Snapshots and Scrapbook Entries

Where I post about the things that happened in my life. Sometimes they’re diary entries, sometimes works of non-fiction, sometime just random photographs.

Sleep

I woke several times over the weekend and went to work on my thesis prospectus in the wee hours of the morning. Solutions to problems kept coming to me as I dozed off, found their way into the work in progress because I didn’t trust myself to remember them later. Going to bed at 11 PM quickly turned into working until 5 AM, then sleeping until later in the day.

It was great. Incredibly great. It’s been nearly a decade since I worked those kind of hours. It happened all the time before I started working in offices, but the demands of being somewhere at a certain hour meant adapting to other people’s patterns. Getting up early has become such a habit that I’ve organised much of my life around it.

I meet a friend for breakfast once a week, at an hour based on the fact I used to rise at 6 AM without fail. I have a certain degree of flexibility over when I go to the office and work on GenreCon, or agree to meet with my thesis supervisor, which would theoretically make it possible to start later in the day, yet I still default to starting at 9 where possible.

 

But for the first time in years, I can look at the fact that I prefer to work in the quiet hours of the morning and sleep late and see it as semi-regular possibility.

Words to go

Three years ago I bought an apartment and began the process of moving in. I remember thinking, at the time, that I should probably stop buying new books because the ones I had already didn’t actually fit in my one-bedroom apartment with its outright rejection of right angles.

Obviously, I failed at that. It’s not really a surprise. I’d made a similar promise when I moved into my previous place, crashing in a friend’s spare room for a few years, and the bulk of my book collection went into storage. That promise resulted in nearly thirty boxes of books getting moved when I left.

 

Part of me resents the fact that I don’t get to move any more. I’m used to living like a hermit crab, always searching out a new shell when the one I’m in starts to feel restrictive. In another world, where I stuck with renting, I’d be spending the next month searching for an apartment on the far side of town that’s more convenient for getting to university.

Part of me watches friends moving out of their rental, quite unwillingly, and admits that I’m kind of fond of having a place that’s mine and will stay mine until I decide otherwise or I fail to pay the mortgage (which, quiet honestly, is so much goddamn cheaper than any rent I’ve ever paid).

So I stay. Quietly figuring out new places where books can be stored, or what can be thrown out in order to make more room.

And occasionally, just to keep myself focused, I sit down and figure out how many words I’d need to write and sell in order to pay this place off. Not that I’m relying on writing alone to do it, but writing is how I measure everything.

Current status: 2,984,186 words to go.

I really should get back to work.

 

 

Planning

Tomorrow I’ve cancelled my usual Wednesday plans and set aside some quality time to tidy my flat, revisit my quarterly plan, and generally wind the key on all the systems I rely upon to keep my life running. There will probably be white boards. There will definitely be laundry.

I’m not a natural born planner. In fact, I kinda loathe the process. I’m totally on the pantser side of things, when it comes to writing, and I will generally defer any kind of collaborative planning to the other person as much as they’ll let me. I dislike making decisions, and I dislike being responsible for things.

Worse, I resent time given over to planning. It always feels like wasted time that could be spent doing other, more useful things. It doesn’t matter that planning always saves me time, ’cause I get bogged down in fewer dead ends and panic spirals and I-don’t-know-what-to-do-next apathy…

My gut tells me that planning is a waste of time right up there with reading the instruction manual for a new DVD player, but my head knows that reading the manual saves all sorts of time once you have to do anything more complex than pressing play. I am doing complex things at the moment. I acknowledge the necessity of planning, and make time to do it.

And then I will go see Kong: Skull Island. Because, you know, giant apes and Tom Hiddleston with a machine gun.

Trash Day

I’m cleaning up digital spaces this morning. Clearing out the current projects folder on the portable drive, which ceased holding current projects back in November and simply became the place where narrative detritus and applications gathered. Clearing out the RSS reader, assessing which feeds I’m going to keep and which I’m going to cut because they have ceased being useful. Clearing out writing systems, so I’m not randomly switching between Word, Google Docs, and Scrivener for various projects based upon whatever random thought I’ve had about “fixing” my process while in a state of high anxiety.

And I keep streaming the film clip for Fiona Apple’s Not About Love, because Zach Galifianakis and his magnificent beard are hypnotic with their lip-syncing.

Forward

On Monday night I finally sat down and rebuilt the white-board that tells me where I’m meant to be going and what I’m meant to be doing over the course of the week. I sat down and wrote out the long-term plan for the next three months, identifying all the commitments and distractions that will keep me away from work. I spent some quality time looking at the next month, identifying what needed to be done and who I needed to see. I spent four hours re-reading Work Clean, making notes and fleshing out ideas, figuring out what I can apply. Realised I’m now through the parts of the book that’s really useful, so I can skim-read the rest and move onto the next book.

Some habits are like an engine you’re trying to start in mid-winter. It may take a few attempts to get the thing warmed up, but it’ll work fine once you’re up and running.

Yesterday I went and enrolled at University, which means I’ve now officially given up my nice, well-paying blogging gig in exchange for a nice, much-less-well-paying gig where I get a lot more time to research and write things. Turns out the enrolment process is particularly slow, so I still can’t do useful things like borrow research books or go work at the RhD office or get discounted movies with my student card just yet.

Today, I go write things.

Wish me luck.

Reading and Annotating

My relationship to non-fiction reading changes immediately when I make a point of reading with a notepad and pen in close proximity. It slows down my reading, but I retain a lot more: core phrases and ideas; stray thoughts that come up in response to the content; ideas that will eventually become stories and blog posts.

This morning I picked up William Woods The History of the Devil, which I read a few weeks back without annotating at all, and immediately realised I am going to end up re-reading it because all the dog-eared pages don’t actually mean anything anymore. There are too many bits, too little context.

It’s a book that would have been far more enjoyable, had I actually read it right, but I was distracted by other things and it was read on trains, or over lunch, or in-between other things.

Of all the things I’m looking forward to about doing a PhD, having the time to read things the way I like to read them is right at the top of the list.

The Inevitable

Every playlist on Youtube finds its way to the Arctic Monkeys. I start off listening to gothic cabaret playlists thirty songs in the autoplay function will kick up Do You Want to Know?

I realise it’s been a long time since I heard a Stiff Little Fingers song, and the algorithm works its way through The Clash and The Buzzcocks and The Sex Pistols before the next logical thing appears to be Do You Want to Know? as well.

Leonard Cohen finds its way to the Arctic Monkeys. Jeff Buckley. Courtney Barnett. The Pixies. David Bowie. Hell, starting with Justin Timberlake or the fucking Spice Girls seems to do it. All of them end at the same place.

I don’t particularly care for the Arctic Monkeys, but I have no way of telling the algorithm to stop it. And so every repeated play tells Youtube that it should bring that clip up a little more. I have no way to fight back against it. It is always there, like a replacement for the Rickroll that no-one has ever told me about.

Back At The Day-Job Today

Brisbane has, inexplicably, decided to be cold this evening.

Well, not cold, but cool. Chilly enough that I sat out on my balcony in shorts and a t-shirt earlier this evening, intending to make notes while I read, and found myself retreating back into the muggy warmth of the living room.

It will change its mind soon. We will all burn to a crisp before the day is done. Brisbane cannot help itself in the midst of summer.

I was back at the day-job today, beginning the four-week countdown until I finish up my contract and transition into full-time study for the first time in twenty-odd years.

I spent my lunch break trying to put together a draft post about productivity and time management, since the number of conversations I’ve had about my process has reached double-digits in the space of two weeks. It’s an incredibly hard topic to write about, because people mostly ask about the tools rather than the strategic process, and the strategic process is really the valuable bit. Learning how to think about projects, and break them down, and pay attention to the time I’ve got available rather than the time I think I’ve got.

When you get right down to it, bullet journals and white boards and my obsession with Trello are just the equivalent of being given a hammer, and learning how to use a hammer is not the same thing as learning to build a house.

It’s better than nothing if you need to cobble together shelter, but you want an architect and plans if you’re going to build something pretty.

Notes from the first day of the year

It’s six o’clock in the evening as I write this, sitting out on the balcony of my tiny apartment listening to the train line and the bird song and the upstairs neighbours drunkenly mispronouncing the words ‘mortar and pestle’ over and over as they talk on the phone. Which makes a nice change from the screaming argument on the street that kicked off the afternoon, reminding me why spending time inside the apartment generally trumps sitting out in the muggy summer heat.

The wind is piking up and the clouds are hanging low. It doesn’t smell like rain yet, but the rain is coming later this week.

This is how we start 2017.

The rest of the day was exactly the kind of productive first day I always want out of a new year and never quite achieve. I wrote the first two scenes of a new novella draft; I read a bunch of things; I acquired new notebooks through nefarious means; I folded laundry; I washed dishes; I cooked food that required prep work and ingredients, rather than simply eating toast or throwing a vegetarian schnitzel into the oven.

I am fretting about getting things done this year. I am wary of slipping into bad habits once I wrap up the current day-job and head off to do the PhD full-time. I know how easy it is to look at a day devoted entirely to study and writing, yet still do very little.

My sole goal for 2017 is to guard against that slippage.

Reboot

I think it’s Wednesday. It feels Wednesday-ish. I don’t know for sure because I’ve slipped into that blissful, holiday fugue where you lose track of days and time and schedules. I’ve watched a lot of television since finishing work for the Christmas break. I’ve finished reading a bunch of books. At random intervals, I leave the house to collect food and see the outside world and celebrate things.

Today is pulling me out of that. Today I have read stories for friends and engaged with page proofs and generally started thinking about what’s going to happen when the holidays are over. I am preparing to rewrite a white-board and outline the projects that need to get done in January.

Time to shake off the holiday inertia and reboot.