Reset The Dials

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 yet to enter the Friday Flash Fiction Face Off at Writers HQ. It just hasn’t happened. Read on to find out why?

Obviously work has to be fitted in occasionally too!

The Novel

I don’t even need to look back to remind myself of this pledge! I know it was to work for two hours every single week. And I know I haven’t. And I’m disgusted with myself. Disgusted I am. What’s going on? Read on to find out.

This Blog

I don’t need to look back for these pledges either! I know I’ve not contributed a single post since the turn of the year. Not one. To think there was a time when I hoped to review every book I’ve read, never mind any other posts I fancied writing. It’s not going very well is it, this manifesto. Imagine if you’d voted for me and it turned out I couldn’t keep a single promise I’d made….

Reading

Well, at least some success here to report. I pledged I’d buy from independent publishers and book shops and I’m pleased to say I’ve been good with that. Looking at my to-be-readpile alongside books I’ve read waiting for Nicky to enjoy, there’s a few there which have come direct from indies as well as a couple bought in independent book shops.

I haven’t one poem a day (another of my pledges) but I have acquired a few fine volumes and do enjoy a few poems each week.

I also pledged to read at least 6 books (over the course of 2022) which were published at least 10 years ago. The idea being that I don’t simply follow the current fads and trends (although I hope I never have) and browsed the shelves more. Reading is happening a lot more slowly this year, for the reasons you’ll discover if you can bear to read on. I have been buying a few older books though, and have added to the backlog with some excellent charity shop hauls. So far in 2022 I’ve read these books, check out my lists from 2021 and 2020 too.

Running, Health and Fitness

I never made any pledges for my running, other than to run as much as I can and/or want to. The events I listed in my manifesto are either long gone or fast approaching and I’m not looking like toeing the start line of any of them. Read on to discover why.

As for my health, well quite a lot has happened to impact my hopes for 2022. I’ve had some serious down time and have not been hitting my strength and conditioning targets. But, I don’t feel I’ve let myself down as there has been a dramatic hit to my health this year. As I keep saying, read on……

Why Oh Why And Why Again

The Good Stuff

We bloomin’ love him, and he seems quite happy to knock about with us oldies!

Nanny & Grandad Daycare: We look after our latest grandson, Charlie, 3 days a week. He is an absolute delight, a bubbly baby with a zest for life. But maybe we didn’t quite acknowledge just how tiring this might be! It is an absolute joy to spend the time with him and watch him grow and develop.

This simply shuffles other things down the league table of priorities. And sometimes we just want to eat (ah, eating…. read on my friend, read on) and chill. Picking up a pen and notebook, or sitting at my desk typing gives way to a binge of Drive To Survive or something similar.

Call the cute police!

As we become more accustomed to our roles, I’m sure we’ll find more of our other leisure pursuits fitting in to the time available (hence this blog post happening now). None of our challenges have disappeared they’ve simply been moved around to suit our lifestyle.

Talking Of Lifestyle: We have Become Vegans: And what a bloomin’ transformation this has been. We’ve both made difficult decisions before in our lives. We’ve both found better tracks to follow over the years and feel blessed that we ended up on the same track as each other. But this lifestyle change has been such a shift in thinking and everything about it has been positive. Neither of us are interested in becoming preachy about veganism, we just know it is exactly right for us. This was the moment when everything aligned for us to make the change.

And don’t worry, we’re getting plenty of protein!

In fact, as I keep telling people, we are eating like a king and queen. The final push to make the change was probably as a result of something far less positive.

The Bad Stuff: Covid

I wasn’t a happy bunny!

As anyone who was willing to listen, or to read this blog, would know, Nicky and I have a real love affair with Cornwall (Nicky was born at Long Rock for a start) and particularly the many coastal running events we’ve enjoyed down there. This year I was finally going to toe the line of the iconic Arc Of Attrition 50 and I had trained well throughout the autumn and winter, I was ready. About 10 days before The Arc I started to feel a bit ill, and a couple of days later I was testing positive, coughing relentlessly and felt truly awful. Luckily, Nicky got off pretty lightly, but I took to the box room and curled up in a ball of self pity. I was testing negative by race day but was getting breathless so quickly I couldn’t have contemplated 12 hours on the remotest, most challenging coastline in the far southwest of Cornwall.

Covid seemed to impact everything for those couple of weeks, and certainly sucked the energy and zest out of me, and to a certain extent Nicky. I don’t want to be dramatic but I couldn’t even be bothered to read my book and certainly didn’t write anything.

For those who were wondering how Charlie is. He’s still going strong in his 13th year.

Recovery from Covid is ongoing and I’m nursing a niggly foot after standing on a rock. DOH!

We’ve got so much to be thankful for though and I will never take for granted that I have been blessed with sharing my life with such a wonderful, funny, clever, inspiring, encouraging and quite beautiful lady wife Nicky. Not only that, our amazing family , our returning health and living in such a gorgeous part of the world.

As for my personal challenges, let’s just see where it all goes.

Being Accountable #2 Feb 2021

I started the year making a series of pledges to myself. Not a New Year resolution, more of a map of where I’d like to be heading. I made my manifesto public, and now I’m holding myself to account. January went pretty well, let’s have a look at February’s progress.

More than ever, the last year has shown us we need to expect the unexpected. Well, the unexpected came with a rather debilitating stomach bug which meant I had a few days of not straying too far from the domestic personal facilities. Sadly, this coincided with some time off work and mine and Nicky’s birthdays. All better now and eating strongly again! It curtailed my running a bit but my reading and writing barely noticed the interruption.

Writing – Submissions

I’m going to submit a minimum of one piece of writing to a literary journal every single week during 2021.

On it!

A total of seven pieces of flash fiction, poetry and even my first ever non-fiction submission are all in the hands of various magazines or literary journals. It was lovely to hear one of my poems being read out by the mellow tones of Kristen, the editor-in-chief at Unpublishable Zine. I also entered a 500 word flash fiction piece into a weekly competition (and no, I didn’t win). Whether these get accepted (or indeed win) isn’t really the point, I’m challenging myself to invite critical comment and becoming more comfortable with knowing complete strangers are reading my words.

What about my novel?

My target is 2500 words a week of the first draft. This should comfortably complete the draft by the end of 2021

Lots of news. It is amazing where inspiration can be found. Where shall I start? Firstly I’ve re-joined the great Writers HQ. They promote themselves as a writers tool box for those of us short of time and money. Tick. They have a regular Couch To 5k month but for words rather than running. A daily email offers prompts, hopes, exercises and reassurance. They have a good old online forum (in the real world I guess this would be a reading group). This has definitely given me a boost. With my notebook and the typed pages on the laptop I’ve written around 12,000 words. Some have already been discarded, others have morphed into a separate story. Even if they all end up being rewritten, I feel good about where my writing is.

I’ve also found a new podcast, Unsound Methods. Two writers who write ‘literary fiction’ interview other authors (generally from the less commercial areas of writing) about their craft and methods. I found the podcast via the author David Keenan (more of him later).

And As For The Blog

I made quite a pledge for this:

I’m going to email at least one ‘trail running character’ every 14 days to see if they fancy being featured. I’m going to add new content to the blog. Every Single Week. I’m going to review at least one book a month.

So, my series about Trail Running Characters hhhhmmmmm, I’ve now got 7 outstanding invitations (plus one who declined the offer, “not for us mate”. So I think I’m going to drop that particular pledge and concentrate on my book blogs and anything else which piques my interest.

In February, I’ve managed to post 4 book reviews, including one of the afore mentioned David Keenan’s This Memorial Device. This book has contributed so much to my reading and writing. To describe it as quirky would be underselling it. Experimental? Maybe. Individual, definitely.

So in March I’ll be changing my blogging goals to a simpler “at least one post a week“.

The Journal (and other scribblings)

I shall write in my journal. Every. Single. Day. Just thoughts. Observations. Even a note to say nothing of noteNever dismiss a thought – it will end up being used somewhere.

This is going really well. I use my journal every single day. Just for very basic notes on how life is that day plus any thoughts, however small on ideas for my writing. This is particularly handy when I’m on a break at work (or even in between deliveries if I really don’t want to forget something.)

What About My Reading?

Well, seeing as you asked:

I’m going to buy one book a month from an independent publisher, by an author I haven’t read before. And I’m going to read a minimum of 6 books during 2021 which were published at least ten years ago.

Some independently produced poetry keeps me amused on a break

This is going along nicely. Check out my reading list for 2021 which is up to 14 books so far.

If you are looking for some short fiction, poetry or creative non fiction to read, you could do worse than try some of these online beauties: Dodging The Rain, Open Page and Moxy Magazine. If any of my work were to be accepted by one of them I be a proud bunny.

I had a lovely package from Galley Beggar Press arrive, a free short story and a couple of off-the-wall postcards accompanied the book I’d ordered. So, alongside some independently published poetry, this satisfies my pledge to buy from independent publishers.

As for older books, I read We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, whose originally publication was a hundred years ago! So that box is ticked too.

And Not Forgetting My Running Of Course

I’m still tackling The Goat 2 (run elevation gain equivalent to that of the SW Coast Path in Devon and Cornwall in 4 months). My elevation climbed in 2021 is up to 65,000ft, so there’s still about 45,000 feet to go, but I’m ahead of target. This is despite having nearly a week out with a rather disruptive stomach bug! You can see in my chart which week that is. All my running had been pretty local in line with current guidance. That hasn’t stopped me and Nicky continuing our adventures on the trails we’re lucky enough to have accessible to us.

Other Fitness And Health Pledges

BUT, I will pledge this: I will, every single day, do either some conditioning work, strength exercises, stretches or other body maintenance.

I can’t lie, I’ve slacked. The month started well and ended well but the lurgy I had took my mojo, which is only now coming back. I have got myself a really good all over conditioning and stretching routine which only takes about 30 minutes, so I’ll be back doing that three times a week in March. And I’ll be getting that plank duration extended. Oh yes I will…..

And Lastly, The Dreaded Food Pledge

So, I am going to not snack at work. I’m going to only snack during evenings after big (as in 2 hours plus) training days. Puddings will still be the law after roast dinners of course. 

February is ending on a Sunday, just like January did. So once again I say “At the time of writing, a rather delicious GU Zillionaire Cheesecake is settling on top of my roast dinner! So I’m keeping that up…..”

Still the law!

Actually, I’m not doing too bad with this. Having a bad stomach certainly helped curtail my urges to snack. There have been a few ‘comfort’ lapses, but on the whole I’m where I’d like to be with food. Without really trying to, I’ve also lost weight and to be honest, I probably needed to shed a pound or 10. The fact that this has been an almost accidental by product of trying to be healthier is great.

We step into March tomorrow, always a challenging month for me, with too many sad anniversaries and birthdays we no longer celebrate. I’m determined to create a positive vibe out of it all though.

Good things are coming………

Being Accountable #1 Jan 2021

I started the year making a series of pledges to myself. Not a New Year resolution, more of a map of where I’d like to be heading. I made my manifesto public, and now I’m holding myself to account.

January has been and gone, let’s see what targets I’ve kept to.

Writing – Submissions

I’m going to submit a minimum of one piece of writing to a literary journal every single week during 2021.

Technically I’ve fallen short, but I have submitted a total of 5 pieces during January, so my average is still good. Amazingly, I’ve had one poem accepted already by Unpublishable Zine and they are going to feature a reading of it on an upcoming podcast. I’ve got another poem and a piece of creative non-fiction which I’m building up the courage to submit, so February is already looking strong.

What about my novel?

My target is 2500 words a week of the first draft. This should comfortably complete the draft by the end of 2021

I’m behind with this, I can’t lie. Although I have put plenty of work into the plot and the characters. My previously written chapters have been scrapped as I’ve decided to change the narrator. I’ve written about 7000 words of the re workings of those chapters and have the basis of the plot and timeline coming together nicely.

My running buddy, my inspiration, my first reader and my complete world.
(The lady in yellow is pretty special too!)

I’ve also had a meeting with my first reader, editorial advisor, plot hole filler who just happens to be my rather gorgeous wife. I say meeting, she patiently listened to me reeling off my ideas for the direction of the book on one of our long dog walks. This was such a valuable exercise and the change of narrator came from this brain storming session.

So no, I haven’t written 2,500 words a week, but I have moved the project on dramatically. I’m actually using some of the free resources from the excellent Writers HQ to help me with the plot and characters. I’ve also got a great book, The Creative Writing Course Book, which I picked up the last time we went in an actual bookshop, nearly a year ago.

And As For The Blog

I made quite a pledge for this:

I’m going to email at least one ‘trail running character’ every 14 days to see if they fancy being featured. I’m going to add new content to the blog. Every Single Week. I’m going to review at least one book a month.

So, my series about Trail Running Characters was always going to be a long term project. I have 3 people who I’ve emailed who are up for being involved and will reply as and when time allows. I’ve also had somebody decline the invitation!

I’ve written two Book Reviews and published them during January in a total of 5 new posts. These included a personal piece about how much Nicky and I love a book or ten.

The Journal (and other scribblings)

I shall write in my journal. Every. Single. Day. Just thoughts. Observations. Even a note to say nothing of noteNever dismiss a thought – it will end up being used somewhere.

Yup. All over this. I keep a complete record of my writing, reading, submitting progress every day. As I do with my running and anything else I feel is noteworthy. This is already paying off – a major ‘scene’ in the book came from taking the time to write some detail down before I forgot it. I have quite a few ideas while driving the van, I do wonder what customers think I’m scribbling when I’m sat outside their houses. Without the journal, I’m absolutely sure these thoughts would have been lost to an unreliable memory.

In Other News

I’ve upped the game with my Instagram presence. Why? Well, through the medium of Twitter, I become friends with a guy who has just published his debut novel. He invited me to be part of the ‘blog tour’ which will accompany the launch of the paper back version of Let In The Light. So I have been the lucky reciprocate of an advance copy of the book. I’m so pleased because I couldn’t put it down, it really is excellent. As I sit here typing, Nicky is opposite me already half way through the book herself. I can’t wait to write a full review.

I would really like to get involved with more book reviewing, and not just in the ad-hoc manner I currently am.

What About My Reading?

Funny you should ask. Remember, I pledged this:

I’m going to buy one book a month from an independent publisher, by an author I haven’t read before. And I’m going to read a minimum of 6 books during 2021 which were published at least ten years ago.

Not only that, I said I would read at least one poem a day. I’m keeping a record of the poems I read in my journal, I’ve got a couple of great anthologies I select from. I’ve also bought some sublime literary journals and am reading poems (as well as short fiction and creative non-fiction) from those too. Check out Hinterland and Under The Radar yourself.

The are also some great online journals which are mostly free to read. I’ve been enjoying Orange Blush and Book Of Matches amongst others.

I’d be a proud man if my work could feature alongside some of the the great writing on offer in any of the above oublications.

I’ve got a book from Galley Beggar Press on the way and I read W.S. Maugham’s A Painted Veil which is getting on for 100 years old! So I’m doing ok with my reading.

And Not Forgetting My Running Of Course

I do like a bit of mud to run on!

I pledged not to follow a training program but to keep myself as fit as possible whilst not becoming depleted and leaving myself weak if Covid were to strike. I’m tackling two challenges from Bys Vyken (read my piece on the Cornish event organisers here.) namely Lamps On Lockdown (run 50 miles in the hours of darkness over a 4 week period) and The Goat 2 (run elevation gain equivalent to that of the SW Coast Path in Devon and Cornwall in 4 months). I’m nearing the end of my headtorch running and about a third of my way through the hills! These have both kept me focussed and running regularly.

Consistent running to start the year.

Other Fitness And Health Pledges

BUT, I will pledge this: I will, every single day, do either some conditioning work, strength exercises, stretches or other body maintenance.

This is also happening! Nicky and I have a strength routine which we put together ourselves. It can be done indoors and takes 25 minutes or so. We’re both doing this 3 or 4 times a week. On the other days I just do my plank – I got up to 1 min 30 secs quite quickly but haven’t shown any signs that I could better that.

And Lastly, The Dreaded Food Pledge

So, I am going to not snack at work. I’m going to only snack during evenings after big (as in 2 hours plus) training days. Puddings will still be the law after roast dinners of course. 

At the time of writing, a rather delicious GU Zillionaire Cheesecake is settling on top of my roast dinner! So I’m keeping that up…..

Still the law!

Joking aside, this is going rather well. Combined with my consistent running and general fitness (not to mention being relentlessly busy at work). There’s the occasional lapse in the evening, but I’m really pleased to be a bit lighter than the blob I became over Christmas. I even had to get the drill out to put a new hole in my belt!

All in all, despite *everything* I reckon I’ve stayed pretty focussed on the positives in January. We’ve stayed safe and tried to enjoy every spare moment with each other and our music, fitness, writing and books.

Let’s see what February can offers us……