Today I felt like a bear emerging from hibernation. I left the house at six-thirty to catch the early Edinburgh train. It was a crystal clear morning, fields and roofs dusted with a light frost.
Cock pheasants preened themselves in the sunlight, mist hung over the river and shadows lay sharp on the plough. As the train passed the Loch of Lindores a great gathering of swans shed feathers on the surface. It felt as if the long hand of Scottish winter had finally been lifted.
But it wasn’t just the glory of the morning that raised my spirits. I was heading for meetings with two of my collaborators and that also was a warming thought.
As a writer I spent many years paddling my solitary canoe in the belief that this was the only possible way to operate. Either I was dreaming up my own creative projects, or I was taking a brief from a client, then going away and answering it. Where was the scope for anyone else to become involved in a process like that?
And yet … that’s only part of the story, because I’m not a solitary person by nature and I can see now that I had, in fact, always sought out other people at least for company and moral support, if not for actual collaboration.
When I first came back to Scotland in the early 1990s I teamed up with Richard Irvine, at the time a fellow writer, subsequently the founder of design agency Redpath, and for about four years we ran a business writing partnership. We collaborated in the sense that we were in business together, and it was a successful one; but we each had our own clients and each produced our own work. We were, and still are, good friends, but we were never really collaborators in the truly creative sense.
It wasn’t until after he and I had gone our separate ways that I began to think hard about quite how solitary my working life was becoming. The turning point came during a year in which, among other things, I went on a week-long Mongolian overtone chanting workshop with a hundred other people in a rambling house in a lost valley in Devon – a mid-life moment if ever there was one. But it opened my eyes to the power of human connection on a level I had not experienced before, and in many ways set me on the path I now follow.
I realised two things at that point. First, that I needed much more interaction in my working life, and that that would come through helping other people and organisations to find their voices as I had recently found mine. Second that not only could I not really achieve what I wanted to on my own, but that it was infinitely more enjoyable doing it with other like-minded souls.
From there on the people I needed seemed to start appearing: John Simmons and Stuart Delves, my two fellow writers and Dark Angels partners; Robert Fletcher, former adman and brand strategy wizard, with whom I’ve been working on various educational projects; and Paul Pinson, former theatre director turned business coach, who has been my other half on the Indian expeditions of the last two years.
These relationships have enriched my personal and working life. They’ve stretched me and made me better at what I do. As the sun streamed in through the train windows it seemed that a fine spring day, along with a new look for the blog, together made for just the right circumstances in which to celebrate them.