My Blog – My Passion for the Written Word

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I’ve spent my whole life in love with books and the written word. I learned to read at a very early age and by my early teenage years had begun collecting books, many of them antiquarian. My father used to parade people up to my bedroom to look at all the books I owned, all stacked neat and tidy in the wall-to-wall bookshelves he had built for me. As visitors left, I could hear him say, “And, he’s actually read them!” as if this was something almost beyond belief. Truth be told, I often felt like a cuckoo in a strange nest.

I was never academic; I talked too much and listened not enough, so the chance of going to university, or any form of higher education slipped past me without so much as a backward glance. It wasn’t a lack of brains, or intelligence, it was a lack of understanding of what education meant, and its value. My parent’s ambition for me was I simply not end up in a factory – any lowly job in an office would have been seen as a win.

And, that’s where I ended up at seventeen – a query clerk at McGraw Hill Publishing. Working among books and dealing with inquiries from academics. I loved walking the aisles of books in the warehouse – the smell, the feel, the promise within. It was intoxicating.

After a few years, I managed to get a job as a sales rep for another publishing company and thus I began a career from the bottom rung that would eventually take me to the heady heights of publisher, and later author. In many ways, I have had a blessed life. My education has come from living and breathing books and words for an entire lifetime. I have a unique relationship with the publishing world and books that’s indefinable in any academic sense. I have an intimate relationship with books, I ‘see’ how a book should be thematically structured, I ‘see’ what works on the page, I’m in harmony with the needs of readers.

As a ghostwriter, custom publisher, and publishing consultant I help authors bring their words to life, handling everything from the thematic conceptualization and structure of their book to ghostwriting the words, and from handling the design of the book to working with the printer.

At one point, a few years ago, many people thought e-readers might steal away the life of the printed book; not me, I always knew the power of the printed word, the power of the written word, would reign supreme and so it has. An indication of this is the fact that Friesens, my printer of choice and North America’s oldest and largest book printer, has never been busier in its 110-year history.

Books are back – big time, especially as a way to promote oneself and establish credibility. They offer a level of authority and integrity no other form of media can touch in terms of quality and longevity.

I am honoured to help creative people bring their words to life, to the page and to the people. In the coming months and years, this blog will explore all things to do with the written word, from as many strange angles as I can discover. Oh and sometimes, I may stray into other topics that inspire me to write or to rant!

I’m happy to guest blog – just send me a request!

In Remembrance

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In honour of Remembrance Day, I thought I’d share a poem I wrote over 30-years ago.

Ypres

Strange, I thought, lying still in the

Half light of the pre-dawn hours,

That a solitary rose should stick up

Through the thick layered mud.

A reminder perhaps that this place once existed,

Was possibly even cultivated.

Or is the rose wild, a survivor

Amongst the desolation of lost causes?

 

I scratch at unseen ticks in the tangled mass

That once was my swept-back brylcreemed mane.

A rat, thick set and bloated leaves the trench

Self satisfied; a winner among so many losers.

I turn to ease the pressure on my legs,

The sores weeping as wives and loved ones must weep.

The solitary rose loses a single pearl of dew,

A mute statement of nature’s sorrow.

 

The silence is deafening, broken only

By the scurrying of little black undertakers,

Carrying off our comrades bite by bite.

A decent burial is a thing of the past.

Perhaps someone will try when all this over,

But that too will have to be piecemeal

And forests will be needed for simple crosses.

The solitary rose is the only hope in the wilderness.

 

A sneeze startles the darkness a few feet away.

But fear and ignorance prevents the blessing being dispatched.

“God Bless You’ does not cross enemy lines.

When all others have forsaken you and
Dawn breaks, I shall see the whites

Of your eyes and one of us will die.

The solitary rose waves in the early morning breeze.

A neutral shadow like a distant flag of surrender.

Mike Wicks

Multi-tasking – Effective or Dangerous?

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I was watching a lecture the other day about mindfulness and the speaker was talking about the value and benefits of being able to live in the moment and be focused on one thing at one time. It brought to mind Thich Naht Hanh’s comment about when you are doing the dishes, do the dishes.

He then said that people think they are good at multi-tasking but in reality, they are not. It was at that point I thought to myself, I’m an excellent multi-tasker he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And this from someone who believes in practising mindfulness; I genuinely try to be mindful throughout my day, but I STILL bounce from task to task. I work for myself, I’m an entrepreneur – of course I multi-task, doesn’t everyone?

To prove his point, he asked his audience to recite the alphabet as quickly as possible. I dutifully said my ABC’s and finished in about 10-seconds. He then asked us to count as quickly as we could from 1 to 26; again, I complied and finished in 9-seconds. Feeling pretty pleased with myself so far, I awaited his next instruction, which was to combine the two – that is recite A1, B2, C3 etc. as fast as we could. After a frustrating minute or so, I gave up. He then commented that if we found combining two such simple tasks together, what hope did we have of being efficient, accurate and effective at combining several more complex tasks? Sure, it’s possible, but at what cost?

That made me think about multi-tasking while driving – yes using one’s cell phone behind the wheel of your car. It didn’t take me long to discover that one in four car accidents in the U.S. is caused by someone texting. Almost 3,500 people were killed in 2016 due to distracted driving and there were 421,000 crashes resulting in injury.

So, yes most of us can and do multi-task, but is really effective? In many cases it’s multi-handling which wastes time. It has also been found to be stressful and to actually diminish creativity. A study was carried out which discovered that people that used their cell phone while driving took longer to get to their destination!

Experts suggest that batching similar tasks is much more efficient than multi-tasking as you get into a specific mindset and you make less mistakes and miss less.

Having taken to increasingly practising mindfulness I find myself multi-tasking less frequently and you know, I’m actually achieving more! Perhaps mindfulness will become the new “in” technique for entrepreneurs; if it does, we can expect an increase in productivity.

Oh, hold on, I must check the email that just came in – NOT!

Why Write a Book to Build Your Brand?

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Search for advice about sales, marketing, growing a business, or even installing new windows and almost certainly one of the hits on Google’s first page will be a book on the subject written by an expert. At that point, you might check it out, peruse the reviews, read some sample pages, and possibly purchase the book. If the book tells you what you need to know and the author comes across as an expert, you might reach out to them for more advice, or hire them to assist you in your business, or with a project.
Why? The author established themselves as an expert on the topic and, in your eyes, became a credible authority. You gained a level of trust in them, far greater than if you had simply looked at their paper credentials. Everyone has a degree, but how many can write a book? An MBA proves someone attended classes, but a book demonstrates they know how to put what they learned into practice.

A book confers status better than just about anything else. Authors get invited to talk at conferences, they are interviewed by the media and called upon by anyone looking for expert advice.

I have a client who refers to his book on setting up professional corporations, as a $50 business card. Since becoming an author, he has been invited to write for Huffington Post, speaks at dozens of conferences a year and has seen his business grow beyond his wildest dreams. His books have made him an industry expert – the go-to guy in his field.
In many ways, a book is a subtle sales pitch. It outlines your theories, opinions, and general expertise on whatever you are writing about. It implies you know more than is in the book, potentially far more valuable stuff and what’s more, you can help the reader implement the strategies you expound.
People are drawn to experts. It’s a trust issue as much as anything – a book makes you a known entity. Plus, books confer celebrity status. For instance, I once wrote a book about a small city, it was certainly not high-profile, nor full of ground-breaking advice like some of my other titles. However, a year or so later I attended an open house in the city and the realtor’s assistant offered me a copy of my book. I smiled and said that I already had copies as I was the author. You would have thought that I’d just said I was Bono – I was immediately treated like a celebrity and asked to sign copies of the book, one especially dedicated to the young assistant.

Being the author of a book can be a powerful thing – it can catapult you to new heights within your industry and help grow your business and personal notoriety like nothing else.
If you’re thinking, I don’t have time, or I’m not a writer, don’t let that stop you. You can use the services of a ghostwriter like me who will help you conceptualize, structure and write your book.

Contact me and I’ll show you how easy it is to become an expert author.

Fall Thoughts and Trepidations

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I find this time of year a little disconcerting. I never quite know whether to embrace it, or run like crazy and hide. Here are some random thoughts about the season of zombies, dead leaves, and soup.

Fall has arrived here on the wet west coast, although with a whimper rather than a roar. The sun has been shining for the last week, mostly, but the temperature is beginning to drop in a foreboding sort of way. On the upside, it’s time to dig out those warm winter clothes. I have a new wax jacket that I am looking forward to putting through its paces the next time we have freezing rain and I have to take the dog for a walk.

For many people, this is an exciting time of year – Halloween is approaching and Christmas paraphernalia is flooding into the stores. I appear to be one of the few people who don’t like Halloween. With violence, blood and gore being a staple of every news broadcast, I simply can’t warm to zombie walks or be happy greeting blood-soaked children, or heaven forbid clowns asking for candy at my door. What’s with this fascination for evil? There’s enough of the real variety around, we don’t need a special night to celebrate it. On the other hand, my wife and I do like the cute little ones dressed as princesses and superheroes, but these seem to be increasingly rare.

And then there’s Christmas – a celebration to the God of Mammon. You think I’m exaggerating? Last year Canadians spent approximately $1 billion on December 23rd alone! Heck according to Statistics Canada we spend around $300 million on sparkling wine alone every December. Although that’s something I can support. There are lots of predictions about how much we’ll spend individually this year, but it looks like it will be north of $800 per person. This at a time when we Canadians owe $1.67 for every dollar of disposable income we have. Okay, I don’t want to dis Christmas, I love the night before and the actual day with family, but I could live without the 10-week lead up – honestly!

Lest you think I hate Fall and the shadow of Gory Night and more turkey, there are lots I do appreciate. It’s a great time to make soup – one of my favourite things to do. That and fresh, homemade bread. Long walks on crisp days, hunkering down in front of a glowing fire, and family celebrations are also on my fall schedule.

It’s also a good time to start new projects. Something to see the year out on a high note. I’m hoping to start two new book projects over the next week or so and see them published early in the new year. Now there’s a real scary thought – 2018 is almost upon us.

10 Tips to Writing a Successful Corporate History

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Writing the history of a company, corporation, or other organization is not as simple as it might first appear. There are many pitfalls when it comes to producing a book that will represent you and your company. Get it right however, and the credibility a well-written book can bring you is invaluable.

Over the years, I have written many histories of organizations and am happy to share with you my top ten tips for producing a book that will actually be read rather than gather dust, one that will be treasured by all who receive it.

  1. Plan the book before you do anything else. Use a mind-mapping technique to lay your book out and come up with a table of contents. Histories are often chronological, but they don’t have to be – consider what the best approach is for your story. Be creative!
  2. Write in a readable, accessible, conversational style. Write in short paragraphs. History does not have to be boring – imagine you are telling the story of the company to someone at a cocktail party. Less is often more, you don’t have to write 100,000 words – it’s not an academic treatise!
  3. Discover what makes the company tick. What is its vision today? What was its founder’s vision? What makes the company vibrant – what gives it life? Focus on the company’s corporate culture.
  4. Don’t get bogged down in detail. It’s too easy to start telling the reader absolutely everything that has happened in the company in its history and boring them to death. Focus on the big stuff, not the minutiae. What have been the company’s greatest achievements? Not just in terms of big orders, ground-breaking products and best revenue years, but in its relationship to its industry, market, customers, suppliers and staff.
  5. Interview people who have made a difference in the company. Not just the founder, or CEO, but other key players and characters through the years – and make them human. Make the history as much about people as it is about events and achievements. An interview with a cleaner who has worked for the firm for 30-years can provide a powerful insight into the human aspect of the company. Anecdotes and memorable quotes can bring a book to life – they also bring the company to life.
  6. Tell the story in images as well as in words. A coffee table book approach is far more accessible than a dry academic work. Corporate histories are often given to visiting dignitaries, shareholders, and can find their way into reception areas where they will only receive a cursory view. A full colour, approachable volume is more likely to have an impact when it is easy to briefly flip through.
  7. Dig deep for archival documents, photographs and other ephemera. People are fascinated by old images and historical material and these have the power to draw people into the book. Think sepia shots of the founder in the company’s first vehicle, a company picnic 30-years ago, or the firms first purchase order or property lease.
  8. Break up the book with cameos of key individuals. During the research and interview stages, listen carefully for quotable moments. Gather them like valuable, exotic truffles and use them to season your pages with evocative surprises.
  9. Don’t just be the author take responsibility for how the book will look, from illustrations and overall design to format, paper and binding. Good writing is only one aspect of making a book readable and accessible.
  10. Finally, be authentic – people can see spin from a mile away. The more transparent, honest, open and forthright you are, the more fans you will have. That’s not to say that you have to air your dirty laundry in public, but if there a few skeletons in your closet deal with them appropriately and use the book as a way to clear up any misconceptions.

Writing a corporate history can be very labour intensive; if you don’t have the time or are not a proficient writer, it may be a good idea to consider using the services of a ghostwriter.

If you would like to learn more about the complexities of writing a corporate history contact me at mike(at)mpwicks.com; I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Print Books Are Back!

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Okay, disclaimer right up front. I love printed books – I mean I am probably more passionate about an actual book than about almost anything else in the world!

As my regular readers will know, I started out at the age of 18 as a trainee sales rep for a mainstream book publisher and worked my way up to being a divisional head of Random House and subsequently managing director of a publishing house. I own more books than clothes, or cd’s or anything else combined – and that is in spite of when I moved to Canada 25 years ago, selling or giving away more than a thousand books.

So, why am I telling you all of this? Because I predicted back in 2011 (and perhaps even earlier) eBooks would never take over from physically printed books. I always saw it as a fad and that’s what it was. That’s not to say that eReaders and eBooks aren’t still selling – they are but they’ve seen a drop of 40% since 2011 and almost 19% in the last year in the U.S. and just a little less in the U.K. In Canada, 2016 saw eBook sales drop by 19% over 2015.

On the other hand, sales of books in the U.S. are up some 3.3% over last year. A survey by the Pew Research Center states, “Fully 65% of Americans have read a print book in the last year, more than double the share that has read an e-book (28%) and more than four times the share that has consumed book content via audio book (14%).”

To me, there is nothing better than the feel of a brand-new book; the thrill of anticipation of starting to read a new work of art. I’m not a total purist, I did try eBooks when they first came out. The first was by my favorite author John Irving. It was his new book and I was on my way to Mexico for a relaxing beach vacation. I read the book on my wife’s eReader, but found the whole experience unsatisfying. So much so that on my return to Canada, I promptly purchased the hardcover and read it again.

I tried again on a business trip to Las Vegas, but when I came to boot-up my eReader as I settled into my airplane seat I found it was dead. That was it, I’ve never read an eBook again.

Of course, statistics such as those above can be made to support any case and there are dozens of factors that influence eBook and print book sales. But even if we don’t give the stats too much credence, the trend is clear – the physical book is back and I for one am celebrating!

30 Mistakes Presenters Make

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Following on from last week’s post, I thought it might be useful to review some of the things presenters do that make life difficult for them. Avoid doing any of the stuff below and you’ll be less likely to be nervous when it comes to your presentation or screw things up! It’s a short, sharp list – please feel free to contact me if you want to delve deeper!

  1. Not prepared
  2. Over prepared
  3. Read overheads
  4. Small fonts on overheads
  5. Cutsey clip art
  6. Cover too many subjects
  7. Not knowledgeable on subject
  8. Irrelevant material (little or no useful information)
  9. Go over the head of the audience
  10. Don’t tailor material to the audience
  11. No theme
  12. No objective
  13. No fun
  14. Don’t get to know the audience (before and during)
  15. Don’t develop trust and respect
  16. Don’t check the room
  17. Don’t check the equipment
  18. Don’t have back-up
  19. No visuals/confusing visuals
  20. Speaking in a monotone
  21. No movement
  22. Insufficient interactivity
  23. Tell irrelevant, unfunny or politically incorrect jokes
  24. Discuss sex, religion, politics
  25. No eye contact with audience
  26. Don’t smile
  27. Mumbling
  28. Don’t provide enough breaks
  29. No flip chart paper and pens (that work)
  30. Insufficient hand-outs

Don’t let this list scare you off making a presentation – it’s all common-sense and every mistake is easy to avoid. Better forewarned than forearmed.

Fear of Public Speaking

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Many people are more afraid of speaking in public than they are dying. Seriously! There have been surveys that have shown this weird fact. The thing is, of course, if it really came down to it and people really had to make the choice they would step up to the microphone every time. Jerry Seinfeld once commented on this and said that if it was true, it meant that people would rather be lying in the coffin at a funeral than giving the eulogy!

I used to do a lot of public speaking and was always a little nervous; which I think is a good thing. Often you will hear huge stars admit they have butterflies before taking the stage. It’s natural. In recent years, I have to admit my nervousness has got a little worse. So, recently I reviewed a public speaking course I created, and delivered, back in the day and came up with ten points to help me remember how to deal with this natural phenomenon.

  1. It’s not that important – most of the audience wouldn’t be as brave as you. Put the engagement and the situation into perspective. It’s not life-threatening, it’s just a speech or a presentation. Don’t make it more than it is.
  2. Don’t set your standards too high – just provide useful information. You don’t need to be a star – or the best speaker ever. You are there to provide valuable information; if you do that you will be well received.
  3. Keep it simple. Audiences can’t take complicated, unless perhaps you are delivering a lecture to PhD students! Don’t over complicate things – keep to a few key points and deliver them well. That’s a whole lot better than cramming 50 points into 30-minutes and confusing everyone!
  4. Know your stuff – prepare but not too much. One of the keys to making a confident presentation is to truly know what you are talking about and be passionate about it. If you are an expert on your topic, all you need do is create an order in which you will deliver your points and then talk to each one.
  5. Remember the reason you are speaking is not to get people to like you or approve of you (no one gets 100% approval). Too often, speakers make it all about themselves instead of the information being delivered.
  6. Give not get. Building on the previous point – if your focus is to give your audience value, rather than garner applause, you are more likely to be received well and be more relaxed in your delivery. The latter usually results in the speaker trying too hard.
  7. Be yourself – communicate as if you were chatting to people one-on-one. Don’t try to be a public speaker. No matter the number of people in the audience, talk to a couple of people preferably sitting in different parts of the room. Choose people who are making eye contact and nodding – they are interested in what you are saying so deliver to them. Bringing it down to a personal level takes away the fear.
  8. Share your own experiences with humour and humility. Making it personal, makes you human. People warm to people who open up and when they warm to you, your fear of speaking will disappear, you will become comfortable and start having fun with new friends.
  9. Don’t worry about mistakes – laugh them off, their natural – you’re human! Let’s be honest, you are going to make mistakes – get used to it. Before you take the stage, accept that things are not going to be perfect – that’s life.
  10. Remember your audience wants you to succeed. Unless you have a mortal enemy in the room, everyone in the audience wants you to do well. People want to get value for their time, and possibly money, so it is in their interest you do well. Give them a chance to give you a chance.

The big thing about fearing something is that it is often out of proportion to reality. Once you are a few minutes in to your presentation you will relax and heck you might even start enjoying it. And, that’s got to be better than lying in the coffin!

 

Living to 150 – It’s Possible on Paper

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I had a birthday recently and as you can see from my profile pictures, I’m no spring chicken (I wonder where that saying came from? Hmm, next post I may look into it) anyway, where was I? Ah, yes aging – it got me thinking about aging as a good topic to write about. A couple of happy Google hours later and I discovered a little about what gerontologists and scientists are working on that could change the way we age. Some of it’s akin to science fiction but much of the science is either available now, or soon will be.

The idiot’s guide to how bodies age now follows. Aging happens at the cellular level; our cells start to get clogged up with a bunch of debris that inhibits their ability to function. Basically they get ‘sticky’; then our DNA gets mutated, we lose stem cells and our body doesn’t work as effectively, or heal itself as well as it once did. Sort of scary!

What the new breed of gerontologists is saying, people like Dr. Aubrey de Grey, is that when we age we break down just like anything else, and therefore it’s an engineering problem and can be fixed. I like the sound of that!

Dr. de Grey is the principal of SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence), which means an integrated set of medical techniques designed to restore youthful molecular and cellular structure to aged tissues and organs. Please Google and YouTube this guy; he’s an unusual but brilliant character.

To try to sum up an intensely complicated subset of gerontology (biogerontology) in a few paragraphs is tough, but the basic story is that Dr. de Grey and his colleagues are predicting that we are just a few decades away from having anti-aging drugs on the market that will repair our bodies at the cellular level. He goes on to predict that living to 150 years of age, and being healthy, is a distinct scientific possibility.

Furthermore, and this is where it seems to enter the realm of science fiction, Dr. de Grey says that once we have people reaching a century and a half, the basic science will be in place to keep us alive for a thousand years, it’s just a matter of fine tuning. He likens it to the history of aviation; it took until 1903 for man to develop the first flying machine, but only another 66 years to conquer space and place someone on the moon. That’s the way science is, it takes a long time for fundamental discoveries to be made, but then refinements to these breakthroughs come at amazing speed.

So, if I can only hold on long enough I might become the oldest blogger on earth! Now, there’s a really scary thought.

The Joy of Camping – NOT

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As I promised in my introduction to this blog, my posts won’t necessarily always be about writing, or the written word, sometimes they might just be a bit of a rant. I was talking to someone the other day about camping. They were talking about it as if it was something mystical. Hmm.

I don’t get the whole camping thing; I wish I did, people including my own sons seem to really enjoy it, but at the end of the day why would I leave my comfortable home and stay in a tent? My idea of an exciting adventure is a five-star resort, a one-bedroom suite, a choice of international restaurants and preferably a spa. And it’s not because I’m advancing in years, I’ve always hated it, even in my teens when I went camping in Britain with friends. It wasn’t like it was wilderness camping either; we camped in farmer’s fields and walked to the pub every evening. Sure it was fun, the visits to the pub anyway, especially the time we got a vicious swan drunk on whisky-soaked bread to discourage it from attacking us every time we walked past its pond, but the sleeping in the tent bit? That was awful, and you can only take so much of my friend Steve’s flatulence and his habit of eating cold baked beans straight from the tin. No, the connection is not lost on me.

When I tell people that I don’t like camping they don’t believe me. “You haven’t really experienced it properly,” they will say. “It’s great, you should come with us,” as if their company will miraculously turn the ordeal into something spiritual. Campers are an evangelical bunch; they believe that everyone should experience the magical power of nature – commune with the earth.

So, this is the deal; you want me to leave my warm, dry, safe home, my Sealy Posturepedic, pillow-top mattress, my flush toilet, heaters for when it’s cold and air-conditioning for when it’s hot; oh yes, and let’s not forget solid walls that provide privacy?

Okay, what do I get in return? A 75-denier polyester wall for privacy (my grandmother had stockings thicker than that for goodness sake!). I also have the privilege of sharing my bedroom with a variety of bugs, some of which may well be carrying the West Nile virus. I get to sleep, or at least try to, on a foam mattress the thickness of my laptop. Oh, and when I need to empty my bladder in the middle of the night, I have to clamber out of my sleeping bag, find my shoes, locate a flashlight, do a Houdini act with the tent zipper and walk half-a-mile to the washroom block, or risk peeing on a raccoon, or worse, stumbling into a patch of poison ivy.

It’s then that people say I’m exaggerating, and that I could choose campsites that have washrooms with flushing toilets and hot and cold running water. Been there done that; have you seen some of the people you have to share those facilities with? I remember a campsite on Lake Cameron where I came face to face, or actually face to butt with a 350lb naked guy bending over to dry his feet. The image is burned into my brain, located in a folder titled “Camping – aargh!” It’s true; when camping people seem to lose all their inhibitions; late at night those polyester walls are no match for the mating prowess of one’s fellow travelers. The power of being at one with nature, I suppose.

But, sarcasm doesn’t work on avid campers; they just shake their heads and smile, in that patronizing way they have; it’s as if they’re talking to an atheist who is yet to realize that he will burn in hell for all eternity if he doesn’t see the light. It then becomes their mission to save me from myself and lead me toward the light (a hurricane lamp, I suppose).

Actually, I really like the outdoors. I’d love to hike the West Coast Trail, all 75 km, and 5-7 days of it. When I tell friends this they roll their eyes and remind me that there are no hotels along the trail. They think they have me cornered at this point but I have a plan; I plan to have a helicopter pick me up at the end of each day (I can dream, can’t I?); it will pluck me off the beach and transport me to the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort and Spa, where I will make good use of their many facilities. Every morning my helicopter will drop me back at the exact spot where it picked me up the previous evening, lest I get accused of doing anything less than the complete trail; after all I want the tee-shirt that proudly declares ‘I Survived the West Coast Trail’.

I tried RV’ing once, under the illusion that it might be a softer form of camping, but after two weeks touring northern Vancouver Island with friends, I came to the conclusion that it was just camping on wheels. Sure, I now had walls thicker than a butterfly’s wing, and an inside toilet that flushed, sort of, but even that was an illusion. I soon found out that my RV did not automatically connect to a septic system every time we arrived at an RV park. This discovery was quickly followed by the fact that I had to regularly empty the sewage tank at something called a sani-station. This was not my idea of jolly holiday fun. When the connection broke on the outflow pipe and I had to jerry-rig it with a tomato tin, I knew my relationship with any form of camping was coming to an end.

I suppose I shouldn’t tease my hiking and camping friends so much. I genuinely understand the attraction of getting back to nature, the fresh air, sleeping under the stars, escaping the urban warfare that epitomizes our normal lives.

But for me, I am more in tune with the American writer Dave Barry, who said, “Camping is nature’s way of promoting the motel business.”