I am writing again!

A short post.

I am writing again.

The sweet, sweet (although actually rather annoying) sound of a typing keyboard.

For the last few months I have been chipping away at the structure and prep work of my current project, as well – let’s be honest – as my overall resilience to sitting down and actually writing. Well, all that is behind me for now. Blank Word documents are filling up with text, word counts are rising, birds are singing in the trees.

Actually it’s the dead of winter here so there aren’t really many birds singing. But other than that, things are looking up. With my other job, the one that actually pays, and with my rustiness from not having properly written in a while, things will be slow going from here. I mustn’t expect too much too soon. In quality and quantity. First drafts are, after all, not meant to be good, they are just meant to be.

But as I get back into it, as the generation of words and lives becomes less mentally taxing, I know I will improve and this new project of mine will begin to take form.

In this season of almost no light and below-freezing temperatures, I am strangely optimistic.

I’ve also included a couple photos taken during the last few weeks. Hope you enjoy.

A brief hiatus

Guess who’s back?

I would love to say that my hiatus from this blog has been because of a flurry of written activity but unfortunately that is not the case. I have been plodding along with this work and it is advancing but these last couple of weeks have been slow.

In my defence I was celebrating an early Christmas with the family before we all go our separate ways. I was also working at the job I actually get paid for (so that I can celebrate an early Christmas with the family before we all go our separate ways).

But rest assured, while others gear up for the Christmas season I will be buckling down. It looks a fruitful few weeks as I work on this project and I should be making headway shortly.

In other news, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. We’ve had some strong snowfall recently and the temperature has dropped dramatically (moving from London to North Scotland wasn’t the warmest idea, weather-wise).

In other (other) news, I’ve noticed a lot of alliteration (there’s some too) in this post. I kinda dig it so I’m not going to be editing it down. If you don’t like alliteration well then tough. Alliteration is almost always awesome.

The writing process

‘Work on a good piece of writing proceeds on three levels: a musical one, where it is composed; an architectural one, where it is constructed; and finally, a textile one, where it is woven.’

– Walter Benjamin

Only actually 10%

Writing, I am continuously realising, is only about 10% putting words to paper. The other 90% is spread fairly evenly between imagining the story in your mind while figuring out how to translate that imagination into words, planning/structuring the story, and generating the willpower to sit down at a laptop and write.

Some days are taken over by the imagining. You sit there, looking to the outside world as if you’re doing nothing in particular. You create in your mind the characters: their nuisances and quirks, their political leanings and religious beliefs, their hopes and dreams (and sometimes their appearances though this is of far less importance than many people think). You create settings: geographical, temporal, societal. Basically you build a world and people to live within it.

Some days are taken over by planning/structuring. These are painful but productive, jotting in notepads and pulling up multiple word documents with bullet notes and bold text highlighting key plot points. The story is broken down, in some cases scene by scene, with all its detail laid out messily and with no sense of order to anyone other than the writer.

The hardest step of all

Then, once these steps are down (and also during and before these steps take place), there comes the generating of will. This is the stage most writers conveniently forget to mention when talking about their writing (looking at you, Walter Benjamin). It is the debilitating, anxiety-inducing step required to actually get anything done. Whether imagining the project, planning the project, or actually writing the project, it all begins with this step. Certain writers are better at fast-tracking this step. At times, I have been able to almost ignore it completely. But it is always there and can even, annoyingly enough, jump up right in the middle of a phase of the project. You could be planning and BAM! you find yourself having to regenerate the will to continue. You could be mid-sentence of a fight scene and BAM! your fingers refuse to continue until you’ve regenerated the will to continue. Like a ninja (or a zit) it could strike at any time.

In my current project I am battling between the planning/structuring phase and the generating willpower phase. This is a project to which I am quite emotionally attached and as such I’m finding it quite overwhelming to proceed. The goal is to be writing – properly writing – in about two weeks. However, this will only happen if I can continuously win the battle with procrastination.

Tick Tick Boom

In times like these (apologies for the forthcoming reflection) I remember the line in Tick Tick Boom, where Andrew Garfield asks what to do now that his script is finished and not taken up. His agent tells him to write another, and then another. While this particular scene is referring to generating a new project one after the other, the basic premise stands for what I am saying. The job of the writer is to write. Past the anxiety and the doubt. You just have to keep going.

And going.

And going.

Until you’ve completed what you want to complete.

And then you do it again.

And again.

On repeat.

Until you give up and become an estate agent, or a bartender in the Bahamas (my personal plan)

Ok that last bit was a joke, and I’ve kind of tangented a little. The point is, writing is actually mostly not writing, and I’m currently stuck in the planning phase, slogging along making painfully slow progress. While battling with the will to continue.

Ok, that’s it. Before I ramble on anymore I’m going to end this post.

Airports – a pseudo-poem

Written a few months ago while sitting at Gate 19, waiting for my flight to board

Photo courtesy of @marcolopez95, Unsplash (p.s. that’s not me in the image)

Airports – a pseudo-poem

What is this place?

This stretch of space,

long with gates that aren’t gates.

What is this place?

This stretch of space.

It is nothing, a hollow room, a world undefined.

It is stillness, the space between, where nothing moves and all things wait.

It is chaos, the churning waves, where all things move and nothing waits.

How to define such a thing?

It is a world between worlds, where all that matters is what was and what will be. The now is non-existent, the moment is gone. It is the reminiscence of that which was left behind and the anticipation of that which lies ahead. It is nothing, and this nothingness defines it.

A mother carries a child, a child carries a spider-man backpack.

Maybe she is in the wrong gate that isn’t a gate.

Maybe she wants to grab a duty-free snack.

Across from me a couple wearing matching AC/DC t-shirts laugh. I wonder what the joke is. Her jeans are ripped, his are not.

Someone is standing on the moving walkway; their suitcase blocks the twenty behind who try to pass. Sorry, he realises his mistake. But it is too late. The walkway has ended. He steps off and heads for Gate 17. The twenty behind him scour at time lost.

Hoodies with university logos.




Yoga pants.

The doors to Gate number 25 are closing.

Passenger John Harmon needs to report to Gate 25.

Maybe the man running is John Harmon.

What is this place?

I don’t care, as long as it takes me where I am going.

What is this place?

I don’t care, as long as it takes me from where I was.

What is this place?

This stretch of space,

long with gates that aren’t gates.

What is this place?

This stretch of space.

It is nothing, a hollow room, a world defined by its absence.

It is stillness, the space between, where nothing moves and all things wait.

It is chaos, the churning waves, where all things move and nothing waits.

By Damian Maximus

My new life – a reflection

My new life

Viewed from below, the treeline looked naked and exposed. It was as if somebody had shaved the trees at the bottom of the hill but left those at the top untouched. Stubble on a giant’s chin.

Instead of growing branches and leaves to protect their exposed sides, the trees on the edge of the forest simply looked upward. Like the rest of their order they did not waste energy on foliage that grew below the canopy, foliage that should never have seen the light.

The year was running on and the sun did not sit high nor long in the sky. What use would leaves be on the darkened side of a hill?

I had parked my motorcycle at the house and walked towards the bridge. Ordering a coffee from the nth café in the hopes that this one would be half-decent I made my way to the centre of the bridge. There were no pavements but the roads were quiet and in the centre of the bridge was a little cut-out, a respite from the traffic – if there was any – crossing from the south side of the river to the north.

I took a sip of my coffee and felt the brownie within my pocket, wrapped in its protective brown paper. Shrugging, I took another sip. It would do. In a pinch, it would do. The river, running quickly below, gargled in agreement. I saw a small branch float quickly downstream. It had chosen the right path, the one not blocked by protruding rocks, entangled bits of tree, or shallow pools.

I watched it disappear into the distance.

Another sip. It looked official. Not the small branch, my new life. I am in the highlands of Scotland. I began the new job two weeks ago. I’ve settled into my new place. I am officially beginning my new life.

Up ahead, in the path my mind takes to plan and determine my future, I see a grey haze. Before it, the trees and hills are orange and red with the dying leaves of autumn; the weather is wet and cold – this is Scotland after all. The smell is the smell of pine.

I see my new job and the faces I am beginning to learn. I see my roles and responsibilities. Some expected, some… less expected. For the most part it seems good. But I cannot see how far into the distance my new life takes me. After a while it all just fades to grey.

Maybe this is normal, although I always assumed most people at least have a plan for their future even if that plan eventually changes. I don’t have a plan. I don’t even have a pl (that’s a quote from somewhere but I can’t remember where).

I should say, I am not worried about this grey haze in my distance. I am simply intrigued. Right now my focus is elsewhere. It is on starting the job, on beginning to write again, on making sure I am prepared for a cold, Scottish winter. That third focus is somewhat less existential than the rest but still a very serious matter.

A car has just turned onto the bridge. I look towards the noise and see a black Landroveresque vehicle drive past. The driver glances disinterestedly. I turn back to the river to see my thoughts wash away in its current.

It is cold and my coffee and brownie are almost finished. I look both ways and step off the respite and onto the road. I walk down, away from the naked trees of the hill above me and towards the village that I now call home. Well, home-ish. I’m not sure anywhere is really home, not by its deeper meaning of connection and belonging.

I place my empty coffee cup in the bin and carry on my journey into the grey.

The slow recharge (a quick update)

It has been (if you’ve been following this blog you know this) quite an intense few months. In those months my writing has not been as abundant as I would have liked. I’ve been quite burnt out. By life, by change, by everything.

I’ve done the off piece, including a short story about rediscovering that adventurous spirit lying dormant within all of us. I’m going to polish it off and send it to a few places to see what interest it garners. But other than that, and these blog posts, I have done very little. Oh, I did have an idea for one of my novels while doing this camping trip. It came to me late one night when I was trying to sleep so I wrote it down and then turned it over in my brain for the next hour or so instead of sleeping.

But anyway, what I’m trying to say is that the slow recharge is, I think, working. I am now in a (famous last words) stable enough place with work and life and as I sit here I know I have found my writing spot. All of which means the words should start churning soon.

Their quality it may take time to get up to scratch but they will start churning soon.

This is hopeful. It means that yes, I am still a writer. I may be in hibernation but I am still a writer. And like the grizzly bear who emerges from hibernation a little bit scrawnier but every bit as majestic, I too will emerge again.

Too much? I don’t care. I’m going with it.

Until next time.

Riding the North Coast 500… unexpectedly

A few weeks ago I took you on a journey from Reading to Edinburgh. In three short posts I documented the various twists and turns of the journey and the incredible wilderness I rode through.

This time I’m doing it slightly differently. The trip took eight days but instead of eight short posts I’m giving you one long one. Well, longish. We all have lives after all. In this post you will find the journey westward, the intended trip onto some of Scotland’s incredible western islands, and the eventual desertion of that plan for the NC500.

Hope you enjoy.

The plan


Actually the initial plan was never to actually hit the islands. I was to take maybe five days heading westward to Skye, then swooping down near Oban and back across. Then I was told of the beauty of Lewis and Harris and the trip was lengthened and adapted to seven days. I was to ignore Skye for now and head northward towards Ullapool, where I would catch the ferry to the islands and spend a couple days riding around, exploring the beaches and winding roads.

But before all that was to happen, I had to first get there. From Aberdeen, I rode through the Cairngorms National Park, up through the Glenlivet Estate (which was so windy my helmet felt like it was about to fly off), and into Inverness. There I stopped for a doughnut as per the recommendation of a man who did a similar journey to me but on bicycle (because he’s hardcore).


I didn’t dillydally and was soon on the road journeying south, caressing the eastern side of Loch Ness (it was here where I actually ate the doughnut). The weather was beautiful and my spirits were high. In about an hour or so I would curve the bottom of Loch Ness and arrive at my campsite for the night. I had a new and improved tent and was excited to try it out.

Then came the rains.

I learned very quickly that Scotland laughs at the word waterproof. It started raining before I arrived at the campsite and it continued to rain for about fifteen hours. Everything got wet (except, luckily, me while in my tent). In hindsight, things actually worked out much better than they could have. But during I was miserable and doubting I was even tough enough to complete such a trip (while subsequently berating myself for being a wimp for being miserable and doubting I was even tough enough to complete such a trip).

Needless to say, I barely slept.

Day Two!

In spirits less than soaring I set out. Luckily, the campsite had a drying facility and I could at least get what I needed dry for the next day. It was a northward journey up Loch Ness before cutting west and heading towards Applecross. The weather, aside from a few patches of rain that were nothing after yesterday’s onslaught, was gorgeous.

That was, until I turned into the pass that took me over to Applecross. It started raining and then started hailing. Luckily there were few other vehicles around and except for two close calls (one of which involved a giant truck running me off the road) I was fine. It was probably for the best as I’m sure those snaking roads have tempted many a motorcyclist to take them too fast.

Sunset wildcamping

As I dropped over the pass the sun came back out and I wound down to the coast. Greeting me was a vast expanse of blue and a camping spot to rival all others. I had chosen this night to wildcamp and found myself atop a hill overlooking the ocean as the sun set on my second day of adventure. What the hell, I asked myself, was I doing?

Aside from the stunning scenery (a staple of this trip), Day Three was uneventful. I headed to a hostel in Ullapool to dry my gear and allow myself plenty of time to catch the morning ferry.

That was, until I got there and realised it was cancelled. Predicted wind speeds for 50+ mph had cancelled next morning’s ferry and the afternoon one wouldn’t get in until too late. I was stuck in Ullapool for a day.

Day Four.

Ullapool Hill

The weather was still forcing my hand. Lewis and Harris looking unpredictably windy for the foreseeable future. Northward, it looked bad today but clearing. I had already inadvertently ridden a chunk of the North Coast 500 (I journey I was going to do at some point anyway) so I decided to wait out the weather and just go north.

I had coffee, resupplied, read, and took a hike up Ullapool Hill to keep active and see if the winds were really as bad as they said. Spoiler alert: they were.

Somewhere in the north of Scotland

Day Five. In my original trip I was heading back now. In this trip I was heading north. The winds, which had technically died down, turned out to still be pretty savage along exposed parts of the northern route. I stopped for a haggis bap and a cappuccino which turned into a flat white as the wind whipped off all the foam. For the whole day I found myself riding slow and taking frequent breaks to gawk at the random pristine beaches and rocky outcrops (and to take breaks from the wind). That afternoon I stopped at a campsite and set up my now-dry gear. I took a walk along the coastal rocks, almost fell in, got lost, had another mild panic attack/crippling self-doubt about what I was doing, and got soaked by the rain and sweat. Oh, and I got a job offer from an application I’d done before starting out on this trip.

Also somewhere in the north of Scotland

Insomnia plagued yet another night of my trip as the winds crashed against my mind and the tent. I was beginning to realise that throughout it all, the defining factor of this trip was simply that it was overwhelming. In ways good and bad, it was overwhelming. The beauty, the immensity, the rain!

Anyway, Day Six came eventually and I embarked slowly. It was the shortest ride today and I planned on taking things at a snail’s pace. I rode northward to the furthest northwest I would go and stopped at a chocolate shop to have the best mocha I have ever had and buy the best chocolate bar I would ever buy (it had espresso beans in it). Then I bought firewood and headed for the bothy where I would stay the night.

The bothy

The bothy!

I had discovered the bothy earlier and knew I had to give it a go. It was only a mile and a half from the road so I parked my bike and headed over. Unfortunately, I had no gear designed for bothy camping and I couldn’t leave some of the gear on the bike. So I lugged my gear and the firewood towards my night’s stay. Oh, and my gear was designed for a motorcycle so weight wasn’t the most significant factor. Why would it be? Nobody in their right might would remove it from the bike and lug it to a bothy (which, I forgot to mention, was on the other side of a bog).

On an unrelated note, through trial and error I now know how to navigate a bog.

Anyway, I made it… eventually. The fire started quick enough and began to warm me up. Not to make this an R-rated blog but I did strip out of my wet clothes and stand in front of the fire naked. And it was glorious. Luckily, no other travellers popped by during that time.

With the fire going I could dry my gear, more or less. I could also relax, and to prove I was still young and fun I ran down to the stream (in swimming trunks) and waded in. I couldn’t quite fully submerge but I could sit there, freezing, enjoying the madness of life.

I then quickly ran back in and sat by the fire.

Aside from a couple travellers arriving at the bothy late that night it was uneventful and I actually slept quite well given the circumstances. It was to be an early start for me. The last few days had seen very little actual riding and I was keen to put in some good miles. Plus, truth be told, my adventurous spirit was waning a little and the thought of being home in two days was rather exciting.

The next morning I packed up all my gear and headed out. I had no firewood but did have the experience of the day before and I navigated the bog hilariously quickly given the faff of yesterday. When I got back to the bike I rested for a moment, had some of that chocolate I’d gotten the day before, and headed off.

The northeast of Scotland is remarkably different from the northwest. The roads are straighter and the landscape is flatter. There are more what I call traditional farmlands. The wind is different too. It’s more… predictable?

I don’t know.

Clocking miles

John O’ Groats

I rode on till I got to John O’ Groats. I took a photo of the sign that everyone who goes there takes a photo of. I had some lunch sheltered from the wind. Then I hopped on the bike and headed south. It was here that the sun broke through the clouds and the slow snaking of the roads lightened the intensity of the last few days. It was still absurdly windy but it was gorgeous.

It was maybe a hundred and fifty miles or so before I stopped. I’d heard of a wildcamping spot on a loch just north of Inverness that I wanted to check out so I pulled up and set up my tent. The quiet of the north was replaced by the noises of traffic and distant conversations in holiday homes. I had arrived late and wasn’t disturbed until the morning when a few walkers walked by. But it was still clear that I was not in the north anymore. The real north anyway.

I also realised that I hadn’t peed for seventeen hours and was severely dehydrated. With all that riding I had forgotten to drink and fill up my pack so I ate a quick breakfast and headed out to refuel both me and the bike.

I stopped in Inverness again for a doughnut. They were out of my favourite but I had a Biscoff one that was delicious. Then I headed back, more or less, the way I had come, only stopping on the side of the road to have lunch and make myself a coffee to warm me up. I learned later that this morning was the first frost and that my gear probably wasn’t quite adequate for temperatures that low.

Live and learn, right?

Anyway, that was the trip in a rather large nutshell. I’m still processing it if I’m honest. A great deal happened, a great more than I can mention here. It was great and awful and everything in between. But whatever I feel, I’m glad I did it. Now onto the next adventure. The adventure of trying to make a living.

I’ve tried to post a few photos of my trip here but if you want to see more, check out my Instagram (link below).

From Edinburgh to Aberdeen and beyond

I have a confession.

The journey upon which I just embarked in fact took place several weeks ago. The next journey – the one I will be on when this post goes live – will probably not be talked about until a few weeks after it takes place.

You see, this adventure I am on is a little cluttered, a little haphazard, and because of this, a linear explanation of it is challenging. This is especially true for me, a writer who isn’t writing, as I’m generally considered not good at this sort of updating thing.

But I want to be better. And in fact this hop, skip, and a jump forward in time is an attempt to be better. Since the events of my last post I have been jumping around a bit. I’ve been in St. Andrews, in Aberdeen (when the Queen passed I got to see the crowds come out to honour her near where she spent her final days).

I’ve even been back in England briefly.

The point is, it’s been busy.

But now that the quick catchup is complete I can continue onto more important things. I am currently on another adventure (assuming all goes according to plan when I write this) and I won’t be posting for at least a week because of it. But I will be trying to keep you up to date via my Instagram account (see link at bottom of page).

After this the plan remains up in the air. I will need to find a job soon, something I can do while I continue to write. Something that, ideally, keeps me in the wilds of Scotland.

I will also be hunkering down to write. The goal is for my daily word count to skyrocket (given it’s currently at around zero that shouldn’t be difficult). I will still be mini-adventuring throughout the winter but these will be smaller, bite-sized adventures designed to fan the flames of my imagination (as well as to ensure I get outside every once in a while instead of spending all day typing away on a laptop).

That’s it for now, another quick update. Make sure and check out my Instagram for more up to date (in theory) updates on my life.

Am I even a writer? A short update

My word count today is thirteen, fourteen if you include the word ‘thirteen’. That also includes the title of this update.

At first glance it’s a rather pitiful word count. But it’s a work in progress. I have, over the course of the last few weeks, noticed a build-up of ideas within my brain. Little plots and moments to flesh out WIPs, or fun short stories that will get my brain back on track.

I have yet to actually write any of these, but soon the kettle of my mind will be boiling and I will be able to pour it out (alongside, very likely, an actual boiling kettle and a cup of tea).

My word count is now up to one hundred and twenty-nine, one hundred and thirty-three if you include the words ‘one hundred and twenty-nine’.

On the road: Day III

I had, I realised very quickly into the night, camped on a slight incline. Truth be told I knew before I set up my tent but all the better spots were taken and it wasn’t bad enough to warrant moving. The only issue was it meant waking up every now and then, wiggling back up to the top of my tent, and attempting to fall back to sleep while ignoring the slow downward slide of my sleeping bag.

I found it more funny than inconvenient.

Ghost of a stone skipped

A slow start to the morning was rendered even slower by my lack of desire to leave. There was something about the Lake District I found rather alluring. There was a peace to it. Even with all the people making all their noise, all you had to do was look up at the hills or down into the valleys to understand the stillness. It was a peace that emanated from the rocks and from the trees. A quiet louder than the voices of all the tourists.

Anyway, I digress.

I did eventually leave, snaking through the northerly part of the Lakes, seeing the topography change once again. Before I knew it I was on the A7, the road I would stay on until I reached Edinburgh.

I had nothing to complain about. The road was winding and the scenery was just as spectacular as much of what I’d ridden through. I stopped once to take a (not very good) photo of the road ahead and I stopped once at a coffee shop just outside Edinburgh.

The A7

That was it. Day Three was finishing.

P.S. There was no camping today. I was staying in a house with other people – a novelty after the last two days of just me and my bike.

I made it!