New Year’s resolution – the importance of still writing for yourself

Happy new year! I hope you’re all looking forward to 2015, like I am, and to the opportunities and changes it may bring to your creativity.

This was originally going to be a tutorial post, but I didn’t want to overload your New Year’s Eve inboxes and blog readers with something you’ll need a hot water bottle and supply of endless coffee to get through… so I’ll try and keep it on the shorter side 🙂

In a nutshell, when you set out to write for an audience, a target market, remember there’s still time (and a need) to continue to write and be creative for yourself alone.

Whether it’s therapy, or relaxation, or just for entertainment. Whether it’s recording your dreams or memories, or making plans for the future. You need to keep that part of your writing alive – the part that inspired you to write with a purpose in the first place – because nothing tries to suck the joy out of writing more than constantly thinking about deadlines, sales, and financial returns.

If you’re a compulsive writer and it’s something you’ve always done, it’s particularly important to keep writing for yourself, to preserve that feeling of serenity and the internal insights that arise from it. You will find yourself picking up inspiration along the way, and using elements of it in your commercial writing, but allowing yourself to BE yourself in your creativity, and taking time out from the ‘author’ side of it, is what will help prevent any disillusionment, doom and gloom taking over.

You don’t ever have to make your personal creativity public. Like a diary, you can write it in quill and ink in endless notebooks, or record them aloud using your phone, tablet, or computer. Keep your spontaneity going! It will do your mind and spirit good, as well as positively enhance your professional efforts.

Although I put quite a lot out there commercially, most of my creativity is still personal – I’m still developing my skills and different genre styles away from the marketplace. I still experiment and play with ideas, counsel myself with writing, and use other art forms like sewing, knitting, customising and painting to relax.

One of my longest writing therapy projects did eventually end up in novel form, and because I feel silly/embarrassed promoting it commercially – to me, it’s therapy I wrote for myself, in the guise of narrative fiction (written nearly seven years ago now!) – I give it away in regular Kindle ebook freebies, so a few times a year you’ll find it listed as free:

Death & The City: Cut to the Chase Edition

 Death & The City: Cut to the Chase Edition on Amazon UK & Amazon.com – search for it on your regional Amazon site as prompted by clicking here on the Amazon.com product page.

This is the version I made more reader-friendly by including shortcuts through the text, meaning you can skip through the internal monologue as prompted and read it more as an action novel, or read the whole thing in linear fashion as a semi-literary one. That was one of my technical experiments in ebook formatting that I’m quite proud of – you can see how it works by checking out the description and the ‘Look Inside’ preview on Amazon.

I’m still in two minds as to whether publishing it (unedited) was the true outcome or purpose, but in terms of the therapeutic side of writing, I definitely came out the other side feeling better for it, both internally and creatively. And having it out there, rather than filed away and forgotten, is a small reminder to me that writing therapy and self-analysis is worthwhile to some of us artistic types – even if no-one else reads it 🙂

I hope you all have a very happy and creative new year, and remember to make time for yourself in the process!

L xxx

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The Voodoo Viewpoint: Is new media stealing our souls and memories?

Halloween bookshelf

I haven’t blogged for a while, having had new things to deal with through the summer and autumn along with writing, and waiting for other things to be resolved – everyday life has got in the way, and all of it worthy of my time – so I can honestly say I don’t feel I’ve missed anything by not procrastinating online too much.

This post has been on my mind for a while over the past year, and I’ve turning it over further in my mind since a topic came up on Facebook regarding the well-roasted old chestnut of ebook vs. print books, and what might supplant them in the future. When I made my comment, I didn’t realise how much of an observation it really was. But the thought of it keeps returning to me, so I’ll attempt to dissect it further now. (I’ve used ‘Voodoo’ in the title as I was originally going to post it as Voodoo Spice first – but there is another relevance to the reference).

My comment on the post was:

I think real books will stick around for another reason – the same reason as real music disc collections, and real movie DVDs, and real photo albums. The death of these things will mean the end of being able to remember lost loved ones. Imagine going into an elderly relative’s last residence, and instead of shelves full of their favourite media that you can pick up and read and smell, and admire, all that’s there is a computer tablet full of password-protected cloud-storage erotica. Supposing they’re survived by 20+ family members all wanting a memento? Will they have to take turns hacking into his or her tablet to read their, erm, favourites???

It’s not only the issue of having physical objects with which to remember a loved one, though. When you first make a new friend, visit their home for the first time, you see immediately by their books, music, film collections, and photographs what you have in common. Without those, it takes far longer to define. How do you learn about a person who wears nothing on their sleeve in real life? Are they hiding something about their personality, their cultural and entertainment tastes, behind password-protected anonymous digital storage products? How much of their social media persona is genuine – do they really like Top Gear, or do they just ‘Like’ it on Facebook? How long does it take to make early judgements of compatibility when all you see in their home is the faceless packaging and housing of technology? Is this creating the hacking, snooping, prying, suspicious culture that troubles present-day relationships?

Are we sacrificing our personalities, our ability to connect with one another in real life without the social media screens, in favour of electronic packaging?

Back to the subject of bereavement and memories, there is another agenda surfacing to consider.

Electronic media itself has no re-sale value. The tablets and electronic devices can be re-sold, but they lose value in the very short term. Unlike physical books, vinyls, cassettes, picture frames, CDs, and DVDs – when you buy anything in digital format, to watch, read or listen to, its solvency value is zero. So even if your descendants, friends and family don’t want to share the digital tablet and know your passwords to enjoy your *ahem* favourites, they can only sell the tablet itself. Even if you have bought 70,000 books, movies, and songs in your lifetime, they do not add up to £70,000 worth of house clearance on ebay to divide among the mourners. They add up to zero.

They money you spend on electronic books and media to fill your device has gone for good. You cannot donate the products to an Oxfam bookshop after you have enjoyed them in order for others to benefit. You cannot have a yard sale or a car boot fair stand of portable entertainment to fund a party, or to pay a few bills. You have not invested your money in anything physically reminiscent that can be enjoyed as part of the soul of a lost loved one, or liquidated as an asset in the future.

The money has gone for good, into the great black hole of the business that also sold you the device to enjoy it on, or to store in some online cloud.

So in the future, without personal possessions for family and friends to remember us by – not even the chance to flick through the same books and photo albums we held, and no idea how to access our family photographs and music – and more and more social lives being conducted online – how will anyone remember their grandparents and great-grandparents beyond faces on a screen?

Will the youngest family members have the sense of identity and individual heritage that children before the digital age grew up with?

Will old people just die and disappear, leaving nothing behind but an online account full of media they spent thousands on, which is worth precisely nothing to their descendants even if they have the ability to access it? Will their living memories and personalities evaporate the second you tap on ‘Confirm shut down/log off device’?

Will folk start leaving clauses on their departure, that no-one is to hack into the tablet at all to avoid finding out how much porn and erotica they downloaded to keep them warm in their old age?

Never mind what to do with Granny, the last Will and Testament says we have to burn her Kindle first… aptly named device, if ever there was one. I see a new business opportunity looming – the “Kindle Crematorium” where dirty old reading habits go after you die…

It’s a mystery that leaves me very curious. I already find houses without books, music, photograph or film collections very odd – rather like pictures of home interiors in advertising, with no identity of the occupants visible. Sterile, like a showroom to sell a product or furniture lifestyle – not a working, living home. And if that is what remains in the future, when individuals die, what is left to know of them? An indentation in the sofa, perhaps – where they sat while playing Candy Crush Saga online?

So never mind that a computer tablet doesn’t provide the same decorative impact as a bookshelf, or provide the same soundproofing from your neighbours. Never mind that it’s a good way of hiding your reading habits, and a bad way of storing your nekkid selfies. It’s also a good way of spending your children’s inheritance – permanently. Throwing your small change onto the Kindle Fire (literally), never, ever to return as second-hand small change, ever again. Quite possibly thrown away along with the material potential for any of your descendants to remember you for more than one surviving generation…

Happy Halloween! 🙂 xxx

If you want to learn to how to format a print-on-demand book, publish and distribute for free, click here for my tutorial. You can also learn how to format ebooks and multimedia booksIf those still light your candle 😉 x

Back to Basics: I, Wordbot – or, who is the author anyway?

Okay. So, you’ve started writing – let’s say, something.

Where do you see this expedition taking you, as an individual?

To the Oscars? To the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards? To a disciplinary at work? To the headmaster’s office?*

*Usually if you start by penning your work of genius on the walls and furniture.

A few writers do well. A few do very well indeed.

For the majority though, it’s the worst hourly rate anyone could wish for.

What person in their right mind spends 17 hours a day for weeks/months/years on a soul-baring project, for the small chance of grossing $10 from Amazon Kindle in the first fiscal year after publication?

  • Do you visualise yourself turning into a 24-hour book-pimping machine once you’ve completed the fun part (viz, writing the story)?
  • Do you plan to change the world by preaching your message to the masses with the concise summation of “Buy my book! And write me a review!”
  • Do you want social conversations around you to gravitate away from the fondly-remembered “What are you up to nowadays?” and more towards “Do you know, I have no time to read anything anymore. I can’t even keep up with the latest Terry Pratchett and Jeremy Clarkson…”

Perhaps there’s something to be said for keeping your new hobby a secret. That way, you can succeed or fail in private.

Maybe analyse your reasons for writing. Do you desire to be a more interesting or worthy person? Instead of inventing interesting and worthy characters, maybe go out into the world and do some volunteering. Or take up an adult education class.

People write for many reasons. Catharsis and therapy, for their own entertainment, because they simply can’t find books to read that they identify with… to learn, to share, to teach, to excavate old personal bones of contention, or to throw light on dark corners of their life. Some of those dark corners seem to contain many heaps of used tissues. Remember, what makes you happy (or sad) may not be viewed the same way by everyone.

Anyway. Selling is a different job altogether, and if you don’t see yourself as a salesman (I’m certainly not one) by all means write – but don’t let the business of being ‘an author’ take away the enjoyment of writing. Just write, publish, and move on.

Being an author doesn’t have to define you. Again, rather like that thing what may merely light your own candle in fiction being the complete witch-trial pyre in other people’s minds and cultures – what you picture the job description of ‘author’ representing in your own mind, may manifest itself differently in other people’s.

When I was very young, someone made it clear to me that their idea of a writer was a useless bum with no skills whatsoever. My own idea of a writer was Barbara Cartland in a pink frilly dress writing about men in tights and ladies swooning, or possibly Clive Barker with a pint of snakebite and blackcurrant, writing about dead things and the afterlife. But the thought of being useless and having no skills was also taken on board, and I’m proud to say I have avoided gaining any of the skills that I should have supposedly gained by not writing. I found that the opportunity to learn more interesting skills came my way instead.

Writing shouldn’t be your excuse for avoiding life, but rather a way of expressing your experiences and philosophies of it. If you don’t have any experiences that you want to write about, and can’t manifest them (either legally or physically, such as sprouting wings), like the best of us, make them up – but it’s your own slant and viewpoints which will tell your readers who you are, through the medium of your characters.

So let’s talk about the taboo subject of authorial leakage. Unintentionally, or otherwise, what private agendas and personal revelations may surface in the process of revealing your new talent to the world.

Writing is like any other art form – so far in the West, until recent history, held as being mystically separate from the laws of real life. Free speech, artistic licence, call it what you want.

There are different forms of art. Art that is life-affirming. Art that inspires criticism. Art that inspires debate, and art that instigates discussion on what constitutes art. However, in modern history, public concerns are voiced more frequently about art that inspires crime and atrocities.

The old-school art school tend to stand by their guns that art should be allowed to be art in any form, whether it’s a dirty unkempt bed or half a cow in formaldehyde. But if it’s a dirty unkempt child or half a pet dog, that’s the NSPCC and RSPCA notified.

With the advent of social media, and internet-based reality live-streaming TV, some people are sharing ‘art’ that should more accurately be described as ‘evidence’. And with certain art forms inspiring domestic violence and murder on a daily basis, now in the headlines with alarming regularity, the conscience of the artist has to be considered as much as the consumer.

For instance, compare the theoretical concept of a designer of a war propaganda poster that leads to an uprising and mass genocide, to the writer of a play that inspires a sick man to go home and shoot his dog. Both had a detrimental effect. One, you might argue, was only doing their job, and was not directly responsible. But which one?

That’s the worst case scenario that you might potentially face, at any point in your career. A crime of any scale being credited to you as the inspiration.

When the paranoia bugs strike at the heart of your art, and you find that your hobby has become a form of inadvertent disclosure about the deepest and darkest places where you occasionally hide the used tissues, it helps to examine and monitor yourself as you write. Um, or maybe seek counselling, and take a bit of a break until things normalise around you again.

At least, until your fantasy world is looking a bit more healthy.

What’s your basic need for recognition, as a writer?

Some examples of an artist’s basic needs:

  • To share an enthusiasm for a specific theme or genre
  • To exorcise a past event or relationship
  • To shock the audience
  • To make people laugh
  • To make people cry
  • To make people angry
  • To gain any reaction whatsoever, usually in as an obscure fashion as you can muster
  • To prove something
  • To disprove something
  • Revenge
  • To make money
  • To make someone love you (good luck with that, have you tried baking? Or giving them a lift anywhere?)
  • To win awards
  • To give your imaginary friends something to do
  • To brag about how clever you are

Note that ‘to be a book promoter/salesperson’ is not on the list! 🙂

The skill isn’t in what you can excavate from the depths of your soul. The skill is in filtering out the story and making it user-friendly, so that whatever inflammatory critique it inspires doesn’t also have the police taking an interest in your magnum opus appearing on a convicted felon’s Kindle, highly annotated and shared with members of his gang…

Don’t worry that writing your book will have your friends and family looking at you funny, talking behind your back, or avoiding you. They’ll be doing plenty of that when you start asking them to buy it and to leave you reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

And that’s BEFORE they’ve even read it 😉

L xxxx 🙂

Busted – Here’s what I did this summer…

DIY brace for broken sternum

DIY nylon webbing and elastic brace for fractured sternum and disrupted sternomanubrial joint, August 2013 🙂

This injury was back in the middle of June, and I was reassured it was only bruised and that fractures to this part of the body are very unusual and would require a massive impact (I’m not going to describe it, your heads will spin). Six weeks later after starting to sustain some unusual muscle tears while practising tumbling, I realised my posture must be slightly out due to this original injury, and got a second X-ray. It turned out the first X-ray might as well have been taken from the surface of Mars, as it missed the break by miles.

Luckily it’s not something they operate on immediately, as it takes a long time to heal and they like to give it a chance to settle down by itself. So no training or practising over the summer holiday for me! Never mind that I was still training for the six weeks before it was diagnosed. It was probably good for me. I’m not very good at ‘resting’ whatever that means.

But the summer’s been good to me. I went to my first festival as an adult! Last time I went to festivals was the Polgooth Fair and Elephant Fayre in Cornwall in the 1970s and 80s, as a small kiddie, where you ate a jam sandwich and spent all day on the bouncy castles, as I remember. This year I was invited to Beautiful Days near Honiton, and it was amazing.

The Fold live in the Bimble Inn tent

The Fold performing live at Beautiful Days in the Bimble Inn tent

Curious Evenings with the Ogden Sisters in the Theatre Tent

The Ogden Sisters present a Night of Trance in the comedy Theatre Tent

Primal Scream on the Main Stage

A very blurry Primal Scream on the Main Stage

There’s too much to tell you, you’ll just have to go next year. Highlights for me, as well as the above, were the Cowboy comedy stage play, stand-up by Robin Ince, Tony Cowards and Tom Price among others, The Levellers (who came out to play football with the youngsters one afternoon as well as performing) and animal-costume theme day, which ran on into the night, with some very creative illuminated butterflies and jellyfish.

IMG-20130818-00256

LED Mr Men costumes

IMG-20130818-00236

Fire-stick twirling and juggling

It’s definitely a family festival, with no branding or sponsorship, and I hope they keep it this good, and clean and with such a great atmosphere, for many years to come. You could tell the class of folk who attended by the Airstream caravans and Hunter wellies, and the fact that the comedians couldn’t find any traditional festival crusties to pick on in the audience…

TOM PRICE: Anyone here from Wales, like me? Ah, you’re from Wales. What’s your name?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Lucien…

TOM PRICE: Lucien??! (laughs) Of course it is! I can see you practising your golf swing from here!

Lovely stuff! 🙂

Earlier, I had a few days away with family in Exmoor, and also dropped in to see the lovely Jane Alexander for tea and cake and writerly gossip while I was there. Before that, there was Hastings Pirate Day, with all the Captain Jack Sparrows you can shake a stick at… but if you want to see those, I’m going to be mean and ask you to check out their Facebook page, SPARROWS UK in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital – because it’s all in a good cause. Savvy? 🙂

L xxxxx

So, I expect you’re all wondering how that DIET is going?

🙂

Been abandoned? Been swept quietly under the rug?

Nope! 🙂

I’m happy to say that so far, I am winning against the Evil Pasta (same calories as sugar!! Boooo!)

Since the summer I’ve lost the weight I wanted to lose, and a bit more. My only secret, I guess, is just counting calories and watching portion sizes of starchy carbs. I wouldn’t eat 500g of sugar all in one go as a meal, so it makes sense not to eat the same weight in uncooked pasta, which has virtually the same calorie-count. If I cook a portion of pasta for myself, I’ll weigh out 75g dry before cooking, have a small dollop of tomato sauce and mix in some tuna, basil leaf and a few chopped olives. Jacket potatoes or sweet potatoes are good too – or a thin-based veggie pizza. Also I make fritattas – like a Spanish omelette – just two eggs for protein content cooked with onion, peppers and mushrooms, occasionally sliced potato or a small handful of cooked pasta to bulk out. Very filling.

I do still eat otherwise – I’ll have one day off dieting every few days, but find that I’m not that hungry or craving anything anyway, now I don’t have to haul extra weight around. And diet shake mixes (I use Tesco’s own brand) are more digestible and effective for me, when mixed with soya milk instead of cow’s milk. It raises the protein content of the drink, at the loss of carbohydrate content. I have my shakes for breakfast, and sometimes before bed if I’m hungry then. Never go to the supermarket on an empty stomach now – bad for the wallet as well as the scales…

Latest thing I changed was switching from regular tea to Roobois (Redbush) to cut down on caffeine. Now I’ll have a coffee once or twice a day for caffeine, instead of caffeine in pretty much every drink.

Still hula-hooping for exercise and for fun. Was outdoors the other day hooping for an hour in a scarf and mittens 🙂 Maybe not in the hailstones that we had earlier though…

So, next thing I’ve got to look forward to is Christmas! And I am going to eat! It’s not a big deal really, only a day or two – same as if I was taking a day off my diet to get a Chinese takeaway, or make any other roast dinner. It won’t be any different from when I made Thanksgiving dinner for DS-10 last month to teach her a bit of an American history lesson.

It’s weird, the main feeling I get from losing a bit of weight when I need to, is re-gaining a sense of self-control again. Like I don’t really notice it slipping when I’m depressed, just that I know I’m comfort-eating – and when I get that more positive feeling of self-control returning, I know I’m not depressed any more. Mood-wise this year hasn’t been great up until recently, gaining new scars and waiting for more surgery. So besides always hoping that the next eye repair will be the last – anything else that I can do to improve on my inner self-image in the meantime is a bonus.

Now, bring on dinner! I’m ready for ya 🙂

Snack time

Here’s what I choose from if I get hungry for a nibble on my diet:

  • 1 banana: 100kcals per 100g (average banana is between 125-140kcals)
  • 1 satsuma, mandarin or clementine: 26kcals approx
  • 1 apple: 50kcals per 100g
  • 1 square Tesco’s value plain chocolate, or 1/10th of a bar: 52kcals
  • 1 Options Hot Chocolate/Turkish Delight flavour: 39kcals
  • 1 Ainsley Harriott Cup Soup: Between 87 and 92kcals depending on variety
  • 1 fat-free Activia fruit yoghurt: Between 50 and 75kcals per pot (125g)

To me, that’s plenty – considering that to burn off that 1-inch by one quarter inch square of chocolate is 500 steps on the step machine (1kcal burnt per 10 steps) and for most of the day I’m working on the computer, writing by hand, drawing or painting, and doing the odd bit of housework or lawn-mowing. In other words, mostly sitting around. Interspersed with some driving errands, 30 minutes to an hour or so with the hula hoop on average 4-5 times a week, and once in a blue moon going near that step machine.

I don’t buy cereal or bread anyway, so those things aren’t an issue. Neither is alcohol, or soft drinks, or fruit juice. If I skip my diet shake made with soya milk for breakfast, I’ll have the fruit then instead. IF I’m hungry at lunchtime, it’ll be a Cup Soup, and yoghurt or another piece of fruit. Then I eat my dinner (anything I want, up to about 600kcals) between 5.30pm and 6.30pm. After that, if anything, I’ll only have maybe a hot chocolate, satsuma or apple, or nibble of chocolate before I go to bed, with a decaf tea with sweeteners and a cardamom pod added – cardamom is good for digestion. I drink as much tea or coffee as I feel I need throughout the day, but try to include a pint of plain still water as well, especially if I’m hooping that day.

If I go to my mum’s for Sunday lunch, I’ll take that as my day off. If I take DS10 to the cinema, I get a Happy Meal with her afterwards, and that counts as my day off – if we’ve already had dinner earlier. I’m allowing for one day off dieting a week, but if there isn’t a particular occasion such as Sunday lunch or going out, I’m not bothered, and just stick to my usual diet routine.

So I’m not on any diet guru plan, or food combining, or training programme, just learning my calories and sticking to the idea of eating dinner earlier in the evening. In other words, not a diet I see ‘the end of’, but a diet pattern I want to continue as normal after losing the weight again, containing all the foods that I like.

I guess I’m lucky that the only person I have to cook for as well is DS10, who doesn’t eat the same as me anyway, and still prefers her cheese with a bit of pizza base and tomato sauce attached. Plus the handful of vitamins and supplements we both take. I watched the US show I Used To Be Fat earlier, and the whole family had pretty much bullied their daughter about her weight for years until food was her only friend – but she really blossomed after eventually leaving home for college. I think there’s a myth surrounding the idea that eating together as a family is a healthy thing – in celebrations and reunions, yes, it definitely is – but every day, with each individual’s life containing different patterns of work, school, snacking – I think it can do as much harm as good, particularly when some have issues around foods, allergies, exclusions, is on a diet – it’s an added stress that’s completely unnecessary. The feeling that you’re being watched in your everyday eating habits two or three times a day, or judged, or teased, or controlled by what’s put in front of you, just adds extra stress hormones to the mix.

And when you’re stressed, or upset – it’s nearly impossible to enjoy or efficiently digest your food. Adrenaline blocks effective metabolism.

The happiest and most chilled-out families I know all eat separately. There’s no regime. No issues over who eats what or when. It’s no-one else’s business how each of them choose to graze, or regulate themselves, or exercise. And none of them are overweight. So maybe there’s something in that, too.

🙂

Pasta is evil…

Did you know that there are the same number of calories in 176g of uncooked oven chips/fries as there are in only 75g of uncooked dried wholewheat pasta? (Approx 240kcal). White pasta is even higher – 270kcal for 75g, the same as white rice. Basically, for weight, it’s nearly the same as golden granulated sugar:

SUGAR: 400kcals per 100g, or 4kcals/g ~ UNCOOKED WHITE PASTA/RICE: 360kcals per 100g, or 3.6kcals/g ~ UNCOOKED FROZEN OVEN CHIPS: 136kcals per 100g, or 1.36kcals/g.

Today I fit into my next size down of jeans (woohoo!). I’ve lost nearly 12 lbs so far, after my first three weeks on a diet. The other day, as well as not eating meals after 6.30pm (I allow myself a later apple or satsuma if I get hungry), sticking to 1000 calories a day, including a diet shake in the morning made with soya milk, and also hula-hooping on my rollerblades for exercise – I decided to buy some itty-bitty food measuring scales for dieters so that I could weigh things like pasta and oven chips before cooking, instead of using guesswork, if I wanted to eat them. You can imagine what a surprise it was to look at the comparative calories per weight of both! I was probably consuming at least three times as much pasta per meal before I went on a diet. It was quite a shock to realise that one pasta bolognese meal in the past potentially contained all of my daily recommended calories in one go, for someone not on a diet.

Okay, pasta expands when cooked (depending on how al dente you like it). If you eat a lasagne made with three sheets of dried wholewheat pasta, weighing in at only 60g, and consider the calorie content of added sauces and cheese, it’s probably comparative to a small unsatifying spag bol. One of my faves was lasagne with chips/fries – like you get in a typical pub menu – so I bought some of those tiny circular Pyrex ramekins and made little lasange pots, with two layers of broken-up lasagne (about half a sheet in total fit per pot, or 10g) and a dollop of the sauces between, and a teaspoon of micro-grated Red leicester on the top. I cooked one, with 165g of oven chips on the side, covered the other pots uncooked with cling-film and froze them. So for about 36kcals worth of pasta, less than 100kcals worth of made-up non-vegetarian bolognese sauce, only 60kcals worth of white sauce (one-eighth of a jar), and about 10kcals worth of cheese, and 225kcals of oven fries, I get dinner for less than 500kcals without losing out on what I enjoy.

A bit like ordering a Happy Meal instead of the grown-up version – which is what I do if DS10 and I get munchies after going to the cinema. A cheeseburger Happy Meal, with a diet drink, is less than 600kcals. Chicken nugget versions are even less.

I’m not a four-legged herbivore with multiple stomachs, and therefore not designed to munch my way through a row of garden salad every day (not without terminal depression from loss of healthy neurotransmitter production, and attacks of anti-social wind anyway). And I’m not a gym-bunny burning 3000kcals a day (I’m sat here writing on my computer, for Chrissakes – what did you think I do all day?) – although now I do sometimes wear rollerblades around the house all afternoon, and twirl a hula-hoop outside, while the neighbours tolerate The Noisettes and Gorillaz at a sociable level from my kitchen window – so pasta on an industrial scale is to be avoided.

The most my muscles need to do is keep me upright. Like I said, it’s all about the physics. What burns off has to be greater than what goes in.

So if you’re on a diet, unless you’re hitting that gym really hard, keep the pasta content on the down low – like I said, think lasagne instead of penne

And sometimes multi-tasking. I had to re-do my highlights last week – so I moved my twist-stepper in front of the mirror while doing the hook-and-plastic-hat thing. By the time I’d finished I’d done 500 steps…

🙂

I had a dream…

Not the scary kind of dream, where you have no concept of reality, and cats in snorkels try to convince you that your hairdresser has stolen a priceless hovercraft and vandalised all the school toilets. Terrifying, because at that point what you most need is a working lavatory, not a hovercraft designed to save the world. Let alone a decent haircut.

Nope. I was sort of dozing, because there was no Q.I. on Dave, and DS10 had fallen asleep after her booster jabs to protect her from future Youtube-transmitted diseases (for those of us whose social life consists entirely of the internet, we’re all quite literally fully protected from everything except carpal tunnel syndrome). I’d been pondering in my diary the concept of being able to do anything I wanted with my life (as opposed to waiting for Mr. Right, who so far doesn’t exist, or settling for Mr. Wrong, who isn’t interested and doesn’t know I’m alive anyway). And out of this attempt to expand-my-consciousness exercise (not as easy as it sounds, without committing to a church, or well-intentioned cult), the idea popped into my head of hula-hooping on rollerblades. As if trying something ludicrous-sounding and potentially dangerous would be a start, at least.

I can’t rollerblade. Well, I can, only on carpet or lino, i.e. indoors. So wobbling around trying to keep a hoop aloft outdoors on the patio (it’s the only space there is to swing a hoop nicely, unless I stand on the living-room coffee-table when it’s raining – and with wheels on too, I’d bump my head on the ceiling) – sounded to me like a shortcut list of broken wrist-bones. I promptly forgot about this, and fell asleep, which wasn’t easy either as I couldn’t be bothered to wake up DS10 and tell her to get in her own bed. Seeing as she’d been a medical pincushion already that afternoon, and earned the right to sleep during hours of darkness – instead of inventing new demons to summon while the rest of the country sleeps.

I remembered this idea again at around 5pm today, while clearing old storage boxes in the spare room. My first thought was the horrified one, along with the perceived future of comminuted fractures such a venture might bring. But then quite suddenly, some quote, or half of the quote, turned up in my brain:

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”

Now I knew I’d heard this quote somewhere, probably one of those dozens of self-help books that function even when unread, as soundproofing on shelves around my home. So I thought, cool. Let’s put those rollerblades on and see if I fall over.

Well, I didn’t fall over. And after a few slow starts, managed to hoop for about an hour. When my shins got sore from the boots (my blades are two sizes too big, because they were cheap, but it makes for pretty good stability and lots of sock room) I went back to my usual trainers and found I could move around far more with my hoops than previously – so my normal stability and confidence improved by trying something much more challenging. So I carried on and did another hour and a half, through the Jamiroquai and Timbaland albums.

I thought I’d see if I could find what this quote is, so typed the bit I remembered into Google. It’s from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832). So many quotes are credited to him, he most likely pre-empted Twitter, along with everything else.

What is curious to me though, at this point in time, is why I’d channel a famous writer, thinker, artist and scientist in order to motivate me to put wheels on my feet and twirl a sparkly tube around my body?

Maybe it’s a physics experiment I’m not yet aware of…

Today, I will mostly be reading…

Hot Island Nights

Sarah Mayberry, for Harlequin (UK) Mills & Boon

…This one above, in paperback from Tesco’s, special promotions inside the cover. Wow. I’m only up to Chapter 5, and will probably have gone blind by the end, so luckily it’s one of their shorter books. It’s definitely taking my mind off food anyway.

Nice weather to read in the last couple of days, out on the hammock between gardening and hula-hooping and diet shakes. Saw the doctor, who was able to show me that last time I was weighed at a check-up in December 2010, I was 5kg less than now, so it was as I suspected – gradual re-gain of weight lost previously.

I super-glued the incision where the keloid scar was and it’s started healing up in a nice neat line instead of a ropey random-shaped blob like before. As I said, don’t do this at home. If you must fidget while watching TV, do knitting or something. Not DIY surgery. I’ll probably still need to get it checked afterwards at some point, unless God is in a good mood and the whole mark vanishes without trace. I was lucky to have already had it biopsied – just sorry they didn’t take the whole thing out at the time.

So I’m dieting, hula-hooping, catching up with the housework gradually, and started on writing my own straight romantic fiction efforts. Yes!! Finally, I came up with two ideas which have potential. I think giving up on the idea of dating in real life helped. Gave me licence to be totally inventive, and not worry about being judged (not until submissions time, at least). Mills & Boon are running their New Voices contest again next month, and I’m debating whether or not to enter a competition with a public vote (I don’t have that many friends to round up!) or just go for the straight submissions route. I’m tempted to go with the latter. Maybe because it would be the real response when it came, that I could work with immediately on whatever the feedback is. I have a feeling about it of ‘start as you mean to go on’ in the working professional writer sense.

In the meantime, thinking of putting together my ideal hula-hooping playlist. So far, the best of Santana, and Justin Timberlake are getting me going, and have also found remixes of Depeche Mode, Marilyn Manson, the Beastie Boys, the Noisettes, and Faithless are great stuff to hoop along to. I have a need to test out the hooping potential of De La Soul. My instincts tell me there is something very hoopable in those tunes. Oddly enough I couldn’t get anything out of Madonna. The rhythm was all wrong. She’ll have to incorporate it into her assimilated repertoire of fashion crazes to come up with the right beat.

For custom hoops and jamming, wiggle your way over to Hoop Express and get inspired! 🙂

Day four in the Diet House

Luckily, I’ve found something I wrote when dieting in 2009, that confirms I was losing 1lb a week – so I know what the expected progress is. It’s strange, because I remember in terms of dress sizes, there was a ‘suddenly’ moment when I fit into jeans two sizes smaller than I started out, but realistically, that moment happened about four months in to dieting. It’s about making a permanent lifestyle change, not a quick fix.

I did wake up starving today, with my stomach making those noises it can only make while hinting that it ought to have food inside. So I’m sitting at the computer now with my strawberry diet shake, made with coconut milk in today (another low-calorie alternative I’ve found more digestible than dairy). I’ve taken my vitamins – I take loads, including multi-B, Evening Primrose, and Omega fish oils.

Mostly what I’ve been obsessing about over the last couple of days, is books and storylines. I’m doing all right with a few sales here and there and a few words written here and there on my sequels, I’m not making any money yet – so for me it’s definitely going to be about finding something of mainstream-publisher interest to write about.

While avoiding interfering with further surgery on myself – I did attempt to remove a keloid scar with nail scissors. Please don’t do this at home. There are very understanding doctors out there! Looking forward now to seeing what new kind of scar appears from under the scab. I pierced my own ears aged 12 – successfully, the holes are still functional – but I do know the risks. My rogue keloid scar was the result of squeezing a spot which then refused to heal for two months – so it’s been a reminder not to abuse my skin, and for something so small, the cause of quite a lot of negative thinking recently. Strange how tiny things can cause us so much aggravation. In a ‘how stupid was I?’ way.

It’s just one more thing that makes me realise, I’m not cut out for a relationship yet. If I’m still customising myself, in terms of image, body-weight, whether I’m someone with a large appetite for food or a small one, what I do for a job, what I choose to write about, what I wear, what I watch and listen to, or what I identify with, I can’t be pinned down yet as a defined human being that another would recognise as being their mate. I don’t fit into a paperback demographic of a potential partner.

I wonder how closely our concepts or imprinting by fiction influences us while looking for a love interest? I wouldn’t know, not having found one yet. But perhaps my own voice gives that away by looking for stereotypes, or trying to fit into one. My only examples are in fiction. But if fiction is all escapism, those examples don’t even exist in the real world.

Like today, waking up starving, wondering whether a diet shake was enough incentive to get out of bed. What’s it like for people who have someone to meet up with, to get out of bed to spend time with? To go to bed with, for that matter?

I can ask these things now without having a meltdown because I’m not looking for one. But the not-looking seems to have opened a whole new series of questions. Stuff I hadn’t even thought about before while just being depressed that I didn’t have the one thing I always wanted. And now don’t want. Not because having the expectations that I would get it let me down, but because I’VE let me down, by not being the person I want to be who gets a relationship. I’m not thin or tidy or organised or earning a decent living or having a regular social life, or energetic or being a model parent while DS10 summons demons alone in her room, instead of doing normal teenage things like hanging out with gangs of predatory girls between WHSmith and Superdrug, ogling boys. At least then I’d have something to empathise with other parents about.

But I’m happy so long as she’s happy. If the other demons arrive, they can help with the housework.