If you have ever been anywhere near a writing group or book festival of any kind, you will know that writers come in all shapes and sizes, from big, robust circles, to tiny, stabby stars. They come in different flavours too, from cool, classic vanilla, to eyeball-exploding, triple-hot chilli sauce.
Thrillers With Attitude is on a mission to find out what makes these weirdly-shaped and strangely flavoured writers tick. My guest this week is blogger, Shona Macpherson.
Hi Shona, thank you for agreeing to take part in the Thrillers With Attitude Literary Smorgasbord. Please tell me a little bit about yourself.
Hi, I’m from Inverness, in my late 30s but feel like I’m still in my 20s. I’ve had a varied work background – originally trained and worked as a nurse in London, then worked as an aid worker overseas for five years (Sudan, Kenya, Pakistan, Afghanistan). Then worked for charities again back in London, managing mentoring and befriending projects with elderly and then with homeless people. Trained and volunteered as a counsellor for several years.A few years ago retrained as a personal trainer and moved back from London to Inverness where I now work as a support worker with Women’s Aid and run my own business as a personal trainer. My passion with personal training is to help people to feel good in mind and body and this often involves more on the psychology side of things – looking at mindset and behaviour change – rather than just doing exercise. Friends, family, the outdoors and training are all really important things in my life.
What were you like at school?
We were from the countryside and I went to primary school with only 3 boys in my class so going to secondary was a huge shock. I was shy as a mouse. I was very small and was known as ‘wee Shona’. I wanted to be even smaller – to hide away from the public eye. I went to a school reunion a year ago and half the people there had no recollection of me at school so I must have done a pretty good job. I was a bit sneaky too. I had a group of well behaved friends and a separate group of rebellious ones and I’d flit between groups – keeping my options open! I’m still friends with a few of the girls today.
Why did you start blogging?
Earlier this year a personal trainer was mentoring me and a few others and he gave us the challenge of posting on Facebook everyday for a week. He asked us to post something true about us that makes us vulnerable but that might have a helpful message for other people. So it wasn’t initially a blog, just Facebook posts. I was quite scared clicking the ‘post’ button as I said things that I hadn’t openly spoken about much. But I was really surprised when people started commenting to me that they found my posts really helpful and this encouraged me to continue.
How has your blog evolved?
After a while I felt it would be nice to have a home for my posts as things can be lost on Facebook so a friend helped me create a blog section on my PT Website. The initial posts on there are the ones I wrote during that challenge. Looking back now I should edit and tidy them up but part of me likes that they are raw and as they are. Since then I’ve grown a little bit more confident and I’ve tried to write about wider topics such as body image and body building. As a result of that I ended up interviewing a lady who transformed her life and entered a body building competition. Through this experience I realised that I really like interviewing people and sharing other people’s stories as I think they have huge potential to inspire so I have done another couple of interviews since As you can see I’m pretty much making it up as I go along but it is fun and I’m loving the process.
What inspires you to write your blog?
I’ve come to realise I love writing. I love being caught in the flow of the moment. When I get caught up in writing I lose track of time and forget all my normal distractions. I’d say I’m normally pretty easily distracted. I’m passionate about women feeling good in their bodies whatever shape and size they are. I feel I have had a lot of healing in my life through exercise and through being open and honest about my struggles with food and my body. If sharing mine and other people’s stories can be of any help then I will keep writing for as long as I am able to and for as long as I have something to say. I feel there is so much junk in the media about food, women’s bodies and unobtainable perfectionism. I also find writing helps me to organise my thoughts and musings – it makes me happy.
Have you ever wanted to blog about something but felt you couldn’t?
Not yet. There are things that I want to write about but I haven’t collected my thoughts fully enough yet to do so. Two things that are burning inside me at the moment are about embracing aging and the joy of decluttering/ living more simply. I am conscious of my language when I write as I have huge respect for my parents who are quite traditional in their views. At my age this might sound a bit funny and I guess this could be a barrier to getting fully into flow and being as authentic as I’d like to be if that makes sense. I guess I’m really new to this and I will find my way.
Have you ever regretted publishing a blog post?
Writing-wise, how disciplined are you?
Not very disciplined at all. I will go for ages without writing and will use the excuse of waiting to feel inspired. I think the urgent everyday tasks take precedent over the important ones. Writing is important to me and it is something that I like to get more into the habit of doing.
What is your writing routine?
I don’t have one! If there is something I want to write about I will usually try and set aside sometime in the weekend or an evening to do it. Evenings aren’t a great time for me to write as I will lose track of time and then sleep late and not be able to get up for my early training session. I prefer to have a big chunk of time to write rather than little bits often.
Do you ever write fiction?
The answer until very recently was no because I feel so many people do fiction so well already. I find non fiction very powerful and inspiring to write and the people who share their stories with me are happy to do so openly.However last week I wrote my first fictional blog post. I was writing a piece about the false fat loss claims of body wraps and I wanted to use fiction to draw people in and to help them understand why we fall for weight loss gimmicks. Having a fictional character who was desperate to lose weight helped set the scene. I was quite nervous but the post was well received.I now plan to develop the character, Louise, and write more fat loss myth busting blogs with her as the central character.
Best writing moment so far?
I was really lucky to have the opportunity to go on a writing retreat at Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre. It was a great opportunity to explore different writing exercises with others and to be tutored. I read one of my blog posts in the ‘hobbit house’ there on the Saturday night and I was really encouraged by the feedback I received from others there. I felt like a bit of a fraud going on the weekend as I don’t class myself as a writer but this experience gave me more confidence that I have something to say that people are interested in. (And I met some inspiring people there, like you Lorraine!)
What advice would you give to the young Shona Macpherson?
Chill out Sho! Don’t take life so seriously. Stay in the present. You won’t find happiness through a relationship, motherhood, or whatever circumstances – you can only find it from seeing the word differently and for having gratitude for the amazing life you have.
You are clearly someone who inspires other people, but who inspires you?
Thank you for saying that. I am inspired by so many people – mostly non famous ‘ordinary’ people I meet. Sounds cheesy but my Mum is a huge inspiration to me – she is the gentlest and kindest person I know. She just quietly gets on with living and loving well and looking out for others everyday with the smallest ego. My older sister has gone through a horrendous time and she finds the strength and courage to get up and face each day. I feel I am surrounded by inspiring people every day – my collegues at Women’s Aid, some of the clients there, some of my PT clients who may have a very difficult relationship with their bodies but they keep on keeping on to try and change. I try and listen to podcasts that inspire me that there is a lot of good in the world. One of my favourites is called ‘On Being’ by Krista Tippet. She has public conversations with different guests and asks them questions about meaning and being. A recent one was with Pico Iyer on the art of stillness – it is one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard in a long time.
Do you have any goals yet to be achieved?
I’m about to start a life coaching course as I’d like to work more deeply with clients on issues of behaviour and life change. I think that when people are over-eating and under-exercising it is not really about the eating or the exercise – it is about the belief underlying why they live this way. I’d love to be able to help people make sustainable lasting change in these areas. I’m so much happier in my life through self coaching that I’ve done on my own mindset.My sister Morag and I are writing an E-book of healthy voluminous recipes so it will be good to get that finished. I’m quite excited about the finished product. I’m also launching my online one-to-one coaching business for health and weight loss.
A few short questions to finish. What is your favourite book?
Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale.
John O’Donoghue – he is a spiritual writer and poet.
Chicken breasts stuffed with haggis in whisky sauce with neeps and tatties
It is a toss- up between The Holiday (super cheesy film I like to watch at Christmas time) and The Way (it has inspired me to walk the Camino de Santiago next year for my 40th)
I loved The Killing and Borgen.
I always hate this question – I have very varied and random music taste. A friend recently introduced me to Tom Waits so he is up there at the moment.
What are you reading right now?
Cynthia Rogerson – If I Touched the Earth.
It’s been a real pleasure having you on the Literary Smorgasbord, Shona.