Exercising at Your Desk (and other tortures)

arttreadmill I am known as a treadhead. By that I mean I use a treadmill desk while I'm writing away on my various projects (you can read about it here). Since 2009 I have walked just over 9604.2 kilometres (or 5967.7732 miles). The treadmill desk has made me healthier, able to concentrate better on my creative work and leaner...though sadly I'm still a bit of a bore at parties (unless you ask me about the joy of treadmill desking). You can't have everything. And not everyone wants to dive right into the treadmill desk world. So I'm putting down a few other options you can use to torture yourself...I mean exercise at work.

Many people have heard that sitting is the new Satan. It will destroy your life and suck out your soul. Here's an infographic that shows exactly how that works:17t48tzmose95jpg

See! Scary!

So, to combat evil, I propose a few ways to avoid the Satanic Sitting Syndrome.

      1. Stand up: Ah, sounds simple doesn't it? But the difficulty is remembering to do it. Set a timer and go for a walk whenever it rings. Or do a set of lunges and squats (who doesn't like squats?). Pace around (or at least stand) whenever you're on the phone. Take the stairs. Park further away from work. Oh, and that four-legged thing in your house with a collar? It's a dog. Take it for a walk. And feed it, too. *Update: just today I found out about a very, very cheap standup desk. It looks brilliant to me. It's made of some sort of space age cardboard and is portable. It's called the Oristand. And sells for only $25.00. oristand_black
      2. Get a stand up desk: You're a stand up guy, right? Or a stand up woman? Why not get one of those fancy dancy stand up desks? If it's good enough for Leonardo Da Vinci and Sir Winston Churchill, it's good enough for anyone. Even Dickens used one. And he was no slouch metaphorically speaking.
      3. Try a gyroball, a hoverboardwhachamacallit, or a pedaldesker. Okay I may have made up some of those names. But this is what they look like:1448484346803This is the Fluidstance Level. You stand on it in front of your stand up desk and, in attempting to balance, burn more calories. I've never tried it. But imagine how jealous people will be when they see you standing on it. They'll think you've come right out of Back to The Future. Visit their website here: http://www.fluidstance.comOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can sit on an exercise ball at your desk. It's like the opposite of what the great god Atlas was doing. Though you will still be sitting, the muscles you move to stay in place will burn calories. Plus if you get a clear ball people will think you can levitate.DeskCycle600PPThis little pedalled creature lives under your desk and gets you to move your legs whilst you're creating your opus (or playing Candy Crush). I found it at http://www.deskcycle.com
      4. Pick up a pedometer. I'm a Fitbit type o' person. It keeps track of steps. One of the best aspects of Fitbit is that you can keep track of friends and have competitions. Yes, geeky Fitbit competitions to see who can walk the greatest distance in a  day. I told you I was a bit of a bore at parties.


There you go. Just a few ideas about getting fit and torturing yourself at your desk and defeating evil. I, of course, stand...err...walk confidently behind the idea of a treadmill desk. But not everyone wants to dive into that odd and strange tread head world.


Photo credit for the red ball thingy: ex_magician via Visualhunt.com / CC BY

The Pressure of Being Creative

industry-vintage-old-fabric Sometimes being creative is not all it's cracked up to be. Often if I'm meeting someone new at a party or in line at the police station or at the supermarket the conversation invariably turns to: "What do you do for a living?" My answer: "I write books." If I'm not met with stunned silence (or even confusion) I will often get the next statement: "That must be so much fun!" And it is fun. Creating characters and wrapping stories around those characters has been my dream since I was sixteen. And since the age of thirty I've been living that dream (eighteen years and counting of living off my creativity). So, all things being equal, I have no right to complain.

And yet...  And yet... Yes, there is a pure joy to creating a book. Most of that joy is at the very beginning when you get that first idea for a novel (Something I call ohmygodofchoicethisisanamazingidea euphoria). The joy returns again about a year or two later when you are holding the book in your hands. In-between is the actual process of writing. The endless research. The first draft. The second draft.  The third draft. And fourth. The first public viewing for the editor. The edit letter that appears in a sheet of flame and burns your mistakes into your eyeballs. And so on. That is all part of the grunt work of writing and though it is not always joyful, I do enjoy it (if that makes any sense). I like the challenge.

But the pressure comes from different levels of the creative process. Can I solve this plot problem that I've created in the novel? Can I make this character more realistic? This situation? And those "small" questions lead to larger questions like does the book suck? And, if it doesn't, am I doing anything new with this book? Is it better than my last book? Have I improved as a storyteller? And, finally, will the book be a success?

That last one is important. Obviously you want your book to do the best it can. To find its place. Both in the minds of readers, but also it's great if the book finds a proper financial place. Success also means that it will earn back its advance and make more money so that more writing can be done. Often people get upset when we talk about artists and money as if the idea of cash being paid should never come into the creative equation. But, and this may surprise some people, writers need to eat. To drink. To see the latest Star Wars movie.

There is also the pressure of picking the right idea for the right reasons. I have a multitude of projects that are waiting in my "idea" bin but am constantly asking myself which one will both be pleasing to my creative side and commercial enough to add to the bank balance. Last year I released a graphic novel called Modo: Ember's End. It was a continuation of my The Hunchback Assignments series as a comic book. I chose to use crowdfunding to create the book because I wanted to test how this "new" way of getting ideas to paper worked. And on nearly every level the book was a success. Artistically, I was pleased with the story but especially pleased with Christopher Steininger's artwork (we had been talking about doing a graphic novel together for nearly ten years, so we finally fulfilled that dream). We raised over 20,000 dollars on Kickstarter and Indiegogo and received a $10,000 grant from Creative Saskatchewan. So again, the book was a success financially. Over 1000 copies have been sold around the world (we were/are hoping to find a publisher to do the softcover version, but so far have not been successful). The problem is that by the time all of the expenses were tallied (artwork, printing, shipping) my take of that money was around $4000. My best guesstimate at the time spent on the project is six months (that includes learning how to crowdfund, doing promotion, packaging, writing the script, etc.). Now in six months I can usually write a few drafts of a novel and could, in theory, make about ten times that amount for the book. So did I make the right choice to create the graphic novel? Artistically, yes. But my kid takes piano lessons and gym and...well you get the picture.

I don't have a list of five things to take the pressure off of you creatively (and I don't think pieces like this always need to come down to a fix). These words you've just read are an admission. And commiseration with those experiencing similar pressure in their lives (be it creative or otherwise).

And a chance to let off a little steam. Thanks for that.




The Canadian Adventure Prize Pack Contest

Canadian Prize Pack final Well, here it is! The Canadian Adventure Prize Pack. Trains! Zombies! Zeppelins! Magicians & Masterminds! My publisher, the honourable HarperCollins Canada, has generously offered this package of books to help promote my nearly famous newsletter. In order to win the amazingly adventurous books just enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway But if you want to double your chances of winning then sign up for my newsletter by pressing this magic button (there's also an option on the contest form above).

Click Here. My gluten-free monthly newsletter is titled Arthur Slade's Somewhat Clever Newsletter. It's jammed packed with news, writing tips, humour, and lettuce and bacon. It has everything! And there's also a prize every month (because it's fun to give away things). The prizes range from author Skype visits to books to critiques, to....it's endless. As you can tell I have a lot of fun with it.


The adventurous books are Zomboy by Richard Scrimger, Saving Houdini by Michael Redhill, Masterminds by Gordon Kormon, The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel and The Hunchback Assignments by some guy who writes things sometimes.

Have a gloriously adventurous day! Contest closes Oct. 31st, 2015.

And please feel free to use the share buttons below to let the world know about the contest.

See My Editor Tear My Work To Shreds

The Short version:

An author tries not to cry as he reads the "suggested" changes from his editor on the first page of his manuscript.

The Details

This is a page from my soon to be released book, Flickers. It's a novel set in Hollywood during the silent movie era. I've lost track of how many drafts I've done of this book. Let's just put it at more than ten and fewer than two hundred. And yet, there are still mistakes made. Places that can be cleaned up. Prose that can be un-purpled. And that's why we have editors (this post goes hand in hand with my "My Editor Says These Two Words I Use Make Kitties Cry" post).

The Edits

Just click on the image to make it bigger. Click a second time and it will grow even bigger. Click a third time and you'll be able to see the tear stains on the page.


All the best,