Publisher’s Bum and other Western World Woes


Publisher's Bum, by Marija Smits
Publisher’s Bum, by Marija Smits (painted with coffee and watercolours)


A Confession

First, let’s get this out of the way: I’ve been a bit dishonest. I could have titled this post ‘Publisher’s RSI’ or ‘Writer’s Wrist’ or ‘Why Exercise Is Good For You So You Should Do It’ but those titles weren’t as arresting (read: potentially titillating). Apologies to those who really don’t want to read about exercise…

Anyway, but yes, it’s true. I have ‘Publisher’s Bum’ as well as ‘Writer’s Wrist’ (i.e. RSI in my wrist) because I spend far too much time on the computer for my publishing work: writing emails, filling in Excel spreadsheets, typesetting, cover designing, writing blurbs, managing the website etc. etc. and I really must get myself a proper mouse thingy because this glide pad on the laptop is really knackering my wrist.

I digress. The point is that I do a lot of sitting around and not enough exercise. In September 2015 my youngest started school, so back then I thought to myself: ‘Aha! I will now be like one of those “proper” freelancers/portfolio living folks and do what I want in my free time. I will schedule some exercise time into my week.’

Of course it didn’t happen because I had a lot of publishing work to do, and you know, there’s less of an activation barrier to continuing to sit at the computer doing work than there is to actually getting off my bum and doing some exercise.


Mothering As Exercise

Now, at the start of September 2015 this wasn’t an issue, but gradually, it became an issue. Because there is a shift from the early days/years of motherhood where calories are being burnt up simply by breastfeeding and babywearing and running around after a young child to, let’s say, a more sedentary phase of motherhood when the children are older. In the early years there’s no time for “formal” exercise because baby and toddler and pre-schooler care IS exercise. But then they get older and those calories aren’t being used up to make vast quantities of breastmilk or child weightlifting or running down the road after a toddler/pre-schooler who has discovered that actually, they can go pretty fast on a balance bike. Hmm.

But still… I’m EATING like I’m that younger-than-now mother. I’m hoovering up the kids’ leftovers like I’m going to single-handedly rid the world of all the problems associated with the imbalance in global food supply. (Actually, I know in part why I’m doing this, it’s a) because I’m greedy and b) it’s because of history i.e. my parents indoctrinating me with the idea that as others don’t have enough I must finish what is on my plate. Also, it’s rude to your hosts to not finish off food.)

So, yeah the wobbly bits of me bother me somewhat (actually, I have affection for the wobbly bits, they are actually quite endearing and very humanizing. If I ever find that I’m taking myself too seriously I simply have to look down at my belly and squoosh it into a funny shape). BUT, the wobbly bits are stopping me from fitting into some of my favourite clothes AND, most importantly, they are indicative of the fact that I’m not as fit and healthy as I used to be.


The Psychology Bit

So, after almost a year of having exercise at the bottom of my list of priorities, I am finally making the psychological progress necessary to make it rise up the list of priorities.

First, I reminded myself that my good health is as important to my family as is the good health of my children, my husband and other family members. So it’s okay for me to spend time on keeping myself fit and healthy. Also, exercise actually makes me work more efficiently (as well as helping me to have a healthier mind – freer of anxiety, OCD etc.) so it’s important to build some formal exercise into my week. Also, reflecting on our eating habits as a family has been useful – I know that we lapse too easily into processed food because it’s quick to prepare.

Second, I have had a good think about what kind of exercise suits me best. I am hypermobile and have to be aware of tendons that can get overstretched and damaged (just because they can easily bend in all sorts of random directions!) so something like running, which impacts on my right knee badly isn’t going to happen (although years ago, pre-children, I enjoyed running). And by the way, I’ve probably got a post brewing about hypermobility, hormones and motherhood, but that’ll have to wait for a bit.

Third, I am now wise enough (or is that mature/experienced enough?) to know that I cannot radically change the natural build of my body. I can tone my muscles but I sure as hell can’t do anything about my bone structure. I am what I am, and that’s okay. (Although, of course, the fashion and beauty industry would like to tell us otherwise. But hey, that’s neoliberalism for you. There’s always a product that you can buy to change yourself, right?!)

Lastly, I know that at heart I’m lazy. Give me a book and a full fridge and a day off and I’ll happily lay in bed all day simply reading and eating, reading and eating. Okay, so what with having kids the whole “day off” thing isn’t going to happen, but still… my point is that inertia to exercise is very real. The way that I eliminate/reduce inertia is by making the exercise another habit. For example: I write most days. It’s not that difficult to find a 15 or 30 minute slot per day, if (health-permitting, of course) you really want to. Once writing every day (or every other day) becomes a habit, it’s a difficult habit to break. Same with handwashing after going to the toilet. It’s done automatically. So three times a week I do some kind of formal exercise (I tend to favour a bit of weightlifting and high intensity interval workout, a la Joe Wicks), a little bit of skipping, wild dancing, as well as swimming. And most days I walk somewhere. Something else that can help with motivation is having a friend, or partner, giving a gentle nudge or some words of encouragement so that you just get on and do it. Oh, and the Paralympics ALWAYS motivates me. If those brilliant individuals can overcome the challenges in their lives to excel in various sports, then really, who am I to moan?

My local swimming pool, image by Marija Smits
My local swimming pool, image by Marija Smits


Exercise as Creative Endeavour

So that’s it, I guess. An exercise routine is for life, not just for Christmas. And like most creative activities, e.g. drawing and writing, it doesn’t require a lot of money to get started. (A massive bonus for me as I really can’t afford gym fees or anything like that.) Rather like any other endeavour (such as writing) that is important to our lives, exercise has to become a habit and something that we can fairly easily commit to, BUT without giving ourselves hugely unrealistic expectations (such as I WILL get published by one of the Big Five and get a six figure advance; I WILL have a body like a supermodel) because when/if we don’t attain those goals it is very easy to beat ourselves up about this so-called failure and not re-start the process. Physical activity is, in a way, analogous to the creative process. As long as one finds some form of activity that is enjoyable then it feels good to do it and the “habit” more easily becomes ingrained. Exercise, like creativity, is mainly about the process; regular physical exertion is the crafting of our own bodies through the growth of muscle tissue, blood capillaries, lung capacity and the reduction of other tissues e.g. fat tissue. And it’s also a brilliant excuse for listening to plenty of up-tempo music. Ricky Martin anyone?!



Lastly, if you’d like to recommend/share your own exercise tips (or what exercise works best for you) or healthy food recipes, or just some groovy music, I’m all ears… 🙂

And thanks again to Maddy at Writing Bubble for providing the necessary spur to write this post!



Writing Bubble



20 thoughts on “Publisher’s Bum and other Western World Woes”

  1. maddy@writingbubble

    Ricky Martin – haven’t listened to him for years! I’m currently trying to work out how on earth to fit everything I want to do into my mornings. I really do need a routine as I totally agree that once something becomes ‘what you do’ it’s just, well ‘what you do’ isn’t it? I’m currently walking more than I did before the summer as my sons are now in two different schools so I try and walk between them rather than drive. That kind of feels like exercise I’ve sneaked in without taking time out of my day – winner. But I need to do more and that makes me think ‘but if I exercise it takes away from my writing and drawing time!’ so I haven’t done much so far (I’ve mostly done housework and had coffees with friends so far TBH!) . I’ve a feeling the key is going to be being strict with myself. And we probably need to get going with exercise now don’t we? So that by the time it gets cold and dark and all we really want to do is eat mince pies by the fire, we’ll be so used to exercising it will be second nature. Let me know how you go – maybe we can help keep each other on track? Thanks for linking to #whatImWriting

    1. Hi Maddy! And sorry for the huge gap when it came to me replying. First, you’ll have to re-acquaint yourself with Ricky Martin, you know! 😉 And second, I have to say that when you’ve only got mornings to fit everything into it really is a huge ask. I know that feeling of every minute counts – which can be quite stressful in itself! Sometimes I try to fit in exercise outside the school day – while the kids are watching telly, or we sometimes do something together, like cycling or running. But, obviously, with their busy social lives/clubs/homework etc. I find that more difficult to stick to. So, I guess that what I’m saying is, that perhaps it’ll take time to find out what works for you. Anyway, happy to help you keep on track! (And for you to help me too. That’s always appreciated!) All the best, M x

  2. I am rubbish at fitting it in too, but I’ve started scheduling in swimming, and setting an alarm for the amount of time it takes me to walk the mile and a bit to school. I never want to do those things, but I have a little word, and sometimes it works. I’ve been swimming this morning and I walked to school yesterday. It helps if it’s not raining! I have friends who all go out jogging together. I cannot think of anything worse myself, but each to their own!

    1. Sorry for the late reply, but thanks for commenting, Cara. And your last sentence made me laugh. I’m not really a jogger either (although I can see how you can kind of slip into a cool zen-like state while running if you’re good at it), but swimming, I do love. Well done on all the scheduling you’re doing. It sounds like a good plan to me! 🙂

  3. Get a dog! Makes you get out everyday come rain or shine. That’s my tip. I do make sure I do at least one exercise session a week and I’m also giving yoga a go at the moment. My son is hypermobile and it’s been on my list to write a post about it and his food intolerance and how it’s linked to his early childhood development. When the children start school you think you’ve got loads more time, but somehow it gets swallowed up and before long, you think how short the school days are and how it’s impossible to get anything done!

    1. Apologies for the late reply, Nikki. I love your solution! He he! But I’ll have to pass on that because actually I’m not a dog-lover, I’m a cat person! I like the way cats walk themselves and take care of their own poo. 😉 Okay, so I’m lazy at heart… But I’m keeping up with my HIIT sessions and swimming, so that’s good. 🙂 And I read your post about your son’s hypermobility and food intolerance. That was really interesting. And I’m so glad you made good progress with the exercise and diet. Great stuff!

  4. It’s a very good point that our fitness and health is as important as the kids! I play tennis one evening a week and its the best thing ever and not even exercise to me – I also have to run once or twice too (to offset my cake-age intake). I sometimes run with a friend who spurs me to run further and at a better pace (i’m shamed into hauling arse!). Loved your illustration for ‘Publisher’s Bum’. #whatimwriting

    1. Sorry for the late reply, but thank you very much for your comment. The tennis sounds fun, and yes, like you, I have to do something to offset my cake-age intake! 😉 Glad my illustration was a hit. 🙂

  5. I think the key is to find an exercise that you enjoy. I’m working on this. I DON’T enjoy running, but I love walking. I DON’T like feeling sweaty, but you don’t notice this in the swimming pool. But as for scheduling this into my day …
    When I’m busy, I’m far more likely to omit my exercise time than any other activity. Good luck figuring this out.

    1. Apologies Suzie for the late reply, but thank you very much for your comment. You’re absolutely right. Finding some kind of exercise that you enjoy is key. I think I’m on track at the moment with my exercising (I went swimming yesterday) and am due to do some weights/aerobic exercise today, but yes, it’s very easy to forget about it and concentrate on other (perhaps more fun things) like writing or art. So thanks for your good luck wishes!

  6. I’ve been walking loads more since the summer hols, and now that my son has started his swimming lessons again I am swimming too! I deliberately arranged his lesson for Saturday morning so that the pool is quiet enough for me to get a few lengths in before his lesson is over. He can also swim well enough for me to continue getting some actual exercise in when we have playtime after the lesson too. I love the meditative quality of swimming, and have some of my best creative ideas in the pool (when swimming alone, that is)! 🙂

    Oh, and I am also one of those freelance/portfolio peeps but I also need to get better at scheduling in me time/get off my bum time during the week! 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comment, Rachael and apologies for taking so long to get back to you. But your walking and swimming sounds great (two of my favourite things too). And yes, swimming is great for generating creative ideas, isn’t it? And like you, as a freelancer I have to be careful about scheduling in me time/getting off my bum… Let’s sometimes remind each other of that! 🙂

  7. For the last few years as a mother I made time for my exercise by getting up early but circumstances have changed this year with a new school (necessitating a car journey) and an ankle injury, plus realising how much those mornings were taking their toll. So this year I have got myself a pedometer to try to keep my step count up plus I’m hoping to tentatively start running again before nursery pick up at lunch time. It definitely all about being conscious/mindful of what you do with your body and not slipping into lazy habits (which is easier said than done of course!). Good luck getting moving.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Alice (and apologies for taking so long to reply). Any kind of injury or disability or chronic pain is definitely going to make exercise more of a challenge, but the pedometer sounds like a good idea. It’s always useful to actually see how much exercise one is doing. Definitely an eye-opener. Anyway, I hope you find something that works for you. M x

  8. This really resonates with me at the moment – I am still in the running after a three year old phase but I (and my body) would really like to be doing more exercise! This is partly why I think I’m finding wild swimming so alluring – I get bored very easily, so the multitasking of being outdoors, somewhere beautiful, and getting a bit of excursive at the same time really appeals. It is still oh so tempting not to leave my desk though on the two days I currently have set aside for writing etc, but I know it makes me feel better when I do… xx

    1. Apologies Sophie for the late reply, but thank you very much for your comment. I think some mothers do find this a ‘thing’ i.e. when the phase of intense motherhood (and therefore mothering exercise) starts to fade and our bodies call to us for something more. I love the idea of wild swimming. I love to swim in the sea on our annual holiday but other than that it’s a pool for me. But there is always beauty to be found when water is around, so I enjoy my swimming at the pool. Although I do think I’ll have to find out if there is somewhere to do wild swimming near me… And yes, leaving the desk is always a bit hard… 😉 M xx

  9. This touches a nerve with me. I do still have a two-year-old to run after and he declares “running, running time” several times a day. But he’s still small enough that I can get away with a fast-ish walk and still keep up…he’s getting faster all the time though. But I have wobbly bits which don’t seem to want to shift. I’ve been working on improving our diet and cutting out too much processed stuff and eating out. But the psychological pull of comfort eating is hard to break. As for exercise, pre-child I walked everywhere, all the time and that helped. But a 5k walk with a toddler isn’t going to happen any time soon. Anyway, good luck with finding what works for you. #whatimwriting

    1. Hi Kamsin, and thanks for your comment (apologies too for taking so long to get back to you). I’m glad my post made you think. Cutting our processed food is definitely one thing that’ll help make a difference, and perhaps gradually, you can somehow find some way to exercise alongside your toddler? I always found dancing (and obstacle course races – they can build while I run around the ever-changing course) to be quite good fun. Thanks for your good luck wishes, and good luck to you too! M x

  10. Pingback: New Year’s Resolutions? No thanks. I’ll do ‘Sustainable Positive Habits’ Instead. « Marija Smits

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.