I spoke earlier this week about my plans for 2021, including returning to my regular blogging features, such as 5 for Friday. So what better way to kick off a new year of this feature than by expanding on my previous comments and detailing five goals I want to achieve, and maintain, during the coming year.
5 for Friday: Days to Come.
1 Write write write write writedy write write.
This one probably doesn’t need too much explanation, but let’s go there anyway. A couple of years ago, I was doing really well for myself. I had three published novels, was regularly appearing at Writers Festivals and running workshops, and even though we were moving to an out-of-the-way outback outstation that was totally out of the way, there still looked to be plenty of opportunities to pursue my craft and advance my place within the industry.
And then it all turned to shit.
In recent days I’ve turned my back on the whole mess. I’ve begun referring to myself as a former writer. I’ve closed myself off from industry news. I’d already stopped writing, so there wasn’t even that to worry about. I was done, finished, finito. I had rung down the curtain and joined the crown invisibyuule. I was an ex-writer.
Except I have absolutely nothing else that marks me out as more than just another schlub consuming resources until I expire. And now that I’m determined to change the course of my life, I miss it. Of course I miss it. It’s been the central pillar of my self-image for twenty years, longer if I count all those little practice missions dating back to University days. Live, die, or otherwise, I’m a writer.
After so long out of practice my muscles are pure flab. My instincts are about as sharp as Baldrick wandering past a sign saying ‘Definitely a trap’. My skills are blunter that James Blunt speaking bluntly while smoking a blunt. I’m the writing equivalent of Max Schmeling deciding that if Mike Tyson can make a comeback after so long, well, so can he. BUT: if Mike Tyson can make a comeback……
So I’m starting out by doing half an hour a day. Writing time, not necessarily writing. For half an hour, every day, I’m sitting in front of my computer with a word document open, and even if I’m not actually writing, I’m doing nothing else. It’ll take a while — I’m expecting it to take so long that I’ve considered abandoning my own name for trying to publish under a pseudonym — but I’m planning to sell something by the end of the year. And then we’ll see. But whatever happens, I’ll not stop writing. Not again.
2 Take these broken wings and fly… and your swollen ankles… twisted hip… and that shoulder… the knee…
If you’d like a full litany of my health issues, then let us sit on the carpet and tell sad stories of the death of youth. Safe to say, however, that I have reached fifty in the same way that cars do: with an engine that doesn’t start unless you call it names, a body that is more dints and filler than actual metalwork, and less tread on the tyres than on the thongs of the guy driving it.
None of this is helped by the fact that I persist on being anywhere between 20 and 30 kilograms overweight, depending on the day and the realism of the doctor examining me.
One of the main positives of moving to Karratha was the proximity of our workplace to the local pool and gym. They’re literally on opposite sides of the same car park. Plus, we had grown used to taking an evening walk, the eating-out options are universally awful, and with a teenage son who is very fitness conscious, it seemed like a golden opportunity to get fit, funky, and fabulous for our approaching fifties. And we were doing pretty damn well. I’d dropped from a high of 111 kilograms when I arrived, to just under 99. I was about to hit 95, and be only 6 or 7 away from my goal weight. I was developing the sort of biceps and pecs I could have done with in High School. I was looking good.
And then it all turned to shit.
I finished the year in Perth, touring from fast food outlet to fast food outlet, holidaying on a diet of Grill’d and Zambreros. I had a cola habit in excess of 2 litres a day. The only exercise I was doing was handing out exercise books to my students. So the changes were pretty easy to identify. When I weighed myself on January 1, I was back above 109 kilograms.
As I write this, I’m back to just below 108 kilograms. I’ve lost a kilo and a half. I’ve had one drink of cola since the start of the year, and am existing almost exclusively on water (I have one cordial a day, with dinner, for taste purposes). Luscious and I are using the pool memberships we’ve had growing stale for months, walking the lanes for 30 minutes every morning. We back it up with a 30 minute walk in the evening. None of it is too stressful, at the moment. Intensity will come later. Right now, we’re just re-establishing habits, and allowing for knees and hips and body parts that are in a sad state of denial and achy self-hatred. I’ve rejoined the gym, and during the week I’ll be setting up a personal training session to try and tailor some targeted exercise with an expert — and also just so I can watch someone’s perma-tanned little face when I list all the physical issues I need to overcome.
I hate being fat. I hate it. I don’t deny anybody else’s choice of physicality, or their point of comfort with their self-image. But this is mine. I used to be ludicrously active. I used to glory in my activity. I loved it. I’ve done so many cool things by being fit and active. And I hate what I’ve become. So it has to stop, once and for all.
3 Bricking it
My name is Lee, and I am an AFOL. (Hiiii, Leeeee!).
I love Lego. More importantly, I love building with Lego. More accurately, and more pretentiously perhaps, I love creating sculpture with Lego. Because that’s how I view creating MOCs (My Own Creations, for those who came in late. Basically, what adults have to call building things so they can justify it as something other than play, because play is for kids, amirite?). I build to exhibit, and I approach the whole thing in the same way as the artists with whom I’ve worked over the years. So why not consider myself an artist, too? The process is the same, the goals are the same, it’s just the medium that differs.
I’ve abandoned the Lego 250 Reviews project I was running — Sorry, to the three of you who were enjoying that — and gone back to what I love. Being able to exhibit at Bricktober 2020, virtually, was a turning point, in that it helped me rediscover what it was that I actually loved about this hobby of mine. Not simply recreating sets, and not doing so in order to make snarky observations about the sets I build. But letting my imagination run wild, and finding artistic ways to turn that imagination into fully-realised objects and narratives.
I plan to drive down to Perth in October and exhibit at Bricktober 2021. And then, apart from appearing at that particular exhibition as often as they’ll let me through the doors, I’m going to set my sights further afield: not just Lego exhibitions (although, yes.) but more traditional arts exhibitions as well. I’ve been exercising this visual component to my artistic journey for a while. It’s just taken losing it, and realising what it meant to me, for me to put it into my own context.
4 A Moving Target is Harder to Hit
I live in one of the most geographically beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I’ve always been attracted to the beauty found in sparseness — perhaps it’s a function of a childhood spent dreaming of alien planets, shining metal space station corridors, and endless BBC quarries — and the North West of WA, home to the oldest earth and rocks on the planet, provides these elements in spades, not to mention a colour palette of unparalleled beauty.
So I want to see more of it. I want to see the parts of this country I haven’t yet experienced: the Northern Territory, Far North Queensland, Tasmania, the Red Centre. I want to see Europe. I want to see the veldts of Africa. I want to walk the mountains plateaus of Aztec America. I want to do more with my holidays than retreat back to the same corner of Fremantle we always seem to end up in. And while none of this may be possible in the next year, with with travel restrictions still very much in place, and children still very much in situ, I can make a start.
If I can happily drive sixteen hours in a day to get back to Perth, as I did this last Christmas, I can happily drive shorter distances to see things I’ve never yet experienced.
As a young man I filled my life with experiences that broadened my horizons and enriched my memories: standing on top of the Sydney harbour bridge; sharing the stage with the famous and the aspiring; walking the streets and markets of foreign cultures… I was well on my way to fulfilling the old Billy Connolly “windswept and interesting” joke. Even as an older fart I’ve managed a few notable achievements to help lift my soul against the feather on the other end of the scale.
And then it all turned to shit.
I’ve become torpid and sloth-like over the last eighteen months. Not so much losing my sense of adventure as losing my senses completely. It’s time to reignite my memory maker and start getting windswept again.
You know, feeling cute. Might park at the other shopping centre car park today, idk.
5 Stop hiding behind myself
This is what it all comes down to, really. I’m now fifty years old. My mother died when she was 61. So did her mother. There’s recent history — direct lineal history — of my family members dying early. I might only have 11 years left. And I have spent so much of my life being told I wasn’t welcome, or that I didn’t live up to others’ expectations, or that I didn’t belong. I’ve been too English, too poor, too rural, too loud, too angry, too intelligent, too uncultured, too stupid, too cynical, too shy, too forward, too questioning, too outspoken, too radical, too unpolished, too conservative, too… wherever I’ve gone, I’ve been the one at fault. And I’ve always been the one left hurt, and confused, and trying to fit in without really understanding what the rules were or how I’d managed to break them before I walked through the door. As any SF person who’s run across me in the last 20 years will undoubtedly be happy to tell you, I’ve pretty much perfected the skill of sin-binning the world before it gets the chance to do so to me. But I’m fifty now, and honestly, fuck that shit.
I’ve done great things. Seriously cool things. Things nobody in my beaten-up past would have dreamed of doing. Certainly things nobody would have dreamed of me doing. Hell, some of them have told me to my face. And I’m old, and I’m fat, and I’m broken, and I’m loud and angry and cynical and sweary as fuck and loyal and good in bed and fatally flawed in a million different ways and quite good at some things and really hideously bad at others and I definitely can’t stand the sight of some people and love others to bits…. and honestly, I no longer give much of a shit about changing.
Because I might have only just over a decade left, and I’ve had too many friends and family die before they’ve lived a full life. And even if I don’t, they’re going to kick me out of the income zone in fifteen years anyway, so unless I make an impact between here and there, that’s it for me.
I don’t really have enough time or energy to waste, anymore.
So there it is. 2021 in five goals. Will I manage it? Will I enter 2022 a thinner, fitter, more interesting, published, busily writing, rock and roll tyrannosaurus sex god? Will Timmy the wonder dog rescue Billy from the well? Will the cavalry reach the beleaguered fort in time? Is Mrs Wilberforce really the villain known only as The Voice?
Tune in next week, folks……