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.
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.
I’ve been geeking out on a guy called Simon Sinek recently. Simon is a business strategist, author and speaker who has the third most viewed TED talk of all time. His theories flip the archetypal business models on their heads by simply asking the question why?
So after viewing a few of his videos on youtube I got thinking of the why behind my book.
Why should you be interested in what I’ve got to say in my book?
Why should you even be bothering reading my blog?
Why am I even doing it all in the first place?
I have a load of different answers ranging from, “I believe my book has a few messages worth sharing”, “I’m hoping you are reading my blog in order to find out how this is all going to pan out”, to “It’s the first thing I ever really wanted to do.” And it is the latter answer which drives me the most.
I read books as a kid. I absorbed them. I loved Roald Dahl and The Hardy Boys. I loved that a library van appeared at the top of my street every Tuesday night at 6pm. I can still remember the smell of the portable gas fire the librarian had set up in the back of the long narrow, slightly damp van. I remember trying to rent out Bram Stokers Dracula and the librarian telling me that he didn’t think it would be suitable for me. I remember a book I got as a birthday gift when I was a kid which was called The Nightmare Man. (Actually a pretty scary kids book about a shadowy figure with a birdlike face who appeared at night at the foot of a boys garden. Loved that book. I can still remember the cover.)
As I got older I loved to draw and when I was a teenager and in my early 20’s I was playing guitar, rocking out in bands. Those things I don’t do so much anymore but its not to say that I don’t have a place for them anymore. I’m just tending to this other thing I’ve got going on at the moment.
It’s just funny that it has taken me decades to return to my first ever ambition.
But seriously, check out Simon Sinek. (Totally have a man crush on this dude.)
It’s 7:10pm and I’m standing doing the dishes at the kitchen sink and I’m fretting.
I’m fretting about my book.
Why did I wait until I became a dad who works long shifts before starting to write a book?
What did I do with all of my spare time before all this happened?
I’m fretting because I know my book is light years from being finished. Jesus, I’m not even sure about the tense I have written it in. I’ve realised a large chunk of what I have written so far will never make the cut. And I’ve been writing for over a year.
Yet, I know how it should read. Those words are not on the page yet but I know how they should flow.
I know how it should feel.
If it were a film I know who would have directed it.
I know what I have to do in order for it to work.
I’ve got character bio’s to complete, films to watch, documentaries to study, books to read, podcasts to absorb, people to talk to. A blog post to write.
Every minute of every day is precious and I simply can’t eek out enough of them at the moment.
I’m worrying that this is gonna take so long my blog will become redundant.
Basically, I’m freaking out.
Then Naomi drew my attention to a quote from Mastering Creativity by James Clear.
“…He revised. He changed. He edited. By his own estimation Zusak rewrote the first part of the book 150- 200 times.”
Then, in his own words Zusak says.
“In three years, I must have failed over a thousand times, but each failure brought me closer to what I needed to write, and for that, I’m grateful.”
The book was The Book Thief.
I’m finding some solace in that.
A couple of points to make this week.
Firstly I’d like to clear up a question a friend asked. It was also something that I wanted to outline anyway. He asked why I was posting anecdotes on the blog. A fair enough question as the blog is supposed to be about my efforts to become a published author.
The answer is that basically I think the blog would become a bit boring if I just posted about the writing side of things. I believe it would make a pretty dry read. There is only is much longevity in that. It’s also true that the anecdotes do relate (trust me on this) to the blog.
The anecdotes started with my wedding night and there was a reason for that. If Naomi and I didn’t get married and head off around the world a few days later I really don’t think I would be writing my book. As I said to my friend, all roads lead to the book!
Secondly, I’d like to redress the long running issue of resistance and it also concerns my friends from back home.
Years ago when I was just out of school my mates and I knocked around together doing the usual time wasting of cruising around in cars with nothing much to do. I distinctly remember one day the five of us parked in a multi-storey shopping mall carpark.
One friend came up with the bright idea of starting a car wash business. We would wash folks cars whilst they shopped. The five of us would take equal responsibility and the more you washed the more you earned. Simple.
We stood in the car park musing the idea. Then we outlined the reasons why it wouldn’t work. We even asked a family member who was in the fire brigade if he thought it was a worth while venture. The idea quickly got panned because, what we assumed would be a lack of drainage in the carpark.
We didn’t ask the owners of the car park if the business was possible. We didn’t draft any enquiring letters. We just summed up that it would fail and binned the whole idea.
Of course, what happens next writes itself. Within months a company is in the very same car park making an absolute killing washing cars.
We were suckers to resistance. We shot ourselves down before anybody else could. There may have been a fear of failure or even possibly even a fear of success. (What do a bunch of 17 year olds know about running a business?) And that’s why we failed. Because somewhere inside us each of us asked ourselves that very question.
I now feel the same resistance with this blog.
I’ll be honest, I’m not 100% comfortable with the whole idea of blogging. I’m not totally behind the concept of telling everybody my aspirations and wants. It doesn’t come naturally and it feels alien.
Who would be interested in anything I’ve got to say? It feels like I’m blowing my own trumpet.
But I also know it goes hand in hand with what I want to do.
So how do I get over it? I get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I just keep going and ignore my insecurities.
If I didn’t, what progress would I have made from the seventeen year old me?
Hey folks. After spinning this yarn out over the last month I think we are in need of a handy bullet point recap. Here goes:
- A hotel fire door is locked shut preventing Naomi and I from accessing our bridal suite on our wedding night.
- A man we later nickname “The Beast” helps us gain access to our suite by ripping the fire door from its frame.
- The next morning I complain to the managers.
- Some bastard stole Naomi’s chocolates.
- The hotel compensates us by waving the hotel bill. They also include a complimentary lunch for two at the hotel and a free meal at the hotel’s sister restaurant.
And that’s where we shall pick up the story.
Naomi and I rock up to the Edinburgh city centre restaurant on the Sunday evening after our Friday wedding. I say “restaurant” but it’s more of a bar/ restaurant. It’s a low lit joint with a piano in the front window, quiet chatter, jazzy music and expensive drinks.
“You must be Mr and Mrs Liddell!” A waitress says as she approaches us. I’m a little taken aback that she knows who we are without introducing ourselves. We barely break stride as she leads us through a neat segue from bar to restaurant. A few customers sit with pints of beer at their tables but nothing else. They are all jeans and jumpers. Naomi and I are dressed up a notch or two more.
“Your table is right this way.”
She shows us to our candle lit table. I notice that nobody else has candles on their tables. Hmmm.
She takes our drinks orders and leaves us with our menus. The food looks delicious. Its just the kind I like; lots of rich tapas type foods, dips, deep fried seafood and great cuts of meat. We are in heaven.
The waitress (I wish I could remember her name) promptly returns with our drinks, notepad at the ready to take our order. She is a frothy mix of beaming smiles and five star service.
“Nobody else is eating tonight?” I ask regarding the other customers
“Oh, you are the only ones eating tonight. They had to bribe the chef to come in on his night off with a bottle of single malt whisky.”
“Wait.” Naomi says. “We have our own chef?”
“Yup!” The waitress beams. She is loving this.
She tells us that the story of our wedding night went around the company like wild fire, that she wasn’t surprised that such a botch up was made at the hotel and that she has little regard for her employers. She then does something a wee bit odd. She gives me a conspiratorial look.
“You can have whatever you want.” She says.
I look her dead in the eye.
“How far can we take this?” I ask.
“All the way.”
Three golden words.
She then slips back into waitress mode.
“So what would you like to start?”
“I can’t make up my mind.” I say to Naomi. We both laugh at the fuss I always make at my indecision when confronted with a menu. I’m the same every time.
Naomi looks at me with a smile and all of a sudden we are reading each others minds.
“We’ll have all of it.” I say.
“All of the starters?” She asks still smiling.
“Yes please, and make sure the chef gets whatever he wants to drink. Get a drink for yourself and the rest of the staff too.” I stop just short of opening up a free bar.
There never was a time of more richly deserved gluttony. Naomi and I had scrimped and saved (sometimes to ridiculous lengths) for eighteen months for our wedding. We had the meal of our lives.
Yet I can’t remember what I had for my main course. The booze was taking hold! I distinctly remember I had an ale, a bottle of their best red wine on the go, a spirit and a cocktail just on my side of the table. Naomi was having custom made cocktails and white wine. We lapped it up. The staff lapped it up. We were all having a ball. We didn’t sing and dance about it, we simply went full length into ridiculous indulgence. A serious case of gout could’ve only been a few forkfulls away.
Soon we were drunk. I’ll rephrase that. I was reeking drunk, Naomi was respectably squiffy and after a while the bar began to thin out. We decided the best way to end the night would be to invite all of the staff to drink shots with us. A load of us grinned our way through a weird coloured bottle of spirits and this is where my memory begins to fail me (not surprisingly). It was time to call it a night.
I have a foggy recollection of being in a taxi on our way home and then being back in our little flat where I sang loudly about an imaginary giant duck whilst taking a pee.
What can I say? I was happy.
To top it all off we were back at the hotel the next day for our stunning lunch which was served up with an expensive looking bottle of champagne.
“We are driving today.” Naomi told the waitress. “We would like to take the bottle with us.”
“I’m sorry we can’t have alcohol leaving the premises.” She said.
“If you could just have a word with the manager.” Naomi suggested.
The waitress disappeared and was soon back with us.
“Yes, that’s no problem Mrs Liddell.” She said.