A sense of perspective


A few years ago I read something about a woman who wanted to go to Africa. I forget where I read it, or why the woman wanted to go to Africa in the first place, but I remember that the moral was that she had to become somebody for whom going to Africa was normal. She would never go to Africa until she got to thinking of going to Africa as No Big Deal.

I felt somewhat ambivalent about this at the time, and I still do. On the one hand, I can see the point: if I see a particular ambition, desire, or goal, as being Not For The Likes Of Us, then I’ll never manage it.

On the other, if I see it as No Big Deal, then what on earth is the point of doing it at all?

There’s an irritatingly pious part of me – think first year Hermione Granger, if first year Hermione Granger was into self-help woowoo – that wants to point out that well obviously the moral is that I should try to be more present in everything, because everything is a Big Deal! Which is of course true, every bush is alive with angels and all that, but if she could only be less obnoxious about it then I might be more inclined to pay attention…

All joking aside, it’s very easy for me to forget how far I’ve come.

It’s only in the past few years that things like ‘publish a novel!’ and ‘go InterRailing around Europe!’ have moved out of the ‘things I’d like to do, someday’ category and into ‘things I’m going to do’ – or ‘things I’ve actually done’.

The problem is, the moment they move into ‘things I’ve actually done’, they become No Big Deal. If I can do that, I tell myself, then anybody could.

And I forget. I forget how once it seemed like something that was Not For The Likes Of Us. I forget how many times other people had to tell me, ‘That sounds amazing! You should do it!’ I forget how much work it took to get where I am. I forget that I’m a massive success in the self-publishing world. (It might help if I made more than pocket money from it – but then again, I’d probably think that that was No Big Deal, too.) I forget that I’ve made literal history, that I have been the first person to do this particular something. A small something, admittedly, but still a something.

What’s the answer? Listen to Hermione Granger, I think. Remember to look around, and see what’s there, and enjoy being with it, if possible. Remember to look back, and see how far I’ve come. Remember to look forward, and identify what I want to do, and see that there probably isn’t any particular reason why I shouldn’t.

100 untimed books: lucky

83. lucky

83. lucky

Sometimes you search everywhere for a book you want. It’s out of print. Nobody’s selling it online. You scour the second-hand bookshops and the proprietors haven’t even heard of it.

And sometimes you find a brand new copy of a book you didn’t even know you wanted in a telephone box book swap that you only looked at because you had twenty minutes before your train. I can only assume that this copy was an unwanted present, because I’m pretty sure that I’m the first person to have read it. Lucky for me.

100 untimed books



You know those Saturdays when you don’t really have anything¬†scheduled, but you find yourself busy all the time, and can occasionally display a finished task as proof of your effort? That’s what January has been like for me so far. I’ve been pottering around, doing a thing here, a thing there, hoping that something will get finished sooner or later.

What have I been working on?

  • Well, there’s been the tedious day-to-day stuff of life: cooking, cleaning, keeping the wolf from the door. Sometimes it feels like all my brain goes on the day job and all my time is spent keeping the hamster wheel turning.
  • Speaking of the day job, I’ve been doing a little more at work with my author hat on. Watch this space.
  • A Spoke In The Wheel is out with several different readers, editors and checkers at the moment, so I’m not worrying about it too much. Which is not to say I’m not worrying about it at all. Any of us might miss something! What if I’ve made a mistake, and look stupid? (Then I’ll be no different from the rest of the world, says my partner, and he’s right. But still…)
  • Various elements of the sequel to Speak Its Name have been gathering in my head. Some come in the form of sentences or paragraphs, or even entire pages, which I write down; some are more general insights like ‘Oh! Abby has a blog! An anonymous one!’
  • That means research. I’ve been looking up things like ‘can an international student be a Cambridge choral scholar?’, ‘chemistry PhD subjects’ and ‘Church of England: vocations process’. I’m regretting a few choices I made in Speak Its Name, but I’m stuck with them now.
  • Fandom stuff. I’m very glad to have got back into fandom last year, but it doesn’t half take up a lot of time if I let it.
  • Spending my prize money on an epic European rail adventure. My plan is to book the expensive Scandinavian portion of the trip in advance, and spend the remainder of the time following my nose around central Europe, but this does rather rely on me and my rail map and my diary being in the same place at a time when I have sufficient brain power to know that I’m not going to do something stupid that I can’t cancel. And I still haven’t written up my last epic European adventure. (Which will be worth doing. The photo at the top of this post comes from that, and the tractor sculpture wasn’t even the weirdest thing we saw.)

In February I’ll get going in earnest on the launch procedure for A Spoke In The Wheel. Cover reveal? Blog tour? Who knows? We’ll find out!

100 untimed books: so good to see

60. so good to see

60. so good to see

I’ve talked about The Comfortable Courtesan¬†before, and I’m delighted to see her in a position to reach a wider audience. She’s even on Twitter now!

As for this particular copy, the package it came in was missing for several days before our neighbour discovered it in his shed. I hadn’t quite given it up for lost, but it was very good to see it.

100 untimed books

Hope is larger


My penultimate day of work, and I spent much of it clearing emails out of my inbox. There’s one that’s been sitting in there for a long time. It’s one of those inspiration-motivation daily quotation emails that I signed up to once upon a time. And with most of those I read them, [nod approvingly/roll my eyes], and delete. But I didn’t delete this one. Was that because I knew I’d want to write about hope sooner or later? Undoubtedly. Was that the only reason? Possibly not.

Hope is not dead, it is just larger than our imaginations

– Kathy Hobaugh

And why not, I ask myself. There are many things that are larger than my imagination. The universe. The divine. Why not hope, too?

Who is Kathy Hobaugh? I’ve no idea. She might be appalling. She might be a genius. She might, in this case, be right.

I’ve been sneaking around the corners of despair and burnout this year, trying to keep my head down, do what I can to improve things within my reach, and not look at Twitter more than is good for my sanity, wondering what the point of it all is. Nevertheless, I have not deleted that email.

All this year I’ve been expecting things to get worse.

Now, I find myself thinking that it’s possible that they might get better.