That’s right, lovely reader, I have been writing a book. At about 11.45pm on December 31st, 2014, I made a promise to myself; that 2015 would be the year I wrote a book. A book that would be printed and in my hands before Christmas 2015.
It is now *tries to find phone under piles of paperwork* the middle of August and I am writing my final chapter. This is do-able, Spadge, you writing-machine. But it’s so much more than a book. The writing has actually been the least-stressful part; it’s what I’m writing about that has brought me face-to-face with some of the hardest challenges of my entire life…
It’s been a while since I’ve taken on a year-long project. The last one involved browsing eBay once a month and buying a camera for less than £10, then taking that purchase everywhere with me for that month. It was very achievable, it was pretty fun and I learned a lot about photography in the process (as well as some unexpected German-reading skills, thanks to the original manuals). You can see that project post here. That was 3 years ago now and my focus has since shifted from photography to writing. So the logical step, for me, was to take on a challenge that involved a lot more writing.
I just needed a concept. Like most of my big ideas, I waited for inspiration to hit me like a train. This train was taking its sweet-ass time.
Just after Christmas 2014, Rick and I went to Larch Lodge, to celebrate New Year. Picture this scene – I’m sat in a bath with the water draining and my towel is the other side of the room. As I am about to step out of the bath, I notice that between me and said towel, is a spider that is about the size of my palm. I couldn’t help but imagine it eating a large squirrel. In the next few minutes that I had spent contemplating my own survival, the bath water had completely drained and I was starting to shiver. Rick was 2 closed doors away with some ridiculously loud, gun-based show booming from the TV. I hated him at that moment but more so; I hate who I was in that moment, I was allowing myself to be cold and cornered by something about 1/1000th of my size. Who even am I?!
I was genuinely almost in tears when suddenly, my knight in shining Levi’s burst through the door. Rick Nunn, Captor of Rogue Arachnids. He couldn’t help but chuckle at my helplessness and who could blame him? I bet the spider was laughing at me too, with it’s 20 eyes, 8 legs and 3 mouths (probably).
As soon as I’d recovered, I Googled the crap out of ‘Britain’s top 10 fears’ in an attempt to feel less alone/ridiculous. Out of all the things to fear, British people chose spiders as the 4th worst. Beating things like needles, small spaces and flying. In fact, here is the top 10 (list found on YouGov):
- Acrophobia — Fear of heights
- Ophidiophobia — Fear of snakes
- Glossophobia — Fear of public speaking
- Arachnophobia — Fear of spiders
- Claustrophobia — Fear of small spaces
- Musophobia — Fear of mice
- Trypanophobia — Fear of needles
- Pteromerhanophobia — Fear of flying
- Agoraphobia — Fear of crowds
- Coulrophobia — Fear of clowns
My brain naturally went through this list, thinking: “Hey, that one’s not bad.” “Mice? Who is scared of mice?” and then had a dangerous thought: “I bet I could conquer all of those fears”. New Year’s Eve was fast approaching and I was in need of a resolution. ‘Be braver’ seemed ideal at this moment in time. I somehow forgot my crippling fear of spiders, crowds, heights, public speaking and flying. Which, if you’re as bad at maths as I am, is exactly half of that list. Still, no pain no gain, or something. If I conquered all of these fears then, statistically, I would be braver than Britain.
If you know me well, I don’t think you’d ever expect me to hold that ‘braver than Britain’ title? I am very, very good at bailing out of situations that make me uncomfortable in any way. But the doubts of others only added to my determination. Now, almost eight months later, I have only one challenge left to face and the date is set in stone.
I’ve managed to keep every achievement secret until last weekend, where I abseiled 98 feet down Lincoln Cathedral for charity. You can still donate to my Just Giving page here. That was conquering the highest (lol) phobia on the list; ‘heights’. I won’t go into too much detail about it because that’s totally what the book is for, but it was one hell of an experience; one that I won’t forget in a lifetime. I had been keeping this book a secret for two reasons, 1. I think it’s more impressive once it’s completed as a whole project? And 2. I genuinely wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish the challenge, not through my own crippling lack of bravery, but because finding a large, dangerous spider to hold was almost impossible. It was against everyone’s health & safety regulations (understandably) and I had almost as much trouble finding mice! Apparently pet shops favour rats and hamsters because they live longer and escape less. Who knew?! I also didn’t want people to get sick of my updates – when I’m nervous I ramble and who has time for endless self-doubt tweets?
It has been a very time-consuming and self-reflective experience (you can read about all of this), but I am very glad to have the finish line in sight. I feel I should warn you about the uncensored swearing in the book (and one case of poorly-censored nudity) but when you’re hanging 98 feet above the ground, wearing someone else’s sweat-filled gloves, you’re bound to let a few mishaps slip out (I’m glad they came out in the form of words to be honest).
I should probably tell you the title. It’s called: ‘Braver than Britain, Occasionally.’ And unless the exact perfect publisher comes along, I will be self-publishing and sending all of the profits to Sarcoma UK.
If you sign up to the ‘updates’ box at the bottom of this page, then I will keep you posted about print dates, release dates, pre-orders and prices. It won’t be long!
Peace, love and endless bravery. Spadgeums x