Lest We Forget That John Cleese is Awesome

Some friends were posting John Cleese quotes to my twitter feed this morning, which put me in mind of my trip to the UK at the end of 2013. One of the things I was really excited about was going to see the Globe theater – not the original, but a pretty awesome remake – ’cause I’m a moderately enthusiastic Shakespeare nerd and ’cause I knew, from family members gong there previously, that they made a pretty awesome range of Shakespeare related shirts.

My favourite part of the tour, however, had nothing to do with the Bard and everything to do with Monty Python. To whit:

When the Globe Theatre was rebuilt in London, a service was offered whereby you could have your name on a tile in the courtyard, for a donation to the project. Cleese and fellow python Michael Palin both signed up for tiles, but Palin’s was spelled wrong. Cleese paid extra to ensure it would be spelled “Pallin.

via IMDB

Really, there are some things you have no choice but to salute.

The Problems with Word Count

Since starting the 600K Year, I’ve been aiming to write an average of 1,800 words per day. I managed it pretty consistently through the chaos of November, failed pretty consistently during the chaos of December, and carried my December habits through to the first two weeks of January.

Which means that I’m now trying to write an average of 2,750 words a day. I’m not quite hitting it – yet – but I’m getting within a hundred words or so.

I’ve always been fond of word count as a productivity metric, but I’m conscious that it’s not without it’s problems. The first, somewhat related to Parkinson’s Law which suggests that work expands to fit the time available to complete it, is that your process expands to meet the word count expected of it.

Once I know how to reach 1,800 words regularly, I let the cracks start to appear in my process. I’ll stop writing to check a fact on wikipedia, or I’ll duck into twitter for a minute just to see what’s happening. An hour that could have been spent writing 900 words is suddenly spent writing 800, then 700, then 600. Which is fine, ’cause I’m hitting my writing goal comfortably, but it ignores the fact that I could be writing more.

The one thing I’m noticing, as a result of the 600k Year, is that I like writing more. I want to push myself and get more done, ’cause I love this gig and I love being read and, dear god, there are so many stories I want to tell and only so much time left to tell them in.

And now:


What Can Get Done in Twenty Minutes

I’m always astonished by the patently untrue things I’ll internalise about writing, given half a chance. For me, the big one is the myth of time, which manifests in the belief that it’s not worth sitting down to write anything unless I’ve got a significant chunk of time to devote to the effort.

It leads to some pretty weird decision making. Give me a two hour gap in my schedule, and I’ll consider filling it with writing. Give me a fifteen minute gap in my schedule, and I’ll consider filling it with Facebook on my cell phone.

In my head, writing requires an long stretch of time and energy to make it worth while.

Which is odd, ’cause I know that’s bullshit. I even have the data to back it up, courtesy of the novella diary I kept back in May of 2013, which largely constructed a draft out of ten and fifteen minute writing bursts of a couple of hundred words. It was a month where I’d be all, “eleven minutes spare at the end of my half-hour lunch break? That’s two hundred words mother-fucker,” and then I’d sit and write the two hundred words.

I can get way more done in ten minutes than I expect too.

I also get way less done during a one-hour block than I expect too, largely cause I spend a chunk of that time staring into space or, these days, nodding off in a fit of unexplained narcoleptic sleep for a few minutes with my finger pressed don on the J key.

I’ve been thinking about this ’cause I slept through my alarm yesterday.

I’ve done that a lot in January, ’cause my sleep schedule is still crap after the Xmas holidays, and it frequently means that I’ll find myself with fifteen or twenty minutes spare in the morning instead of the usual hour and a quarter I give myself on days when I follow the schedule.

Most days, since I’ve gone back to work, I’ve looked at that twenty-minute gap and figure I’ll do something other than writing. Answering email, for example. Or writing a quick blog post. After all, I don’t have the time to get some *real* writing done.

Yesterday I sat down and worked on the novella for twenty minutes and racked up 402 words. That’s about 25% of the daily wordcount I need to hit in order to hit my Sustainable 600K Year goal.


Despite subs-consciously flagging that twenty minute gap as “not serious writing time.”

One of these days, I’ll learn to trust the data I’ve accumulated instead of the bullshit I decide is true just to get out of work.

Recommended Reading for Writer-Types

Odds are, if you’re interested in writing, you’re already reading Chuck Wendig’s blog regularly. If you’re not…well, fuck, I don’t know, start.

In fact, start today, ’cause his most recent guest-post by Delilah S. Dawson is brilliant and includes a point that could be a personal mantra at the day-job and my writing life in general:


Now, that being said, you have to keep up your bargains with the world. You can’t just quit your day job and spend your family’s savings to rent a writer’s bungalow in Bali. You have to pay your bills and taxes, keep your kids healthy, and pay attention to that person you promised to love and cherish. As with all things, there’s a balance. But if you’re doing all the things you’re supposed to be doing, you have every right as a living creature to pursue your bliss in your spare time. Anyone who says otherwise is a dreamkiller, and fuck dreamkillers right in the ear. If someone tries to make you feel bad for writing, consider why they’re being a toxic douchebag and why you need them in your life.

Also of note: You don’t have to call them “guilty pleasures.” There’s no reason to be ashamed of the things that bring you pleasure. Just own it. Make anyone who calls you on it feel horribly awkward.

From Delilah S. Sawson: 25 Writing Hacks from a Hack Writer

The rest of the advice is equally spiffy. Go enjoy.


“I Had a Monkey With Talent”

Taylor Negron died earlier this week.

Odds are, if you’re aware of his work, it’s in the form of recognising him as one of those “hey, it’s that guy” actors who appeared in iconic bit parts. You never really learn their name, you just recognise them when they appear on screen and, occasionally, fire up IMDB on your phone so you can figure out where you know them from.

You learn interesting things when people pass away. In Negron’s case, I learned that he spent a lot of time as a storyteller in addition to being an actor, and the man is kinda spectacular in that role. Case in point, this piece done for The Moth, a live story-telling event devoted to true stories.

If you’ve got fifteen minutes free, give it a listen. I swear to god, you won’t regret it:

Cast a Deadly Spell

Quickflix has a copy of Cast a Deadly Spell available as part of its movie streaming package. This is worth the $9.99 I give them every month right now. It may even be enough to tempt me back, from time to time, once Netflix debuts and (hopefully) offers a slightly better range of streamable media that works better with the Chromecast.

Why has this got me excited?

Back in 1991, HBO released a made-for-TV movie titled Cast a Deadly Spell featuring Greg Ward as down on his luck PI Harry Lovecraft in an alternate era 1948 were magic is commonplace. It hits all the film-noir tropes right down the line, with Julianne Moore as the torch-song singer that Lovecraft loves and Clancy Brown (AKA The Highlander’s Kurggan) as a corrupt nightclub owner who used to be Lovecraft’s partner.

If you’re the target market for this film, you’re already salivating from that short description. It hits all the right notes for a cult classic – Lovecraft references, film noir, Highlander – and if you’re anything like me you’re probably going to spend a few fruitless weeks trying to track it down. Since it was made-for-TV, it never got DVD release, which means you spend your time haunting the back alleys of the internet trying to purchase a copy from some pretty shady characters. Occasionally, if you’re lucky, you’ll find someone whose love of the film outstrips their understanding of copyright and find the full film on youtube.

And now Quickflix will stream it for me, all nice and legal, for as long as my bandwidth holds out.

That’s been happening a lot over the last couple of weeks. Partially ’cause I love the film dearly, and partially ’cause it’s good background noise while I work on the project du jour, working title Valiant, where I’m doing a bit of a pastiche of Raymond Chandler’s hardboiled novella, The Goldfish, set in an alternate Brisbane where…well, magic is commonplace.

I’m also listening to this an awful lot, which is weird, ’cause the novella I’m writing has far less Lovecraftian influences than this post makes it sound.

And with that, peeps, I’m off to work. Catch you all latter.