Sunday, 12 May 2013

We can all learn from Wigan.

A journalist walks into a bar. Eyes fixed on the floor, he shuffles over to the pumps and points to the cider. Three or four times he does this, shuffling back and forth from the corner, saying not a word to the barman. Sensing something the matter, the barman sidles over to the fella. "You okay mate," he asks. 
"Rock bottom," the man says, "I'm losing the house, my wife's left me and now I've lost my job"
"Right" says the barman, not really knowing where to start. 
"That's my bloody problem," he snaps, "I've forgotten how to do it!"

Do you remember your first time kicking a ball? The first time you ever got on a bike?  Do you remember first picking a pen up? I ask because all three of these things are learnt by repetition, mistakes and plenty of practice. I doubt very much that Sir Bradley Wiggins jumped in the saddle aged four, took three days with stabilisers and set off to conquer the alps is what I'm saying. In fact, I'll bet he had more grazed knees than I've had jumpers- it is par for the course and sadly, such is the game with writing. 

After my first failed stint at Uni, I took a job in a call centre. It was soul destroying stuff but we were fed these seemingly ridiculous videos of inspirational techniques. 'Be brilliant at the basics' was the strapline, relying on the idea that you spend 90% of the time doing the same things and so it pays to be as good as you can at those simple things. Listing ten key areas of your life and improving each by just 10% was the other memorable bit of advice. These techniques can be applied to writing- you can learn new words every week, read new authors to see what styles they use and you can set tasks to improve things like rhyme and form- all the while improving just a little bit. Remember, ten 10% improvements is almost 100% if you do some Conservative Party mathematics- and you're sure to feel all the better for it.  

The second piece of advice I have is that you have to believe in yourself. There is absolutely no point if you don't think you will ever be good enough. That great gaping hole inside that screams at the mirror needs plastering over with practice, until eventually, you'll be well aware that you can rattle something off and tweak it later. Stopping only breeds this doubt. 

The third and final piece of advice I can offer is to write what you know. I happen to be a lover of football. I find it to be a game that rewards perseverance, guts and talent in the end. The seemingly sudden news this week of Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement may cast a long shadow, but there is already a Scot cut from the same cloth to take his place- the common ground being patience and hard work. On the pitch, Fergie may have been a linesman's nightmare but to win that many titles and trophies takes some doing. Just like a writer, he eventually found his niche. A well crafted and well oiled machine was created, and for the majority of my lifetime it has reigned dominant- a Stephen King type standing, seemingly unshiftable, doing exactly what he knows how to do over and over again.  

Tell that to Wigan Athletic and their chairman Dave Whelan though. After having his career cut short by a horror injury in an FA Cup final, he took his compensation and opened a market stall in Blackburn. He went on to open JJB Sports, dominating the high streets of England, and with the wealth he bought his local football team. I remember Wigan being absolutely pants. This weekend, they've worked their socks off, played staggering football against last season's champions and bagged themselves an historic cup win. The man of the match award went to Callum McManaman, the young lad I met when he was a Blackpool loanee. If you'd asked me before today if he'd follow great wingers before him and dazzle on the hallowed turf- with a passing style of play more commonly found at Barcelona- I'd have laughed you out of the ground. It nearly brought me to tears seeing Whelan's face and as writers, and as people, there is a great lesson to learn. 

Thanks for reading, enjoy the poem. 

On Wembley Way

On Wembley Way the colours merge together to form one
A tapestry of pride and passion, draped on football fans
The lads from the Nags, the wavers of flags, they gather here today
This is the FA Cup, the dream, and this is Wembley Way.

Call out in song, utter your prayers and place your final bets
Inside awaits your greatest fate, no place to leave regrets.
When Abide With Me bellows from your lungs, then nobody can say
You didn't give your very best on the Cup Final day.

For Dave Whelan's Wigan heroes, Fergie's Class of '99,
Mortensen's black and white hat-trick, all the goals in stoppage time
These are moments made for heroes, for your never say die kings
This is Wembley for the FA Cup and the magic that it brings.

They'll talk of this in sixty years, play recordings from TV
This is what you're in it for, this for every Saturday
So drink up all the atmosphere, you may never be here again
The dream awaits those bold enough, with nerve right to the end.



Lisa McFleeca said...

I'm refraining from commenting on the Fergie news. I keep offending people. Same as with all the Maggie Thatcher business.

But you know that Scouser with the genie's lamp and one wish left...

It's ME :-)

Loved the poem!

L :-)

Ashley R Lister said...

SIR BRADLEY WIGGINS: the three most depressing words I've read this Sunday.

We live in a nation that celebrates someone's achievement of riding a f***ing bicycle. It's one of those statements that makes me want to join Al Qaeda.

Great post,