Who’s Obsessed?

It’s probably fair to say that most writers can be a tad obsessive. We spend months – sometimes years – hiding away as we work at something no one else can really comprehend.

If we’re lucky, at the end of the process we’ll unveil our masterpiece to universal acclaim.

Well, that’s the secret hope. Sadly, what’s probably more likely is that our nearest and dearest will say ‘that’s clever’ and a handful of strangers might read our great work and think it reasonably entertaining.

If we’re really lucky – and also good at other arcane arts like marketing – who knows… maybe some people out there will even pay money to read what we’ve laboured over for all those hours.

Like I said, you’re not likely to write a full novel unless you’ve got a certain amount of obsessive, bloody-minded, stubborn persistence in you.

Recently, though, I went to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu and found myself looking at Bluebird. The car in which Donald Campbell broke the land speed record in 1964.

bluebirdBluebird is a monster. It makes the Batmobile look like a toy. The car is 30ft long and weighs four tons. You could lose a child inside the air intake at the front and, with a little glass bubble over the tiny driver’s cockpit, it looks more like a submarine than a car.

Donald_CampbellCampbell hit a top speed of 403.1 mph in the car – disappointing as Bluebird had been designed to reach 500mph. Unfortunately, however, the surface of Lake Eyre in Australia where he set the record wasn’t dry and hard enough to get the car up to its max.

But Campbell’s mission wasn’t something he came up with over a weekend. He (and his team) spent eight years building this version of Bluebird and preparing for what was his second land speed record.

That’s only part of the story, though. Campbell had previously broken the water speed record in 1955 and set a total of eight water and land speed records. Tragically – or inevitably – he died in January 1967 on Coniston Water when his boat (also called Bluebird) flipped over after reaching a speed of 328mph during another attempt on the water speed record.

Now, I’m one of those blokes who missed the ‘car’ gene. Personally, I think they’re useful for getting about but I don’t get excited by cylinders, metallic paint and fuel injection. Speed just doesn’t excite me.

But for Campbell it was everything. He dedicated his life, literally, to going faster. Seeing Bluebird at the National Motor Museum reminded me that it’s not just writers who can be a bit obsessive. Maybe the question is, can you be great without being obsessive?

Donald Campbell's jet hydroplane Bluebird on Coniston Water in  Photo: PA Wire

Donald Campbell’s jet hydroplane Bluebird on Coniston Water. Photo: PA Wire

PS. I know this blog’s not had much attention recently. I blame a combination of factors – work (always the biggest nuisance in my life), house-hunting ( thankfully successful) and a major dental problem (don’t get me started on that one or I’ll be ranting about rip-off dentists until the cows come home).

I’m not promising an immediate return to more regular service as I hate making promises that I might break. On the other hand, between dealing with all these inconveniences, I have managed to write quite a few thousand new words on my new novel.

I’m now on the last chapter of Church Of The White Rabbits. So, to all those lovely people who offered all those weeks ago to be a beta reader, hopefully I’ll be in touch soon!


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