During these last couple of weeks a lot of my time has been thinking about a new venture.
It’s nothing big but instead I feel it could be something that would compliment the blog pretty well. It’s still miles off completion. As a matter of fact I’ve not even lifted a spade yet, but that’s kinda the point of this weeks post.
In the past this new idea would have been batted back and forth so long in my mind it would have eventually disintegrated completely without a trace. It would have remained as one of those ‘what if?’ ideas. Not now. No sir-ee. This new idea is going to be struck upon whilst it is still fresh in thee ol’ noggin.
I’m going to start before I’m ready.
I have no idea how to even begin this new venture but I’m going to give it a go anyway. I’ll figure it out along the way. I’ll learn as I go.
And yes, resistance is still there loitering around in the background. But where resistance used to be a pretty decent sized monster in my mind, I have now managed to downsize it to the point that it resembles an awkward, fumbling teenager. Who has just started smoking and looks uncomfortable holding a cigarette. And it has really bad acne.
Resistance now has a much quieter, much more squeaky voice.
For instance, a year ago I would never have dreamed about doing what I’m about to do… Scratch that. I would have. But it would have remained a dream. I certainly would never have blogged about it. And I definitely wouldn’t have given it a go without some serious, half-hearted investigating.
Once again I’m going to use this blog to hold me accountable. Just like my book, if it fails then no big deal. What I’ve learned over the duration of this blog is that, whilst I am genuinely grateful that you (many regularly) take the time out of your day to bother reading this, in actual fact nobody really cares that much. Everyone is busy leading their own lives and whilst its possible to build ideas up in your own mind to the point that they are all consuming… Nobody really cares that much. And that is kind of liberating.
I’m lucky enough to have many creative friends and acquaintances and my plan is to hold long form interviews with them about creativity.
I’ve never owned a house but I’ve made plenty homes.
Apartments, flats, a studio, houses. You name it, I’ve rented it. You can make a comfortable home out of rented accommodation no problem at all but as for the physical four walls with a lid on top. Nope.
In my 20’s I always felt that having a mortgage would pin me down. Rightly or wrongly I found the very idea constrictive and the literal translation of mortgage (death pledge) utterly disconcerting.
All around me my friends bought their houses yet I never did. I was glad I never had a mortgage when Naomi and I left Scotland on our travels. We met plenty other travellers enduring the headache and anxiety of covering bills whilst they cavorted around South East Asia whilst we were pretty much free to roam. A few years previously, when the economy crashed I was grateful that I never had to endure the dread of negative equity and sinking house prices.
Yet with pros you will always have cons. The short term-ism which goes hand in hand with renting means you never truly invest in your future. You wont buy that couch, that bed, that awesome piece of art. You constantly tell yourself, ‘What’s the point? I’ll be out of here in six months anyway.’ The ‘forever’ items aren’t worth buying, or they are already there waiting for you in your fully furnished apartment. I’ve been repeatedly told that I’m throwing my money away, that I’m paying off someone else’s death pledge. And I am. Hands up. You got me. And if I want to look at uber long term renting then I can kiss the idea of retirement goodbye.
Naomi and I have a new problem. Not unique. But new to us. The question has been bubbling away for a while now.
Where is home? That is an entirely different question when put into context that we emigrated over four years ago.
It’s the ultimate question you can ask any ex-pat and you’ll get a different answer each time.
‘Why would you want to go home?’
‘Some day I’ll go back.’
‘Home is for holidays.’
‘Back home the coffee is always in the same cupboard.’
‘You’ll never know where home is. You will always think it is the place you just left.’
That particularly cheery last quote came from a Polish bloke I work with who has lived in Australia since the 80’s. Since. The. 80’s. And even he is still none the wiser. Mind you he is possibly the most miserable person I’ve ever encountered in my life.
(I think I have just passed judgement on someone for the first time on this blog. Oh well, it’s the truth.)
A particularly common answer to the question Where is home? is ‘Why would I go back? Nothing changes at home.’ It relates back to the ‘… coffee is in the same cupboard’ gem. Yeah, maybe nothing changes at home and who is to say that is a bad thing? There is a lot to be said for continuity. Most people in the would shudder at the idea of having to up-root every year or so. It never used to bother me.
Home may not have changed but maybe I have.
(Speaking of home my mum is trying to Facetime me so I must go.)
Over the last week I’ve noticed that I’ve been holding on too tight.
Every waking moment I was thinking about my book. I was getting obsessive. Although I was ticking all the boxes on the ‘man/dad/husband’ to-do list by taking care of Ethan at the weekends whilst Naomi worked, working myself as usual, making dinners, breakfasts and taking the wee man out to parks and doing fun stuff, my mind was elsewhere.
What made it worse was that I was getting irritable. I was counting the minutes until I could get back to writing and cursing the minutes I couldn’t.
Simply put, I was not present with my family.
My Dad has always said that the best thing you can give a child is your time. ‘That’s all they want.’ He said. I suppose everything else comes after that. But, and here’s the thing that we all know, time is the only commodity that we don’t get back. And there is another catch. There is no point in spending that precious time with your family if you are not present.
When Naomi and I first started dating she used to call me Instant Grat Gav. (Instant Gratification Gav). I was all about knocking every laugh, beer and good time out of every minute. Gavin was pretty expensive back then. Recently I have been the polar opposite. Everything has been about the future, mapping out the next few years and figuring how to get there. I’m missing out on the now.
So I decided to take a different approach. I let go.
I turned my attention back to my family and the things I enjoy in life. Simple pleasures. I consciously practiced that piece of advice my Dad had given me by not taking it as lightly as I had before. I was deliberate in my approach. I laid off writing the book and stopped my obsessing, I was present with Ethan 100% of the time and instead of writing my book I read three novels. I lightened the fuck up.
I had backed off and instantly I became far happier. There was a slight but noticeable difference with Ethan too. We laughed together more, he interacted with me more and he we were both less whingey. And I also had a small revelation concerning my book. I had previously feared letting up on my progress but instead, as I released my vice-like grip I was rewarded.
So with that being said, and after having gone out for dinner with my family, I’m going to write more of my book.
The writing of the book has taken a bit of a back seat over the last few weeks. The reason for this was that I hadn’t a clue what to write.
Not writers block. It was something more fundamental than that.
I had found that as I got further into my book I was finding gaps within the plot. You would think that someone writing a book would have a lovely plot all thought out and crafted before a single word had been written. Not me. As I’ve said before I had a rough idea and I charged on. These ideas changed as I went and before I knew it my story was no longer anything like my initial idea. The main characters were the same but they were getting up to all sorts of different things. My chapters were scenes and the scenes were clunky.
The book didn’t flow.
So what did I do?
I did what I always do. I flaked out. I got incredibly anxious and started acting irrationally. All the usual symptoms were there; the incoherent ramblings, a little swearing, running my hands through my hair, a beer was launched down my throat. All shockingly stereotypical of the image of a writer I have in my mind.
Trust me, being lost inside your own book is a crap feeling. It’s like suffocating in the very pages you have written. (Wasn’t this meant to be fun?)
Eventually sanity arrived.
There has been one constant in all the time I’ve spent writing this book. My wife, Naomi. She encouraged me from the get go, the one who told me I could do it, and I know she is the one who will get me to the finish line (no pressure, Love). She has helped me so much in the process of writing this book that it wouldn’t be the same without her. That is no understatement.
She advised me to write out each chapter on a post-it card and lay the chapters out on the kitchen table from start to finish. Within minutes gaps became glaringly obvious and in other places it turned out there were no gaps at all.
How do I fix the problem of the gaps?
Each problem chapter/ gap gets subdivided into mini scenes. Those scenes then get written out on a corresponding post-it card. In other words, I get granular with the plot. This way I can create a flow to the story which is (hopefully) dynamic and keeps a readers interest.
It also means I can work through my book in a systematic fashion. I pick up one post it card and write it up until its finished and then move onto the next. Eventually, some day I’ll complete my book.
Every man needs a hobby, and my hobby just happens to be making beer.
Yup… Delicious, frothy, beautiful (sometimes not so great nor frothy) beer.
Out here in Australia the home brew industry is thriving due to the eye watering cost of brand beers. You can go all out Breaking Bad style and have a full on mini brewery in your garage or you can pick up a simple kit from the supermarket. (No prizes for guessing that I’ve got the supermarket number).
I picked up my first home brew kit nearly two years ago and despite my best of intentions the results have been varied. From a very decent stout, which passed the Pepsi challenge with one Irish friend to a decidedly rank swill which was meant to be a pale ale. I’ve had trouble producing consistently good beer.
Tonight I cracked the first bottle of a new batch and I’m happy to say it’s my best effort yet. And it’s all down to one simple gadget. A temperature control.
I’ll try and not get all technical on you here so I’ll give it my best shot in laymans terms. (Hang on until I take the tongue out of my cheek)
You know yeast? If you can’t keep your brew at a steady temperature the yeast goes mental. And when the yeast goes mental it gives off the taste of, well… Home brew.
Hence the temperature control.
The temperature of the brew was steady. The beer tastes mighty fine.
I’d love to share the recipe, but I don’t have one. Much like most things in my life, I just charged on and hoped for the best. I have used the same technique with varying degrees of success throughout my life for cooking, writing, education, playing football and getting married.
As for the alcohol content.
I have no idea.
All I know is that I’ve drank a couple already and writing this post feels kinda loose to me.