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.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Time Waits For No Man (Especially In South Shields)

Where is this year going?

Let’s face it: we all ask that question.

In fact, more people seem to ask it more often. Whether we’re 25, 45 or 65, time is slipping through all our grasps at ever-faster rates. Like we’re standing with our hands cupped under a running tap trying to keep hold of as much water as possible, and someone just upped the flow rate.

We’ve turned our calendars to September now. Dusk is encroaching on our evening leisure time with increasing intent. Whispers about Christmas have started. Soon the clocks will go back and, even though it happens every year, we’ll all be shocked at how early it gets dark.

Lamenting the onset of winter is understandable. It’s what we’re programmed to do; a DNA legacy of our forebears. Summer can’t ever have lasted long enough for our hunter-gatherer ancestors. I mean, I’m sure early humans were grateful not to have to alter their sun dials twice a year, I just wonder if their perception of time ever changed?

It Only Seems Like Five Minutes Ago

Maybe they said things like: “OMG! This winter has come around totes quickly!” (in whatever passed for Neanderthal language). Or maybe the rush of time actually is a modern phenomenon, a symptom of our ‘always-connected’ world, as is often suggested.

After all, Earth has had plenty of practice at perfecting its rotation. The passing of time, the changing of seasons; nothing fundamentally new is happening. No one is turning the tap on further. And yet I’m looking at this new September on the calendar, I’m watching night assert its authority over day, and I’m joining the chorus of, “Where’s the year going?”

Why? Because memories of February and March are still fresh. There I was, shivering through the prolonged winter, facing down the self-doubt of getting my first book finished and self-published. There I was, gamely clutching my running shoes waiting for the snowdrifts to clear, getting accepted for the Great North Run and facing up to six months of preparation.

Those days were only half a year ago. But those days: boy, they sure were heady!

Now I'm Here

I say that only partly in jest. 2013 has been exciting so far, with distinct aims rather than the usual blundering uncertainty. In balancing those aims with one another – and with my day job as well – I’ve changed how I use my time. It makes me a hermit occasionally, but I’m working differently and, more importantly, consistently.

Writing nearly every day. Running every other day. Poor diet and poor sleep occasionally skew the balance, that wonderful equilibrium, but I’m learning not to get too upset when they do. Instead, I reset the balance: acknowledge what’s gone wrong, re-focus on the aims, try not to let it happen again (or not to the same extent, at least).

I’ll never be perfect; none of us will. But we can get better. Whether it’s how often we write, or how far we run, that much I’ve learnt. We can get better.

On-going aims and consistent work means one day easily seems to blend into the next. The result is a feeling that less time has passed than actually has. In other words, how the hell did it get to be September already?!

That first book, We Will Write Them On The Pitches, has been available for nearly three months now. The blog has been quiet because: (a) I’ve been working on the next book, and (b) I’ve been reassessing my online presence. And while (a) takes a lot of application, I simply haven’t reached any firm conclusions about (b) yet!

September 15th 2013

Within the next two weeks, one aim will be complete. The running that has improved my health and happiness, and helped me direct more energy at writing, culminates in the Great North Run. I’ve never been so excited to journey 13 miles along a dual carriageway, and I’m hopeful of dipping a few minutes below a two-hour finishing time.

Of course, ‘culminates’ is the wrong word. The finish at South Shields will be the finish of the event, nothing more. I enjoy running, and the benefits of running, too much to outright give it up again. But with one of February’s aims gone it might be too easy to focus more time on writing and less on running.

So I’m interested to find out if I’ll need a new aim, something to make sure the balance doesn’t suffer. A better half marathon time might be enough, because there are plenty of local events I could run in 2014. Whatever the aim might be, as long everything remains balanced then time can go as quickly as it likes.

Because, ironically, time going quickly means I’m pacing myself correctly – even taking things slowly when necessary – to help build the future I want. Even if, like this blog, I’m still not quite sure exactly what that future should look like…


I was fortunate to get drawn in the ballot for the Great North Run, meaning I didn’t have to apply for a charity place. Which means I’ve been able to prepare without the pressure of raising a specific amount of money. Selfish as it might be, I want to run the event for the personal satisfaction of running it. Whatever writing talent I have, the best I can sum it up for now is: it’ll be one hell of a personal triumph.

Maybe a more considered explanation is something to aim for after the event…

My friend Milo McLaughlin is also running, in aid of Bowel Cancer UK. It’s a cause that means something to me and my family too, so I want to help Milo reach his target. If you would like to support an excellent cause, you can visit Milo’s Just Giving page.


In light of the positive nature of this post, and to mark just how quickly those first three months have gone, I am making We Will Write Them On The Pitches free over the entire Great North Run weekend.

If you’re in need of some inspiration and want to read about creative lessons that ANYONE can learn from soccer – whether you like the sport or not! – but don’t yet have a copy, search the Kindle store of your regional Amazon site from Friday 13th September to Sunday 15th September.