385 Yards

Day 31 of the blog post a day in May challenge. Need a drink

THERE is a strange feeling which happens sometime around 5pm every Wednesday (much later than that and things have gone a bit wrong).

As the final pages of that week’s papers are waved off, the pent-up drive which has pushed me through the last couple of days as the clock ticks down – seemingly much faster than the pages to do list – just drains away.

There is a sudden feeling of lightness as the blinkers come off and the focus on the job in hand is unfastened and it is time to stop, look around and relax. For a little while.

Energised and ready to take on the world, it is generally straight off to the gym to make the most of this fresh momentum and sweat out any remaining frustrations.

Not sure if it is the quest for that feeling or the need to be that focused, but have always worked better with deadlines.

Have weened myself off most vices merely by stubbing them out and quitting, but the deadline fix is one that has been missing less by choice than by circumstances.

First morning printing was replaced by printing the night before publication and then we went weekly rather than daily.

Those two hours first thing in the morning were the best of the day, beaten only by the rush to get sports editions out as close as possible to the final whistle. It is what really swung me from writing to the production of newspapers (look ’em up online kids, you’ll be amazed).

And am experiencing signs of that deadline feeling as the end of this month-long blogging challenge looms into view, just a few hundred more words out of around 34,000 over the course of 31 days.

We’ve covered a lot of ground through music, travel, overlanding, random subjects as they popped up and a couple of fillers because, deadline looming, sometimes you’ve got to just go with what you’ve got. Or what you can summon out of nothing.

Having read some of them over the last few days, the early ones seem a long time ago and pretty happy with a few of them. Not all of them, some of them just didn’t work as planned, but some came out better than thought when first wrote them.

Ironically, several of the ones written off the cuff seem to have fared better than ones which were planned out in advance. There’s a lesson there, more on that later.

So what have we learned over the last month of daily posts? Where does the Travel Marmot go from here? And, the most common question over the past few weeks, what on earth prompted this daft idea?

There is no clear answer, certainly to the last question.

The simple answer is that saw somewhere online about a few bloggers doing something similar (parts of the internet really should come with a health warning) and it seemed like something worth doing.

With work throwing up some potential long days in June and the following months losing time to increasing South America trip preparations before the off in September, May seemed the most logical month.

Could have thought of it before the start of February.

But as the days, weeks and thousands of words have progressed, think a couple of underlying reasons emerged – starting with proving something to myself.

Had some grand plans for this blog when it first started with half a mind to try to make a bit of money out of it – a plan which lasted about as long as it took to do a bit of research and discover how much work (that wasn’t writing or free travel) was needed to make anything approaching a living.

So while it quickly became just for fun and veered off down the musical rabbit hole that has taken over between bouts of travelling (cheers Will), still always had some intentions to turn it into something more than it was.

More regular posts, more travel tales and advice, more readers (well, hopefully), more bells and whistles to jazz up the website and more social media (would anybody follow a Travel Marmot Facebook page or Twitter feed? Hey, could even get down with the kids on Instagram).

Which is why the list of writing ideas and jobs to do on the site sat largely untouched and posts became sporadic with occasional bursts of activity before lengthy waits for the next post.

You should have seen some of the posts which were written in my head and never made it onto the site. Some of them were great.

And those posts were nothing compared with the entire collection of potential books or scripts which have been tossed around in my head. Some of them, especially in my younger days, even made it down on paper.

There’s an awful lot of book outlines and first few chapters been sketched out, only to be discarded or set to one side and never picked up again.

Over the closing stretches of the Trans Africa and days immediately afterwards, made a fair few notes about an insider’s view of overlanding book – raided them for a few of the pieces in the last month.

Grand plans but real life got in the way.

So somewhere in my mind, this was proving things to myself.

Could this website become something close to that original plan, written to a schedule which could not just be put off until tomorrow? And did my outside work persona have the discipline to write as required to finally write that book?

Sort of got some answers. Just need to settle on the idea that will bring it all together (in both cases).

And there was more than that, something touched on in an earlier post which only really became apparent as we went on – while writing that piece in some way.

This was a way of finding my voice again, rediscovering that rhythm of writing.

Strange as it may seem, while it became a long undertaking and there were nights when really could have done with forgetting the whole thing towards the end, the actual writing became easier.

Instead of over-thinking it and second guessing myself, sticking to some of the constraints of writing or editing at work, settling into my style began to flow and when it clicked, suggest that was the best writing of the last month.

It has happened before when writing regularly – compare the later posts from past journeys with the perfectly passable but less relaxed pieces from the early days – so there’s the lesson.

And also the answer for what next for Travel Marmot.

Give me a little bit of a break, but aim to be pretty regular over the coming months – there’s a landmark needs marking in just over a week – and then as required (and when WiFi allows) in South America.

We’ll see where it takes us.

  • Bit of a self indulgence but this post doesn’t lend itself naturally to any pictures, so to break up a large wad of text that’s a selection of a few personal favourites.

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