After the walk / The book / The film

Nothing but fingertips and eyeballs

Oh! Hello 2015! Somehow or other you are here. Let Flo and me see your new year in with a little gentle music…

This time last year I wrote about all I learned in 2013 – all the ways that the unusual lifestyle had served to make the year feel very long indeed.

It's nowhere near this tidy in real life...

It’s nowhere near this tidy in real life…

Not so 2014. Where has it gone? I’ve been under a great muffly blanket of words, and the year has flickered by, suns and moons twirling above and below like a mirrorball. I’m away, out of sight – I’m a single-function organism, in the dark, multiplying quietly. There’s nothing to see here.

Last year was crystal clear. I was probably high on oxygen and vitamin D, and there was a heightened awareness that came from learning all the time. Press interest and mileage and online followers and muscles and Kickstarter pledges, all these things grew and grew. It was a supercharged, vital, vigorous year.

This year I have been nothing but fingertips and eyeballs. Everything else on me is obsolete, rolled up in a poncho and slippersocks and mothballed for another time. My muscles got smaller, my middle got bigger, all unnoticed because my brain is busy.

I confess - we did go to the beach once or twice

I confess – we did go to the beach once or twice

So, how’s the book coming on?

I’ve never made anything this big before. Writing articles or blogs is like embroidering a little handkerchief, but this book is vast. For the first half of the year I knitted away, line after line, remembering everything and getting it out of me. I made nearly 140,000 words, of which 949 were the word ‘Chico’, and 506 were ‘donkey’. I got faster and faster, starting with 1000 hard-won words a week, and ending in a clattering flurry of more than 3000 a day. The shortcut buttons to the online thesaurus are worn through as I try to replace ‘lovely’ and ‘kind’, ‘tired’ and ‘needy’. Knit one anecdote, purl one anecdote, knit one, purl one, right through the journey, only going back to pick up a dropped stitch in the form of a lazy idiom or hackneyed adjective, or to unravel overworked ones.

Then I bundled up the enormous story and sent it to the editor, and she somehow had eyes and a brain big enough to look at the shape of the whole thing, and advised, expertly and gently. And since then I’ve been hacking, stitching, patching, hemming. I’m down to 122,000 words, and there’s more to trim. Writers call it ‘killing your babies’, and according to the findings of this blog, it’s best done sober. Spontaneity and restraint in equal measures, emotion and discipline. In creating the thing I really had to feel it all again, but now I’m snipping and shaping much more dispassionately.

I got to party with the literati...

I got to party with the literati…

But it still feels like being under an enormous muffly blanket. I can’t think of anything other than scrolling, cutting and pasting, as fast as I can. Every now and then I overdo it and the words don’t look like English any more – then I visit the donkeys and reset.

And other things have happened. I recently did this interview about ‘adventuring’, spoke at the Dundee Literary Festival (there’s a funny podcast with me in it here), and in front of 250 sixth formers at a public school, and at the excellent Adventure Travel Film Festival. I applied for possible funding for the tentative next adventure (ooh!), and spoke to lots of people, including some literary agents, about the pros and cons of traditional publishing, but most of all I’m just clickering my way through this great muffle. And I’m nearly, nearly through.

So, when?

Deep thoughts go on in that skull. If only he had the fingertips with which to write his own account...

Deep thoughts go on in that skull. If only he had the fingertips with which to write his own account…

Soon! There’s a few more stages to go through yet, with the book and the film. The book will go back to the editor tomorrow for a month for the fine-toothed grammar and continuity stuff, and then to a proofreader and a typesetter and then the printers, which I guess will take another month altogether. My current best guess for delivery is the end of February, inshallah.

Meanwhile the film will come back from its editor for me to get involved with the script and music and a little additional filming, then there’s lots of multi-tasky things to do (organising a film tour for March/April, making the website much better, getting copyright permissions for things mentioned in the book, all the acknowledgements and gratitude, delivery/storage/postage stuff, the e-book and film downloads, and the Kickstarter extras) which I refuse to consider right now because I am a single-function creature. I can’t do anything except snip.

And, now and again, convene rehearsals of the Paddock Choir. Enjoy!

Happy New Year!

And for the 831 funders of this epic project, thank you for your patience! Good things eventually get posted to those who wait…

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  1. this video was a charmer. i have 2 mini donkeys who would love this. Bon courage for the project. And even more to come.
    au revoir from france

  2. Pete & Marguerite says:

    Hi Han, Hee Haw New Year. Marguerite has a pile of donkey stories from Nasrudin if you are ever short. All power to your keyboard. Loved the Dundee interview, and missed you at Christmas. Round Australia with a duck-billed platypus?

    Love, P & M x

  3. loved the musical rendition! Happy New Year and can’t wait to see the final products.

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