It is November. And the coldest November night since 2010. As I draft this, on a chilly Monday morning, the temperature in Braemar is currently -12°c, and falling. Here in the far north, in the town at the end of the world, it is -1°c.
I have been absent from these pages for a wee while, something that has probably annoyed me more than it has you. However, following this brief reflection, I intend to return with a new impetus.
The next post in my Thirty-Nine Steps series should have been Step Four: On Home. However, this question — of what exactly home means to me, whether a place, a time, a feeling, or even people, or a person — was asked at precisely the wrong time. Or perhaps the right time, considering how seriously I have considered it.
I voted remain, obviously. The events in the run up to, during, and after the referendum have not changed my plans to leave these shores for adventures in other lands, in fact quite the opposite. I love Scotland, I love that we voted to stay within the EU, I love how Nicola Sturgeon has led our country during this time, and I love the possibility of another independence referendum. If it comes to that I am on record as saying I will not just be voting Yes (again), but I shall also do my part, try and campaign for this in whatever way I can. In some ways I already am, discussing it where’er I go, calmly attempting to demonstrate how Scotland would actually be better off as a separate nation, how a nation built on hope and kindness is possible, how a revulsion at the divisive politics of hatred is not only the right way, but the only way.
However, all these things, not to mention the rise of the right (and please, please, stop calling it the alt-right — the things these people say are not “alt”, they are neo-Nazis, and I have zero tolerance for that and, especially, for them) — these things have stalled my progress on Step Four (and you should also have a look at this post, as it contains a lot of wisdom on how to move forward at this time). I got stuck, rewriting, rethinking, retooling, re-examining what Home means to me. At this precise moment, this feels like home:
When I write fiction (something I shall soon discuss in more depth), I have developed a drafting habit I like. If I get stuck, if I find a scene too difficult to write, or I note that it is taking too long or using up too much of my wee brainpower — then I skip it. I move on. Leave a small note for future redraft-Alex, perhaps, and get to the next step. A draft is always an unruly mess, and this, for me, works. I often return to that point during redrafting and realise the oh-so-impossible scene isn’t even needed, but was actually a distraction all along, simply there to cause me to stumble and pause.
And that is why this is here, and also why it is Step Four-Point-Five and not Step Four.
I shall return to the idea of Home at some point in the future. I shall certainly share that essay with you (and the attendant photos I’ve chosen to accompany it), but not yet. Perhaps not for a while. This is my blog — my place, my rules. For now I need to skip that scene, move ahead, refocus and return to a more regular schedule.
When it comes to work, I am surprisingly close to the schedule I set myself earlier this year. A little behind perhaps, but not too far. Again, I shall talk more about this soon, but I am pleased with myself, considering how I have slipped lower this year due to the events mentioned above. I appear to have found a balance with this; if I feel the tendrils of the Dark Night or hear the howl of the Black Dog, I withdraw from the world (as you may have noticed), but I have somehow managed to keep working, keep wording. This, to me, is a huge sign of personal progress — and one I do not take lightly. I wonder whether this is due to my focus being stronger now, or perhaps to ensuring I get outside more, or maybe it is down to the exercise I have now come to love? On reflection, I don’t really care, I am just pleased it has happened.
I have several posts planned for here. Obviously there are those in my Thirty-Nine Steps series, but there are others too. I want to talk about my favourite book of the year, Amy Liptrot’s “The Outrun”, for example. Although many column inches have already been dedicated to this wonder by far more erudite individuals than myself, I shall still try and share why it is my favourite (and also talk about how damn hard it was for me to read, and why — hint, it’s a personal-history thing, not because it’s hard-going or difficult to read, it’s not; it’s stunningly beautiful and so honest that, at times, it hurts).
I also want to talk about places I have visited, things I have seen and done. Adventures. Begin to share other posts I have long planned, such as a discussion of items I have found useful over the years, or dip further into how I have shifted my mindset about exercise, how this works out practically. I have a lot to write and post here, and I think it is important that I do so, for myself, if not for any other potential reader.
Too often there is a temptation to concentrate on work-for-money, to avoid those projects and ideas that will not really generate any income, but this is wrong and perhaps even dangerous to the writer. I need to share thoughts that mean something, share ideas that I think might help others and, through sharing, enable me to focus on what they mean to me. I also need to remind myself that there is true wonder and beauty in words, and in the world. It is oh-so-easy to become overwhelmed and miserable, deflated by yet another terrible turn of events, or question how exactly the world has arrived at this juncture. Yet this is not fair — the world keeps doing its thing, as should I. I have stepped away from the news, decided to instead focus on myself and my own words, with the (perhaps slightly arrogant?) belief that they are how I fight against injustice, that they are my weapons against intolerance and cruelty. I continue to strive to be kind, try my hardest to bite my tongue when cross words bubble forth. There are times and places for fighting, and I am well aware of the importance of choosing the right battles and advantageous terrain.
The kind, the good; they are too often mistaken for the weak. This is wrong, but it is not a bad thing. Those who mistake kindness for weakness and exploit it, well, I feel they are in for a surprise. Again, it is basic tactics; never underestimate your opponent — yet it is a trap I see many bullies currently falling into. Their mistake.
So this is Step Four-Point-Five; a brief reassessment of myself, of my situation, a wee gaze into the future, and a subtle flexing of blog-muscles, stretch of the WordPress tendons. It feels good to wake, it feels good to be thinking and talking again. Hello.