delightful motorway services for a nature break or three. My bladder never quite being the same after two babies (sorry, men folk), I also needed to stop. The girls having now falling asleep, we agreed that I would nip out to use the facilities and run back.

Now, it is important to point out here that I was , even then, in the iron-grip of writing and had a deadline to meet for a Guardian travel writing competition. Needless to say, I was keen to get out and get in with maximum speed and with my skirt not in my knickers. All goes well. I run in, do what I need to do, and then, my mind on the Guardian job, I sprint out of the automatic doors and into the car park. Scanning the cars, my impatient autopilot kicks in, and, spotting our red Freelander, I peg it over and, hauling the door open, throw my self on to the passenger seat panting, ‘Come on! Let’s get a move on!’

Now, I don’t know about you, but do you know that dream when you are walking somewhere and then you look down and you are completely naked, in the nuddy, and you feel a wave of mortification wash over you? Can you recall that feeling? Well, this feeling is what came over me when, glancing from the corner of my eye I notice that the car seats in the back are different to my girls’ seats. Strange. And then my eyes fall to the seat covers – leather. What the? Ours are fabric. And then it hits me. I am in the wrong car. The wrong car.

I look up to see a man, mid-forties, balding, frowning, staring at me, mouth agape, finger, probably, hovering over 999. ‘OhmigodI’msorry!’ I blurt, and, faster than you can say, ‘naked dream’, I am out of that car and breathing like a phantom caller in a film sketch scanning the parking lot like a crazy woman. When I eventually locate our family car, my husband and girls are in fits of laughter, the whole sorry episode not having missed their unforgiving eyes, and it has made their day. ‘Mum got into a strange man’s car!’ they yelp. ‘Just drive,’ I mutter. But it is a good five minutes before we can leave because my husband is laughing too much for his eyes to focus.

Back in the study and my mind in a work muddle, I break up the fugg by going for a run to clear my head. Showered and back at my desk, I decide to look through my marketing notes for my book The Boy Who Played Guitar. On it there is a post-it note with my writing scrawled on it. I squint (even I can’t read my own writing it seems). The note says: ‘Re-edit book. Get friend to help.’ And it comes back to me. A friend of mine read The Boy Who Played Guitar and loved it – even said she prefered it to David Nicholl’s One Day, to which I choked on my Mars Bar. Crucially, she said that she would be happy to re-edit because my proof reading skills are almost as bad as my patience skills (Oh keep up alredy! See?). Not that there is much wrong with the first version – just the odd mistype here and there (it’s only 99p…)

But, if we re-edited, it would mean that I could begin to submit The Boy Who Played Guitar to book review blogs, just like the amazing Amanda Hocking did to publicise her book. At least then I would be actively doing something to promote it and then perhaps I could calm down.

That night, me and the hubbie catch up. ‘How was your day?’ he asks. ‘Oh, I got another chapter of my next novel written. I’ve only got five chapters to go now.’ ‘Wow,’ he says, ‘how many words have you written now?’ I think. ‘67,000, roughly.’ We sit and stare out the window as the number count lingers in the air. ‘Oh,’ I say, ‘and I’m re-proof reading The Boy Who Played Guitar so I can get it back out there.’

He smiles at me. ‘So you’re feeling a bit better then, a bit happier?’ I consider this. I am lucky to do what I do, I tell myself. It could be worse – at least I am not a Chilean coal miner or the Greek Government, say. ‘Yep. Happier. I know I just have to wait a little longer for it all to work out.’ He jumps up. ‘That’s great,’ he says, ‘I’ll check on dinner.’ ‘What?’ I say, ‘you mean it’s not ready yet? How long does that oven take? Come on!’ My husband sighs and reaching down, hands me some chocolate.

**Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog…**

Diary of a hopeful author: How to keep on writing

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…

Photo of a Diary

This week I have trawled through the archives again to pick out another post which went down well. This one is all about how to keep writing, or, at least how I keep writing. There’s an analogy with running, but stay with it, it’s not too energetic. The thing I like about this post is that when I re-read it, it’s still relevant to my writing now, finding myself, as I do this week and next, in the throws of major editing deadlines. So, after over a year of this blog, hope you enjoy this post – and that your writing is going good. Don’t give up.

I used to run a lot when I was a kid. Give me a road, and I’d be on it. I was a right Forrest Gump. I loved the feeling of being outside. The fact that we didn’t have a car might have had something to do with it, too. No car and friends living 7-miles into the next village, plus no buses. So I ran.

The good thing about all that running was stamina. I got it in the bucket load. I was like a Duracell bunny, going on forever, not running out of energy. I love a bit of stamina. It links arm in arm with its old pal, motivation, like two BFFs but only, well, cooler.  They’re a right old double act. Motivation gets us up and going, while stamina picks up where it left off and makes sure we keep moving forward.

This week I’ve been needing the two in spades. I am shattered. Cream crackered and in need of two weeks of sleep in one hit. But that ain’t going to happen any time soon.  Christmas is juggernauting its way to us all and with it a whole heap of preparation, pressie buying and workload shifting.

For me that means writing. Five columns. I wrote, last week, five columns in one day for my Weekend paper because, when I looked at all the deadlines and factored in Christmas and the fact that I want to spend time with my family, I just had to get it done. And that’s just for one paper. I haven’t started on the Gazette column deadlines yet. And then there’s the novel. 100k words it’s up to now. 100k! Not entirely sure how that happened, but I do know it needs editing. I’m now averaging on that 2 chapters a day – that’s 8,000 words – all to get it done by, yup, Christmas.

I was flagging, and then I gave myself a dose of motivation followed by a swift kick from stamina.  Alright, maybe there was some caffeine, too, but you get the idea. I want to finish this book edit. I have to. I just want to see how far it can go, that if, in the New Year, it will hit the shelves. That’s my motivation. It’s a dream, I guess, but it works.

My stamina – I’m not sure where it comes from. I get up at 5 every day while the family sleeps. I then write during the day, too, the columns, blogs, the novel, any other writing job that springs up. I think the stamina is connected to the motivation. When I was a kid, my motivation to run was so I could see my friends, and because I loved to run. The stamina came along with me because it had to – without it, no matter what motivation I had, I wouldn’t get there.

And so that’s been my week. Bleary eyes, LOTS of coffee, and a whole heap of writing and still more to go. But it’ll be okay, because I’m looking forward to Christmas when I can forget all about it and listen to our youngest belt out carols on her guitar. Yes, motivation comes in the form of Jingle Bells.

What’s your motivation?  Stamina? What keeps you writing when you feel like throwing in the towel?

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

Diary of a hopeful author: How a deadline can make stuff happen

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

This week is mad busy editing and writing articles. ‘Tis bonkers. But my Diary blog bit is my favourite, so what I’ve done this week is go through my previous posts and pick my fave – and re-blog it to you. This one is about deadlines, and why, if we go for it, they can make stuff happen. Okay, so, I’m off to edit now. See you next to a coffee machine somewhere.

When I was young I loved studying. Loved it. I was one of those spectacled, nerdy kids who lapped up the books and got down to some serious studying every evening and thought it fun. FUN.

That’s right. You heard correctly. Then exams came round. Exams. I’m afraid to say they never really fazed me. Christ, I sound like a right arrogant muppet, so let me explain. Exams got me nervous, of course. Exams made me question whether I knew anything. (30 years on, nothing’s changed there…) But, BUT, exams came with a deadline. A deadline! They gave you a date! You had to be there. On time! Oh it sang to my young time-concious heart like Romeo to Juliette, or Homer to Marg.

Because, you see, I love a deadline. What can you do with a deadline? You either meet it or you don’t. You sink or you swim. And that’s why I like ‘em. Deadlines are the take no prisoner guardians of time. They stand by the gates of hours and minutes, tapping their watch, shotgun in hand. You’ve got a deadline? You meet it, punk! (that sounded better in my head)

And so, to my week. I have set myself a deadline. I refer here to the editing of my book, novel number two which, it seems I have been working on forever.

Now look, I don’t know about you but I can be a cracking procrastinator. Olympic medal winning. Skirting boards need cleaning? Pass me the cloth. Cupboards need re-organising? When do I start? Kids’ rooms need cleaning? Get me…Actually, no. It’s not come to that.  You get my meaning. Add this top draw procrastination into a book edit and well, you’ve got nothing, really. No progress or, at the very least, slow progress. And so I have now turned to my old friend the deadline. If I am going to complete the 1st (only the first!) edit of this novel, then I need to get down and dirty with time.

The deadline I have set is Christmas. Christmas. I say it again so you can remember it. You can remember it so you can hold me to it. Oh crap. Saying it on this blog, you see, means I have to do it. Think of yourself as my boss, if you will, telling me to get the bloody work done by Christmas or goddammit I’m outta here! (Again, better in my head).  Meeting the deadline means averaging two edit chapters a week at minimum, sometimes more. It sounds lame, two, but trust me, it’s a lot. I have 100k words to edit. 100k words with a lot of Lovefilm app distraction on my iPad.

If you’ve got a deadline, then buddy, I salute you. If not, then go get one. Let’s do this deadline thing together, people, because, when our backs are up against the wall, it’s the only way to get things done. Nerdy glasses optional.

Turns out, I beat the Christmas deadline. I’m on edit round three now and it’s going good. I do, though, need to set a new deadline to get this book finished and sent off – fast. But, in the meantime, how do you hit a deadline? Ooo, and , while I think of it, do you have a favourite post from my Diary of  a Hopeful Author (if I dare ask)? 

**Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I comment on the UK government’s introduction of ‘the bedroom tax’…**

Diary of a hopeful author: Goals – the lighthouses of writing

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

What keeps you going? I’m not talking fibre food here, although, granted, prunes are very good to keep things ticking along in the old bowel department – we aren’t getting any younger. No, I refer to, in this instance, what drives you forward in achieving what you do? What are your goals?

Back in the day, I didn’t need much by way of things to keep me going, happy as I was with a bat, ball and some friends to peg it around a field with, the day stretching out ahead of us, packed full of Grifter bike riding, football and the odd game of knock a door run. Fast forward a couple  (or so) decades, and while I can still knock the bejesus out of a rounders ball game, my goals are different. No more Grifter bike sessions for me.

Goals you see are the lighthouses of writing – without them we cannot see where we are going. Goals stand on the edge of the sea, solid, unwavering, beaming out a light that can be seen for miles away so that if, when stuck, the wind whipping your hair into your face, the sea swirling your stomach into a dangerous lurch, you find you need to find your way, goals beam a light so strong, you find your course and re-set on your path.

I have the best family in the world. Utterly the tops. We are a solid, nutty unit of four, 2 adults, 2 kids, 4 brains. And one crazy goal: to own a farm. We’ve had this dream now for a couple of years and, instead of abating, it’s only snowballed, rolling down the hill faster than Usain Bolt at the Olympics. The dream’s getting so large we can’t ignore it. ‘Farm!’ the kids will shout, which is difficult at 6 in the morning.

My kids, you see, are country girls. Give them a pair of wellies and some mud and you give them a dream. They love to be outside, obsessed as they are about all things animal, vegetable, and sweet lord, I bet mineral. Once, we went to a place, for our Easter holidays, called Feather Down Farm. You stay in this yurt thing – glamping, I believe it’s called – where you sleep in a posh tent with feather-quilt beds, a table, home-made casseroles and a wood burning stove. It’s bloomin’ great – and it’s on a farm. The eldest got to hold a lamb one day and oh my lordy, you should have seen her face. She was in love. She had that gooey eyed look that said, ‘I have found myself’. I didn’t hold the lamb – country is not my thing.

But, no matter, we have a goal. Last week, I had a little falter with my writing. I had hit a wall and was doubting what I had done, if I could move it forward. I know. Numpty. And then the youngest came in and said, ‘Mum, when are we getting a farm/small holding?’ (We’ve taught her well – she knows a small holding exists and is perhaps the more realistic option. I am not slopping out. Think City Slickers).

And that’s when it hit. My goal. I had lost sight of my goal, my light house. Because, for me, while personal success in writing definitely does motivate me, my family motivates me more. And if that means my goal to write is to help us to buy a farm (small holding), with wellies on my feet and straw up my backside, then so be it.

So, that’s my lighthouse, or, farm house, if you will. I have found my course again through the choppy waters of writing and I am set sail to a farm (small holding).  Granted, as a city girl, it’s not my ideal choice, although, to be fair, it beats coughing your guts up on exhaust fumes.

How do you set your goals? What are they? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants?

 **Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m talking about  rape opinions and a Gloucestershire MP…**

Diary of a hopeful author: How to create a writer’s CV

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

I’ve been writing my CV. Well, I say writing, more pulling together. I mention this because, after tonnes of in-depth research (surfing the web whilst swigging coffee and watching 30 Rock re-runs), I have discovered that these days, in the age of the Internet, email and dancing cats on You Tube, the paper CV is nigh obsolete.  Gone. Done. Kerrput. Okay, not totally.

You see, I work in, well, I guess you’d call it, media. Yes, I write for a living, but think how fast things move. If we want to get in touch with an editor, it’s via email. If we need some fast data, get on the web. If we need to order pizza, call on that smart phone.

My trouble is that my old CV is outdated. I worked in marketing and my CV is on paper, it’s all, ‘strategic planning this’ and ‘advertising revenue percentages that.’ Not really conducive to a writing CV were you’re after a job that lets you sit in your PJs eating custard creams and writing about pop music, politics and society all day long. And so to a little digging. Turns out online CVs are where it’s at. For a writer, because we have to, you know, get stuff to places fast, an online CV sits with that nicely, like balsamic vinegar sits with olive oil. It just goes. But, oh where to start? What does a groovy online CV look like for a writer? Do I have enough material? What will I say? Do I really have to have a picture of myself on it?

As it stands, that there internet thing turns out to be something of a marvel when it comes to answering all these questions. One quick Google and I have a whole host of info on how to create a writer’s CV. Things like this: keep it updated. Everything you write, log it, get it down. As a writer, what you scribe IS your CV. You are only as good as your next piece. Detail your experience first, then your education, then skills.

But why all this leg work? Well, you see CVs are vital to writing jobs. CVs are like your shop window – if it doesn’t look good, people won’t want to stop by. And so think of an online CV as the retail equivalent of a store website. Everyone shop has gotta have one as well as the high street store if they’re going to survive.

And so, too, for writers. Online CVs are essential now. They can be emailed at the click of a finger – mouse – to prospective employers, giving you an edge, with all your writing for them to view in one place. Hopefully. But what should they look like? A cracking website I found was by a journalist called Josephine Moulds. She is a freelance writer for papers such as The Guardian and The Telegraph. Her online CV is done using a WordPress site. It’s simple and effective – and she can keep it updated . Here’s the link – it’s worth a look if you’re in the same boat http://www.josephinemoulds.co.uk/

As for me, I now have an online CV, too. Well, I say, have. I will do. Just about 5% of it left to finish and then new job ops here we come. Oh, God, I hope so.  The next step will be drawing up a list of who I should contact, who I already know – and I’m all set to get on out there. And then I’ll get distracted and go shopping. Online.

How do you develop your writer’s CV? Do you put your CV online? Or is it paper all the way?

Links: http://www.josephinemoulds.co.uk/

 Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m talking about  fox hunting in Gloucestershire…**

Diary of a hopeful author: Why evaluating is the grandfather of writing

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

Well, it’s all nearly over.  We’re a coming to Christmas and, writing wise, it’s time for me to fess up and tell you if a) I’ve hit my deadlines or b) I’ve not even come close. It’s kind of evaluating, if you will, how I’ve done and, most importantly, whether I’ve completed what I said I would (stay with me).

Evaluating is like the grandfather of writing. It sits in a corner of the room, grumbling and for the most part, you don’t notice he’s there until he pipes up something profound – or a profanity, which ever comes first. Evaluating is profound. When you evaluate your work and the effort you put in, you begin to realise things. Things about yourself, who you are, what makes you tick. Evaluating is the wise bit, the bit that you sit back and think, did I do a good job? It makes you assess what you do well, and what not so well, so that next time round you can apply it all and become even more awesome.

This week I’ve been evaluating a whole heap. I’ve looked at what I’ve done in 2012 writing wise and pondered if I’ve done a good job. It’s been scary. I took a massive punt at the start of the year, because back in January, I was working as a marketing consultant and a copywriter. I have always written. Always. That’s all I wanted to do. I was feeling low. I wanted to do a job I loved because, quite frankly, life’s too short to waste it. I didn’t mind marketing, I was pretty good at it, but it wasn’t enough.

And so, after a heart to heart with my other half, I decided to take a huge risk and throw all my delicate eggs into one writing basket. I was going to be a full-time writer. It’s been hard at times, but it’s been worth it. Hell yeah. On a whim, after a particularly low point, I thought, ‘Oh sod it,’ and stuck my book, The Boy Who Played Guitar, on Amazon and I nearly fell over when it started to sell and got great reviews. I bagged the Gazette column job, then the Citizen and Echo Weekend columnist gig. There’s been a bit of radio, some invites to cracking things. And then there’s the second book.

You may recall a few posts ago that I said I’d try and have the edit number one finished by Christmas. The 25th ain’t far now. Today, it’s 6 sleeps away. Six.  (Everything gets counted down in sleeps at our house. And that’s just by my husband.) So have I done it? Nearly. As we speak I have two – just two- chapters left to go. I’ll get one done today and that just leaves the last one for tomorrow. And then? I’VE FINISHED!! Pass me the sherry (that stuff like rocket fuel. No wonder the grannies love it.)

If I evaluate this all grandfather style, I’d say I guess I haven’t done so bad. But there’s so much more to do. New Year is all about fresh starts, and I think my 2013 will go for it. A book on the shelves, more newspaper work. Heck, a national would be great. Who knows. I do know it’s been hard work but heck if it’s not worth it.

I love this job. Love it. That’s my evaluation. My evaluation would come and pat me on the head, give me a hug and say keep going. Keep going. One to remember for us all come 2013. We gotta keep on going.

This is my last Wednesday post for 2012. Huge thanks for reading all my waffle this year – I am truly honoured. See you in 2013. Merry Sherry Christmas and a cracking New Year to you!  

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m talking about  how if you’re trying to do good, a little pre-planning always help…**