Welcome to my adventures and experiments in creativity. Where writing is like running: sometimes I know where I'm going, and sometimes I see where the mood takes me.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Pointless Advice

Or: the next life-changing instalment in my unplanned series of advice you never knew you needed.

In the first of the series, we looked at following your dreams. It was never my dream to write a blog post that used the words ‘follow’, ‘your’ and ‘dreams’ quite so much, but I followed the path anyway and look where we ended up.

Now, we’re going to look at something else that’s aspirational. Not for everyone, admittedly, but that is the point. I didn’t know I wanted to do it, but when I did it, it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done.

I applied to go on a gameshow.

Ivory Coast

It's nearly a year since my friend Martin and I filmed two episodes of the popular BBC teatime quiz show Pointless. Standing before a studio audience and thinking of countries with a 'Y' in their name was as far outside my comfort zone as I've ever dared go, but it was scary, exciting and - most importantly - fun.

The end result might not have been what we hoped, but as something to experience in life, I'd recommend anyone download an application form for a quiz show they enjoy watching.

That form is a precursor to an entire process that you almost wouldn’t believe from watching the end product on television. On a Thursday morning in December, at the Palace Hotel in Manchester, we did a short general knowledge quiz and then played the best version of Pointless that it’s possible to play in a hotel conference room equipped with only a flip chart. Mart and I won that, by the way…


Doing scary, exciting and fun things is important. For a reserved, introverted soul like me, even printing off the application form was a big deal. Pointless is a game for teams of two, so the form has a box where the applicant can write about their partner.

Despite being friends for years, I was a little nervous about what Mart would say about me. In some respects we are polar opposites, but there is never a need to articulate that during the course of day-to-day life because more things unite us than separate us.

In the end I needn’t have worried, for he was exceedingly complimentary: “Paul is ambitious … and really rather driven. That is why I believe he might reach his goals…”

If pushed to describe myself, ‘driven’ is not a word I would ever use. Yes, I have a decent work ethic, but I’ve always been too conscious of my failings to consider that particular adjective to be appropriate. For which reason as well, I have never been able to dwell on praise. We were having too much fun imagining what it might be like to get on the show, so I soon forgot the words we had written about each other. Deep down, though, I think Mart’s assessment stayed with me.

Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia

Because we never have to articulate what we feel for our friends, we miss out on the insight of those closest to us. They might give us ideas or offer support when it comes to our ambitions, but we’ll spend more time with them simply ‘having a laugh’ rather than worrying about the meaning of existence (unless we count Albert Camus as one of our social circle).

Now that I’m having a proper crack at this writing lark, Mart’s words have crept out from the dark recesses and emerged at the front of my brain. I’m doing the best I can with it while balancing commitments at home and a full time job – like many other people do, of course – but those people would probably howl with laughter if they read my blog stats.

I believe in what I’m doing though. I’m happy with the projects I’ve got in the pipeline. Part of the reason I’m prepared to keep chipping away is because I now understand myself in a way I perhaps wouldn’t, had we not applied for Pointless. I don’t doubt that plenty of friends and family believe in me, but when validation comes from such an unexpected source it is somehow that little bit more affecting.

So there we have it. Unless you want to be unusual (to say the least!) and create a questionnaire about yourself for your friends to fill in, I recommend you go on a quiz show with a few of them. Preferably one where you all have to describe each other on the application form, and then who knows what you might learn about yourself.

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