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  • Writer's pictureMike Gould

Taking a dip in the early days of the year

Horses on the beach at Norman's Bay

Happy New Year to anyone and everyone who drops in on the site and my blog. Happy? Hmm - let's reserve judgement on that. But 'new', certainly - and with it a chance to reset the mind and the body, perhaps.

I think the importance of 'new' cannot be overstated. We are hard-wired against change - even when the daily routines or the choices we made some time back do not satisfy us. It is so much easier to do nothing, to accept in a fatalistic way the idea that life is like this, immutable and repetitive. And I say this as someone who has a relatively easy life, working from home and broadly free of the constraints many face in their everyday lives.

So, why throw the proverbial spanner in the works? The truth is there are no right choices, only decisions. You cannot know until you make a change whether it will benefit you - but making no change if you are dissatisfied is not the flip-side of that coin.

How does this link to writing? Last year I joined Hastings Writers' Group having thought for some while about whether it was 'right' to do so. Ok - not a big life decision, but nevertheless an important one. I'm already reasonably successful as a writer in my own field so what did I need with a writing group? It might expose me - perhaps I'm not as good as I think I am? Working on your own is safe. Yes, editors at the end of the line or popping up in emails can be critical voices but it's largely at a remove, whilst a group of people, living, breathing other writers gathered around a set of tables in a Hastings hotel on the seafront is another matter.

But I joined. Or rather they accepted me. And in so doing, I joined a community of sorts - of different ages, genders, race; of different interests, passions and professional expertise. The meetings can be great - and also not so good. The workshops range from hugely stimulating to rather mundane. Has the experience been life-changing? Well, in a way - yes. It hasn't advanced my career or brought me global admiration. But each time I attend I open myself up to new possibilities, to new ideas, to new voices in ways which are unexpected and would not necessarily have featured on any rational list of reasons to join the group.

Living by the sea, the analogy to make is an easy one. It's a Spring day. The sun is warm but there's a cool breeze. People pass by on horses. That looks great, but you can't ride and you don't have a horse. You love swimming in the sea, but it looks unseasonably grey and your muscles recall the griping cold of remembered dips. Or you think you do. In the for/against columns, the 'against' has more items in it than the 'for'. You've got to hop around trying to put on your trunks without looking an idiot. You've got to walk across the pebbles.You'll hate the initial icy burst. You'll swallow more salt water than is good for you. Your ears will get blocked. You'll be shivering afterwards. You'll need another shower. Need I go on?

All those imagined realities might stop you doing it. But the imagination is not the reality. Only by making the decision can you really know. And it might be all the things you imagined. Yet will you have lost anything really? Even the discomfort and the trunks-embarrassment might lead to a poem, a short story, a blog.

I remember a former work colleague once telling me her husband had got her a ticket for a county cricket game. I said, 'Oh, I didn't know you liked cricket.' Her reply? 'I don't - but it's an experience, isn't it? Something I've never done before.'

I never asked her if she'd enjoyed it, and increasingly I feel that it would have been an irrelevant question anyway.

Just do stuff. Time to take the plunge.

(P.S I'm not a New Year's Day swimmer by the way - so there's no real bravado here)

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