Lockdown has been tough for a lot of people, and I wrote something a while ago about not feeling bad if you’re not buzzing with creative energy right now.
But something happened in me after about 10 weeks of lockdown- perhaps I adjusted to the new reality, or just got bored enough, and for the last couple of weeks I have been madly creating stuff. In addition to several blog posts, there are several major projects in the pipeline. This sort of fallow period followed by a productivity explosion is my normal modus operandi (especially after producing a new book). I lie dormant for a while, then things start to sprout. Here's what's coming down the pipe:
1) I’m starting a podcast. It’s called “The Sword Guy”.
Because why not? I have been thinking about it for a long time, and the thing that tipped me over the edge was when I realised I don’t have to do it every single week forever. I can do it in seasons. The first season, provisionally titled “Voices of Historical Martial Arts” is a series of interviews with interesting sword people. Some I’ve never met, some I’m close friends with, and some in between. I have seven episodes in the bag, with three or four more scheduled to be recorded. I’ll be launching probably next week (just getting all my ducks in a row). I was planning a six-episode run, but it’s already grown to at least ten.
I’m coming out with all guns blazing- my first guest is none other than the legendary Jess Finley. We talk about all sorts of things, including medieval tree diagrams, gambeson shoulders, and even horses.
I’ll let you know when it goes live!
One of the triggers for starting the podcast was an interview I did recently with a writer, Scot Hanson, who contacted me for help with a fight scene. He came back with a bunch of questions, and it was obvious we’d need to talk over the phone, so I thought we’d record it. You can find that interview here.
2) On the subject of audio- I’m in the process of getting The Theory and Practice of Historical Martial Arts professionally recorded as an audiobook. Most of my books are too illustration or video heavy to make good audiobooks, but Theory and Practice will work just fine. The process is obviously quite expensive, so when I’ve selected a narrator and we’re good to go, I’ll open up pre-orders on my Gumroad shop to help cover the costs.
3) I have two new books at the 30,000+ words draft stage. They are Solo Training, the book to go along with the Solo Course, and another work I’m not going to share the working title of yet, but it’s an attempt to write a book about lessons from sword training for the general reader. Two large drafts may seem like a lot of typing, but it's not, because I cheat. Particularly for the Solo Training book, I’m using AI-generated transcriptions of the Solo Training course videos as a starting point. A couple of hours work extracting the audio and running them through the transcription service rendered me a 64,000 word manuscript without any typing at all! It is much, much, easier to edit a crap first draft into a good second draft, than it is to write a good first draft straight off the bat. I’m a big fan of doing things the easy way.
On the subject of books- you know my Rapier Workbooks? I’m giving up on the spiral bound editions, at least for now. Distribution has been an expensive nightmare, so I’m putting them into my regular distribution channels as perfect-bound paperbacks. It’s a shame, really, because spiral bound is better for this format, but I can’t argue with the economics any longer. Still, there’s nothing stopping people from re-binding the books when they get them.
4) We are half way through the live Meditation for Martial Artists course, and it’s going very well. The BookWhen scheduling service seems to work pretty well, and I’m going to re-shoot every class for a standalone online course soon. I thought we could use the zoom footage, but it’s not quite right for a pre-recorded course. The zoom footage is going up on the course platform too, but at present only people on the live course have access.
5) My Monday, Wednesday and Friday trainalong sessions are going wonderfully. Just having some students depending on me to show up makes me train harder, longer, and better. So as a positive constraint, it has worked extremely well. If you can be awake at 08.15 UK time, then join us! You can join for free or pay a token £5. You can see a sample session here:
I’m enjoying it so much I’m thinking about running a sword-handling-indoors-with-low-ceilings class on Thursdays at 16.00 UK time (so our Western friends can join in). Sound like fun?
6) I’m scheduled to be on a few local radio stations over the next few days, talking about the online courses and lockdown. BBC Hereford and Worcester tomorrow (Friday 19th June) at 10.05am; BBC Leicester at 16.50 tomorrow afternoon; and BBC Somerset at 13.15 on Monday ( June 22nd). Tune in, and I'll try not to flub.
7) I have just finished a major woodworking project. I made this box for our friend Mike’s widow to keep his ashes in. He died in April from COVID-19. We couldn’t attend his funeral because of the lockdown, so when his widow was distressed about the fact that he was in a cardboard box and there seemed to be no good options available commercially, I offered to make something.
It's walnut and ash, with a gently rippled birch veneered panel with his initials inlaid proud in walnut. As a craftsman all I can see are the mistakes, but that’s ok- it’s not supposed to be a tour-de-woodworking-force, it’s supposed to be a gesture of love.
So that's what I've been up to. It seems like a lot, and perhaps it is, but you should be aware of the following things: 1) my kids are at an age where they require very little direct intervention. If they were only a few years younger, I'd probably have got nothing done at all. 2) I don't have a day job. This is my day job. 3) I've got 20 years experience of being self-employed. 4) We live in a house where I have a separate study room and can shut the doors when I need to work. My situation is completely different to that of most people experiencing lockdown, so please don't compare yourself to me unless you can look down your nose and say “Guy, you're a slacker”.
To which I'll reply: “absolutely!”