Notes From My Head – The Comeback – Week #7

Age. It’s just a number. Although the number does get bigger each year. And THIS (fucking) year I’m starting to feel like I am the number. Covid came and has lingered alongside the every present aches and pains. The year went from Covid directly into my first serious running injury since I turned my ankle into an ominously dark and bulbous monster with the help of a rabbit hole. Oh and then refusing to accept that it hurt for the final 40 odd miles of The Gower 50 ultra marathon (read all about that adventure HERE.)

When I went into the computer shop to change my last laptop, the 19-year-old kid behind the counter looked at my six-year-old model and described it as ‘vintage.’ ‘Vintage?’ I wanted to scream. ‘Son, I’ve got shirts older than you! I own underpants that have seen more of the world!’

John Niven – also feeling his age

All of which has got very little to do with writing.

Except that it has left me digging for answers to some existential questions deep down in my soul. And this has definitely allowed my mind to search for creative answers, mostly through words. The resignation that my foot injury probably spells the end of my big running ambitions has prompted me to spread my interest around and see what else this is on offer to challenge me in my leisure time.

I want to write without shame or pride or over-compensation in one direction or another. To write freely.

Zadie Smith

Swimming. I’m loving a bit of swimming and I reckon I can morph that into loving a lot of swimming. Cycling and strength training too, focussing on what I can do.

And, of course, writing (and reading).

For those that haven’t been following these blog posts, I’m writing a novel with the working title Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners (or DTDLLTO) and I am using the blog to hold myself to account every week. This is week seven of the great writing comeback, you can read all about the previous 6 weeks HERE.

In numbers, this might look like a fallow week. A couple of thousand words of the first draft doesn’t quite hit my target of averaging 400 words a day. I need this number if I hope to have a rough first draft down by the end of the year.

That didn’t sound like much writing until I flick through my journal. I must have written about 30 pages in the last week. What on earth do I write about? Well, I am really into my my free writing. If I’m at work and 15 minutes ahead of schedule I might set an alarm on my phone for 15 minutes and then just write whatever comes into my head. I’ve read about something called ‘morning pages‘. A simple meditative tool – instead of reaching for Twitter as I make my morning coffee, I reach for my notebook and pen. Go me eh? Except…….

Embarrassed that I ever allowed a pack of sociopathic dweebs from Silicon Valley to manipulate my reality, to fuck with my dopamine levels, to monetise my personal information, replicating the details of my identity and selling them back to me.

Author Brad Listi on giving up Twitter

Except……. I know I’m a bloomin’ addict, and I know that addiction reveals its disgusting yet inviting head whenever Twitter saunters into sight. So keeping it out of sight is probably the way forward. From today (Monday) I will be writing in my journal exactly the amount of time I spend on Twitter, I’ve installed a brilliant app which counts this time for me. It is eye wateringly embarrassing just how much time on spend on the app, despite constantly declaring that I’m challenged for time.

Talking of time…..

We live by the clock.

I’d love to be so free spirited that time didn’t matter to me. We’ve set our lives up to happen in blocks of time. Some of this is of course essential – the dog needs feeding twice a day and never mind the dog, I NEED feeding at regular intervals. And in order to eat, I need to buy food. In order to buy food I need an income. In order to have an income I need to work. And work, like it or not, happens at VERY SPECIFIC TIMES. Not only that, once I’m at work, the customers expect their deliveries in the time windows they’ve booked. And on and on it goes.

We live by the clock.

Another phone gripe. Autocorrect. I’m writing this on the laptop. The WordPress app highlights in red the words which it doesn’t recognise or believes to be wrong. This is nannying to a certain extent but nowhere near as much as the feckin’ phone. The phone actually replaces words without asking me first. The thing completely rules us doesn’t it? Taking what we are trying to say and converting it into a sentence which pleases the algorithm.

I feel watched. But not in a morally superior way. I am aware that I too am watching.

There are five whole pages in my journal devoted to ‘wants and needs’. And this is the beauty of ‘morning pages’, the thoughts just pour on to the page before the challenges of the day have chance to distract me, to suck me in, to muddle my mind and leave me unable to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time.

These blog posts fulfil the same purpose – they’re just me being me. I’m nothing special, there’s nothing remarkable, astonishing, inspiring about me. BUT, this is about ME. And it feels good to have a relationship with the truths of my existence.

What do I need? What do I want?

They should be quite different questions.

I definitely need the basics of life – food, water, shelter, security.

But what about love? Freedom? Privacy? Having a voice? Are these needs or wants? Or are they simply rights?

And what about opportunities to be creative, to express myself? I feel like I need this in my life, but maybe I’m just greedy.

Here’s my take – I exchange my labour and my time for the means to secure my basic needs. I’m one of the lucky ones, I also have the means to enrich my life with pleasures that might be classed as wants. I believe that those of us with excess of any size should pool a proportion of spare resources in order to secure the basic needs, and rights, of those less able to do so themselves.

Some of the great art and culture this country has every produced was created in the time afforded by having a society which supports and rewards such endeavours. And unless we want to move towards a soulless, methodically sound but culturally empty world, we surely need to champion our creatives, not punish them for operating outside a world which celebrates the worst of capitalism.

That’s what I think anyway.

The main character in DTDLLTO is wracked with guilt and shame about the state of the world. He sees inequality, discrimination, othering, terrorism and any amount of ‘bad news’ and feels guilty that he feels guilty. But he doesn’t know what he can DO if he wants to be part of any counter movement. In fact he grapples with his own prejudices, he is aware of them but they might be culturally written into the dna of his life, and he doesn’t come up with solutions.

I think there’s a bit of all of us in him and maybe I’m looking to write my way to a clearer mind for myself as well as for him.

Seven weeks in to my writing recovery and I’m having a ball with the pen and keyboard. There are so many ideas appearing in my journal and it feels liberating. My writing time and energy might be shared out rather thinly amongst my projects and ideas but that’s ok, because, well, that’s ok.

Whatever else people, keep on keeping on.

Why, Oh Why, Oh Why?

The very reason I write is so that I might not sleepwalk through my entire life

Zadie Smith

Why am I writing THIS novel? Why am I writing it NOW?

We need to get to the root of my story…..

Is this story actually my truth?

Does it successfully and eloquently articulate the struggles,? The questions? The confusions of life? Does it ask and try to answer the BIG quandries?

Life eh – There’s no weekly email newsletter we can subscribe to which might act as a handbook – no roadmap to steer us from young to old.

We have to work this shit out ourselves.

If we’re lucky enough to meet someone who gives us the courage to tackle the questions, then that makes for a golden life.

It took me 47 years. And 8 years later it is still getting more golden by the day.

We’ve been married for 7 of those years – I have whatever is the opposite of a 7 year itch.

May 16th 2015

7 Years today, if you’re reading this, er, TODAY! (May 16th)

Yes, we’re celebrating the best 7 years of my life. Nicky truly has asked me over and over, “why shouldn’t people like ‘us’ chase our dreams?”

And so I write.

I’m getting much better at writing a shit sentence. I am allowing myself simply get the thoughts out of my head. Releasing them it into the physical world makes them real. My story needs to be a presence – a sentence may be shit, and I might cringe as I write it, but once typed, it is there ready to be edited.

You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.

Jodi Picoult

So, my book.

What book? The one I affectionately nick name DTDLLTO (working title Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners). My first book, my first novel, my first attempt to tell the truth and have the conviction to carry it through.

I was stuttering with it, but this year, particularly with my new gung ho draft zero approach, it has started to flow from me.

I needed the freedom, the freedom to choose to look inside myself, to find the truths of who I am.

I give myself permission to write it.

What are my truths? What are my stories? Who should be telling my truths and who has the authority to narrate my stories? Well, I’m finding out…..

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.

Maya Angelou

Traps I’m trying to avoid – creating a character in the shadow of me. I started taking all of the parts of my life where I believe I am morally right and getting my character to ‘virtue signal’ through their behaviour.

As Brad Listi says, the reader will spot the puppet strings pretty quickly. It’s bullshit anyway, nobody is that morally pure!

Who am I writing the book for?

Does it even need readers? Am I the author and the reader? Are you the reader? One tip I’ve heard is to imagine how different the story would be if it was read allowed to my mum, or my boss, or my best friend, or YOU! It’s a great exercise in finding the right voice.

In the first draft, everything seems to be all too obvious. It is in no way elegant. Yet. Hopefully this draft will contain the truth though and I can add my wished for subtlety in future drafts. I don’t want to dictate to the reader, whoever that might be.

There weren’t many words last week, about a 1000. What I have achieved is the feeling of why I’m writing this story and I’ve given myself the go ahead to crack on.

Life is confusing. Our emotions are confusing. Our opinions can feel confusing. The challenge for me is to harness all that confusion and let my two main characters in DTDLLTO navigate the swirling waters of truth.

You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.

F Scott Fitzgerald

Social media has us by the balls!

I’m still a Twitter addict and as with every other addiction that I’m recovering from, moderation seems to be an impossible option. I need to find a solution though because I like Twitter for the communities I’m lucky enough to be part of. I’m not great at ‘real life’ socialising, and the running, writing and Coventry City supporting friends I’ve made on Twitter have become important to me.

I’ve installed an app to monitor my internet use and have set limits for the sites I use – It’s working so far I’m pleased to say. Let’s see if more efficient Twitter time translates into more productive writing time!

Come on, let’s hurl ourselves into the next creative week.

Onwards comrades.

A Word After A Word After A Word

The previous week’s update highlighted a patchy performance but I’d still managed a few words – find out more here.

So, how has week 5 gone of my writing comeback?

I guess for anybody except a full time writer, scribbling opportunities will be ‘patchy’ to say the least. Full time writers, I would imagine, have just the same interruptions and distractions as the rest of us, not least from themselves – we can all procrastinate the time away….

I’m an expert of procrastination – Rob Deering on the excellent Running Commentary Podcast joked about writers taking to Twitter and using the hashtag #AMWRITING as opposed to, you know, actually writing! I can be guilty of this, although I do tend to wait for those times when I’m chuffed with myself for the progress I’ve made.

Writing doesn’t need to be complicated, in fact, it being something I do with my precious leisure time, it really should be a joy. And 90% of that time it is.

In the other 10% of the time, I try and remind myself how Margaret Attword tries to make the process of writing a little simpler:

A word after a word after a word is power.

I’m still not running (I know, I’m feeling a little bit sorry for myself!) due to this annoying foot injury, but I did have a run at DTDLLTO (Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners – the working title of my first novel) last week. I found a state of flow several times in the short windows of opportunity I’ve had available, and have written about 2000 words. My first draft, or draft zero, or whatever you want to call it is now sitting at about 11,000 words.

I’m drafting away on my opening scenes, working across the first three chapters. I’m really happy with my two main characters, the setting and what we see them getting up to. When I come back, in however many months time, I’ll be looking to find a less clunky way for them to move to the next phase of the book, the meat of it. My story has quite a powerful and ever present back story which steers and, quite deliberately, hangs a shadow over the present day. I’ll be checking myself that I’m not shoe horning that back story into the narrative, rather letting the reader gradually piece it together for themselves.

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

W. Somerset Maugham

It really is sinking in now, the message that I’ve just got to get the story out of my head and on to paper – creating this draft zero – and then I can zone in and edit it in to shape. So many writers echo the sentiment: “You can’t edit a blank page.”

I’m also getting better at realising that it’s about the story, the thing that is in my head. As writer Steve Almond said recently on The Other PPL Podcast, the point is to create a body of work which reveals the truths behind my writing, not to try and impress with the size of my vocabulary!

AND – I’ve read some cracking flash fiction this week, not least in The Smokelong Quarterly Journal. They also often interview authors about how the pieces came about. I particulalry enjoyed the piece from Corey Farrenkopf recently and the follow up interview. Check it out, if that’s your thing.

So another week goes by.

It’s good, my journal has had plenty of use this week, I’ve listened to and read plenty of writing craft advice, I’m still reading the beautifully written To Paradise and whenever I get the chance, doing the one thing which will keep my projects moving forward, I’m turning up!

Onwards my friends, onwards.

Week IV – The Scribbler’s Return

Following on from a very productive week of being Mr WriterMcWriteyFace, where the words flowed like a burst water main (don’t believe me eh? Have a peek HERE), last week was more of a dripping tap in comparison.

But there have been words. Some of them thrown together to make sentences. Some of which make sense. Others will be edited over and over until they no longer exist, then rewritten before starting the process all over again. It’s all writing though, it all counts.

Seriously though, after getting so much momentum the previous week, this has been a case of ‘After The Lord Mayors Show‘.

A bit like with my fitness goals, it is at these times when I need to pull up my mojo socks and focus. Just keep turning up Kevin, keep on turning up.

James Baldwin knew.

There isn’t a ‘cheat’.

Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance.

James Baldwin

There’s no Monday to Sunday updates this week – just a list of positives:

  • I wrote about 1000 words of DTDLLTO, my novel in draft.
  • There’s a blog post coming, my reminder to myself to be positive.
  • My journal has been very busy – ideas, poem drafts, diary entries.
  • I’ve listened to some brilliant writerly podcasts and other audio.
  • Dreams and half awake thoughts have been committed to paper for inspiration.

Write. No amount of self-inflicted misery, altered states, black pullovers or being publicly obnoxious will ever add up to your being a writer. Writers write. On you go.

A.L. Kennedy

The host of my favourite writerly podcast, OtherPPL, has a book coming out. On the pod this week was a free sample of the audio book, read by the author himself, Brad Listi. Check it out HERE. I do harp on about OtherPPL, but that is because it really is a fine creation. Brad’s podcasts never fail to stoke my creative fires and I reckon his book will be a writerly tonic too.

Also in my ears this week has been Nikesh Shukla’s new writing craft offering, Your Story Matters, which has a fresh and pacy feel to it. Another book which is narrated by the author himself, it is a thoroughly engaging listen.

Shukla reminds us that the word count is only one measure of writing success:

Some days you get those words down quickly, other days you pad it out cos you’re tired or stressed or uninspired or it’s a hard sequence. Don’t write 1000 bad words down just to hit a word count. Think about it in terms of time rather than word count.

I’m also reminding myself that it isn’t just writing that counts as writing: thinking counts as writing, walking and imagining my characters in different surrounding counts as writing. Journaling counts as writing, listening to audiobooks counts as writing. Reading of course, without reading there would be no writing. Reading definitely counts as writing. Browsing, or better still, engaging with Writers HQ, yup that counts as writing. Blogging, diarising, taking about my writing, even tweeting my writerly chums, it all counts as writing. There’s even a tongue in cheek Counts As Writing Twitter account.

So I’m not beating myself over last week’s wordcount, in fact the process of tapping these few words has reinvigorated my get-up-and-sit-down-and-fucking-write-y-ness.

Yup, I’m all over it now.

On on for another week.

It’s Not All About Me

Those that know me well, or have read this blog over the years, will be aware that I do enjoy a spot of running. Oh yes, such a simple sport, just pop on your kicks and out the door you go. That’s how it normally is anyway…….

Right now I’m injured. It’s a foot thing. Luckily it only seems to really hurt when I, er, run. Hmmm. It hurts a bit when I walk, not at all when I’m doing nothing. I still haven’t really got any further with it being diagnosed, despite it originally happening on March 15th.

This is who we’re talking about – my amazing wife, Nicky

Enough.

It’s not all about me.

While I’ve been keeping fit on the turbo trainer, swimming lots and doing my circuit training, Nicky is hard in training for some rather epic events over the summer. I (alongside our faithful Border Terrier Charlie) have been offering enthusiastic support over the last few weeks as Nicky has been out doing events.

Charlie watching Nicky charge to the finish at Parke

We went to Parke Parkrun in Bovey Tracey last weekend and Nicky had a great run. It really is a stunning location to visit and the run route explores the beautiful woodlands, including a couple of naughty hills. It can be a mud fest in winter, but after a dry spell it was more dusty than anything.

Nicky skipped around with her usual determination, hidden by her ever present, gorgeous smile. Me and Charlie stumbled around to offer support. Excellent coffee and vegan cake in the grounds of the house rounded off a marvellous morning.

Just two days later and we find ourselves in Yeovil, 5 years since we’d gone there and both ran close to our fastest 10k’s (which I wrote about here). A very different preparation this year – me hobbling with a support under my foot (so obviously not running!) and Nicky in the middle of heavy training for her epic upcoming events.

Having hinted that she’d be happy with 1h10m, she proceeded to skip over the line alongside the 1 hour pacer! Bloody ace my wife is!

Me & Charlie had a very stressful morning in Yeovil!

She’s following, as best she can with the time available, a plan to get her to her much postponed Ironman in August. On the way though, she’s also got some pretty epic swims planned. If I thought I was heroic knocking out 100 lengths in the pool, she has done as many as 200……… and then gone back in the evening for another 80.

It was pretty chilly on Sidmouth sea front for the race briefing

Not forgetting her casually knocking out long rides of 50 – 80 miles every week on the bike. She’s also done unmpteen half marathons this year! Absolutely inspirational.

The latest of these was The Sid Valley Ring, hosted by Climb Southwest. And there was plenty of climbing on the route I’m reliably informed. It is this type of event where I get jealous of those running. Lots of trails, gorgeous scenery, a bit of coastline, yeah, as an old friend who we bumped into on the day said, “You’d have hated it Kevin!”

But it was great for me and Charlie to have a morning out exploring East Devon trying to catch Nicky at a couple of places. We succeeded and Nicky, and all the other runners too, seemed to be having a ball. Finishing on the sea front in Sidmouth made for a spectacular backdrop to end a fabulous event.

So I’m, as ever, in awe of Nicky, and will be using the example of her determination to keep as fit as I can while I’m injured and to come back stronger and build my running back up to where it was waaaaay back in January when Covid struck.

Onwards…..

The Writing Comeback (Week III)

It’s Not All About The Numbers

Ahh, the blog post you’ve all been waiting for.

Here goes – week three of my writing comeback. Not everything can be measured in numbers.

Not for me anyway. Pleasure should not be quantified, happiness isn’t counted. Not in our house.

There’s a great interview with Zac Smith on this week’s Other PPL Podcast where Zac and host Brad Listi talk about how the pleasure of writing comes in the writing! It sounds obvious but, again forgive my analogy, it is just like running – one step at a time, one word at a time – it clears my mind.

Thinking very much counts as writing

What about progress? Surely I’ve always measured my running – longest distances, fastest times, PBs – and I’m guilty as charges I’m afraid. But it is till mainly about the feeling.

This reboot of mine (read this if you fancy) is all about BEING a writer and just as soon as my foot is healed, it will be about BEING a runner too

Of course I’ll be using numbers to measure my progress! Hopefully writing my estimated 90,000 words of the first draft of the novel, tentatively titled Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners (DTDLLTO) by the end of the year. But a good stint of writing will still be successful, if it FEELS successful, regardless of how many words I get down on the page.

SO, for your (and my) pleasure, here’s week three’s progress (and yes there are some numbers!)

Monday: I finalised and posted two, count ’em, TWO blog posts – Click here to read all about the two months since Nicky and myself became vegans or here to catch up with last week’s writing update.

Making people on paper, much like making them in your uterus, takes a long time, is physically and mentally exhausting, and makes you wee a lot. So brace yourself, we’re going in.

Writers HQ offering a reality check for the writer!

Tuesday: Busy McBusyface didn’t get chance to add words today.

Wednesday: On the timer, I managed 1100 words of the first draft of DTDLLTO. I also pre-ordered David Keenan’s latest offering today. It is a prequel to the extraordinary This Is Memorial Device (which I reviewed here).

Thursday: Busy trying to keep fit and then grandadding, so little time for words. The wonderful non-fiction journal, Hinterland dropped through the letter box today – I managed to read some of the excellent articles in there while little Charlie (the grandson, not the dog – I know it does make for some confusion having a pet and a 10 month old sharing a name) had a sleep.

Friday: Not feeling great. Ran out of time. Bit of noodling with Writers HQ working out how to join the virtual writers’ retreat.

Saturday: We had a bloomin lovely day out I’ll have you know. You can read about it just as soon as I’ve written the next blog post!

Sunday: Writers HQ Online Retreat. If you’re fancying doing a bit of writing and find yourself struggling for time (& money) have a rummage around their website. This was the first time I’ve done one of their writing retreats – which became online when that there pandemic arrived – and what a marvellous success it has been.

It just shows that prioritising writing, sitting at a desk which faces the wall, rather than having the laptop on my actual lap and sitting downstairs by a window, works a treat. For me, writing in chunks of time works so well. I did 5 sets of 30 mins of my novel today and wrote 2990 words of this first drafting. I’m just getting the story out and trying not to edit as I go!

Using my desk to lean on, you’ll be shocked to learn, is more productive than my lap!

A big chunk of wordsmithery time today paid dividends in more ways the number of words. I also started to get a richer understanding of the relationship between my two main characters, I found I could tap into a wider range of emotions, hopefully gradually changing between scenes. When I write in very small time windows, I find I force a feeling into a scene without the context of the scenes either side of it.

As the wonderful AL Kennedy says, once characters start developing through the act writing their lives, they will start to live in the writer’s head more. Thus revealing themselves in greater detail. I’m just letting these two show themselves to me as I go. They haven’t been created from nothing, in many ways they’ve been created from everything. And what a privilege it is to be their narrator.

A Certain Thought To Finish

Now here’s thing. A proper thing.

There’s a certain something about a certain writer. Or a certain podcaster. A certain friend, a certain relative or even a certain random character on Twitter. There is a certain something about these certain people which instantly inspires me to write. There certainly is.

You people know who you are 🙏

Reset The Dials

I’m enjoying the positivity this post has created. Onwards my friends, onwards…..

Born To Run And Write

Quite a lot.

Is the answer.

To what question?

Maybe this one:

Anything new in my life since I wrote this manifesto?

Yup. Quite a lot indeed.

A quarter of the year has now gone. I can’t think of anything in which I’ve achieved anywhere near a quarter of my aims.

Which sounds rather negative when I say it outloud.

To discover what’s been going on, let’s unpack my 2022 manifesto.

My Journal

At least my first pledge is going well! I said I’d write in my journal every single day, and I’m pleased to say that I always, always do. Winning eh? One nil up and we’ve only just kicked off. (Spoiler alert, this isn’t going to be a goal fest!)

Submitting Fiction

Ah. Well, er, well, you see, hhmmm. I’ve submitted a couple of times to Paragraph Planet (with one success!) but, alas, I am…

View original post 1,106 more words

The Writing Comeback (Week 2)

Monday: I published last weeks writing update. I also got stuck into my Writers HQ First Draft course and wrote around 500 words of what I think will be the 2nd chapter, although it may yet become the first. These first two settings are several years apart and one could be a reflection of the other.

I know I should use my desk, but this way I keep the weight off my poorly foot!

Tuesday: I plucked up the courage to ask for help from a couple of people who had volunteered through Twitter to be 1st readers. And having publicly thanked them, I got a veritable barrage of Running Commentary listeners offering to have a read of my piece. *gulp*. I struggle to see myself as a ‘proper’ writer and this felt like a huge step for me.

Tuesday also saw me add 400+ words to DTDLLTO (my first novel, working title Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners, hence DTDLLTO) which is a great start. I’m ‘writing with the door closed’ as per Stephen King’s advice in the brilliant On Writing – he says this first attempt is meant to be rubbish! So, I am writing the first draft for me, getting the story and the characters out of my head and onto paper. I’m trying really hard not to edit as I go, the point is to let it just blurt out. The refining comes later. This is the first time I’ve gathered so much momentum with the book and I intend to embrace it.

AND I started work on a new blog post about becoming a vegan. Considering we were on grandparenting duty, that’s a pretty productive day.

What a bloomin’ joy it is having this little fella to look after.

Wednesday: Time limited, I managed 150 odd words on what is currently chapter 2 of DTDLLTO whilst looking after our youngest grandson, Charlie of course.

Thurs/Fri: I’ve started having replies from the 5 people who are first reading the draft of that short story. It is interesting to see how people react to something I’ve written. Let me tell you it is a leap of faith to get other people involved, but one I know will only improve my writing. I shall leave the story festering in a drawer for a week before starting any edits. One possibility is that it is actually part of a much grander piece, and not a short story at all. I’m hoping that once I start editing, the story will reveal itself to me further.

Also on Friday, I started scribbling some notes for a piece I plan to contribute to The Creative Nonfiction Podcast. It is a quirky podcast, the host, Brendan O’Meara talks in riffs, with nods to his favourite metal bands. I was soon on his wavelength though and this has become one of my go-to pods. He interviews authors, journalists and feature writers about the art of creating non-fiction which has the same kerb appeal as fiction. I enjoy writing nonfiction, particularly these blog posts and often think I should spend a bit more time developing the themes. Brendan has a twice yearly audio magazine alongside the podcast and picks the content from listeners’ submissions. For anybody fancying a go, the deadline is 31st October, the theme is ‘codes’ and it needs to be 2000 words (about a 15 minute listen when spoken out loud).

Saturday: I’m now pushing towards 1000 words of chapter two, and another 500ish of what I think will be the first chapter. Got into a bit of a groove this evening, it sometimes feels a bit like running does, when it’s good it is very very good. There’s a rhythm and flow where time just slides by unnoticed. Saturday’s writing felt just like that.

Sunday: Today was about finishing my blog post about becoming a vegan (which I’m very proud of – both the blog and the fact of it!) and putting that aside for one final edit. We all lead busy lives, and unless we happen to be one of the few who are talented enough (and fortunate enough) to be paid to write, we fit it around everything else in our lives.

A good week with the pen & laptop I reckon.

I have started To Paradise this week. 100 pages in (of the 700 or so!) and after devouring Yanagihara’s A Little Life a couple of years ago, I reckon she’s right up there with the best when it comes to prose at the sentence level.

But Where Will You Get Your Protein?

“I’m not looking for someone to cook for!”

Nicky, my better half, announced on our first date.

This suited me fine as I love cooking.

I moved in with Nicky once that became easier than trying to get me to remove all of my belongings. I’d accidently left things each time I visited. From that day on, I have probably cooked about three quarters of our meals. And we’ve always eaten well I think.

And then we became vegans, and our kitchen dynamic changed.

But before we get on to that, let’s back track….. We’ve talked about become vegan for a few years now. Many of the endurance athletes we look up to have a vegan lifestyle. Not only are these guys and girls at the pointy end of their sports, they always look so flippin well.

We talk about becoming vegans, then it stalls. Again. We just couldn’t imagine ourselves without a roast, or cheese, or without chicken in our curry………

It was a cycle we were stuck in. But each time it came around, the subject was getting more and more agenda time at our house meetings. We needed something, we knew not what, to push us over the line.

We did genuinely asked ourselves the protein question (chick peas, tofu, oats, nuts, lentils….. pretty much every ingredient as it turns out). We also worried the food would be boring and predictable, although we knew our regular go-to dishes had become boring and predictable anyway.

Change was coming.

The decider for me happened about six months before we actually made the leap. I was running in a 100k event, The Ham And Lyme. It is an out-and-back course starting and finishing in Lyme Regis and turning at Ham Hill in Somerset. Out-and-back that is, unless you get lost (twice!) during the ‘out’ section! If, like me, you are that getting lost type runner, you will only experience some of the actual course on the way back (I added about 5 bloomin’ kilometres to my day!)

One of the sights I didn’t see until I was on my way back was a massive, I mean MASSIVE, factory dairy farm. I will not describe it here, but all I could think was, I want no further part in this.

I’m not that strong though am I? Six months later, still eating animal products, and I get wiped out by Covid. On the couple of days during which I was genuinely fearful for my health with the virus, I started really questioning some of my life choices. I’d trained so feckin’ hard all winter to be ready for The Arc 50 and here I was, a week before the event, unable to climb the stairs. I know the virus was the cause, but I felt, at that low point, it was time to make some changes.

My two favourite podcasts are Running Commentary and Other PPL. One of the presenters of Running Commentary, Rob Deering and Other PPL host, Brad Listi happen to be vegans. Neither have ever come across as preachy in anyway but if it ever comes up, they are both proud, happy and feel good on their plant based diet. In one interview on Other PPL, Listi made the comment I’ve used myself, he wanted no further part in the violence of it all. That has stayed with me, always will I think. On a lighter note, I also remember Deering recounting a trip abroad (I want to say Dubai but I might be wrong), after asking the waiting staff at a restaurant for their vegan options, he was offered a chicken salad!

I knew, Nicky knew, we both knew, that our snacking habits contributed to us always exhibiting a bit more ‘love handle’ than we would ideally like to. But more than that, our conversations about becoming vegans had become so frequent, so serious that we were both ready for that final trigger.

The trigger arrived in Cornwall. Enjoying the trip whilst convalescing from Covid, I sauntered into The Bookseller in St Ives and purchased (along with a few other titles, I mean it would be rude not to) Ed Winter’s new book, Vegan Propaganda. I absolutely promised not to become ‘preachy’, although, 65 days in to our vegan journey, I get it, so if you fancy reading Ed Winter’s remarkable book then the link is there. It had a massive impact on me. It brought me to tears, reaffirmed much of what I already knew or believed and the book definitely gave us that final push.

Here’s where the story gets fun.

Nicky absolutely went for it. We both did. But Nicky was in charge of the kitchen before I could say ‘black bean burrito’! She was now definitely happy to have someone to cook for!

We have acquired several amazing vegan cook books, the best of which is BOSH! and Nicky set to equipping and stocking our kitchen to accommodate our new way of eating.

I’ve been keeping a diary of how we feel and what we are eating. We are just over two months along as I write and I can honestly say, I have never eaten so well. “We’re eating like kings!” I tell anyone who will listen. And I mean it, we are enjoying food like never before. In the 60+ days since we’ve been vegan, we’ve only eaten one meat substitute meal – that was some sausages which were actually rather splendid.

Our stomachs took some adjusting to our new routine, we definitely live on the windy South West peninsula! During the first week we both felt odd somehow, very hard to explain. By the very nature of the foods we cook with, our fibre intake has increased. This is healthy of course, but takes a bit of adjusting to. Oat milk has been introduced to the fridge which is great in coffee and we’ve both stopped having breakfast cereal.

We bought one of those Nutribullet thingies and have a smoothie to start every day. This has really helped with cutting down food waste, it is amazing how a bit of overly soft cucumber can get mixed in unnoticed.

“But what are you going to EAT?”

a very close family member asked

They were genuinely concerned. Well, I’ve littered this post with pictures of our meals and my dear mother needn’t have worried. In fact, she’s now enjoying finding out how we’re doing and devoured the vegan roast loaf dinner we cooked for them.

The positives so far?

We are certainly sleeping better, we’ve both lost a healthy amount of weight without even thinking about it and we feel we are taking steps which are vital for our long term health as well as the health of the world we live in.

Write Back Where I Belong

Week One Of The Comeback Is Complete

Well if the tax year started last week, then why shouldn’t the writing year, or for that matter the running year.

Running

Ahhh, the running year has got off to a hobbling start. I did go for a run on Tuesday. I quickly, and sadly, learned that my toe, foot thing definitely hasn’t healed. Luckily it only hurts when I use it……

Trying to be positive though, I can still do all the non weight bearing stuff in the gym and have swam a startling number of lengths during the week. I know I’m lucky to still be able to use my energy and I’ll wait for an actual medical professional to diagnose my foot rather than using Dr Google!

Writing

Monday: I finished writing, edited and published a blog post. It is the first self reflection on my writing for, oo, too fucking long. Clicketyclick HERE to have a butchers.

Tuesday: I pulled out a piece of flash fiction, or is it a short story, which has been working its way to the front of my consciousness for a week or so. Its working title is Why I Became A Grass and it was sparked by an unusually quiet shop I regularly walk past which appears to be thriving without ever seeming to have a customer!? about 700 words drafted.

Wednesday: I gave up on any notion that there isn’t something wrong with my fucking foot. In it’s last hurrah we finally got all the baby stuff in the loft and moved the electric piano upstairs. Phew!!

Anyway, a bit more work on the piece I was writing yesterday. Just another 500ish words today.

I’m pleased to say, he bloomin’ loves the library.

Thursday: reached 1700 words in my short story / flash fiction and called it 1st draft. It’s got a couple of lead characters, a bit of a story and a sort of truth running through it. I will return and edit and then consider 1st readers.

Also on Thursday, I spent some time reading poetry craft books. We took our youngest grandson, Charlie, to the library and managed to find a few books for myself as well as him! I’ve remembered that I appeared in an anthology last year and have had a couple of pieces featured here and there. So, with a motivational “c’mon Kevin!” I’m making the most of every moment to get some words scribbled.

Friday: I started a random stream of consciousness project on Scrivener. Some of the writing I’ve enjoyed most has started using this method. I just set a timer and write the words that appear in my head for 20 minutes or however long is available to me. I have to thank the brilliant Writers HQ for getting me into using the timer. I set the timer on my phone and then put it on the other side of the room. I find I can get into a zen like state and my writing becomes meditative. So much so, I’m often shocked and disappointed when the time is up! This particular project started with me typing “I need to be less easily distracted” and finished with a pretty strong story idea set around a massive clock in a railway station.

Saturday: I set about preparing to collate all the pieces I’ve written so far towards my novel. I started scribbling around with it (working title Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners) in 2018. It has been a hit and miss affair as regards making progress, but I worked through the Plotstormers course on Writers HQ, trying to put the parts I have written into some sort of order. And now I’m using their First Draft modules to help me build up some momentum. If the first draft of DTDLLTO is to be 90,000 words or so, I need to write an average of about 400 a day if I’m to have a body of work ready for editing by the end of the year. Doesn’t sound like much……….

Sunday: I guess this was contemplation day!

My journal is still getting its daily words too and, you know what, I’m really enjoying my writing again. Which is all I really need from it.

In the words of the great A.L. Kennedy, onwards………..