As you can see, the new website is beginning to take shape. This is the new layout framework, but there’s still plenty of work for Janet to do, so please be patient. Things like the sponsor pages will combine onto one and link through to other websites. For now, you get to see the overall look of the page, and that’s it.
Last September I began to write. It wasn’t a laborious process, I enjoy it. It was something completely new. Aside from this blog, and academic essays at university, I’d never written anything. I wasn’t just writing – I was reliving a journey, a journey containing many painful memories and pivotal moments. I was telling my story in the form of a book, or at least that’s what I hope it would turn into.
On Wednesday this week I pressed two buttons online. One would publish my completed book as an EBook and the other would do the same as a paper version. Ride2Recovery: a journey within a journey was finished, and I let out a few tears and a long breath of relief. In many ways this had been a tougher undertaking than the ride. I actually finished the writing at the beginning of December and since then I’ve been editing, something else I’ve never attempted. Beyond that, the manuscript was sent to be proof-read, before I did all the corrections and sent it back for a final read-through.
This week saw me constructing books, using online software that I hadn’t even heard of before I decided to take this on. Formatting used to be something that Windows did for me, now I know how to trick Windows and use it to do what I want it to do. There’s a smug satisfaction in overcoming all those geeks in order to make your EBook behave as you want it too. There’s an even bigger satisfaction in seeing the finished articles on the bookshelves, ready for people to enjoy.
As I sat thinking about pressing those buttons, I got frightened. Scared I might not have anything to say. Scared that people might judge me. I was also scared that it will fall flat on its arse! It’s an open, honest, passionate and personal account of how life led me to, and through, the last breakdown. It tells the story of eighteen months of uncertainty, as I struggled to become a cyclist once again, whilst learning to manage the mental health issues that I live with. It also tells the story of four months constant cycling, and the struggle I faced when I returned home with autumn approaching fast.
Being who I am, I pressed the buttons anyway, and in that moment a huge wave of emotion overran me. Flashbacks, to other pivotal moments in life, raced across my mind. People, places, tragedies, scenery, moments, grief, calm, rage, and finally joy. It was cathartic pressing those buttons. All of that writing had somehow transposed the emotion from me to the book. I sat, smiled and made a coffee. I closed the laptop, something almost unheard of, and I went and watched the TV for the first time in months.
It wasn’t just the emotion that wanted to stop me pressing the buttons. By doing so I would take another step forwards. Was I ready for that? I wouldn’t know until I got there. I would risk ridicule and failure, but then, if you don’t, how can you know what success might be? Any income it generates will be the first income I’ve created myself for six years. More importantly, it was another major milestone in my own personal journey.
It’s a big step to say that you’re ready to begin starting to take financial responsibility for your life again. Especially when welfare systems are set up so you are either fit for work, or not fit for work. It’s something I’ve never understood. Surely it would be better to allow people to take small steps forwards? That way, people on long-term benefits, like me, could rebuild slowly, helping to avoid any potential relapse.
Sitting quietly in my kitchen with a coffee, I felt as though I’d come full circle. I’d prepared for, and completed the ride, and now I’d completed my first book, it was almost time to ride again. I feel as though I’ve lived in a bubble for six months and just remembered that there’s a world outside of my laptop. I’m enjoying the first period of real rest I’ve had in that time. I’m relaxing and talking to friends and until Monday morning, Irene will sit in the house unridden for the last week.
Sunday will be the nearest I get to a bicycle this week. I’m travelling to Bristol with a friend to enjoy the Bespoked bike show, a show where everything handmade will be on display. It’s time to get out in the world of people. I’ll take a handful of business cards and talk to lots of folk about all things cycling. It should be a blast.
Writing has been known for centuries to be a creative process. I have a drawer full of scribblings from various points throughout my illness. One day I’ll take them out and read them. Perhaps when we put the pen to paper we are taking responsibility for ourselves, admitting there’s a problem and helping our minds to overcome them. I don’t have enough knowledge of this to comment, but I know that writing has become a major part of my life and therapy. It doesn’t seem to matter what you write, it’s similar to art therapy in that respect. There’s something inherent in doing it that soothes the soul, even though it may not feel that way at the time, especially if you are in crisis.
My personal journey through the writing is not dissimilar to the physical journey on the bicycle. I had to find the routines that would work at home, allowing me to rest and recuperate whilst always being mindful to the fact that the book wouldn’t write itself. I would find myself writing at 05:30: a.m. or at 23:30 p.m. depending on when my mind felt able to cope with it. I would often fall asleep in the afternoon and waken feeling foggy headed, like my mind was separate from my body. Letting this slowly clear, I would then work throughout the evening, whilst the TV provided background noise and distraction during breaks.
I’d find myself lost in another world. A world of memories, maps, people, places and journals. Some of the writing triggered emotional outpourings, and there were key moments when I would become completely emotionally overwhelmed by the memories that I had to ponder. Similarly, there were moments of great joy as I re-lived times gone by and escapades in life that I will certainly write about in more depth at some point.
Winter ravaged my mind this year. The only escape I had was to keep writing, so maybe that gave me a little more impetuous to complete it. Towards the end of the process, I’d read and re-read the book around 8 times. I’d removed 60,000 words from my original manuscript and it all began to say “I’m finished”. I was aware of the exhaustion that had crept up on me, just as it did when I was riding. I took as much time out to ride as I could afford to, but the book, my book, needed completion before I could really stop.
There was a point when everything to do with the ride this year, and the book threatened to overwhelm me. It seemed as though there was no end point. That was the moment I handed my book over to the proof reader, the moment I needed to let go of it. From then on it changed. Michele, who is now retired, is a laid-back, hard-working person who loves books, and her calm reassurance over the project soothed me.
I was no longer alone with it. Several other people had read the draft copy and enjoyed it and Michele’s skill has helped shape that into the finished article. I never thought that doing corrections would be an enjoyable process, but seeing somebody else’s comments and suggestions was uplifting and at times down right funny, as she struggled to make sense of my scribbling.
The file flew backwards and forwards between us, and despite the emotional pendulums that I spoke about, I now had somebody to help take the weight from my shoulders. My emotions settled and all the angst fell away. I want to say a big thank you to Michele. The book you see is only like it is because of here hard work and commitment.
So, I’ve earned my week off the bike, the bike show and the gentle walks in the sunshine. I’ll start again next week, fundraising and riding. The final eight weeks before I ride will never be as frantic as the last eight weeks and any future books will be so much easier to produce now I have the experience of having produced one once. That’s life in a nutshell.
My book is available as a paper book from Blurb.com or as a Kindle book from Amazon. Kindle is available as an app for iPad/iPhone, Mac, PC and Kindle. You can preview and purchase Riding2Recovery: a Journey within a journey at: