I’ve got a little app on my phone. It’s called memoir and what it does is saves all your pictures, tweets and Facebook posts, cronographing them and pulling GPS data from the photos. This week it flashed up with a little alert saying ‘four years ago you were in Northants’ – which is one of the cool little features it has, then flashes up the picture you took when you at the location you’re standing in. Well I was in my living room, and the picture that flashed up was this one.
Just an iPad, right? Well, yeah. However this is the picture of the first iPad I owned. I imported it to the UK from America as I was keen to get my hands on it. If I remember rightly we didn’t get an official release until the May so I was able to lord it over everyone else in the sitting room (my wife, who didn’t care anyway) until it was actually released. I think I was even called a variety of names: loser, geek, and gadget tosser when I shared it on Facebook, and rightly so.
Anyway, the reason this picture today resonated with me is that the iPad was the device on which I wrote the very first piece of work – bar my name on most of the desks I was ever forced to sit at. (I’ve stopped doing it now, the pay isn’t as good and the reviews are rubbish.)
The last of the excuses was gone. I had a device, I worked in a hostel that used to have a ‘sleep in’ scheme for staff, which meant if you stayed (which you had to) you got £30 for being in the locked staff quarters from 11.30 p.m. till 9 a.m., when you either finished a shift or started one. I don’t think it could have been named anything worse. ‘Staying awake all night wondering why the world hated you enough to have this job-in’ would have been far more apt. To put it bluntly, it was a way of the ‘charity’ to get people to work for little to no money while holding more responsibility than when on a regular shift. It wasn’t good. However, it was time I had on my hands. I’d decided on January the 1st 2010 that I was finally going to at least start writing a book that year. I’d messed about long enough, read enough books on writing. Actually, that should read ‘bought a lot of books on writing and the writing process’. I’d studied other people’s novels and wondered (out loud to loved ones, sometimes) how I’d be able to use the inspiration I got from them, I was at the point where I was actively
avoiding putting pen to paper. Or as it turned out thumb and finger to screen.
On April the 25h I lay there in the cheap Ikea single bed, with drum and bass playing in the flat above me, and I started tapping away on the screen.
It’s hard to remember exactly how much I wrote that night, I think it was most of the chapter, but I was going for about three hours, writing, reading and rewriting. I do remember having a few moments of panic throughout the first hour and wanting to delete it all, stop being silly and just accept that I was never going to be good enough to be a writer. I remember very clearly telling myself halfway through that no one was ever going to read what I was writing, so it didn’t matter, it was just practice.
What I ended up with I quite liked. I remember asking another writer later if it was OK to like and laugh at my own stuff; his response has stayed with me. ‘If you don’t like it, how can you expect anyone else to?’
The first chapter was of So Low So High.
Four years later, what’s happened? Loads, is the short answer. So much more than I ever thought would. My blue sky list has been crossed off completely.
So. The reason for this blog. I’m going to write another blue sky list of things that seem outrageous now and we’ll see in another four years if they’re as good as the first.
Here they are:
- Get an agent.
- Sign with one of the big six (yeah, six; I’m including Amazon in this).
- Get into the top ten.
- Write a TV comedy script.
- Appear on TV.
- Feature in a national newspaper (for work, not some ghastly crime).
- Move my family to a nice house in a nice area.
- Write full time.
- Win some kind of father’s race when Lilly is still at primary school.
Even as I write these I’m cringing at myself and possibly my ego, not wanting to post it, then thinking I will, etc. What is blue sky thinking for if it’s not for imagining just how far we can get? Just so you can see what I’m talking about, here is my 2010 list.
- Don’t drink again – continued since 2006.
- Become a father – achieved 2013.
- Start writing a book – completed 2012 and then some.
- Move up at work (became part of the management team 2013).
- Continue charity work and bring to the town I live in (completed months after writing).
- Buy a car of my choosing – completed 2010 and again 2013.
There are some others ones, but I’m not sharing those; they were all met though, at least.
I suppose the whole point of this post is to say to anyone reading, whatever it is you want to do, don’t aim low. We’re our own worst enemy sometimes, as humans, we criticise ourselves too much and we hold ourselves back; unfortunately we’re not born into a world where thinking about doing things is enough to make them happen. I’m aware some of my blog posts seem like I’m a bit of an egomaniac, which I might be, I don’t suppose egomaniacs know they are? I don’t think I am, but then that is what an egomaniac would say, so you’ll just have to decide for yourself, if you haven’t already. I just hope that my experience of not holding myself back, taking the bit between the teeth and taking a leap of faith, shows what we can all do if we try and I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but seriously, if I can do it, anyone can.
Just ask my editor.