Signing off

On the track to Taranaki Falls at Ruapehu, my friends and I came across two elderly men deep in discussion. They walked ahead of us slowly, absorbed in their topic. One of them stopped suddenly in the middle of the track and squared off against his friend to emphasise a point. “And I’ll tell you why,” I heard him say as he waggled his finger.

We sidled past. The two men laughed when they realised their debate was blocking the track. “Just solving the world’s problems,” one of them said amicably.

As we left them behind, my friends and I agreed we hoped to be like those two old guys one day, cheerfully solving the world’s problems with smiles on our faces.

I haven’t cracked it yet myself, but I remain a cheerleader for amicable disagreement. It’s one of the things I have tried to do as a columnist, at least. We can get so easily caught up with who is right and who is wrong, with who screwed up and who didn’t, when a bit of respect and a willingness to listen probably goes further than winning the argument in most cases.

Nothing is simple. Everything is complicated. There are two, three, four sides to every story. Just when I think I know something for sure, I discover another angle. It is humbling and it can make lobbing my opinion into the public domain nerve-wracking at times.

I have written 123 opinion columns since March 2013. It is a pleasant surprise to discover that I was capable of having that many opinions.

None of those opinions arrived easily. My invisible critic is kind of a bully. “You don’t have anything new to say,” he will jeer. “Go on, justify yourself. What makes you so special?”

Writing is fighting. I fight with the blank page, I fight with the sentences, I fight with my own insecurities. My inner critic drives me to excellence and to the brink of tears.

As it turns out, I fight most often in my pyjamas, early in the morning, before work, at my writing desk. Coffee helps.

So this is my last column. (Here’s why.) I will probably still get up early to write because that’s how I finished my book of short stories a few years ago. (Blatant plug: my book is on the Amazon Kindle Store and I keep my other stuff here at

I am looking forward to reclaiming my headspace. I might start by writing some more poetry. I have not written enough poetry lately.

Regrets? Hardly any. I regret using the word ‘toast’ in a piece I wrote about climate change.

I regret not mentioning my colleague Rachel in any of my columns. I’m pretty sure she was going to buy me a coffee if I did. Maybe even a coffee and a custard square.

I regret not being able to tell every single person who gave me feedback that they helped encourage me into my next week of writing just when I felt I had nothing of value to contribute.

My inner critic insists I have no more entitlement than anyone else to express an opinion. He is right. I am not the resident authority on anything in particular. I am just a guy who works particularly hard in his spare time at putting the best words in the best order.

It is a rare privilege to have been entrusted with this public platform for two and a half years. I am grateful for the opportunity. It is a responsibility I never took lightly.

Hopefully I managed to put the best words in the best order most of the time, and maybe generate a smile or two along the way. Life doesn’t have to be all punch-ups and bitterness. Humans are precious and the world can be beautiful. This has been fun. Thanks for reading.

More: Soon I will be an ex-columnist

Taranaki Falls
Taranaki Falls

First published in Bay of Plenty Times 4 September 2015. Reproduced with permission.