Monday 21 August 2023

Does writing make you sick? Moira Butterfield

 Full-time writing seems like a safe enough physical job, right? Well, yes, but let’s check a few things about our working situation. I’d like to hear any thoughts or solutions that you may be trying to ensure your own workaday health. 


Sitting for hours 

Any job that involves sitting at a screen for hours isn’t that safe. We risk weight gain and lack of fitness creeping upon us. Apparently it generally slows the metabolism. In fact, looking this up online I’ve rather scared myself! 


I am guilty of not addressing this. I did buy a fitness watch that buzzed and told me to move every half an hour. I found it really irritating and haven’t worn it for ages! I also fail to take lunch breaks – when I could be doing a quick walk. I’m attempting to build in a lunch break, without much success, I have to admit, as I keep forgetting to stop. 


So what’s the answer? Does anyone have any good tips on moving around regularly when you are busy working? 


Repetitive strain injury 

This is a painful thing, when continual typing causes the arm to become inflamed – with pain in the wrist and sometimes right up to the shoulder. I can give you a tip here – Get a wrist support for your desk. I used to have a long bar-shaped one and I have one built into my mouse mat. I find it has solved things for me but you might need to experiment to get the one you like best. 


Back pain 

This is down to your typing chair, and the wrong one can have a big effect. You need to experiment to get the best one for you. I have an Ikea gaming chair with a small long cushion right at the base of my back, to support it. I find the cushion gives me good upright posture. A gaming chair is designed for computer gamers who spend long hours at the screen, so they are ergonomically good for writers, too. 

My Ikea gaming chair with back cushion 



This may sound weird but the angle you look at your screen can give you headaches. I have found that adjusting my monitor height and angle helps here, so I’m not straining my neck muscles. I have my laptop raised on a box and my big monitor raised on a stand. Experimenting with this is worth trying as one possibility to improve headaches. 

My work set-up, with raised screens and a wrist support mat 


Mental health 

Working on your own is weird. It’s isolating. Trying to make a living from writing is weird, too. It comes with a lot of mental challenges – from self-confidence failure to imposter syndrome, from self-destructive jealousy of other writers to problems with publishers, disappointment and dashed hopes…It takes a lot of strength to get through it sometimes. 


I was given a good tip on why it’s worth spending time addressing your own mental health. People in other professions get plenty of career progression training, so think of yourself as your own employer. Give yourself that training. Mix with other sympathetic writers in a safe supportive arena where you can discuss feelings. Maybe even arrange some counselling for yourself. Here are two UK links to explore.

PS: I also have a 'pinboard of positivity' by my work station. I pin on images/messages to help me stay upbeat. I have neglected it recently so I'm now revamping! It's only a small thing but it's there to help my state of mind. 

My pinboard of positivity - going through a revamp. 


Please do add your own writing health tips below. 


Stay well, and happy writing! 


Moira Butterfield

twitter @moiraworld 

instagram @moirabutterfieldauthor

threads @moirabutterfieldauthor 

Monday 14 August 2023


Some of you may know that this time last year, I set about championing outstanding picture books that help when times are hard; the books that are much more than just words and pictures on a page... the ones that stay with you long after the last page has turned and lead to further thoughts, experiences, discussions. The ones that help when the words are hard to find. 


In a year, I've managed to review 231 Books That Help across 27 categories including family separation and divorce, loss, anxiety and bedtimes. You can find all the reviews here! I haven't done it alone - there have been guest reviewers, including Kara Kiernan from The Book Train, Catherine Friess from Story Snug, Sophia Payne, Catherine Ward, Laura Baker, Emily Davison, Naomi Jones, Sarah Tagholm and Ian Eagleton. 


Each month, there's been support for a different independent bookshops, including Snug Bookshop, Write Blend, Reading Rocks, The Ivybridge Bookshop, East Gate Bookshop, The Bookery , Wonderland Bookshop, Bookstop St Helens, Books On The Hill, Harbour Bookshop, Kibworth Bookshop, Bookworm Dubai and Quinns Bookshop with more bookshops to champion on the horizon! 


For those wanting to write Books That Help, there was a mentorship with myself and Ellie Farmer and Perry Emerson from Little Tiger Press. The 2022 winner was Lucy Falkner with her text Dung Beetle Doug. You can expect an update on 2023's mentorship soon. In the meantime, you can read more about last year's mentorship here. This is what Lucy had to say about her experience: 

What an opportunity the Books That Help mentorship has been! I have learnt a huge amount about the craft of picture book writing over the last six months and my stories have benefited enormously from Clare's tailored teaching and detailed critiques. To be guided by someone with such brilliant knowledge of the picture book market has been very helpful and I am now in a position to send my first submission package, something that felt a long way off at the beginning of this mentorship!

I am also hugely grateful to have had such helpful feedback on my writing from Perry Emerson at Little Tiger, who has been very generous with his time. I am  sad that the mentorship has come to an end but am delighted with the progress I have made under Clare's expert guidance and feel prepared for my next steps.

Thank you to Clare and  Little Tiger for a wonderful experience!


LUCY FALKNER - 'Books That Help mentee 2022'


To help spread the word about Books That Help in schools, I've been working with The Grove Primary School, Totnes, to bring well-being libraries into the school community. When the project is finished, we're hoping to make all our resources downloadable for schools to recreate the project. They'll be posted here when the time comes!

VIKKI DREW, teacher at The Grove Primary School

Phew! As you can see, it's been quite a year! And I've been so lucky to have the support of lots of lovely booklovers. In fact, some of them gave quotes about why they feel books are so important in today's world. There's a collection of them recorded in a first anniversary film, and others have been compiled into a PDF that can be printed and downloaded for posters and displays. I'll leave a few of them below too :-)

There's lots more planned for Books That Help's second year, but for now, what are your favourite Books That Help and why? Please feel free to share them in the comments below. 


Clare Helen Welsh is a children's writer from Devon. She writes fiction and non-fiction picture book texts - sometimes funny, sometimes lyrical and everything in between! Her latest picture book is called 'Never, Ever, Ever Ask A Pirate To A Party,' illustrated by Anne-Kathrin Behl and published by Nosy Crow. You can find out more about her at her website or on Twitter @ClareHelenWelsh . Clare is represented by Alice Williams at Alice Williams Literary.