Do Make : The Writing of

17 . 12 . 20

Do Make has now been out in the world for a couple of months, since publication day on the 3rd of September. I’ve never considered myself a writer, so it has been quite a journey to take something from a conceptual dream, right the way through to a finished, printed and published book.

It began when I headed up to Cardigan, on the wild west coast of Wales, to run a couple of handplane workshops for the wonderful folk at the Do Lectures in 2015. Having known about the Do Lectures for a number of years, I was honoured, excited and incredibly nervous to head up and help them deliver a memorable weekend for all their guests. 

The weekend is full of energy, with inspirational, moving and heartfelt talks, plenty of activities to get stuck into, incredible live music and some of the best food and drink I’ve ever tasted, all wrapped together on the idyllic home farm of the Hieatt’s. 

Over the weekend, I was lucky to meet so many wonderful people; the farm is a wonderfully safe and relaxing space for everyone to mix, share stories and connect. One person that I stayed in touch with was Miranda West (who runs the Do Book Company) and she invited me to take part in a Do Christmas Market that same year in London.

It’s amazing, how once you connect to a community as strong as the Do community, you are never far away from them ever again. There are Do participants dotted all over the country, and indeed all over the world, and because of the shared experience of the special weekends in early summer, each person feels like a long lost friend. It really is a special experience that draws people together.

Another person I stayed in touch with was Dan Kieran (one of the speakers of 2015), who subsequently came on a surfboard workshop, connected on a really deep level, became a close friend and wrote a book about his experience with us – The Surfboard. Dan was an author and publisher already, so not such a huge leap for him, but what Dan did whilst with me, was encourage me to believe that everybody has a story to tell and everybody has a book in them. That advice stuck and after a couple of years pondering the idea, I got back in touch with Miranda to pitch the idea of Do Make.

With it coming up to ten years of running Otter Surfboards and inviting people to come and join me to make toys to play in the ocean with, it felt like a really natural point at which to reflect on what those then years have been. And what better way than to actually relive them in my mind, question what it has all meant to me and how it has shaped my life and actually put those thoughts down onto paper.

I’m not someone who journals (though I have thought about starting many times) and I’m not someone who writes for fun. The only things I have written since leaving school are a few journal articles on here and the speeches for talks that I have given, so I was confident in finding a way to tell the story of Otter, but the Do Book formula was going to give me 20,000 words of space to really dig deep into what makes me, the workshop and the world around me tick.

I was excited and nervous and once I had the go-ahead from Miranda, I could dive in, knowing that the book would be printed, published and distributed through their established channels. What an amazing opportunity?! They only allow workshop providers and speakers to pitch books to them, so I was honoured to even be considered. Now I had to do the opportunity justice and actually put pen to paper (or at least fingers to keys).

I love reading and I love learning, so a big part of my journey of writing was finding a process that would work for me and finding a way to write with my own voice. Starting from nothing, I experimented with where to write, when to write and how to write. Post-it notes all over the office with topics and ideas began to wear thin at about the same rate that the glue on the notes lost its stick. Writing in a busy workshop simply didn’t seem to work for me – too many distractions. Writing with other people around I felt guarded, so cafes were out. So where to write…?

I’d muddled my way through two or three chapters, knowing that I’d probably spend the same amount of time again (if not more) editing and shuffling the words around. Then, as we all know, 2020 became the year that it did, and I found myself in semi-isolation. Maybe this would help me with my writing….the workshop was quiet as the team were furloughed, yet still, there was something about the usual 9-5 structure (and the emails) that didn’t quite work. It became apparent that there was no way I could force the creativity needed.

Eventually, I found something that seemed to work with regularity. Once my son and wife, William and Liz, had retired to bed in the evening, I could plug my headphones in, knowing there wasn’t the usual daily routine of work that would require me being up at 6.30 each morning and simply drift off into thoughts and reflection. Inspired by a slightly sleepy and dreamy state of mind, only really found in the late evening and early morning, I found the words flowed much more easily and I felt happy to open up some personal boxes to dig into too. There must have been something safe and comforting about the darkness and cosiness of a warm house with family sleeping next door, that allowed me to let go.

The book became an incredibly cathartic experience that definitely helped me get through the shift that we all experienced as the world went into the first major restrictions of the pandemic and turned into something more personal than I’d first thought.

It turned over a few stones for me and ended up feeling like there were many areas that I was only just dipping my toes into; at times the 20,000 words felt way too short, but I got there in the end. The Manuscript submitted at the end of April and now it was time for somebody else to actually read it.

That was when it really hit me. These thoughts that I’d put onto paper were actually going to be read by real, living, breathing people. People I hold closest to my heart, people who have been on our workshop courses and people for whom I’m just a name on the front cover. Wow and aarrghhhhh, both at the same time!

The writing experience was an amazing opportunity to take the time to reflect and put thoughts into words. Thank you so much to Miranda, The Do Book Company and The Do Lectures for the support and opportunity, it was such an incredible thing to be able to do.

Privileged, lucky and eternally grateful.

The book is now available online, from your local bookshop or direct from us. Fingers crossed it will inspire more people to reconnect with their hands and start making.

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