Shifting focus

Pentland Ridge A few thoughts on changing priorities, laying down pens and climbing up hills.

For a little under three years, I’ve been running a small, genre-focused writing group in Edinburgh called the Edinburgh Genre Group. I started it after being frustrated at not being able to find an active writing group reading and sharing the kind of thing that I wanted to write. I met some of the folks from the Glasgow SF Writer’s Circle who walked me through how they ran their group - it’s been going thirty years or so, so they were clearly doing something right.

It has been a lot of fun running the group and EGG (as I’ve taken to calling it) now has a pretty great group of regulars. But over time I realised my heart really wasn’t in running it anymore and the group deserved better. So now a couple of the other members have volunteered to try and take the group forward. If you’re in or around Edinburgh and you want to get Milford-style critiques then you should fit right in. Send them an email and go along to a meeting. You’ll love it.

The truth is, after about four and a half years of establishing a solid, repeatable writing habit (after basically faffing for a decade), I’ve drafted six novel length works and a handful of short stories. I’m happy with none of them and I was gradually becoming less and less excited by the prospect of bashing out my five hundred words a day. It’s time to take a long and possibly permanent break from that and try something new.

I’m still going to write - it’ll just be here, in public. And instead of exploring the economics of post-scarcity societies (or more often blowing up space stations, if I’m honest) I’m going to return to something that has been a fascination of mine since childhood - travel and the outdoors.

I’ve been hillwalking since I was old enough to pull on a pair of boots. Through my time at university I was lucky enough to do a lot of adventure training as part of the Officer’s Training Corps, including memorable expeditions in the Cairngorms. Then I moved to London and, apart from a few trips to the South Downs and tromping through muddy forests in Essex, didn’t do much for years. All my gear broke, got borrowed or went missing and I just sort of… stopped climbing hills.

But since moving back to Edinburgh, I’ve slowly (oh so slowly) started again. And recently, I’ve been thinking about doing far more in the outdoors. I mean, sometimes you just have to listen to your gut. And my gut tells me that traipsing up hills makes me a very happy man. Here’s me on Allermuir a couple of weeks ago:

Me grinning beside a trig point

Sometimes things you want to do feel good because they’re the right thing to do. It’s always worth checking with yourself if the thing you think is your ambition actually still is. It might actually be something else entirely that really makes you happy.

So, I’ve reactivated my Mountain Training account which I registered in a previous burst of enthusiasm for the hills a full decade ago(!) and I’m now logging my way towards the Mountain Leader award, one weekend hillwalk at a time. This rather good wee video from Mountain Training explains the qualification quite nicely.

So, this site will more than likely feature a lot more of the things I want to write about now. That will mean the odd gear review (I’m a bit of a gearhead, frankly), walk reports, updates on my progress through the ML process and hopefully the odd bit of writing about the outdoors on a more metaphysical and meaningful level.

I’ve been inspired recently by the writings of a few other outdoor bloggers, including Alex Roddie, David Lintern and Al Humphreys. It was Al’s concept of microadventures that really made me think that getting back into the outdoors might be possible in lots of small steps instead of a few great galumphing ones. As a non-driver in a full time job, I’m particularly interested in figuring out ways of getting out and about in Scotland and wild camping/backpacking via public transport at the weekends. If I figure out any particularly great ways to do it, I’ll be writing them up here.

All of this means I should hopefully be writing more here generally. There will still probably be the odd bit of technical noodling and waffling about science fiction and gaming, but it’ll mostly be hills. I hope you enjoy reading.

Written on May 26, 2016