The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).

MY CHECK-IN

What am I working on this week?

With my day-job contract finished up I am basically back in writing-land. I’ve got a short-story to redraft and some notes for one that’s following it, which should keep me busy as I get back into the swing of things.

What’s inspiring me this week?

So I basically inhaled the first season of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries in the space of twenty-four hours, which I’ve been meaning to do for ages and bumped up the viewing list after Theodora Goss’s post about Miss Fisher and the Female Gaze. It’s an extraordinarily charming show, but also incredibly clever, and I am looking forward to tracking down all the books now as part of PhD research.

What part of my project an I avoiding?

I’ve been letting planning slip for a few weeks now, while finishing off the day-job contract. Ironically, I’ve been doing this while re-reading Work Clean, which has large chunks about putting planning in the centre of your process rather than treating it as a time-consuming adjunct, so I am both avoiding like crazy and increasingly aware how useful actually sucking it up and doing the planning will probably be..

What do my days look like now?

Yesterday was my final day at my blogging gig with Queensland Health, and I am not yet contracted for my GenreCon gig or have the details of my PhD scholarship set in place. I am, technically, unemployed and bereft of income until the two latter things get sorted in the coming week. Even after those are resolved, I will be a student who has a day-a-week contract gig.

I do not know what my days look like now that I do not have to work around a day-job.

Lots of people dream of quitting their job to write or read, but that often fails to take into account there is something comfortable about work that you don’t realise when it’s there. Even if you hate your job, there are decisions that do not need to be made: where will you be on a given day? What will you do? Who are you going to see?

Your obligations as an employee provide an anchor to the rest of your activities, something that can be planned around. It provides context to otherwise arbitrary designations: Saturday ceases to be a day and becomes the first day of the weekend; Monday becomes the start of the working week. You know what success is, because you do your job well or you do not.

All of this affects the way you plan your life, consciously or unconsciously. Work gives you an anchor you can build routines and processes around: write a thousand words before work starts; edit on the weekend, when you’ve got a little free time; plan your write club for your days off.

All through the most recent week, people have been asking me what I’m going to do when I finish work. Write, I’d tell them. Read. That’s as detailed as I got, because the answer is far less exciting.

The first task of being without a day-job is figuring out what your days look like now, and how you’re going to fill them in a meaningful, effective way. What is the first thing, that will lead to the second thing? How will you devote the necessary time to all the things that need doing to keep you moving forward.

It’s harder than it sounds, if you’re not used to it. Ten years ago – the last time I existed in a day-job free state – I wasn’t particularly good at it.

I’d like to think I’ve gotten better in recent years. Now it’s time to find out.

My farewell gift from the peeps at work. Now I must fill them with words…

A photo posted by Peter M Ball (@petermball) on

 

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 Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).

MY CHECK-IN

What am I working on this week?

Not a lot of writing for me in the coming week, as I’ll be wrapping up my blogging gig, getting back into the rhythm of GenreCon now I’m bac at QWC one day a week, and making sure I’ve got everything I need to get organised ahead of the PhD kicking off on January 31.

What’s inspiring me this week?

I’m compiling a list of stories set in the early nineteen hundreds as research for a coming project, which has led me back to to a re-watch Penny Dreadful and Luc Besson’s adaptation of The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-sec.

Part of what I’m looking at is the use of the time period as the basis for SF/Fantasy works, without necessarily drifting towards Steampunk. The Penny Dreadful episodes do a great job with this – the most overt signs of industrialisation lie in Caliban’s backstory.

What part of my project an I avoiding?

I’ve got a checklist and seven different documents to read ahead of my PhD commencement meeting on the 31st, which covers all sorts of exciting topics like Occupational Health and Safety during the degree, and the internet code of conduct. Probably not the most arduous job of the week, given how much time it’s likely to take up, but I’ve been avoid it for a week now.

 

PSA: How to Contact Peter About GenreCon

I spent today back in the QWC offices, annoying friends on Twitter by vague-tweeting about the behind-the-scenes GenreCon stuff that was coming together. I also spent today fielding a bunch of queries about the conference…some via official channels, and some via Facebook, personal email, and in-person queries.

So, futile as it may be, I am going to strap on my grumpy pants and put this out there as a reminder: if you have queries about this year’s GenreCon, your best bet is emailing the shared GenreCon email address used by the whole ninja team (who are doing a lot more of the work this year) or my work email if you’re wanting to talk to me specifically.

I’ll admit the lines between writing-Peter and GenreCon-Peter are frequently blurred, but they do exist. GenreCon is a gig I do that requires a lot of putting aside me and working to advance the careers of other writers, so I rarely rationally and calmly when people ask me to keep doing that via communication streams that are basically used to manage my writing career.

The times when I’m happy to respond to queries via my personal email or, worse, via Facebook messenger basically come down to:

  • When the person asking the question is a really good friend. I know that seems kinda ambiguous, so here’s your rule of thumb: Have I drunk coffee at your house? Have you drunk coffee at mine?  If the answer to either of these is no, you probably don’t know me well enough to ask about work stuff on non-work time without pissing me off a little.
  • When the questions are about running a con in general, rather than this con in particular. I am totally fine with people contacting me to ask questions about how I program conferences. Because those questions are about me, not the job or what you are hoping to get out of the con, and I am egocentric enough to like talking about me and find it a valuable use of my non-work hours.
  • When you are an agent/editor/publisher with whom I have (or want) a professional relationship. ‘Cause, yo, I ain’t stupid. I spend far more of my life writing than I spend running a conference, even if it’s GenreCon that gets the most attention throughout the year. Also, because anyone in this category usually has a pretty good instinct about crossing professional boundaries from their own experiences with writers.
  • When you are a current or former invited guest of GenreCon. ‘Cause, honestly, if you’ve been an invited guest of the conference you’ve worked your ass off to make me look good as an organiser, and you deserve to inconvenience me as much as you goddamn like. And if you’re a current guest, I’m largely counting on you making me look good come November, and the same logic applies.

Everyone else, honestly, use the email addresses linked to above instead of social media messaging or my personal email. You are more likely to get an answer, and I am less likely to dream of punting you into a vat of boiling magma and unleashing a swarm of ill-tempered bass with fricken’ laser beams on your ass.

And I will repeat my message from 2015: Facebook messenger is a damn stupid way to engage in any kind of professional correspondence. Particularly this year, where my social media time is minimal, at best, and shit is just going to be flat-out missed.

And for those who have read this far looking for updates or news about GenreCon…well, things will start moving pretty rapidly from this point on. Today was spent locking down budget, making final decisions, and writing the first few bits of marketing copy, so news should start hitting the internet over the next ten days.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go spend a few hours playing Batman: Arkham City.

I am using Facebook wrong this year

I didn’t make a big deal about leaving social media, mostly because I haven’t actually left. I still check Facebook a few times a week. I still hit twitter and check in on my feeds. I have so many friends who use Facebook chat as their default messaging system that I don’t have the energy to retrain them or myself, and I still Instagram  because I like the way it forces me to pay attention to the world around me.

What I did do, back on January 1st, was remove all the various apps from my phone so I wasn’t using social media twenty-four seven. My access is desk-top only, and since I don’t log in at work, that limits me when it comes to Facebook and Twitter.

That isn’t quitting social media, but holy hell, it feels like it. My average usage has dropped to about 15 minutes a day, which is enough that you suddenly realise how social media has become the dominant communication medium of our time.

Suddenly I have some empathy for those folks who post annoying “I am leaving social media” posts, because dropping out of sight without telling people is actually problematic. Questions are left on walls. Plans are made without your input, because things never come through on the channels you actually monitor. Occasionally, someone will check in to see that you’re still alive, because they haven’t seen you posting much.

My Facebook wall, in particular, has become the digital equivalent of an answering machine. Not even a terribly efficient answering machine, given the set-up of notifications.

This is not the promise of Facebook, which is all about instant access to people. Facebook is meant to make communication easy, which is its great advantage as well as its greatest flaw. Every time I log in, there is a reminder that I am using Facebook wrong. I am, for the record, completely okay with that.

But letting people know that you’re no longer using social media correctly seems like the kind of thing that would save a whole lot of time.