I thought I'd welcome the little influx of readers I've had thanks to lovely Mark Watson's generous recommendation with a blog in kind - one that recommends his own latest venture.
Anyone with a passing interest in his work will know that Mark's not averse to the odd challenge (odd can be taken with either meaning, to nick Rhys Darby's joke) - whether that's attempting to be less Crap At The Environment, or helming day-long comedy shows. Thanks to a combination of the latter being put to bed or at least on very extended hiatus, reaching his 30th year and the arrival of his first child (welcome to the world, Kit Watson) Mark's now looking to the future. Ten years in the future, in fact, by which time he hopes to be a more positive person - a personal "journey" lasting an entire decade, on which he hopes to be joined by lots of people similarly hoping to make a real change in their lives.
Where Watson leads many are following - just take a look at the comments on his blog which contain dozens of touching promises of self-improvement from learning to play an instrument or travelling the world to changing jobs, gaining self-confidence or getting published. It's a hub of mutual encouragement - the very act of stating, in writing, that you're going to do something does in fact seem to be having a hugely motivating effect; already aims are being met, little changes made.
Personally, I have set only a couple of rather small, and - compared to some of the worthy and ambitious challenges being proposed - embarrassingly achievable goals. The first is simply to get back into the habit of reading. I read voraciously as a kid, and there was never any doubt that I would study English Lit (though perhaps combined with theatre studies) at university. Like many Lit students, though, the sheer pace through which you have to get through heavy tomes at uni meant that I took something of a break when I finished, and for some reason it was the last thing I felt like doing during the period of anxiety which quickly followed. So it fell out of my routine.
The good thing about this particular challenge, of course, is that it is not only the process of reading which is undeniably A Good Thing, but I can also hopefully achieve a little bit of that 'Self-Improvement' through the content too - I'm not talking about self-help books of course, just fiction and non-fiction that will leave me a little wiser and more informed on life, the universe and everything.
I've taken, it has to be said, something of a 'soft' start in the self-improvement stakes with Mark Kermode's It's Only A Movie and Juliet, Naked, but we've got ten years so there's no need to run before I can walk. Next up though is Millennium, a history of Europe around 1000AD; and I'd imagine it's an era I'll return to sporadically over the decade as I enjoyed studying Anglo-Saxon so much at uni (once all the mind-bending grammar was out of the way and we actually got onto the literature and historical context, at least). In fact, five of so years down the line I may make a bit of Anglo-Saxon-to-modern English translation part of my TYSIC... Then again, I may have forgotten all I'd learnt by that point. Watch, as they say, this space.
The second part of my TYSIC can scarcely be called a challenge - it's just something I want to do, and TYSIC might provide the motivation: to go to more live sport. I have been to one live professional sporting event (Wimbledon last year in the blazing sun) so it's not a case of "you can't very well watch more than nothing", but it's not far off, and this despite the fact that I will sit and watch everything from football to snooker to curling to cross-country running on TV. So it's time to get out there - dad's a big cricket and footy fan, mum loves athletics and Paul's into a lot of American sports so there's really no excuse. Olympics, here I come. Eventually.
The biggest trial of all, of course, is actually for Mark and all the TYSICites to maintain the challenge for ten years; for him to keep blogging, and us to keep reading, commenting and generally participating. I would imagine there'll be meet-ups and games and mini-challenges along the way, but come March 2020, will those of us involved from the start really still have TYSIC on our minds? Mark's burgeoning positivity, the involvement of so many fine people (several of whom you can follow in blog form via the Latest Blog Posts section down the left there), and the success of Mark's past projects all give me hope.