Writing a Book in Lockdown
The grinning courier arrives with 5 massive boxes balanced on his trolley. He’s wheeled them around the tramworks on Leith Walk, to arrive at my studio, a week early.
He veers around the artists who are painting designs onto the Virgin box on Balfour Plaza. Productivity is everywhere in Leith – the lockdown encouraging us to look within ourselves for entertainment and express ourselves in whatever creative flow we know best; cooking, painting, reading, gardening, crafting, caring, and silly dancing, are all excellent outlets.
As Aristotle observed, ‘nature abhors a vacuum’. Something will always rush in to fill the void. What does one do when there is nothing to do? That was the lockdown conundrum.
What project could be undertaken over 4 months that was also vaguely worthwhile? I needed something constructive to do and I wanted to reach out and show people how they could adapt exercising to a home environment. Knowledge is power - as Francis Bacon may have said.
Everyone has different coping strategies, and when lockdown first started we were all trying to cope with quite a lot. My personal anxiety level was through the roof. Not only had my fitness business disappeared overnight, it was also the first year in living memory that Leith Festival, a huge part of my life, was off the cards. I coped by running, cycling, tending the allotment and formulating a plan for not losing the plot.
April: Was a complete write-off, although I did work out how to offer webcam workouts. Using a phone or laptop camera, you can still do an effective and entertaining exercise session. Pets and children welcome.
May and June: A wise old author once said that to be a writer, one must write. So that’s what I did. Every day. Even when my head felt like mince, I faithfully typed for an hour a day. Well, on weekdays anyhow!
The trick is to write anything that comes into your head, just keep typing, get it all down. It doesn’t matter if it’s rubbish, type long enough and something good will come out. It’s like weight training for muscles; to start with you may feel self-conscious and wonder if you’re doing it right but if you keep going, a little bit and often, you will get stronger.
Like exercise, it sometimes felt so difficult sitting down to write. However, I finally found my perfect time - just after lunch with a coffee - and made myself at home at the kitchen table. To write about fitness, I first had to get a few corona rants out of my system before getting down to the useful stuff.
I knew what I wanted to write – a DIY fitness book on how to get fit at home in case my fitness studio never reopened. Also, with a winter lockdown in mind, face the possibility I may never do my job again. The best bit is that it was actual therapy for me, both urgent and necessary.
July and August: Around 25,000 words written, it was a (short) book with lots of pictures, albeit in a very rough draft. This is where some professional type book people may look away; I didn’t have the budget or time to engage an editor. So I printed piles of manuscript and cycled round Edinburgh delivering rough drafts to various friends who were happy to have something new to read.
Out came the red pens and feedback as the manuscript was slowly revised to look a lot more like a fitness manual. Local artist Rona Innes agreed to illustrate the muscle diagrams, which look superb. We held meetings in my allotment, including debating what a gender-neutral muscle diagram might look like.
September and October: I was lucky enough to find a family run publishing company that does design and print in-house. They assured me that it was entirely possible to publish a book before Christmas. It was just the book designer and myself who were sculpting the book; he was part-time with other jobs on and my fitness work was picking up - both outdoor and studio sessions. Inevitably, momentum stalled.
His original front cover design used stock photos of thin fitness models doing impossible exercises. It had to be changed. We kept the in-house theme and the front cover now has photos of long-suffering husband Andy, Coco the fitness pug, and yours truly, doing exercises in our living room.
I set an arbitrary publication date of 31ST October, Hallowe’en - a personal joke as, to me, it had seemed a scary project - and also to leave plenty of time to get reviews and Christmas related sales ahead of a new lockdown.
The 5 boxes of books arrived a week early! So I’m now diligently writing this (yes, I’ve chained myself to the kitchen chair) on the week the book launched. How will the book fare? Heaven knows. At the very least I’m still (relatively) sane, and I’ve been able to show the world what we get up to in the wee Griffen Fitness studio on Balfour Plaza.
Info: Get your copy online at getfitandenjoyit.com (£7.99 + free UK P&P) or visit Elvis Shakespeare, 347 Leith Walk, where you’ll find Get Fit and Enjoy It beside our other local authors
The Author & Coco the Exercise Pug (retired)