I tend to vacillate between the kind of people or activities that are slightly bohemian (and a little nihilistic), and the completely conventional. Sometimes, I just want to go and get really drunk, or do stuff that’s irresponsible but not criminal. On days like those, I imagine getting up from my desk at lunchtime, getting on the train to London City airport, and flying somewhere on a one-way ticket. The fantasy extends to figuring out which countries extradite, going to one that doesn’t (although I’m not sure extradition applies to unpaid rent), and setting up a dingy bar in a slightly rundown beach resort.
I’d pose for an artist to earn the money, and he’d help me with all his contacts – and implausibly would just be a nice protective older man, not the sleazebag he would be in real life.
The bar would become a cool hangout, somewhere you’d find a random collection of down and outs, plus some surf bums and students. It’d have a stone floor and a pool table, people would smoke loads, and the rain would patter down quite loudly on the corrugated iron roof.
Half way through this reverie, I usually find myself staring out of the window by the side of my desk, at the giant fake plastic leaves that hang in the office atrium, and wondering how my life amounted to developing software – actually, not even doing anything as tangible as writing code, just producing Powerpoint slides and saying “so, tell me what your job involves” a lot in order to produce specifications someone else will produce software from. At about 7 pm I go and cram myself on the underground, go to the climbing wall for a few hours, drink a stupid protein shake, and eventually flop into bed, having done nothing I could possibly consider creative. In fact, I spend the vast majority of the time I don’t spend in front of a screen doing some form of exercise. In the last week, have done 2 hours of mountain biking, 8 hours climbing, and about 2 hours running. Although I love physical exertion, all physical endeavour is the antithesis of any form of creativity. It is as if your brain completely stops functioning, and a small animal core crawls out, pushing you on and making you exist purely for that one moment of strength or speed. It’s a rush.
As I was running around London on the Asics 10k course today, I was quite sad about how little confidence I had in my own ability, and how much you need to believe in yourself to ever write anything worth reading. Unfortunately though, there seems to be no bridge between physical achievement and intellectual confidence. Athletic achievement will never be the route to good writing; I can’t even write about the sports that really inspire me in a way that conveys either physical pain or physical pleasure well. There are those great moments: climbing, when I’m on a very steep route and twist my body into the wall, step up and reach for a hold in what feels like a perfect angle. It feels like freedom, but I can’t make it sound very special to anyone who’s never done it.