Staying Safe and Staying Sane – the 2020 Way: Walk, Write, Read, Repeat #health #writing #reading #Covid

Look away now if you don’t want to read a post with the ‘c’ word in it – and by ‘c’ word I mean Covid-19.

Staying Safe

It’s probably safe to stay, wherever you are in the world, that life during much of 2020 has been difficult, with us all having to get used to a new sort of normal due to the Covid pandemic. But I should say right at the start that I’m grateful that I – and my nearest and dearest – have remained healthy throughout. And I’m doing my bit to keep it that way – for everyone I encounter as well as myself – by washing my hands, wearing a mask and doing the social-distancing thing. It’s really not that hard.

Staying Sane

But with all the restrictions on social life and travel – I’ve certainly found staying sane by looking after my mental and emotional health to be harder than staying physically well and virus free.  Not being able to see my grandchildren has been one of the hardest things, but I’ve also missed the lack of simple day-to-day variety. And just as with grief, there have been stages along the way – denial and disbelief at first, followed by anger, followed by a grudging sort of acceptance.

However, I’m aware I’m not alone in struggling with being stuck inside my own head. I’ve made a conscious effort to keep in touch with friends and family throughout lockdown, lockdown easing and back to lockdown.

And, just as it’s become customary to sign off emails, texts and phone calls by telling the person you’re communicating with to ‘stay safe’, I now add the just as important phrase ‘stay sane’.

What Works for Me

Walking the Walk

Going out for a daily 60-90 minute walk was something I did before Covid struck, but it has become even more important during the restrictions on just about everything else. Quite apart from the physical benefits of exercise, moving around outdoors is beneficial in all sorts of ways. Seeing aspects of nature – the trees, the hills and the river – that I’m blessed to have nearby – along with the associated wildlife such as squirrels, herons and otters really does do wonders for raising my spirits. But so does seeing and greeting other folks also out and about – whether they’re also out for exercise, or walking their dogs, or simply getting a bit of local shopping.

It’s also a chance for my mind to go off on a wander of its own. And this can mean that the brain fog lifts and some clear and productive thinking can take place – thereby soothing anxieties or solving problems. And there’s the added bonus for me as a writer that walking gives my imagination space to also go for a stroll – and it’s often while I’m out and about that inspiration strikes.

Getting Creative

The second vital aspect required for me staying sane is to have a purpose – to have a creative, enjoyable and satisfying job to do. This, like walking, was important to me BC (Before Covid) but it’s even more so now. And for me creative, enjoyable and satisfying means writing. Now, more than ever, escaping into my own imaginary world where I’m in charge and there’s no pandemic in sight is bliss. Hours can pass when I’m at my desk, steeped in my made up stories, and no viral thoughts occur.

Escaping into a Book

When the walk has been taken and the day’s writing wordcount has been accomplished – what then to keep the anxiety, gloom and boredom at bay? Yes, a bit of TV is good – especially now that Strictly Come Dancing is back on UK screens. But even better is escaping into someone else’s imaginary world – i.e. by reading. And, yes – as with the walking and the writing – reading was always a favourite pastime of mine but, oh boy, in these last few months it has been essential. I’ve read far more books than I would normally and, as with the other two sanity savers, reading has been an enormous source of comfort and an aid to my overall wellbeing.

And there you have it – three solitary activities that have saved me on a daily basis in 2020.

Over to you

I hope all of you are keeping well physically and mentally too during our trying times. If so, please do share what has worked for you in the comments below.

And stay safe – and sane – everyone!

PS – Related Question I mentioned last week about contemporary fiction that includes the Covid pandemic in the storyline and asked for your opinions. Thank you so much to those who replied. I’d still love to hear what others think about both writing and reading such fiction. Should the virus be included or ignored? Is it too soon to have it feature in a story? Would ignoring it in a novel set in 2020 be like ignoring World War Two in a story set in the 1940s? Or would you prefer to get around the issue as a writer or reader by not having the year specified in the story?

A Life in a Day of a Writer: Author Heidi Swain @Heidi_Swain shares a typical writing day #writing #books #reading

Heidi Swain – author

Today it’s the turn of feel good romantic fiction writer Heidi Swain to give us a glimpse into the sort of days that make up her life as a writer.

Heidi’s latest book is The Winter Garden which I recently read and absolutely loved – more about that later. But now over to Heidi.

Heidi’s writing space

Heidi Swain’s Writing Life in a Day

How my writing day is organised depends on which part of the process I happen to be working on. Planning and plotting days are fairly free and easy, reading page proof days have lots of breaks littered throughout to keep the mind (allegedly) fresh, but writing the first draft and editing is much more structured and it is one of those days which I’m going to describe for you today.

I write Monday to Friday and the day is broken into well-defined chunks. I have tried a variety of schedules, but find this the most productive. In a good week, working like this and with no domestic dramas and minimal interruptions, I can manage to write just shy of 20,000 words over the five days.

The day starts at between 5.30 and 5.45. Between getting up and sitting down at the laptop – which is on a desk in my bedroom – at 7am, I’ll either take a walk around the village or do a few laps in the garden, then sort any laundry, open curtains and windows, make tea and mentally prepare myself by thinking through or reading over the notes I will have written at the end of the last writing session the day before.

Between 7am and 9am I’ll write. Sometimes I spend a while working through the last chapter, otherwise I’ll crack straight on with the next, often making notes on things to add, change or amend on scrap paper as I go.

9am to 10am is time for breakfast, cat cuddles and writing reflection.

10am to 12 is a repeat of the first writing session of the day, although this is probably when the most words go down and I’m properly ‘in the zone’. By this point the scene is firmly set in my head and I’m eager to get it typed.

12 – 1pm is lunch, washing dishes and more reflection. Quite often at this point I’m feeling a little dazed!

1pm – 3pm is another session at the laptop. However, if I feel the writing is coming to a natural close – such as when I reach the end of a chapter – I will finish early. This afternoon spot always ends with me writing up a precis of what I’ve just written in the notebook assigned for that novel, and then I’ll make notes in another book about what comes next.

I find this note taking invaluable and will often also write the opening paragraph of the next chapter on screen ready for the next day. By writing down what happens next, I have a clear idea of what I’m going to write and throughout the rest of the day I can visualise it, often writing more notes covering the finer details along with scraps of dialogue.

Having a well-defined idea of what comes next ensures I don’t sit down and stare at a blank screen. The scene is already there, in my head and I can translate it straight to the screen without wasting time or getting in a flap – which I undoubtedly would!

At the end of the day comes the admin – catching up with emails, posting on social media and any other business. This all happens right up until bedtime. Weekends are when I write guest posts like this, update my blog, spend a bit longer on social media and generally collapse in a befuddled heap for a while.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I tend not to finish before 3pm as I have morning Pilates classes via Zoom – invaluable to counter all of those hours hunched over the keyboard – so they have to be factored into the schedule.

And that’s it. A typical day in my writing – a first draft – life!

I know it probably all comes across as pretty prescriptive, but it’s a routine that works for me and with two books being published a year, I need to stick to it in order to hit my deadlines. A strict routine like this wouldn’t work for everyone of course and at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you’re getting the words down. As long as the word count is rising, you can do it how you like, when you like and where you like. Not everyone thrives on the same set up but I feel comfortable and safe in my well-structured day. It took me a while to figure it out, but now I’ve found it, I’m sticking to it!

Anne: Thank you to Heidi for this informative and entertaining insight into her writing life.

You can read more about Heidi and about her latest book below. It’s called The Winter Garden and, as I said above, I thoroughly enjoyed this satisfying and so romantic story and the main characters, Freya and Finn are perfectly flawed and so likeable. It’s a perfect autumn/winter read.

From the back cover:

Freya Fuller is estranged from her parents and has been following her dream of becoming a gardener ever since. When an opportunity to design a winter garden opens up at a Victorian property in Nightingale Square, Freya jumps at the chance to make a fresh start.

But while the majority of the residents are welcoming, local artist Finn seems determined to shut her out, and when Freya’s family make a surprise appearance, it seems that her new life is about to come crashing down . . .

Buy Link:

You can buy The Winter Garden HERE

More about Heidi:

Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career, married and had two children before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.

A lover of vintage paraphernalia and the odd bottle of fizz, she now writes feel good fiction with heart for Simon and Schuster.

Her debut novel, The Cherry Tree Café was published in July 2015 and since then she has had a further nine books published, becoming a Sunday Times Bestseller in 2017. She is currently looking forward to the release of her 2020 Christmas title, The Winter Garden.

Heidi is represented by Amanda Preston and lives in Norfolk with her family and a mischievous cat called Storm.

Heidi ONLINE:

You can connect with Heidi at the links below:

Website: HERE

Twitter: @Heidi_Swain

Facebook: Writer Heidi Jo Swain

Amazon: HERE

Publisher: https://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/

http://booksandthecity.co.uk/

Five on Friday with Anne Stormont @writeanne #FiveOnFriday #ContemporaryRomanticFiction

Hello everyone, I hope your Friday is going well. I just wanted to share a guest spot I have today over at Jill’s Book Cafe as part of her Five on Friday series. It was good fun taking part and coming up with answers to all the interesting questions and categories. So thank you to Jill for having me over at her place and I hope you enjoy the post. Have a good weekend and stay safe.