The curse of Writer’s Bottom (and my attempt to fix it)

As a writer, I spend a rather large amount of my time sitting.

This is arguably truer now than it was when I was freelancing. At least back then I’d typically walk (or bus) to town, move from coffee shop to library and back again in any given day, with the frequent need for refreshments and a change of scenery meaning I’d get up and move around on a regular basis.

Now that I’m in an office, that’s no longer the case. I drive to work, park in the on-site car park and proceed to my desk, where I’ll spend the best part of eight hours tapping away on a keyboard, barely surfacing for air. The only saving grace is the fact that my desk is almost as far from the coffee station and facilities as possible, and that my need to escape from the office most lunchtimes means I’ll often head outside.

However, the result of this almost complete absence of movement is that I’ve gained weight, as you may expect given my increasingly sedentary lifestyle (true, it could have been compounded by the fact that I’ve since moved in with a man whose love for wine and cheese almost outweighs my own, but I prefer to focus on the writerly thing rather an over-indulgence in the finer things in life).

It isn’t a huge amount – just enough for me to notice – and I’ve heard that it’s a common affliction among writers; a side-effect of the job, if you will, one that’s become lovingly referred to as Writer’s Bottom (a term that I believe was coined by Jane Wenham-Jones, and a pretty apt description at that).

Common it may be, but the time has come to do something about it, so I’ve decided to take decisive action – I’m attempting to give up sugar.

*pauses for dramatic effect*

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Ok, now I’m not taking it to extreme lengths – I’m still allowing myself things like fruit and natural sweeteners, and I accept the fact that there’ll be off days (heck, I’m even planning for some of them) – and I’m not expecting it to last forever (viewing it as a complete this-is-for-good lifestyle change is just too much for my sweet tooth to cope with), but I’m trying it for a few weeks to see if I can manage it, and hopefully it’ll have the desired effect. At the very least, it could mean I reach for the chocolate a little less often. We can only hope…

I’m under no illusions that it’s going to be easy. On Day 1, I quickly realised how much of a challenge it was going to be – and a week into the whole thing I’m still realising it. There’s sugar in EVERYTHING. A quick glance at the ingredients list of any typical foodstuff will give you an instant sugar rush.

Even things you may initially think of as being relatively healthy are chock full of the granular devil. Soup has it. Sushi has it. SALAD has it. And will someone please explain to me the logic behind adding sugar to dried fruit? It’s fruit! THE SUGAR’S IN THERE BY DEFAULT!!

But I digress.

Tough it may be, but a week in and I’m realising that this thing could work. Preparation appears to be key, thereby avoiding the lure of pre-packed plastic-wrapped monstrosities at lunchtime, and if my scales are to be believed I’m already a couple of pounds down – and that’s with a weekend where I wasn’t exactly strict in any way shape or form – but it hasn’t come without sacrifice.

I’m craving sugar on a seemingly constant basis. I’m tired. I’m hungry. I miss chocolate. An afternoon snack of hard-boiled eggs simply doesn’t cut it. My evenings are filled with unrequited longing as I try to ignore the increasingly loud growls of my stomach when it’s craving a 9pm sugar hit. (Incidentally, I’ve just read an article that likens sugar withdrawal to that of drug addiction. This explains a lot.) 

If anyone’s got any tips on how I can keep my resolve going without ransacking the cupboards in a sugar-withdrawal-induced mania, I’d very much appreciate it.  

But still, it’s possible. It isn’t easy, but it’s possible. Writer’s Bottom will not win. Famous last words? We shall see…

The joy of a festive read

On Sunday I was nursing the kind of hangover that can only be achieved when a Christmas-lunch-with-friends turns into one-too-many-Christmas-drinks, but while I was annoyed at the complete loss of a day, it had a rather happy consequence – namely, that I was able to curl up with a book on the sofa for a few hours. A Christmas book, no less. This book:

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I absolutely love a good festive read, and this one didn’t disappoint. It was a wonderful, warm and humorous look at how Father Christmas came to be, complete with elves, magic and all the joys of the season, and although it’s technically a children’s book, I defy any Christmas-loving adult to be put off by it. It really did fill me with festive cheer and I was beaming by the end of it, and I have no doubt that I’ll be keeping it for my future offspring to read and learn about jolly old (or, indeed, young) Nikolas.

There’s something about a Christmas book that defines the season for me, much in the same way that a favourite Christmas film does (The Muppet Christmas Carol, without question) – even if you haven’t yet got round to writing the Christmas cards or putting the tree up, reading a Christmas book can make you feel instantly festive.

You can’t beat curling up under a blanket with a book, a mince pie and a hot chocolate (or mulled wine if it’s that kind of evening) to instantly get into the spirit of things. Bonus points if you’re surrounded by candles or fairy lights, and double the bonus if you’re wearing Christmas pyjamas. Or slippers. Or socks. Etc…

It’s a chance to wonder at the sheer magic, the warmth, that Christmas can create, and perhaps the best part of it is that there’s nothing commercial about it. For me, the key to a good festive read (or film for that matter) is that it imparts a sense of joy and love for my fellow man – I forget about the stress of finding the perfect present or what would happen if I forget the bread sauce, and simply want to get up and hug my loved ones.

It’s one of the highlights of the season for me. I try to re-read A Christmas Carol on an annual basis – it’s a must, a festive tradition – and A Boy Called Christmas could now be up there as one of my new favourite festive classics. Not too schmaltzy, not too twee, but just right. I’m now scouring the book lists for a new Christmas read to feast on, so if anyone’s got some festive recommendations to throw my way, I’m all ears! I do love a happy festive ending *cracks open the mulled wine*