If you can endure the effort and the effing-and-blinding, then change is to be recommended. Sure, there’s a whole heap of jingling and jangling to deal with, but only change unlocks our potential. Familiarity doesn’t just breed contempt, it blinds us to opportunity. Change makes our eyes sparkle with new ways to see the world. Change is good
You know the place. You’ve never been there, and you never will, and yet it haunts your dreams. It’s the destination around every corner, that slips further into the shadows as you round each bend. You imagine it as place of life and opportunity, but it is as yet untouched by human hands. A place I unsullied by man’s greed and ambition, it exists on the precipice of being.
Without this unobtainable island, there would be no hope. You need it, not because now, or then, are too terrible. But tomorrow could be the day you make a difference and you want to be there when it happens.
2016 has been a bad year, or so people would have you believe. Yes, lots of well-known people have passed away and Britain got brexited, while America was Trumped. But, as many have already observed compared with the horrors of World War 1 or ‘The Year Without Summer’ it doesn’t really compare that badly with 1916 or 1816. And, I doubt 1716, 1616 or 16AD were much of a blast, either.
Personally, I won’t look back at this year and regard it too badly. My business continues to grow, despite the mid-year blip caused by Brexit. After spending a long time trying to work out what kind of company we were, realised that every business can be no more than the company it keeps. By that, I mean the people who work for us and the people we work for. I have been on business courses and read management books that tell you no business will succeed unless it is built from a solid foundation; a clear strategy and vision. Time and experience have taught me that this is horse-shit. Don’t get me wrong, knowing where you want to be in five or ten years time is critical. It keeps you going on the dark days. But, starting a business with an inflexible strategy is a folly. This year we experimented, worked out what our skills were and which clients we worked best with and have grown from there.
At home, life has been good too. My wife, my daughters and, even, my dog bring me joy. I’ve learnt to be happy with family. That’s not to say they haven’t brought me happiness before, they have and oodles of it. But this has been the first year where I can shut out the world on a Friday evening and not let it back in again until Monday morning without feeling like I was missing something. May be it’s because my girls are growing up. Certainly, being a parent is a lot easier with children who you can have a conversation with. I like the way we watch movies together now. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy ‘Finding Nemo’ or ‘Shrek’; I enjoyed them far more than I should. But being able to watch a film like ‘The Book Thief’ with your family and then to hear what they took from it, has made me appreciate my children as individuals with ideas and feelings. That is massive.
There have been lots of plus points to 2016; a wonderful weekend in Lisbon, starting running again, learning to sail, taking my daughters kayaking, filming a stunning sunrise in North Wales, attending a friend’s wedding, hearing my eldest daughter sing in front of the whole school, teaching my youngest how to play poker (and then being fleeced by a 9 year old) and seeing my wife go from strength to strength at work.
I think it’s easy to sum up a year as good or bad. But in truth, every year like every day is a little bit of everything. I choose to see 2016 in a good light, even if it was a bit of mixed bag.
I grew up loving books; and watching TV, laughing at comic strips, being whisked away by progressive pop, listening to tall tales told by my stepdad and thoughtful musings from my grandad. In short, I grew up in awe of stories.
I didn’t just listen to them, I wrote many too. My first novel was finished when I was seven years old. It’s a story I have re-explored on and off for the past thirty-five years, the essence of the tale remains at the heart of everything I’ve penned since. Set in the middle ages, it was the story of a young boy who had fallen through a hole in time and was looking for a way home. I was an army baby, born and raised overseas. At the time I wrote that book, my parents were divorcing and I’d just been diagnosed with epilepsy. I think it’s fair to say, I felt like an outsider in the small country town we found ourselves in. Stories and writing helped me escape and I mixing sci-fi with history was the ultimate act of escapism.
I still have the original manuscript, sixteen pages stapled together enclosed in a yellow cover. Wafer-thin, crinkly sheets of paper typed up on my mum’s typewriter and speckled with Tippex. That little book set me on a path, filled me with ambition and ignited a desire. “When I’m grown-up, I’m going to be a writer.”
And, to a certain extent, I have achieved that. I have penned words to push products and programmes, created characters and worlds for children’s television and scribed more corporate videos than I care to remember. Yet, I am not fulfilled. Those are not the words I dreamed of writing. I am not the writer I longed to be. My seven year old self would look at my limited literary achievements with ambivalence.
I have tried to write what I wanted to write. There was a play I almost finished, a screenplay that is still missing a third act and the three novels that never made it passed the first draft, because life got in the way; and by the time life went to bed I had a new story buzzing around inside my head. I have struggled to stick with any idea long enough to make me want to read it again; which is the least I expect of any good story.
So, I have set myself a challenge. I will write every day. I’m not setting myself some unobtainable goal to finish a novel or even start one. If I do that, I’ll fail. It’s my nature to go full pelt at things; self-motivation isn’t a problem. My failings lie in my inability to keep going; I am easily distracted. Rather than try and write one thing for a year, I will write one thing every day for a year. There will be a limit of thirty minutes each day for writing. One day I might pen a very short story, another may be a journal entry or opinion piece. Right now, I can’t say what each day will hold, but I promise myself words for every day. Maybe that will be enough to get me back on the path my seven year old self set.