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Writers’ Gym Series 2 trailer

Welcome to the second series of The Writers’ Gym Podcast.  The Writers’ Gym Podcast: The Writers’ Gym Trailer on Apple Podcasts

We’ll be releasing episodes weekly – each Wednesday – from 6th March and we’ll cover topics such as:

  • How not to give feedback
  • Editing 101
  • Unreliable narrators 
  • World building
  • “What’s Your Wessex?”: A guide to place in fiction
  • Layout
  • “Write what you know”: A discussion

Each episode features Rachel Knightley, Emily Inkpen and Chris Gregory

The Writers Gym Podcast is an Alternative Stories production for The Writers’ Gym.  

Find out more about The Writers’ Gym and Rachel Knightley by going to

Find out more about Emily Inkpen and her work by going to

Find out more about Chris Gregory and Alternative Stories here

What does it mean to have healthy writing habits?

Three things you can do every day to build creative confidence – in under five minutes.

Every day this week as I approach my desk, the first thing I do is not switch on my laptop. It’s lift the ball of two rolled up socks I’m keeping on the lid.

I stand on one leg, socks extended ahead of me, and turn ninety degrees to the side. Then I turn back to the middle, then the other side. Then I do the same thing on the other foot.

What does this have to with writing habits? Not a lot: it’s more to do with dyspraxia, hypermobility, my more-than-usually-wobbly left ankle and the orders of my physiotherapist.

But it’s been a great reminder of how to improve, maintain and enjoy a healthy life as a writer.

Like this workday-morning physio, it takes less than five minutes and it would be the easiest thing in the world to ‘just miss today’. That’s why I keep my socks on my computer: so I have to lift them in order to start work, because I know once they’re in my hand I ‘might as well’ do the exercises.

If you’ve been to a Workout at the Writers’ Gym or any of our other events, you’ll know that just like the physical gym everything we do begins with a warm-up. It’s that “firstest” of first drafts, where we think on the page so we can see what comes out, without putting in roadblocks in our heads and trying to edit what we haven’t written.

The big thing about a creative warm-up is the same big thing about a physical warm-up: it’s not about how it looks. You’re not inviting the audience. You’re doing it for you, to be healthier and happier in everything you’re warming up for.

So here are three ways to beat the procrastination/perfectionism goblin (yes, perfectionism and procrastination are just the one, same creature that knows perfect was never on the menu) and each of them will take you less than five minutes:

1.        Transcribe your thoughts for one minute:

It’s enough time to build up steam and not enough time to give yourself any expectations. So ‘What the hell’, the brain and muscles think, ‘away we go.’

2.        Give yourself a deadline you believe in:

a)        What if you were being paid to finish that first draft? Not the final one. This one. The first one. What if someone was handing you five hundred pounds at the end of the day – or week, or three hours from now – not to have something ‘perfect’ or even ‘ready’ but a first draft?

b)        Or if a deadline of time and money doesn’t speak to you, how about a deadline of a fellow writer? I tell my beta readers when to expect the next instalment of my current project not so much for them as for me. When we abandon the perfect, we arrive in the possible.

3.        Separate the warm-up from the exercise routine:

No matter what your ‘real’ project is, no matter how important or urgent it is or how much you love it and want to get it into the world, pick a prompt from a bag (you can cut out the ones below, or make your own) so the warm-up is expectation-free and pseudo-efficiency free. Let it resemble the ball of socks on my computer: it’s not important for itself, that little exercise. But like any one brick is not a wall, it’s building something that is.

Cut-out-and-keep Writing Prompts:




Visit the Writers’ Gym here.

Listen to the podcast, presented by Rachel Knightley and Emily Inkpen, here or in your favourite podcast app.

This is the face (alright, phone cover) of a writer

She doesn’t like telling people about projects while they’re still up in the air (part sense, part superstition).

Dr Rachel Knightley at the Writers’ Gym is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.


But she’s just sent a proposal into the world for something that would be very exciting if it happens — and if it doesn’t happen that way, isn’t a yes from who it’s gone to, she already knows it’s going to happen another way.

So this is a happy writer.

A happy freelance writer.

If she hadn’t chosen the unknown over the unhappy, she would never have taken the first steps into a life that is shaped around her. She’d still be trying to force herself into the shape of something else that wasn’t her.

Freelance life isn’t the easy option. But on days like this, where the planets (and work hours) align and she gets to meet her friend somewhere local and lovely on what once would have been a work day, she thanks that scared, previous version of herself with all her freelance soul.

If you’re looking for the courage, and the community, to make creative confidence your ‘normal’, it’s right here.

Writers’ Gym membership means unlimited access to every workshop and social, every week. It also means 30% off every course and every 1:1 coaching booking with Rachel Knightley Coaching.

Not sure where to start? Click the bio to join the Friday Writing Workout or book a free discovery call.

Get curious, then get creative, about the work and life you want. You’ll be amazed what’s around that next corner.

See you at the Friday Writing Workout (free to Writers’ Gym members, open to everyone).

Green Ink Sponsored Write 2023: Alison Littlewood

Help us help Macmillan Cancer Support by sponsoring the writers at

1) Hello! Tell us about yourself, your writing and how you discovered the SponsoredWrite? 

I’m the author of various novels, several of which I think of as ‘historical weird’, if that counts as a genre! The latest is The Other Lives of Miss Emily White, published under the pen name A. J. Elwood. It’s about schoolgirl obsessions, buried secrets and weird doppelganger manifestations. I also write contemporary novels, such as A Cold Season, which was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club. And short stories of course, ranging from horror to dark fantasy to historical crime and various shades between. 

I’ve been aware of the Sponsored Write for a couple of years through friends taking part and being invited along, though sadly I couldn’t manage the dates before now. So it’s lovely to be able to join in this time.  

2) Are you a “deadlines person” outside the Sponsored Write? Is the time-limit part of the challenge or the attraction? 

Yes and yes! Deadlines help focus the mind enormously when you work on your own. And my first experience of creative writing was joining a local class where prompts were thrown at us out of the blue and we just had to dive in. It’s interesting how the brain responds to that sometimes, so it’ll be good to try something along those lines again. 

3) Many involved have personal connections with Macmillan Cancer Support. Do you want to share any experience of the charity’s work? 

I haven’t had much direct contact but Macmillan were there when my partner’s brother-in-law sadly had a terminal brain tumour at the age of twenty-seven. I’ll always be in awe of the people who provide support and care at such a brutal time. Joining in the Sponsored Write is a small thing to do in comparison to their work so it’s an honour to try to help.  

4) What do you make of Paul Tremblay’s theme for this year, A Well of Strength/The Strength of Will? 

Very on point! I’m trying not to think about it too much in advance though, because of the whole out-of-the-blue thing. Of course, that could either be the most interesting part or a terrible mistake…!  

5) Absolutely anything else you’d like to share! 🙂 

Just a big thank you to you for organising the event and good luck to my fellow writers! May the muses be smiling on the day… 

Help us help Macmillan Cancer Support by sponsoring the writers at

Green Ink Sponsored Write 2023: Steve Toase

Sponsor a writer for Macmilan Cancer Support at

1) Hello! Tell us about yourself, your writing and how you discovered the Sponsored Write?

I’m Steve Toase. I’m originally from North Yorkshire, but now live in Bavaria, Germany, surrounded by the Franconian Forest. I mainly write horror, occasionally dabbling in scifi. My work has been published in places like Analog, Nightmare, Shadow and Tall Trees, Shimmer, and Three Lobed Burning Eye. Six of my stories have been selected for Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year series, and two for Paula Guran’s Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror. My debut short story collection ‘To Drown in Dark Water’ is now out from Undertow Publications.

While I mainly write fiction, I got my start writing for motorbike magazines, and still write regularly for Fortean Times as well as having articles published at and The Author.

From 2014 I worked with Becky Cherriman and Imove on Haunt, the Saboteur Award shortlisted project inspired by my own teenage experiences, about Harrogate’s haunting presence in the lives of people experiencing homelessness in the town.

I now live twenty minutes from the old German internal border, and that, combined with my own experiences of homelessness, means I’m particularly interested in the boundaries between people.

I discovered the Sponsored Write due to several authors I highly respect taking part in 2022. I was thrilled to have a chance to participate this year, and be in such good company.

2) Are you a “deadlines person” outside the Sponsored Write? Is the time-limit part of the challenge or the attraction?

I often end up setting my own deadlines. I write three days a week, and divide those days between short stories, articles, and longer projects such as novels. 

I also have a Patreon where I post a new story every Monday morning, so I have to make sure there is a story ready to go by the start of the week. I like challenges, and find the restrictions they place, whether that is a word count or a time limit, can help focus the mind.

3) Many involved have personal connections with Macmillan Cancer Support. Do you want to share any experience of the charity’s work?

Fifteen years ago a close family member was diagnosed with a cancer that was inoperable because of its position, but responded well to chemo. During all that tumult when we thought they weren’t going to survive, Macmillan nurses came in like some kind of nursing special forces to handle all the issues that needed dealing with, leaving my relative able to focus on the treatment. Thankfully, the cancer responded well, and following a very bleak initial diagnosis, they are still with us.

4) What do you make of Paul Tremblay’s theme for this year, A Well of Strength, The Strength of Will?

I think it has a huge potential for interpretation, which is what you need in a prompt. I often work with prompts such as postcards, tarot, or what3words, so I’m looking forward to using this as a starting point. I think I might try something a bit experimental, a bit playful, but almost certainly dark. It’s often dark in wells, right?

Green Ink Sponsored Write 2023: Dan Coxon & Marianne Izen

Sponsor a Writer for Macmillan Cancer Support:

Dan Coxon

1) Hello! Tell us a bit about yourself, writing, and/or life outside writing?

I’m a dad first and foremost, then a writer, then an editor (and proofreader). Someone once compared editing anthologies to preparing a complicated dish in the kitchen, and most of my life is spent in that space – keeping half a dozen pans on the boil, finishing things in the oven, spinning plates. There’s kind of a thrill to that energy which propels me through my days.

2) Are you a ‘deadlines person’? Is that part of the attraction or the challenge?

I think I am, although I’ve never consciously thought of myself that way. When dealing with publishers there are always deadlines, though, and given the nature (and variety) of my work I often have several deadlines staggered throughout the month. It sometimes feels like an unwanted pressure, but actually it’s often what gets me out of bed in the morning. Without deadlines I doubt I’d get half as much done.

3) Many involved have personal connections with Macmillan Cancer Support. Do you want to share any experience of the charity’s work?

Thankfully I’ve never had any personal experience of their work, although I have fundraised for them before, hiking 26 miles in a day along the South Coast. They’ve always struck me as one of the most fundamental charities – not just a good cause, but an important and necessary one.

4) What do you make of Paul Tremblay’s theme for this year, A Well of Strength/The Strength of Will?

For some reason my brain fixates on the word ‘well’, so I’ll try to avoid a story about a literal well! It’s a great theme from Paul, though, and I think it’ll lead to some really interesting stories. I’ve always been fascinated by stories about characters who have run out of options, who have reached rock bottom – and where they go from there. My collection Only The Broken Remain was structured around that very idea. It’s often when people are at their lowest that they find reserves of courage and strength that they didn’t know they had – I’m hoping to see that in some of the stories.

5) Absolutely anything else you’d like to share! 🙂

Being a dad (and a freelance editor!), it’s very rare for me to write a story in a single day – so I’m intrigued to see how that works out!

Marianne Izen

1) Hello! Tell us a bit about yourself, writing, and/or life outside writing?

Writing was always a pleasure, even essays in high school. But I became a biologist and for that, my writing was factual and precise. Scientific thought has to be creative, otherwise nobody could have or present an original idea, but the creativity was expressed in a certain style. I came back to non-scientific writing only four years ago and after so long, it has been a great pleasure. I have had to discover, or perhaps rediscover, a different way of writing.

2) What’s it been like Sponsored Writing in the past? Are you a ‘deadlines person’? 

The Sponsored Write is a fascinating process. I like observing the ideas a theme produces and then seeing which idea becomes the final piece. It’s interesting reading the many ways the same theme is interpreted by other people. I like the time limit for the intense focus it demands. But at other times, I am also happy to write without that, to allow a thought to develop and mature without the constraint.  

3) Many involved have personal connections with Macmillan Cancer Support. Do you want to share any experience of the charity’s work?

There can hardly be a family that has not been touched by cancer. Like many people, I have been grateful to the Macmillan organisation and to the nurses I have met for their kindness and care when they have helped people close to me.

4) What do you make of Paul Tremblay’s theme for this year, A Well of Strength/The Strength of Will?

I like the way the theme plays with words. It stimulates all sorts of ideas and at some point, one of those will dominate and that will become the piece I shall write on 14 October.

5) Absolutely anything else you’d like to share! 🙂

The whole concept of the Sponsored Write is impressive and that it has run for so many years shows our sponsors appreciate the importance of the work it supports. I look forward to saying hallo to all the writers at the start, and I look forward to reading their interpretations of the theme soon after.