Enter Title here…

 

As mentioned previously I have adopted the BulletJournal system for keeping myself organised and (relatively) on top of things, both personally and professionally. And it is working. More than a week on and I am finding myself a lot less stressed at home and at work.

I have been accused of having lots of plans and not achieving them. A while ago this stung. A lot. And I changed things because of it.

Today… I’m fine with that. I don’t mind entertaining the idea of having a hundred things I want to try or do. I might not do them all, or many of them, but as long as I am doing and achieving some of them then I don’t see what the problem is.

A little while ago I created this:

BusinessCard1 v2 - 131113 small

I can ‘archer’ to that. I can ‘config chap’ to that. I can add ‘Cost Account Manager’ to that. I can add… all the things I enjoy and do and am. I don’t have a problem with that. I am more than one thing. I always will be.

One of the things that has been fascinating me has been the idea of goal/objective setting. It is that time of the year, when I have to (professionally) set goals for myself, and with their input, for my team.

And, like last year, and the year before that, and the one before that, those goals and and objectives will be somewhat irrelevant by the time half a year has passed. Ditto the majority of those New Year’s resolutions too. It is just the way of things. Life changes, things happen, new stuff stirs the mix and spanners the works. Shit happens.

So I have been investigating the idea of not goal setting, the creation of systems or the embodiment of direction over destination. And I am beginning to be a believer. Let me illustrate.

I aim to write a novel. I have failed. I have failed all the way up until I do eventually manage to do that. I want to run 26.2 miles. I have failed until I do it, actually do it. As an aside, part of the reason I fell out of love with running was because I was three days away from running a marathon, with just enough miles under my belt to do it… and I fell ill. I couldn’t run. And I felt abject. I still do.

However… if I intend to be more creative… then every little step of that is a win, psychologically. If I do something creative today it is something more than I have done before. The direction I go in isn’t necessarily towards the destination I had in mind, but it changes each step from a failure to an achievement. And each achievement makes each step easier and more likely to take place. And each step leads to habit, which leads, eventually, to whichever place you end up. Which isn’t the same place you were when you began the whole thing, and may not be the place you dreamed of, but is a place worth visiting. Because of the journey. Just because. And perhaps you never end up there, you just continue journeying, changing direction, doing things, on a whim or otherwise.

This piece of tribute art to Bill Watterson, utilising a speech of his, is still one of the most effective, illustrative and pertinent expressions of ‘just doing’ there is.

Invent your own labels. Dreams your dreams. Set off for destinations unknown. Invent your own life’s meaning.

In a world that continues to demand of us compliance and homogenisation, that forces singular labels and asks of us one dream… it is still allowed to be whatever you will be.

apps and shit

I’ve been bimbling around the interwebs a lot of late and these particular thingies have been of use…

Oolite

Courtesy of Gothick (again) this open source version of Elite, named Oolite, has, much to my self-esteem’s detriment, reminded how flipping hard the first few excursions into the Elite universe are. On multiple occasions. Don’t get me started about pirates, the uselessness of the initial ship set-up and the stress and utter buggerance of having to dock your ship to a station manually. Seriously, don’t.

But what a game. All these years I have missed Elite and playing this has confirmed that it isn’t all nostalgia. The graphics may be basic but the magic is still very much there. Not to mention the extensive list of expansion packs which just extends the Elite universe that little bit further.

YouTube Preview Image

Coffitivity

As you may know from pervious posts I work, study and write best when surrounded by general hubbub and the sound of people talking. To this end I have a list of people on Youtube that I ‘listen’ to whilst doing whatever it is that I am doing. It is also why I like writing and thinking in cafes and the like.

This simple free app sits in the Mac menu-bar and, well, plays the sounds of a cafe in full flow. There are three settings: Morning Murmur, Lunchtime Lounge and University Undertones – the middle of the three being my current favourite.

Jazz and Rain

In a similar vein, one of the things that relaxes me is the sound of the rain. The Jazz and Rain website does two simple things – it plays jazz and the sound of rain whilst you do whatever it is you are doing. I don’t really use the former but the latter is very much my bag.

jazzandrain

As an aside – I really like having both Coffitivity and JazzandRain running at the same time… just because…

Workflowy

I am not sure where I picked this one up from (a writing forum, I think) but Workflowy is an online personal organisational tool. I don’t use it for task-lists and the like (which it is mostly meant for) but I do find it incredibly useful for drafting outlines and plots  for novels and short stories. It is very easy to use and the simplicity aids its intent. Give it a try.

workflowy

BulletJournal

I haven’t actually tried this one out yet but the simplicity and flexibility appeals to me. I am, despite my almost constant use of digital and electronic tools, pathologically inhibited when it comes to using any such thing for to-do lists. I just can’t do it.

BulletJournal is pen and paper based and is structured around three main bullet types (Tasks, Events, Notes). The other key components are the indexing and referencing systems, and the calendar/planning system. It looks like it will take a bit of work initially, but habit and practice will even that out. I am going to have an extended experiment and will let you know how I go.

Bullet Journal

Morning Pages – the Artist’s Way

I am not a big fan of much of this methodology (the main theme is the close relationship between creativity and God) but I have found the daily Morning Pages exercise immensely helpful and liberating in the past.

Simply put it is three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing, which you do first thing in the morning. Over time certain patterns and themes appear out of the morass of chaos which then feed into other exercises. For me the simple act of writing longhand for 3 sides first thing helped settle and clear my mind in readiness for the rest of the day. Have a look and the link above and give it a go.

Aside

So, I started writing a post about something and it was quite good and fairly sparky with a nice sense of humour and… unfortunately, overwhelmingly and irrefutably already written.

Arse.

As blog-writing days go, this one has been a bit of failure.

deserts

In Weaveworld Clive Barker tells of a desert so vast, so desolate, so utterly barren of anything of substance that to enter it was to expose oneself utterly. To enter was to reveal oneself to the void, and to emerge was to be forever changed.

The desert, whether of sand, sea, stone or snow, is a compelling vehicle for reductionism. It has a brutality that is both romantic and unrelenting all at once. Hermits, wizards and sages find their truths in the purity of such minimalism. Loneliness and solitude accentuated. Enlightenment on the cusp of death and in the midst of suffering.

The fight for survival is a purer one, singular in its threat. It afflicts the mind and the body both, a ravaging of the soul that strips away all illusions, all complications, all that is inessential, narrowing the delusive breadth and depth of existence to a more pointed, significant one.

Deserts forge heroes and heroines. They are a forge and a foundry in which time has little meaning, in which the will is tempered. Adversity of the most extreme, impersonal sort, lacking in anthropomorphic or otherworldly agency. They torture, tainting and marking flesh and mind alike. They crush and strip and grind down, by dint of existence and nature. What entered, what journeyed through, emerges wholly different, changed.

They are the ephemeral hint at the incomprehensibility of eternity.

Or so I imagine.

Deserts are as much a canvas for our emotions and whimsy as any other environment. We imagine in them an effect and agency beyond the natural, imbuing them with presence and mystique and an indifferent malice. They are the vehicle for the impersonal conflict made personal, a measure of suffering and progression. Within them is the yardstick of triumph and despair, of failure and pride.

The desert is the mountain is the ocean is the forest is the rolling, endless plain. It is the unwitting architect of the realisation of the profound. In the uncaring, the pococurante and indifferent we find our own lessons and unrealised truths.

The desert reveals to us the depths of our obstinacy and our whimsy. The desert is a metaphor for our aspirations, for dreams of purpose and purity and obsession. In the desert and the journey therein lies the conflict between the mundane and the wistful. It unburdens us of everything that is unnecessary, leaving only the essential. The hero, the heroine, forged, tempered, recast and reborn, leaving behind their former selves to toss and tumble and disappear amongst endlessly shifting sands.

free-wallpaper-desktop-wallpaper-Africa-Morocco-desert-scenery-sahara-bachmont

asides

I am knackered, tired, weary and in need of sleep. I was grumpy today. Very. Grumpy.

***

Aside from all the stuff I am scrawling in the recently launched and nigh-on never-ending pursuit of knowledge, I managed 600 words of the opening scene of a short story. Go me.

***

I broked my ipad. A little. Somehow (I think swinging my bag about) I managed to clunk the corner, dent it and crack the glass in that area. Luckily it doesn’t impinge on the touch screen area and a bit of sticky tape and one proper ipad case later and you can’t see that it is broken.

Otherwise it is £170 for a repair or a mere £400 or more for a replacement.

Sod. That.

***

Whilst I am all grumbly about Apple related stuff – the new version of OS X, Mavericks, has seriously borked the battery life on my beloved MacBook Air. Apple were very much trumpeting the fact that it would lengthen battery life due to some clever softwarenology but I appear to be one of the lucky few whose battery life has been halved. This takes it from premium Apple laptop territory to slightly shitty Windows laptop territory. Which isn’t on.

I await a fix.

For the laptop. Not the other kind.

***

I bought an 11 year old Mini Cooper. It goes like shit off a shovel. It is like a little go-cart. It is pretty spartan inside but is pretty. It has slightly whiny power-steering, which apparently is the norm for this age of Mini, but worries me nonetheless. The Brompton doesn’t fit in the boot. Man, it is good fun to drive.

Oh yes, that is three years sans car down the drain. But needs and lifestyles change.

WP_20131018_001

***

The Flatmate is listening to Miley Cyrus. He has his headphones in, so he probably thinks I don’t know. I do.

po·et·ry

I used to write poetry. I used to write it feverishly, torrents of ideas and emotions tumbling forth, expressing and toying and playing with everything I could feel or see or not quite understand. I used to write it in fits and starts, in seasonal floods of words. I wrote haiku and tanka, free-form and structured. I wrote about what was real and was imagined. I wrote about people, about things, about moments of clarity and periods of confusion. I wrote about loss, about discovery, about muses. I wrote poetry. I fell in love with poets, with poems, with complexity and simplicity. I wrote best on paper, with pen or pencil, the words scribed out in longhand, the brain slowed by the speed of my carelessly wrought letters and words. They were scribbles, ideas, hints of what I struggled to get to. They were poems, good or bad, indifferent or different, meaningful or not.

I used to write poems.

YouTube Preview Image

word of mouth and other things

Last night was an interesting and entertaining affair. I, along with EF, attended the Word of Mouth event at the Thunderbolt pub. It is a regular event but last night was of particular interest as the ineffable Emma Newman and industrious Joanne Hall were both reading from their short story collections and extracts from their forthcoming novels.

There is always something about listening to an author read from their own works, imbuing their words with another layer of evocation and empathy. It is one of the best bits of BristolCon (amongst many) for me – listening to authors reading their stories in relatively intimate surrounds.

*sorry, got distracted there and went and bought my ticket for said BristolCon*

***

Last year was a washout for me, in that my mother died the evening before BristolCon (I didn’t find out until my brother rang me whilst in the first session). I had been looking forward to it so much that I felt utterly and bizarrely conflicted. Part of me wanted to escape into the day, just to immerse myself in the event without having to think or feel too much. The other, more pressing, brotherly part just wanted to get down to Waterlooville to be there for my brother, who had had the misfortune of discovering her body that morning (and had left several frantic messages on my silenced mobile phone).

A bad day, all round. So… none of you buggers have permission to die on or around the 26th of October, partly because it is BristolCon day and partly because dying really is a bit shit and I’d rather you didn’t, generally.

***

On a lighter note, after that slight segue, Emma Newman is launching her new book, Between Two Thorns, this evening at the Forbidden Planet shop on the Triangle in Bristol, at 6pm. It will be glorious. If you get a chance to go, please do so.

***

A segue on Reading Books.

I have done very little of this over the last few weeks, mainly due to the ridiculous workload I have had, which has pretty much drained me of all energy for anything. Ah well, back on the wagon soon enough, too many good books to read.

***

A segue on Writing.

Interestingly, I have been writing, and enjoying it. I am working myself back into completing one of the novels I have started, and I have a Plan, which is always good. Many thanks to the effervescent Nik Perring for the reinvigoration. The man’s writing is a joy (as is he) – go and read his stuff.

Now, before I get stroppy.

***

A segue on Age.

My little brother was 37 on Monday. Thirty-seven. Thirty. Seven.

Fuck me.

snippets and thoughts

I know it doesn't seem like it, given the relative paucity of posts on this blog, but I am slowly getting back into it. True, a few posts lie written but unpublished, and I often wonder whether I will ever blog with the fervour that I used to.

I have often thought about writing, as with running, cycling, climbing, photography, etc, that these things come and go, ebb and flow. I have long come to the conclusion that I am, at heart, sporadic.

One of the things I have started doing is journalling, using the Day One app to just, well, journal. To write and record snippets and thoughts. I started after listening to Documentally boo-ing about his own experience of using the app, and I think he is right – it is tremendously rewarding to blog for an audience of one.

Back in the day my posts were much more personal, more about me, what I believed, thought and felt. As people began to know me, as I became less open and less liable to blog in such a way. Now that many people who know me, either in real life or on twitter, and know of my blog it becomes even harder to do so.

I am, I guess, more guarded with those who know me.

There are two ways to approach this problem. The first is to blog secretly, a single screen amongst a vast ocean of screens, no longer connected to this blog or the person who is me.

The other is to blog for me, only for me, hidden away by my absence.

Perhaps I shall do both. Blog in a secret place, and blog in a secret place.

It isn't that I don't trust you. I trust many of you much further than I could throw you. It is just that the more I blog, the more open I am, the further away from the real me you become. Like a character in a book, the details that make the me are wrought from what I write and what you imagine. The dance between the two of us is what creates that image. I cannot define your thoughts, only influence them, and in that translation, in that imperfect empathy I am no longer really me.

The act of writing defines. The act of reading defines. As I become more aware of the latter the former changes, morphs, becomes more careful, more considered. You have defined me with your reading, in ways I cannot comprehend. I have made me cautious.

Perhaps it doesn't matter. Perhaps what matters is that words do not wither, that stories remain full of potential and poems will always move. Perhaps what matters is not the audience and not the writer and not what is written. Perhaps what matters is the effort, that something, somewhere, is being written, word after word, sentence after sentence, story after story.

Perhaps what matters, to me, is that somewhere, somewhen, somehow, I am writing, and that it isn't necessarily for either of us.

Some of it is a bit rubbish

I am in one of this funny places at the moment. The running is non-existent, the writing is going through a massive crisis of confidence and I am in the middle of a job change (possibly).

Everything else is pretty damned fine otherwise.

The job thing is just distracting, a situation somewhat exacerbated by the fact that the HRs of the company I work for and the company I am hoping to be seconded into are still debating the particulars of my package, with no one else (me, managers, directors, whomever) any the wiser about what is happening. Typically HR I guess.

The two other things are what worry me, although the running does to a lesser extent. I know that if I just get out of the house and onto the path and start running that the love and the joy of it will eventually come back.

The writing is something I am really struggling with. Badly. Let me illustrate. Five weeks ago I started Nik Perring‘s well regarded flash fiction writing course. Five weeks later I am still yet to deliver my first assignment to him. The poor man has been most patient with me.

It’s not that I haven’t been writing (although there has been an element of that), it is a lot to do with me writing something, reading it, rewriting it and then doing the digital equivalent of screwing it up and throwing it in the bin. I pretty much am disliking everything I write at the moment.

Somewhere do I go from here? Well, this weekend is a free one. Other than lunch with a friend on Saturday and a night out with EF on Sunday I am free. So for much of Saturday to Monday will be spent writing, getting words down without analysing or worrying about it. I may even get a run in.