Sunday, 9 September 2012

Personal Appearance

When I told myself to start blogging earlier this year I made a list of topics I thought I wanted to talk about but had no specific set order in which to pick them so was free to chop and change as I saw fit and write about what I felt most passionate about on that particular week. I woke up this morning and took a look in the mirror…and I knew that it would have to be this topic!
I will turn thirty three years of age in November and I feel justified in saying this year has been one of the most difficult I have ever been through. In other blogs perhaps I’ll go into some of the reasons why but that aside there have also been enormous highs and positives to take and I’m going to take a light hearted view on something that has been getting more and more prominent in my daily thinking as the year has progressed (September already!)…my personal appearance.
Most people reading this won’t know me personally so very briefly I’ll preclude the upcoming anxieties by explaining I have always been someone who has kept reasonably fit. I started training in a boxing gym when I was twelve, enjoyed sports at school, have pretty much always belonged to a local gym, been a regular runner and generally an active person. I have for sure had exceptionally lazy periods where I’ve seen my local Indian restaurant more than the curl bench or treadmill but there’s nothing wrong with that here and there. I’m certainly no fitness fanatic but that may have something to do with the fact that regular exercise from an early age has helped me maintain a decent level of fitness despite injuries or bone idol periods all through my teens and twenties. Well that’s all fine and dandy but now my birthdays begin with a 3 there have been some noticeable problems with my ‘rely on muscle memory’ excuse. (You may be asking what has any of this go to do with writing but I’m getting there, keep with me, it will link up soon.)
I have always worked full time since leaving school and some jobs have been more demanding on my time than others, I have experience of doing 60-70 hour weeks and also of a few hours shift work scattered here and there. Throughout all jobs I have always managed to attend the gym at least a couple of times a week and it’s only this year that the routine of the gym has evaded me and I think I have to be honest about the reasons why.
When I was younger, I wanted to be fit for all the usual reasons, to look attractive to girls, to wear nice clothes, to feel confident and so on (varying levels of success with all of those) but also because I really enjoyed training and wanted to be good at the sports I had undertaken and it wasn’t just vanity, it was a real desire to be good at something, to be successful at a pursuit. Now this is the painfully honest part that hurts me to write, but now, at nearly thirty three I think all of the reasons I have when thinking about exercising come from a vanity perspective only. Wow, that was really hard to put down, I feel very sad at the fact that when I really delve into my feelings about this, I have to confront the truth, I can’t run away from it or pretend I’m exaggerating. The honest realization is that I no longer feel any desire to be healthy for any other reason that wanting to still look attractive. I don’t feel the need to be ‘good’ at anything, I’m never going to get in the ring to box again, I’m never going to run the marathon, I’m never going to compete in team sports like football or rugby, there are no more competitions for me to enter. I simply have no desire to compete in athletic forums anymore. It’s actually very upsetting saying that but that’s where the writing comes in, thanks for bearing with me so far.
As you may have read elsewhere I have always written so it is not something that has appeared out of nowhere this year. What has changed however is my attitude to writing and its place in my life. To put it bluntly it has taken over my life and I am happy for it to have done so. Outside of my job I have spent pretty much every spare moment working on Thinking Plainly Limited in one way or another, whether it be the business of publishing or the business of writing, there has always been not just something to do but an ever growing list of more things to do, an incredible sense of purpose and task setting, I have so much to complete and yet new ideas come every day. I haven’t become a hermit or recluse, I still go out and see my friends and know what the outside looks like (albeit less often I have to admit) but in the main it’s been me, my laptop, coffee and plenty of hot curries. I didn’t even notice at first because I was so enjoying and focused on what I was doing but almost immediately I stopped running, from a perhaps two to three 5-10k runs a week, I wasn’t doing any, I stopped going to the gym, from perhaps two to three 2 hours sessions a week, I wasn’t doing any, I wasn’t boxing anymore, I wasn’t playing football with my friends anymore, I wasn’t doing any sit ups or press ups at home…I just stopped doing everything!
You know what, I really don’t care! That’s the most surprising thing about this year, I don’t feel upset that I have put on weight and would now wheeze after a sprint to the bus. The reasons for this are the real crux of this blog and sorry it’s taken me so long to get to it.  
What does a writer look like? Have I given up on my personal appearance or just changed my perception of what my personal appearance should be? Is it because I am now growing older and need to find reasons to find an appearance that suits my years and interests which happen to be writing or is it because I am now becoming more of a writer and feel the need to fit the appearance of what a writer is supposed to look like and my age has nothing to do with it?

Do I need to take up smoking?

(John Steinbeck. Others at:

Should I not worry about putting on a bit of weight?

(I love Orson Welles)

Do I need to grow a beard?

An attempt of mine a couple of years ago.

Not quite up to Leo Tolstoy's level.

(Others at:

What about the serious glasses look?

(Arthur Miller is doing the glasses smoking combo, how literary)

Should I worry about the rapidly developing bags under my eyes? Should I worry about eating so many bags of peanuts when writing in the pub? Should I worry about drinking so many bottles of coke when writing in the pub? Do writers wear certain types of brogues? What about large overcoats, writers wear them don’t they, even in the summer? Do I need to put a few red wine stains on some shirts? The point is, I haven’t given up on myself, I know I can get fit again, I’m not overweight but know I can lose a stone if I need to. More importantly I’m happy as I am and feel confident about what I am doing with my life, if that means focusing on writing and putting everything else aside for a while then so be it. I don’t feel the need to take on the persona of a writer, whatever that may be, I’m not going to leave all my belongings behind, move to Paris and smoke Gauloises in a back street café all day. I don’t feel the need to grow a beard or pointy moustache. I don’t feel the need to buy fake glasses to make me look more intelligent. I do cross my legs in a very old-fashioned head masterly type of way but have always done that! I’ll just carry on being me and if that means I start to look a certain way because my lifestyle dictates it then I’ll assess it as I go.
I’ve got a short story to be released soon that concerns the impact of pressuring yourself to be everything you think you should be all at once…keep in mind this blog if you happen to read it later in the year, if this strikes a chord then hopefully you’ll enjoy the story.
I’ll leave you with this little oddity…my gym is in the same building as my library and there is a café that you can sit in and see the turnstile entrance to the gym. While on my third mocha I remind myself this is as near to the Pec-Deck as I have got in six months….

Hour (and a half) is up.

P.S: I realise that this blog is going out on the last day of the Paralympics. I didn’t want to mention it above as to link my trivial musings to the sheer incredible strength of humanity we have seen over the last two weeks would be just plain wrong. I hope you, like me, have been in awe of the athletic achievements in these games and in my little corner of the web I’ll take this opportunity to salute everyone involved.

P.P.S: I apologise for missing my blog last week. I have been very busy working on making my short stories available on all eReaders so there has been a lot of registering, formatting and frustrating admin going on. I’ll make a Facebook post this week explaining what’s going on in more detail.

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