Author Fiona Gibson shares how she powers through when the chips are down

If there’s one thing we’ve learnt from the last year, it’s the power of community. The wisdom of those we surround ourselves with (virtually or otherwise) can make all the difference to how we live and work – and how we feel. How do other women manage to stay ‘up’ and face major challenges? How the hell have they got through 2020 and remained motivated? Author Fiona Gibson (When Life Gives You Lemons, The Mum Who Got Her Life Back) shares her take on surviving and thriving.

Describe your expertise and your typical clients or audience. 
I am an author of romantic comedy novels, currently published by Avon (Harper Collins). My audience is mainly female, 40-60 years.

What is your superpower, the one skill that makes you unique, that your clients or audience love you for? 
I hope I can tell stories that are entertaining, full of laughs and hone in on the everyday details of life, that my readers can relate to. Humour in the everyday is what delights and excites me. Readers often tell me my books make them think, ‘Oh God yes, that’s me.’

Using your unique expertise and insights please share your top tips for thriving as an entrepreneur/businesswoman. 
So much of working alone is about keeping going and grafting even when it feels relentless and difficult – but also knowing when to have breaks and put something back in the tank. I also think there’s a tendency (when working on creative projects) to plummet into despair, because it IS hard and gruelling. Not working in a coal mine waist deep in cold water gruelling – but still tough in its own way. So it’s important to remember that it’s NOT life or death. I am constantly reminding myself to lighten up – and that my books are a bit of fun and light relief. Without meaning to belittle my own work I have 2 stickers near my desk, on which I’ve written: ‘GET OVER YOURSELF’ and ‘IT’S ONLY A BOOK!’.

Briefly, what has been your journey to your current career? 
I worked on teenage and women’s magazines from the age of 17 until 32, when I had my twin boys and then went freelance and started to write novels. Although I had babies, I was also freed from office life (which I’d loved, incidentally!) so I had the headspace to make the switch – and also the material, as I started to write novels based around parenthood and family life.

Describe your darkest moment of 2020 and what you learned from it about surviving and thriving? 
There were numerous times in spring when I found it impossible to focus on work. My young adult kids all came home at different times, my husband started working from home and home felt very busy. But it was more about me – my focus and confidence were shot to bits. So I basically went to bed for 2 months – like the mum in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? – with big headphones clamped on, and I finished writing my book hiding under the duvet. I met my deadline – but needed an osteopath to sort out my poor back!

In what ways has the global pandemic led to you changing how you work and earn your living? 
Before Covid I’d decided to cut down from 2 books a year to 1. I was exhausted and was worried my books wouldn’t be as funny or fresh as they should be. And now, with our new circumstances I am SO glad I made that shift. I’ll earn less but gain much more in terms of contentment and a healthy balance. I’ve started to enjoy writing much more again too.

What new work habits have you created in the last year that really help? 
At around noon my husband has his lunchbreak and tells me it’s time for our run. That’s it – no debate, we just do it, 4k every weekday whatever the weather. It only takes 25 minutes and has made a massive difference to my menopausal moods, and my thighs are looking a bit better too.

How do you stay positive and motivated when the chips are down? 
I walk my dog, cuddle my dog, chat to a close friend, draw and paint (art has helped me hugely this year) and, yes, pour a big glass of wine. I try not to give myself a hard time if I’m not as productive as I’d like to be.

What is your next project or goal and what are you doing now to help make it happen? 
I have a book to finish by the end of March and that feels like enough for now. And I’m painting a lot. I’m hoping to have some kind of art-based side hustle in the suture. I love it – plus it also feels good to branch out as I get older. In my 60s I’d like to supplement my writing with an income from art. At the moment I’m taking it gently, trying to figure out my style and enjoy the process of learning and discovery.

What makes you feel optimistic about the future? 
I can’t think too much about the future right now. I kind of crank through each day and feel lucky and privileged that I have still been able to earn a living through something I love. What I’m really hoping for is that opportunities open up again, and my 3 young adult children can fully embark on their adult lives.

What advice would you give to any female entrepreneur who is really struggling to stay positive and keep their head above water? 
To acknowledge how hard it is when your habits and patterns have had to change, and you’re dealing with uncertainty and underlying stress. To be clear about boundaries when you’re working from home – door shut, headphones on if necessary. Constant interruptions are frustrating, but maybe you’re (unwittingly) enabling your interrupters? I know I was! It used to be: ’Oh, it’s okay, what is it, darling?’ (Concentration wrecked). Now it’s a firm: ‘I’m working just now.’ Headphones are brilliant – BIG ones, even if not on – as they form a barrier that everyone can see.

Where you do you go time and again for inspiration and fresh thinking? 
I enjoy art podcasts as head clearers when I’m bogged down with writing. I listen to Creatives Get Real (2 artists discuss creative practices) and Laura Horn (Australian artist whose online courses I’m doing). I also enjoy How to Fail with Elizabeth Day, The Shift with Sam Baker and – my fave – Desert Island Discs. As I mainly write light, funny fiction, I veer towards the funny I writers I love: Caitlin Moran, David Sedaris, Nora Ephron. Nora is the queen.
With thanks to 
Fiona Gibson; Twitter@FionaGibson Instagram @fiona_gib

To share more tips and advice on surviving and thriving with likeminded women, as well as getting access to group coaching and live Q&As with experts, join the Audrey Members’ Club at