Vow Of Silence

Blog, Musings, News & Updates

So you may or may not have noticed that I’m undergoing a bit of a rebrand to ‘The Challenge Guy’ right now. I’ve got so much to share with you and it’s all in the works right now. We are so close I can hardly contain my excitement!

So I honestly cannot wait to get THAT show on the road 🙂 but in the meantime, I’d like to share with you the idea that spawned all this up and coming epicness: a 24 hour vow of silence.

Spoiler alert, I enjoyed it so much I went for 40+ hours and plan to repeat the silence every single Sunday from here on out! I learned so much from the silence, and I talk about it here: I Took A Vow Of Silence And Here’s What I Learned

Please check it out and let me know what you think in the comments below. A few more days and you’ll have a better idea of what’s going on. Let’s just say I’m gonna be a Guinea Pig for a lot of ‘what if’ scenarios and niggling questions in the back of our minds.

Until then, please enjoy the vow of silence report!

You can check out my full portfolio of fiction, lifestyle, and philosophy posts here

Time Waits For No Man (To Himself)

Blog, To Himself

“Stop whatever you’re doing for a moment and ask yourself: Am I afraid of death because I won’t be able to do this anymore?” —Marcus Aurelius

Time waits for no man. 

This is something my father always said, though perhaps misinterpreted on his behalf. The sentiment stands true to its core meaning, however, in that death is coming to us all. Perhaps in our later years, peacefully, in our sleep; perhaps in a hospital bed after suffering illness and disease; or perhaps still by some random disaster, accident, or freak occurrence, as early as tomorrow or the next day.

The only thing guaranteed to us in this life is that it surely runs out, and we have no control over the how and when. The one true currency that cannot be earned, manipulated, or regained in any way. Though sadly this currency is constantly spent without any means of earning back the loss, we can make sure its invested wisely and spent on the things that matter most to us.

In short, the only things we should be spending our time on are the things that make us smile. The things that enhance our lives while we have them. Should we waste time on relationships where the partner is unequal in their effort to bring happiness? Should we grind our souls down to dust as we work mindlessly for pounds and pence?

There is no true reason, no true sense, in spending our time in any area where the investment doesn’t have the kind of pay off that brings peace and happiness to our souls. 

Of course this can, and indeed should, involve career advancement, education, and the accumulation of wealth, but only insofar as our needs are met and we fall asleep smiling.

Were all the geniuses of history to focus on this single theme, they could never fully express their bafflement at the darkness of the human mind. No person would give up even an inch of their estate, and the slightest dispute with a neighbor can mean hell to pay; yet we easily let others encroach on our lives—worse, we often pave the way for those who will take it over. No person hands out their money to passersby, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives! We’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.” —Seneca

In the knowledge that our lives are most certainly ending, with each passing second, minute, and hour, we must do our best to savour those precious moments. Seek out the thrilling, the impactful, the powerful. Find meaning in the moment, work in accordance with our desires and dreams, and waste no time on the painful, the wasteful, or the meaningless.

While we have no control over our end, or no clue of how much time we have left, we hold a firm grip of how we spend that fleeting gift, regardless of whether that time is as little as a day or as much as another fifty years. 

We must take it upon ourselves to remind ourselves of our mortality in each moment we feel unsatisfied with our lives. We must take control of our time with as much efficiency as we can manage. We must remember that every time we lend our time to others, we are giving the most precious gift of all.

Time, truly, waits for no man.

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Introducing ‘To Himself.’

Blog, To Himself

I’ve always been inspired by the works of Marcus Aurelius and the great stoics of ancient times. Big thinkers with exceptional minds and ideas. I’ve read Marcus’s ‘Meditations‘ probably 30 times throughout my life, and I always come back to it when I start to feel a little lost.

For a long time now I’ve had the idea to journal in a similar way to what we see in Meditations, small passages scribbled down as reminders to myself. In the morning before going about my day, in the evening to reflect upon the happenings of the day, in the midst of crisis, during a period of love or immense joy. A growing collection of words inspired by and bought about by the very act of life itself.

This is what I’m going to do here. And I honestly can’t wait to dive right in and get started. I’ll admit this first entry for you is one I wrote back in the winter, when I first came up with the idea. That said, it was, and always will be, the natural birthing point of this ever-growing collection of self-talk. So without any further ado, I present you: To Himself.

A wintery photo of a frozen lake and snowy woodland
IG: @the_explorer_guy_uk

It would be easy to remain in the warm comfort of the sheets, allowing the mind to continue swirling in intricate visions of the imagination, and the soul to wander the outer-realms without a care, but of course with all journeys of transcendence and imagination, such as sleep, or meditation, there comes the moment where it must once again crash into the realities of the outside world. Such confrontation is only rendered more difficult in the autumns and winters, with the harsh coldness of the world outside—with it’s miserable weeping skies and it’s drab, low hanging greyness erasing all memory of the beautiful summer mornings we enjoyed a few sweet blinks before. 

To stay put atop that mattress while the radiators swell with heat and delay the responsibilities of the day just by another hour is the most alluring whisper. The seductive and powerful whisper of our shadow-selves. ‘Sleep through any notion of what must be done,’ he tells us, ‘It’ll wait a little longer.’ 

But that’s what it comes down to in the end. What must be done. Whichever time that alarm bell chimes is the time we’ve committed ourselves to waking the night before, and with it, all that would be done in those waking hours. To ignore that and roll over, to hit ‘snooze’ and groan your dismay at the hideous ringing, is to shun, and ignore, and hate on only yourself and the decisions you’ve made for your own wellbeing. It’s not the alarm that’s telling you to get up and meet the world head on, it’s you. The master of the device, the master of the decision, the master of the mind… You.

This is the moment of utmost importance in the day. The very first decision we get to make for ourselves. Will it be a success, or a failure? To set the day up atop a failure is to build a home out of sand in the midst of a rising tide, to tell ourselves that our decisions aren’t important, our desires aren’t concrete. We only serve to set up a pattern for the day. A pattern of failure and questions and shady distrust in ourselves. While yet to build the day atop a success is no less promising than the thick stone foundations of the ancient castles that still stand vast among our European landscapes, hundreds if not thousands of years later, each block laid finding comfort and security in the integrity of the blocks placed before it. 

We must trust ourselves. We must leave that warm bed and confront the cold outdoors. No matter how tired, no matter how comfortable. We must meet our responsibilities with an iron resolve and a laser-sharp focus, with an outsiders look at the overall picture of our lives. The more we commit to routine and ritual the less tough decisions need to be made along the way. The more we succeed in following through with our word, the stronger our resolve becomes. 

The shorter our journey becomes. 

There we have it, the first entry in many just like this. If you enjoyed this piece of writing be sure to hit that follow button so you’re notified every time there’s a new entry. I’ll be posting to the ‘To Himself’ project as often as possible. In the meantime, I write a ton of content for Vocal, which you can check out here. I’ve got fiction, lifestyle, writing tips, and pretty much everything in between.

Until next time… sleep well, arise better.

Three Pieces Of Fiction And Why They’re Important To Me

Blog, flash fiction

Since writing for Vocal+ I’ve written three pieces of flash fiction, each under 2000 words and inspired by separate word prompts. The process has ripped me out of writers block and put me back on the path of writing online again, and I’ve never had so much fun doing it. Instead of creating separate blog posts for each one and clogging your feeds with my ugly mug, I figured why not share with you the three stories all in one post, and give you a little excerpt and rundown of each one as I go! So here goes nothing.

Barnacle Clumpersnatch

This is by far my favourite piece of writing to date, telling the story of a man receiving a mysterious package. He is immediately whisked back into the memory of a time where he first met Danny, the son of the woman his father started dating. I leaned into this piece fully, with humour and characterisation, slowly revealing the difficulties of their history through dialogue and interaction. I’ve had nothing but amazing feedback on this one, and really hope you take the time to give it a read.

I examined the box before me in a trance, with the breath caught in my lungs. No return address. No label. No branding. Just a brown paper box with ‘BARNACLE CLUMPERSNATCH’ scrawled shakily in its center. My mouth dried up in the low hum of tense silence.

Those words… that name… The package could’ve only come from Danny. But why? And more to the point, how? I felt the colour drain from my skin.

Death By Chocolate

This piece was a response to Vocal’s ‘Death By Chocolate’ challenge, and had me feeling experimental. The story chronicles the morning of a rather depressed young insomniac being woken up on his birthday, and I really had a chance to play around with language techniques and humour. It’s a little Neil Gaiman in style, and I loved stepping outside of my norm in an attempt to emulate that. Where it truly crosses the boundary into experimentation is in its false endings. I don’t want to give too much away, but you’ll see when you get there. Some loved it, some didn’t, but the story itself was very much enjoyed and I had a blast writing it!

When Jonathan finally drifted off to sleep after hours of wrestling insomnia, the last thing he expected was to be awoken at 7am by his younger brother. 

BANG! BANG! BANG! Lurched him into a dizzy, semi-awake, consciousness, with panic and confusion dancing in his chest. In the exact same second the door swung open and the family burst into his room. “Get up! It’s your birthday!” They squealed in an imperfect unison. Or words to that effect… I’m paraphrasing, of course.

Cries Of The Barn Owl

This was the first piece of fiction I’d written in a long time, and it came in response to the Vocal prompt: Barn Owl. The piece is somber, reflective, and emotional, and I truly got to lean into the darker aspects of love and loss while stretching out my ‘descriptive muscles.’ Are those even a thing? I guess they are now.

Anyway… blowing the dust off my creative side felt good and got me right to where I am now, having already earned Top Story for Vocal and building a portfolio of over 10 pieces so far.

He watched as smoke twirled upward from the glowing tip of his cigarette, twisting and turning against the silhouette of tall chestnuts that lined the back of his garden. He filled his lungs with the rich, heavy warmth of tobacco and exhaled a large cloud, swallowing up the spiralling streams as they danced toward the night sky.

It was cold out. Ice had already claimed the decking beneath his feet, and the black felt-lining of the shed roof glistened in the blackness of night. Dense, entangled, branches glowed white against the fullness of the moon, and somewhere, shrouded in the shadows, the unmistakable call of a barn owl echoed out from beyond the tree line. 

Well there you have it! Of course I have written more than just fiction during my time on Vocal (which you can check out here) and am fully back in the world of content creation from here on out.

If you liked any or all of those stories above, let me know in the comments. Or, you know, if you hated them. You can tell me that too…

Now that that’s out the way, I solemnly swear to no longer inundate you with fresh posts after a year of radio-silence. I’ll update you on new posts as they become available, frequently update my on-site portfolio, and start building out my “To Himself” journal right here on WordPress. Damn it feels good to be back!

Now I’m gonna go make a cuppa, I’m exhausted…

York Castle Ruins

I’m Back For Good… And I’ve Been A Busy Bee!

News & Updates

It’s been quite some time since I’ve blogged here, and there are so many overlapping reasons for that which makes going into it here feel a little too much like making excuses. What’s important is that I’m back on the map, and I’ve been making some pretty big changes, both in life and online.

First up, I’m building a portfolio of writing over at Vocal, which has been so fun to jump into. The site offers weekly and monthly challenges, small amounts of money per read, bonuses for hitting certain milestones and achievements, and the opportunity to receive tips from your audience. The Vocal Facebook communities are filled with a diverse range of writers, and the encouragement to write in topics and genres outside of my comfort zone has been great for countering my writers block. If this sounds like a win/win situation, you can create an account here.

I am coming back to blog on WordPress though. I’ve missed the community engagement, the conversations through comments, the connections that were built here… ugh, too much to mention in one quick post. Suffice it to say that I’m happy to be coming back aboard.

My Home Page now acts as a growing portfolio of work, which categorises my Vocal writing, offers a brief synopsis of what the post is about, and links over to the full piece. I hope you spend some time checking that out. I’ve already created some pretty decent fiction and lifestyle pieces. One piece (How To Make The Most Of Vocal) even made Top Story, and was consequently shared to their social media accounts, garnered almost one thousand views, and earned me $20 along the way!

On the blogging front, I’ll be creating a blog post for each of the pieces I’ve written over there (so you guys don’t miss out on the things you’re interested in) but also writing exclusive stuff for WordPress too. I have always been inspired by the work of Marcus Aurelius, and think I’m going to build myself a running journal of reflective thought and self-talk to share with all who are interested. It’s a straight-up rip off of Meditations, but instead of a kind and fair emperor of Rome, I’m a lazy and chronically fatigued parent with a proclivity for words, junk food, and sleep. I’m going to call it ‘To Himself,’ and as much as I get a little joy from mocking myself, it will be chock-full of personal lessons and inspirational little nuggets to remind myself of the finer things in life.

Besides that, I’ve been spending lots of time going on adventures and days out with the kids, and have been having tons of fun building out my instagram profile. If you love nature, self development, adventure, and exploration, you’ll love my account. Head over there and follow me for daily content. I have enough photos saved up for over a year, and post thoughtful captions to go with them!

IG @gdholdaway

Well, I’d say that’s enough of an explanation and re-introduction as we need for now, wouldn’t you? I hope to see you over at insta and Vocal, and if you have a spare few minutes, let me know what you’ve been up to while I’ve been away. Looking forward to getting involved with the community again!