When I’m writing, I am sitting almost completely still, apart from the flying fingers of course, but writing makes me so hungry. Probably because my brain is working so hard.
The danger of serious snacking and a sedentary job is that the potential to balloon is always lurking. Yes, inside this relatively slim writer, is an amply padded writer desperate to burst out.
So, I try to balance the craving to snack – writers need snacks – with the need to be healthy.
First of all, there must be water on the desk, because a glass of water can stave off a snack attack for just that little bit longer.
Then there must be hot drinks. Earl grey tea and the occasional coffee – when my brain is frazzled – these are my hot drinks of choice. Sometimes, when I’m in saintly health mode, I can enjoy a herbal brew. To be honest, I can get so cold writing, that sometimes I’d like to have a mug of Earl Grey tea big enough to actually climb into.
Now on the snacking side.
A chilled cup of blueberries
When things are going well, fruit and berries can be possible. A chilled cup of blueberries perhaps, or a sliced apple (this is apparently Danielle Steel’s choice of snack, brought to her by her butler, obvs). Fruit and berries are refreshing and rejuvenating. Nibbling on these will make you feel like Gwyneth Paltrow, writing a new post for www.GOOP.com , or like a Hemsley sister dreaming up a nourishing new recipe.
Then there is the Great British biscuit. Everyone in my family is mad about the McVitie’s dark chocolate digestive. But I just cannot get excited about this. It’s so mealy in the mouth. I need quite a bit more chocolate to be getting on with in a biscuit. Personally, I love the KitKat; it’s elegant, lengthy and there’s the whole snapping it in two ritual. The four-fingered KitKat was available in the Glasgow University library vending machine, when I used to write there, and I found I could push through an extra hour on one of those.
Cake is not much use when writing. You’ve got the whole plate and fork palaver, when you need quick, grabby things, so you can get straight back to the keyboard.
I’m a big fan of nuts: the lightly salted peanut, the dry roasted, even the honey coated. Popcorn is a useless snack, as I can eat a massive bowl of it, have my teeth all filled with shards, and still feel ravenous, whereas nuts are properly satisfying. Sometimes I’ll go for the plain unvarnished nut: your brazils, pecans, almonds. Some ultra-healthers go on about ‘activating your nuts’, which sounds a little suspicious. I’ve not passed onto this level of health freakery yet, but hey, it’s an aim.
When the writing is going kind of terribly or deadlines loom, then it is time for some hardcore sugar.
In these situations, I call on M&Ms, the peanut ones, because they offer both the solace of chocolate and hard crunching to vent frustrations. I’m very partial to the generously sized Bendicks bittermint. But the mother of all difficult writing jag snacks is toffee. The M&S double Devon caramel has seen me through some tough times, ditto the entire bag, or even box, of Thornton’s nut toffee. This provides the huge chunks occasionally required for particularly challenging edits. You can’t actually talk with it in your mouth. This is probably my dream writing snack.
A word about writing and booze. Yes, I have written with glasses of wine on the desk. This obviously made me feel very ‘louche writer’, in the style of my hard man heroes: Hemingway and Ian Fleming. Oscar Wilde called drinking ‘the curse of the writing classes’. But to be honest, when you write, you need a pin-sharp brain and pretty much everything you write under the influence can be a good first draft, but not a final version.
Writing drunk can make you feel free and incredibly brilliant, but usually when you reassess your work sober, it’s rambling and not as good as you thought at the time.
Writers need snacks
One final snack tip – try, if possible, to keep your snacks on a different floor, or in a different room from your work. Running up and down the stairs, or along the corridor, between you and the cupboard will not make a huge difference to the calories burned, but it will make you feel a bit livelier.
Far better than snacking is to take regular breaks, especially walks. Walks can help with every kind of plot and writer’s block problem. Walks clear gloom, laziness, inertia, even despair. A walk with some greenery and wildlife is ideal.
As Henry David Thoreau put it: ‘Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.’