02 Apr 2022 Living life adventurously by keeping my promises
I am trying to commit to living life adventurously. But it’s a struggle. A good struggle, in a sense, because the thing that holds me back is something I happen to love: I’ve been lucky, over the last couple of years, to have worked as a freelance video journalist for a national news agency. Month to month, I’ve covered politics, entertainment, environment and other stories, even following the Prime Minister around Poland and Estonia in a single day (it’s better than waiting for him on Downing Street in the cold). I truly love this work; there’s something adventurous in making a story in a single day and in seeing it broadcast or used by newspapers.
When I say this “holds me back”, I don’t mean to disparage the work. It’s just that I worry I’ve reached a point where I have too much of a good thing. Having a good anchor client is manna for freelances, but I know it has also been one of the reasons I’ve been tempted to put other things off – reading, writing, photography and adventure, the things I really want to focus on – because I’ve been able to get by without really getting on.
That’s going to have to change soon. At some point in the next few weeks I’m moving to the Cotswolds. As excited as I am to be moving to the hilly landscape I grew up in, I feel trepidation too: it’s going to be mighty hard to cover national news stories when I’m dislocated from London, so I know I’ll be picking up less work with the agency.
I’ll miss that work – but it’s an opportunity too, to start living life adventurously with a little more focus. Last week I made myself five promises on this blog:
- Draft (and hopefully pitch) my first book;
- Devote at least part of one day a week to nature photography;
- Substantially rebalance my earnings in favour of writing and photography over video journalism;
- Keep this blog up to date at least once a fortnight; and
- Mark my fortieth birthday at least halfway through the Cape Wrath Trail.
These promises are all about getting more writing, photography and adventure into my life. Moving house is going to help – I will have to work harder to find income, and that’s going to mean having to look for adventures to write about and photograph.
The adventure writer Alastair Humphreys is generous with advice on how to make a career out of living life adventurously. In My Midsummer Morning he notes that the hardest part of every adventure is “the decision to begin, to get moving, to push back the boundaries of your normality, perhaps even to turn your whole life around”. I’ve taken that to heart, and haven’t wasted time in starting to live up to my promises.
So with that in mind, here’s my progress so far:
- Book. I’m aiming to write 60,000 words by the end of August, and have set myself a goal of writing at least 3,500 words a week to meet this goal comfortably. (This allows me a few weeks off.) Right now I’m committing to getting through transcription of my voice notes from the South Downs Way last year. I got started on Monday 28 March, and exceeded the target every day this week – for a total of 6,400 words.
- Nature photography. Last week was fantastic for nature photography: I spent some time watching a pair of male great spotted woodpeckers fighting for territory in trees in Beddington Farmland, which yielded a crop of lively bird photographs. This week… we’ll see. Perhaps I shouldn’t update my blog on Saturdays.
- Rebalance my earnings. This is a longer-term goal, and hard to track from week to week. Here’s a chart showing where my income came from last year. You can see the scale of the challenge I face if I’m to commit to rebalancing in favour of writing and photography. On current bookings, my earnings are still 3:2 in favour of video journalism over other work, but this is based on very few data points. I’ll update on this goal when I receive my first earnings in the next financial year.
- Blogging. Ta-dah! This promise is about accountability: so thank you, invisible people (maybe there are none of you), for keeping me on track.
- Cape Wrath Trail. I can only live up to this promise by actually doing it. But I have taken my first definite steps, by replanning my 2019 route with a couple of extra rest days and a diversion via Inverie for a pint at the Old Forge (which is now community owned – brilliant news). On current plans I’ll be celebrating my fortieth birthday in a remote bothy, which seems perfect.
Bound up in all of this is my aim to live life adventurously, because that aim should be fuel for my work. Another favourite writer, David Sedaris, wrote in Me Talk Pretty One Day:
“In order to record your life, you sort of need to live it. Not at your desk, but beyond it. Out in the world where it’s so beautiful and complex and painful that sometimes you just need to sit down and write about it.”
I couldn’t agree more – so I’m looking forward to joining a brilliant hiking writer, Alex Roddie, for a few days bagging Wainwrights in the Lake District a little later this month. I’m looking forward to seeing what stories might emerge – hopefully none of the painful variety, but we’ll just have to see what the weather forecast holds in store…