Featured Writer on Wellness: Wendy Clarke

Filed in Writers on Wellness by on September 17, 2015 • views: 1645

I started writing four years ago after the primary school I was working in closed down.

It was a small private school in a converted detached house and my main classroom was on the first floor, while the stock room, toilets, dining room and other classrooms I taught in were on the ground floor.

Consequently, I went up and down those stairs countless times during my day. Also, I would be constantly moving around the classroom or squatting beside a child’s desk—I didn’t know what a chair was!

Walking Through the Dangers of the Sedentary Lifestyle

Not so now. Being a writer has meant I have swapped my active working life for a sedentary one. It’s only recently that I’ve realized that if I get engrossed in a story I can remain seated for several hours.

I’ve notice too that I am also constantly hungry! While I was teaching I never had time to snack but now my cupboard is never far away. Not good. I have always been slim but in the last couple of years have put on three quarters of a stone.

The other thing I have noticed is that since writing seriously my close vision has gotten worse. I need stronger reading glasses and now have to make the font larger on my computer or zoom in on a website.

These are the most obvious physical challenges but I am also aware of the hidden dangers of a sedentary lifestyle and these worry me more.

If It’s There I’ll Eat It!

I make sure that I walk my dog, Bonnie, in the middle of the day, which forces me to take a long break from writing. I go to a Pilates class once a week, which stretches my muscles and spine—blissful after sitting hunched over a computer—but I also try to make sure I do some aerobic exercise as well. I go to a Fit-Step class, play badminton, and my husband and I are keen dancers—ballroom being our most recent love.

Step Machine

Wendy’s step machine.

As well as this, I have recently bought a mini step machine. The idea being to do five minutes on this every half hour or so to keep the circulation going in my legs. Unfortunately, it seems to be having a detrimental effect on my knee, so I might have to stop.

Luckily I have an island in my kitchen just the right height for writing, so I try and alternate sitting with standing. As for the snacking, I’ve found the best thing is just not to have anything in the house—if it’s there I’ll eat it!

I am trying to stick to three good meals a day… I’ll have to let you know how long I manage to stick to that.

I’m Very Lucky I Enjoy My Own Company

Like most other writers I would say it has to be self-doubt and the silly thing is that it stems from having become successful in the magazine market quite quickly. I’ve found it’s put an enormous amount of pressure on me.

I have had over a hundred short stories published in national women’s magazines and have a story published most weeks in The People’s Friend. When my story comes out, I always buy a copy and sometimes I’ll read one and think to myself, I’ll never be able to write one as good as that again or I’ll never manage to get another good story idea.

On occasion this has given me “writer’s block,” but my solution is to allow myself to have time out for a day or so to do non-writing things without feeling guilty—it’s an excellent way of getting my mojo back.

Wendy's dog, Bonnie.

Wendy’s dog, Bonnie.

I am very lucky that I enjoy my own company. This means that I don’t have problems with isolation. I love being on my own in the house and working alone doesn’t bother me at all. I have friends who work part-time so on the odd occasion I feel I need some company I can always find someone to have a cup of tea with or I might have a walk into the village where I’m bound to bump into someone.

I also meet up regularly with other writers and have a writing “buddy.” Even with this, I would find it hard to feel isolated with social media at my fingertips. My problem now would probably be if I had to go back to working in an environment full of people!

The Darkest Moment

I haven’t had a particularly dark moment… yet. I have loved everything about my writing life and I am pretty good at bouncing back from disappointments.

I imagine that the biggest challenge is going to be when I try and launch my first novel (which I have almost finished) into the world.

I know that finding an agent/publisher isn’t easy and I am preparing myself for the inevitable rejections. I think it will be harder for me because I have managed to place most of the stories I have written but when I have had a story rejected by a magazine, I am pretty stoical about it and just send it elsewhere.

I can see that I shall have to have the same attitude if my novel wings its way back to me.

The One Thing That Has Kept You On Your Path

Absolutely my desire to succeed. I love to give myself challenges and once I have achieved something I want to try something new. If it wasn’t for this way of thinking I would never have moved on to writing something longer—it was a natural progression from short stories to serials to novels.

The strange thing is I never knew I was going to be a writer.

I loved creative writing at school and loved teaching it in the classroom, but it never occurred to me that it might be something I could do as a job. It took an unfortunate event (the closing down of my school) and the lucky suggestion that I might enjoy doing a writing course, to show me my new path.

I definitely couldn’t have done it though without the support of my lovely husband (both financially and emotionally) and my mother who, since I started, has always had complete faith in my writing.

Advice for a Young Writer: Write for Love, Not Money

The hardest part is getting that first acceptance.

My target market was magazines—I wrote and wrote and sent and sent. It’s a numbers game; the more you have out there, the more chance there is of having an acceptance.

Also, it’s important to grow a thick skin. You will be rejected or get a bad review at some point—it’s par for the course.

I would tell them to write for love not money and not to give up their job unless they have another form of support. Unless you are very lucky, and are the one to come up with the idea of writing about a boy wizard with a scar on his forehead, you are unlikely to get rich.

I would also say that you have to have belief in your work—if you love it, chances are there will be someone else out there who does, too.

Finally, I would tell them to enjoy their writing for if there is no pleasure in it, there is little point in doing it.

* * *

Wendy Clarke is a full time writer of women’s fiction. Her work regularly appears in national women’s magazines such as The People’s Friend, Take a Break Fiction Feast and Woman’s Weekly. She has also written serials and a number of non-fiction magazine articles, and published two collections of short stories: Room in Your Heart and The Last Rose. Wendy lives with her husband, cat and step-dog in Sussex, and when not writing, is usually dancing, singing or watching any program that involves food!

For more information on Wendy and her writing, please see her website, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.

Room in Your HeartRoom in Your Heart: A collection of twelve romantic short stories by Wendy Clarke, a regular writer of fiction for national magazines. All of these stories have previously been published in The People’s Friend magazine and if you like stories with emotional depth and a satisfying ending, then this collection is for you.

From Shirley Blair, Commissioning Fiction Editor for The People’s Friend: “In less than three years Wendy Clarke has become one of The People’s Friend’s most valued writers, offering our readers a range of themes and a level of emotional satisfaction that is rare in the short story format.”

Available at Amazon and Amazon UK.

The Last RoseThe Last Rose: A collection of thirteen stories of family and friendship. All of these stories have previously been published in either The People’s Friend, Take a Break Fiction Feast or Woman’s Weekly.

From one reviewer: “Wendy’s collection of short stories are ones to melt the heart. She explores family relationships across the generations from the mother of a newborn baby to a widow moving out of the home she has lived in for decades.”

Available at Amazon and Amazon UK.

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Comments (6)

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  1. Sue Blackburn says:

    Fantastic interview Wendy. I look at the stories I’ve had published and wonder if I’ll come up with another idea EVER so very interesting – and reassuring 😉 to hear a prolific writer such as yourself has these doubts too!

    Also interesting to learn you felt pressured at your phenomenal success in such a short time. So wise to be kind to yourself and give yourself time off to do other things until the old ‘mojo’ returns.

    Thank you for sharing – great interview. x

  2. Chere Hagopian says:

    Thanks, Wendy! It’s funny how even success can turn on the self-doubt by making you wonder if you will ever do that well again. I guess nothing makes that mean, nagging little voice go away entirely, no matter how well we do.

    Write for love not money- that’s great advice! Also not for accolades, since those aren’t guaranteed either. (Sadly.)

  3. Wendy Clarke says:

    Thank you for having me as a guest on your lovely website, Colleen.

    • Colleen says:

      Thank you, Wendy! So nice to have your thoughts on how you manage the ups and downs of the writing life. :O)