Mountaineering

I’ve come to terms with the inevitable peaks and troughs of my blog activity. Still, right now feels apt for filling this space with words again, so let’s try for a peak or two, or even just a hillock. Maybe it’ll end up as a mountain range.

Hey, look! I bought a domain! My blog URL is only somewhat ridiculous now, being 10 characters shorter.

In fact, I bought two domains. The other is grapplepublishing.com and it’s ready to launch and loop around the planet like a satellite made of words and pictures and miscellaneous radness. Grapple Publishing is something that’s been in the planning stages for an eon longer than is sensible, so I’m super stoked to say we’re now taking submissions for our pilot project: The Grapple Annual. You should submit something.

Meanwhile, Scissors Paper Pen has been doing a metric buttload (that’s 1.34 times bigger than an imperial buttload) of stuff, so I’ve been rather happily busy with that. Check out our Program for the rest of the year and come along to something if you can.  And look: I designed and edited my first zinethology / antholozine. It’s called Paperclip. Let me know if you want a copy and I will send you one.

Team SPP at our Paperclip/Program Launch: Adelaide with gift pack, Rosie, me grinning like a loon with Paperclips and Lucy with Program (photo taken by Martina using Rosie’s phone)

Other than that, I’ve been making some time (out of the thinnest of air) to write a few things here and there and some people even published some of them. One thing I wrote was about The Skywhale, and then I met her twice and fell in love three times.

Ain’t she a beauty? I took this at the oval behind Ainslie Arts Centre during Bloom Fest!

What else since I last blogged? I took part in a great six-month course on short stories with Andy Kissane, completed a six-week radio training course at 2XX 98.3FM (listen our show, 3pm Saturdays!), continued contently working part-time, went on a jaunt to South East Asia, attended my grandfather’s funeral and married the woman I love to bits and pieces. And then there’s everything else past and everything as yet unwritten, the grand and the mundane and everything in-between.

And so: into the valley, spelunking through, then out into the light and onwards, ascending and climbing up the next slope, the next summit, ever onwards, stretchy metaphors and all.

Bringing disparate bits together (or: Return of the Blog)

“I think I’ll go and write a novella. brb.”

That’s how I signed off my previous post here, 9-odd months ago. As far as last lines go, I think it has a certain charm. If I had to end my blog there, I guess I’d be okay with it. Although, I wonder if a blog ever truly ends, or just sits there waiting, not like the finality of a novel’s last lines, but with its own literary quality, a kind of time-stamped acronym-tinged wit, update pending…

But I’m not talking about novels or blogs as such (and although I am fond of that last post, I’m quite eager to actually be back updating and continuing this thing) — no,  I’m talking about that novella, or an equivalent body of works, wordcount-wise. Yeah? How did I go? Did a novella-length work (or works) gestate and emerge, gloriously imperfect but formed and real and true?

Well, no. I got to about 10,000 words that weekend, which is still a pretty jolly good effort if you ask me. Other co-participants did better, some did worse, we all received a few nice little prizes, we interconnected with one another, and some participants had their words published. All in all, not bad at all! For my part, beyond that original blog post, a few good (if unfinished and unevenly formed) pieces emerged from the process, so I think I’ll get more out of it eventually, maybe even a novella! But not yet. Still, I had a good enough time, and in other gains, I think I re-learned some old lessons: sectioning off time for writing and nothing else, even for a 25-minute Pomodoro at a time, is a good way to go; I still don’t write very well to music except for light background noise, although there are some lyric-free, droney, repetitive, unintrusive and/or otherwise special exceptions; and I don’t think I really want to do any more of those frantic wordvomit sessions like Rabbit Hole or NaNoWriMo — I’m more interested in working at my own pace, with my own lone effort of writing and editing (and publishing!), without really focussing on wordcount. Having said that, maybe it could be otherwise.

I remember now (as I look back over old notes, trying to recall and tie so many disparate bits together) how Rjurik Davidson discussed his experiences (post-24-Hour Book Project, orchestrated by the increasingly interesting if:book) of writing as part of a group and bashing out thousands of words in a short time-period. Maybe it’s true, as he suggests, that all these habits and ideas we have about ourselves as writers are a lot more malleable than we realise. Context, digital media, collaborations, (self-)editing, time-constraints — maybe they all can help to bust up myths we tell ourselves about our preferred writing habits, practices, identities even? Sure, sometimes these are matters of necessity, sanity and circumstances. But that’s not always the case. I guess it’s good to be flexible and adaptable, experiment, keep moving and trying new things. Go with what works, but don’t rely on one way of working. Changing ways can be hard, but maybe that’s just the exercise of mental muscles, all that ol’ brain elasticity. It’s also a question of whether you fit writing into your life, or plan your life around your writing. Priorities. And other recurring word and themes. I’m babbling. Basically, it was interesting and worthwhile and it allllll gets me thinkin’.

But that was that, so enough of that.

Still, it has been 9 months. 2013 has begun in earnest. April arrives again, and with it, thoughts of impending winter, hibernation and hunkering down like a hermit to write, despite frozen fingers, with renewed hopes of wriggling out of those old habits, routines, boundaries and categories. It has been a while between posts. There has been a veritable mass-spawning of other happenings in this 9 months, as you’d expect. Life tends to be fecund with happenings. Life is also, for me (lately? or always), fecund with lists, so here’s a pair:

A List of 10 Things, or Groups of Things, That Have Been Some of the Good Things of  the Past 9 Months or So

  1. Incheon, London, Halesworth, Okehampton, Paris, Karlsruhe, Frankfurt, Perth, Sydney, Wagga Wagga, Narranderra and Canberra again: we travelled a lot and it was up and down, this way and that and wonderful.
  2. Being part of Scissors Paper Pen as we continue to make lit happen with stellar people: At Arms Length, WORDLABs, Something Elses, Papercuts and more and more to come. Rad.
  3. YOU ARE HERE 2013 WAS EXCELLENT AND I WANT TO GUSH ABOUT IT.
  4. A good friend’s bucks weekend! Weddings, engagements, births, couplings, friends, family. People at their best. People.
  5. Won the first poetry slam I entered. Had things published. Enrolled in a short story course. Wrote.
  6. Went to TiNA and it was pretty darn good.
  7. The King is Dead, Jens Lekman live, Berbarian Sound Studio, Looper, Ngapartji Ngapartji, Corinbank, Darren Hanlon live, The Secret River, Cloud Atlas, Breaking Bad, Life of Pi, board games and poetry and stories and morrrre. So many good things.
  8. Still employed. Still going well.
  9. Started planning a wedding with the woman I love.
  10. Christmas. New Year. Birthdays. Lunar New Year. Small gatherings. Kitchen wins and tasty meals. Plans. I saw Prime Possum in person in the library. I’m healthy and well. I’m ridiculously fortunate, really.

A List of 10 Things, of Groups of Things, that have Been Some of the Bad Things of  the Past 9 Months or So

  1. Speeding tickets, parking tickets. 
  2. Arguments and discomfort.
  3. Getting sick. People I know being sick. (Distant) people dying.
  4. People at, or near, their worst.
  5. Not enough. Rejection. Failure. Loss. Distance.
  6. Kitchen disasters, clumsiness, carelessness.
  7. Leaks from upstairs.
  8. Busyness/privileged whining.
  9. [Insert all the fucked up shit happening in the world here]
  10. And what’s up with my nose? I sneeze too much.

More lists? More lists.

The first 1000 words I wrote yesterday as I burrowed into The Rabbit Hole

Okay so this is it! I’m starting off with a frantic blog post to get things warmed up. I’m already hating what I’m writing and resisting the urge to edit as I go, because editing comes later and posting this will probably come after (light) editing, but who cares because right now it’s about writing.

Sorry. I should explain. It’s just hit six o’clock on Friday June the 1st 2012, which means that as I write right now, I’m putting words toward a count of 30,000 words, along with dozens of others across the country. Again: thirty thousand words. I’m going to spare myself the pain of checking the word count too frequently, but I’m guessing I haven’t done 0.00001% of that. And also, my mathematical capabilities are not so great. Lucky I have words. Words!

Hey, so now the frantic initial rush is beginning to wear off and I’m getting into a groove. So I think now I’ll write out some of my plans, hopes, goals and other scattered thoughts. Apparently I will be writing out a lot of my thoughts as they arise. This is good. This is progress. This is pure. First thought, best thought, Allen Ginsberg said. I think. But then I think Ernest Hemingway said something about the first draft of everything being shit and there’s probably a really smart quote from a woman too, but I don’t know it.

No. I must resist the urge to read over what I’ve just written. At least until I get to the 6.25pm mark. This is because I’m using the Pomodoro technique. I would add a hyperlink there, but I’m sure you can track down details about it if you’ve not heard of it before and I’m not about to waste time with hyperlinking and stuff. That comes later. As does tea and biscuits and stretching and checking and updating my progress on the social networks. Who knows what things are currently blazing past like a waterfall on fire in the middle of a tornado? Not me. Because I am writing. Okay, you get it, I get it: I’m writing. Good.

If in doubt, answer rhetorical questions, no matter how lazy a technique it is. Why am I doing this? Well, Phil English of Toothsoup put me up to it. There are apparently various other incentives and rewards for various word counts. It’s an interesting experience. I get to work on all sorts of writing projects (both shortish and rather longish) that I’ve had sitting in my notebook and on scraps of paper and in my brain, little  ideas that now get a bit of expansion. And I thought it’d be an interesting challenge. Something I’ve never tried before. As I think I already mentioned, I’m a notorious over-editor and a slow writer. This is all about stretching unfamiliar muscles, mostly in the brain (metaphorically – I know the brain does not have muscles. My knowledge of anatomy is close to my knowledge of mathematics, but I know that much) but also in the fingers. I may get back pain as well. I just cracked my neck. It’s just as well my girlfriend is in the next room and the door is closed. She hates when I crack my neck. She wasn’t happy about this challenge either. Funnily enough, my girlfriend likes to spend time with me on the weekends. Ah, the eternal balancing act between competing loves.

That’s about ten minutes. Let’s sneak a look at word count shall we? 500 words, almost exactly! That’s 1000 words in 20 minutes, and 3000 words in an hour! Surely I can’t keep that up. I’ll probably slow down a little and take a little more care once I get to fiction writing. I only really wanted this to be maybe 1000 words max, so I’d better move on. I wonder how everyone else is doing?

So yes, I have some short story ideas, some potential novella ideas, a few blog post ideas beyond this one, a couple of reviews, some poetry, maybe a little non-fiction, maybe 1000 or so words of pure stream-of-consciousness writing (because what better time than now?) and who knows what else will emerge? After two hours of this tonight I’ll have dinner, maybe write a little more into the late hours. Then it’s up bright and early for a full day of writing tomorrow. That’s the true marathon section. I have no real commitments then (well, except for my aforementioned girlfriend – oh my, she just came in as I wrote that [I scrolled the page down to blank and she accused me of not having written anything; “copy, paste, copy, paste,” she mocks] and showed me this amazing craft project she’s been working on for me. Ah! I am not worthy! BUT DO NOT INTERRUPT). And then on Sunday I have work, which knocks off about 7 hours including travel time. So a bit more writing before work, and then after work it’ll be a final dash to the finish line at 8pm Sunday.

I already have a slight headache, but that might be the sugary tea and biscuits I gorged on beforehand. And there’s more where they came from. Woah, and just about time for my first Pomodoro break! The action, it simply does not stop!

I feel a lot of this is babbling, and would probably otherwise be edited out but I don’t think it’s utterly terrible. I wonder if I continue writing like this, whether the raw, unedited stuff gets better? I think I need to find a balance slightly more geared towards quality, while maintaining quantity. I think a real benefit of this (and the Pomodoro technique) are that they just force you to write. Not sit on Facebook. Not umm. Not ahh. Write. And the good stuff will come. Hopefully.

Thank you and my apologies if you’ve read this far.

What else do I have planned? Experiments with listening to music while writing (I’m usually the silent type) and updates on Facebook and Twitter (#rabbithole and #ewf12). What else?

Well, this and many more questions will surely be answered as I go deeper and deeper down the Rabbit Hole.

See you on the other side.

Wait, so then it’s more of a Rabbit Tunnel?

Again, all will be revealed.

Okay. That’s more than 1000 words now. Just gotta do that 30 times.

I think I’ll go and write a novella. brb.

The prodigal blogger returns

Good gravy, what say we surpass this stagnant state of non-blogging, eh? A new year, a good quarter done, much to catch up on, much to do. So: let’s.

Digits? Commence list exposition!

  • I’m still enjoying work at the NLA, a good six months in. It seems I’m finally getting the hang of the whole work/life-outside-work balancing act, with the inevitable occasional wobbles and hiccups.
  • I am against the word that is spelled ‘hiccough’.
  • When something is too spicy for me, I get hiccups.
  • I like to insert irrelevant items into lists.
  • I can’t decide whether lists are inane or wonderful. Or maybe both.
  • Scissors Paper Pen continues apace — onward and upward, even! We’ve put on events all around central Canberra: at the Phoenix Pub, Lonsdale Street Roasters, the National Library, and, during the You Are Here Festival, several other places (and all this YAH business will be expanded upon at a latter dot, but for now I sing praises to Rosie Stevens for ably organising so much SPP/YAH-related stuff while I was off gallivanting in places like NYC [again, latter dot] and she did and does a whole stack of good stuff so go read her blog already).  O, and SPP won an Express Media award! As for the future, we at SPP have further plans of great excitement, online and off. Rest yourselves assuredly. For now, we do hope for your involvement in future SPP happenings, dear blog reader, and offer you some of the podcasts we’ve got so far, with a promise of much more SPP goodness a-comin’.
  • Did somebody say podcasts? I have been going certifiably insane for the things in the past few months. JoMad: I Heard You Like Books?Radiolab, The Rereaders, This American Life, Paper Radio and all sorts from the ABC. You have suggestions for more? Fire away!
  • Speaking of electronic wonderment, I got me a Kobo Touch for Christmas! It’s pretty great. Once I got past the novelty factor, the accidental dropping of my keys on the screen (tiny spiderweb crack attack!) and other miscellaneous gadget glitches that keep such devices devoid of some elusive holistic rightness and romantic charm, I have found it most excellent for a variety of reading materials! In fact, it’s really good for travelling, which is handy because…
  • In February/March, my first ladyfriend and I did travel overseas for a fortnight! For me, it was my first time stepping outside the bits on the map marked ‘Australia’, so it was definitely a Big Thing. We went to New York, we went to Montreal, we passed through Schenectady on an Amtrak train, we sat on planes for days, the whole bit. I may just dedicate a future post solely to such travel stories. Oddly enough, I haven’t written anything substantial about it since I returned ashore. However, we did keep a daily travel diary and I did send a dozen postcards while international. But in summary:

It was excellent. USA! NUMBER ONE! YEAHHHHH.

  • And then we returned to the calm clamour of Canberra, amidst the second annual You Are Here Festival. It’d been going for a few days when I arrived, but my festival began when I, mildly jetlagged, popped into that long-abandoned newsagency, redubbed The Newsroom. I saw The Cashews playing to a room full of all sorts and it was golden gorgeous and I was Home. Over the next few days, I witnessed multitudes of poetry, the best debate ever, a wondrous harp + laptop duo, got pub quizzed at, experienced comedy as religious-educational experience and hunted for miniscule artworks around the CBD. Even in my, still limited, experience, it was awesome and I can’t wait for next year. In the meantime, I’ll be extracting some of the goodness from the YAH blog and its associated multimedia webtunnels.
  • Speaking of what has been but remains rad: making and sharing mix CDs and sending postcards, letters and other postal delights! Been doing it since Christmastime and it’s a weirdly great thing and if you are still reading this I will send you a postcard or a letter or something if you give me yr address or hey also look at this PO Box 251 Campbell LPO 2612 get on that like a total hipster before it’s too cool.
  • But seriously what even is a hipster? I think it is an excuse to just dismiss something and it’s a lazy term mostly.
  • Lazy? I rode a friggin’ segway on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.
  • And I kinda finally learned how to iron. It took 25 years. No segue.
  • Even though I’d not been blogging for months ’til this outburst, I have been writing. I have words forthcoming in Burley. And you remember that You Are Here thing I mentioned? Well one Julian Fleetwood launched another thing during it called Mall Stories and I have a story in it about this one time I worked at a bookshop, and a voice actor reads it out to you during a self-guided walking tour and everything. I’m planning to actually finally do the tour this coming weekend! You can too! Preferably in the Canberra Centre, but in any case you should download it and go walking around a mall, or anywhere. Just listen. I know it’ll be good. But anyway, beyond those writings, I’ve had a few rejections which are always good for both reflection and a short-back-‘n’-sides on the ol’ ego, plus I have a number of writings pending and hey, I wrote this blog post list and it has like a dozen dot points already, what else do you want from me?
  • Huh?
  • Geez.
  • You’ll see!
  • Okay, I’ll stop the dots.

And there you have it: blog post! I hear there’s more where it came from, just quietly. So commence overlapping of your digits in anticipation and I’ll dedicate mine to punching more characters.

(postscript/edit: it was only after posting this that I thought to check the definition of ‘prodigal’. Apparently it actually means ‘wastefully extravagent’. Did everybody else know this? I clearly did not pay enough attention during Sunday school, but hey, now I know and I guess I am rather prodigal with my words/dots?)

Some stuff I did write elsewhere

I’ve been sick with a post-TiNA cold and (just as I’ve nearly recovered) I’ve been handed an unusually busy work week. So rather than failing to write something new and substantial, on this, my one-day weekend, I instead present an assortment of stuff I already wrote recently. Hopefully a TiNA-based post and other good new things will ensue soon. Until then, enjoy?

First, if you’ll cast your eyes down to my previous post, I’ve rescued and revived something I wrote for National Young Writers Month entitled Why I (Don’t) Write.

I’ve also recently put another piece up on my other blog, Suburban Flotsam and Jetsam. During National Young Writers Month, I wrote a piece each week for SuFaJ, and since I was pretty happy with what resulted, I decided I’d continue with it, not weekly, but whenever I can. Hence, my fifth piece ‘o.n.o’ is up there, along with the inspiration for the impending sixth.

I’ve been writing some stuff for Canberra street press mag BMA. Here’s my piece on Canberra musician Pete Akhurst, and my review of an evening of spoken word, Urban Soul Food.

And finally, if you haven’t already got a copy (or a subscription [why not?]), you should grab the previous issue of Voiceworks. That’d be #85 OTHER, the one with my non-fiction piece about seeking ghosts, psychics and otherworldly experiences in Canberra. The piece is called Ghost Town and I’ve been invited to read something Ghost Town-related at a special Halloween-themed night of readings organised by Voiceworks and the Victorian Writers’ Centre next Friday, the 21st of October, at the good ol’ (actually, still quite new and shiny) Wheeler Centre in Melbourne. See the Facebook event and/or the VWC website for extra details, so you may come along and be enthralled by all.

Rightio then, that’s all for now. Enjoy your weekend. I hope it’s longer than mine. May your nostrils be not runny and your spring days fairly sunny.

Why I (Don’t) Write

In the lead-up to National Young Writers’ Month (NYWM) in June this year, I was asked, along with the other NYWM ambassadorial folk, to share my perspectives on ‘Why I Write’ on the NYWM blog. Unfortunately, the servers behind NYWM were hacked and much was lost. It was still an awesome month though. Recently, I realised I still had a copy of  my NYWM blog post saved on my hard drive. I thought I should give it a new home online here, because I thought it was pretty solid , still relevant to me and hopefully relevant to others. Enjoy!


When asked to write a piece outlining Why I Write, I admit to being somewhat intimidated. You see, when I start asking myself ‘why do I write?’, I’m not asking why I write to-do lists or job applications. It makes me think more about why I do the writing that writers do. You know, stirring poetry, piercing essays, mindblowing novels. The craft, the art, nothing but you, the words and your readers.

And then the doubt sets in. What can my scribbles and typings amount to? What am I doing? Why do I write?

It’s a tricky one, because when you ask yourself that, you’re forced to assess yourself, your ability and value as a writer and all sorts of knotty things, and then you start comparing yourself to all those who’ve gone before you with their own thoughts under the same title: George OrwellJoan DidionStephen Elliot and many more I’m sure.

So if you don’t want to give up before beginning, it can help to come at things from a different angle. If I’m going to get anywhere with my writing, I need to acknowledge and address my shortcomings. So rather than explain Why I Write, I’m going to first look at Why I Don’t Write.

Okay, so it is early days still, and although I do call myself a writer, my efforts have been sporadic, with some particularly scant writing patches recently. Sure, there are other things in my life and I can’t write all the time, but more often than I’d like lately, it seems I don’t write. Even though my Year 2 teacher Mrs. Brooks encouraged me and gave me a star award saying “He is going to be a famous writer when he grows up”. Even though I’ve had some successes, some published pieces here and there. Even though some say they like my writing and I get adrenal quivers when I’m right into it and I really just love writing, there’s still been too many times lately where I could have written and didn’t.

When I know I could write, should write and actually want to write, but I don’t, why don’t I?

To answer this, I devised a list of possibilities:

1. Nothing to write with. Nope, rarely an issue. I ensure writing implements are handy at all times, from desktop computer to pen plus ticket stub.

2. Too busy. But I know that’s not the case. It’s not like I’m working in a factory all week for 5 cents an hour to feed my starving family. I can make the time.

3. Too hard. Variations on this include ‘uninspired’, ‘no ideas’, ‘writer’s block’, ‘I’m no good’, ‘I have nothing to write about’, ‘it’s unoriginal’ and so on. But I know this is all bovine faeces. I have dozens of scraps of ideas waiting in my notebooks. I can string a sentence together, several times over. And it’s all just moving my fingers around, really. Sure, good writing is harder, but the only way to get better is to write, so that’s what I should be doing.

4. Distraction. Also goes by the pseudonym ‘procrastination’. O yes, I will write, right after I watch another episode of Buffy. And right after I check my Twitter feed. Then right after I do the dishes. Look, it’s time to check the mail! You know the drill. I end up doing all those things, but then I don’t get around to writing. Why the hell not?

5. Fear. Am I afraid of writing? Is the blank page really that fearsome? Am I afraid of what might happen, somehow? Am I still intimidated by George Orwell and all those other towering figures? But they’re all just people. And they’re not me. And anyway, even Orwell didn’t get right into writing until around the age of 25 and he still turned out okay. I could get a head start on him! So I’ve got no excuse, really. No excuse. And that’s the thing.

6. Excuses. That’s the main reason I don’t write. I make excuses. This is just a list of excuses. Sure, everyone needs a day off and sometimes there are extenuating circumstances. But when I don’t write for a couple of days, I know that I’m just making excuses. So I feel bad. But the only solution, really, is not to mope and go woe is me and give up, but to write. No matter how hard it seems, it’s not, once you get going. In fact, it’s usually worthwhile and even fun, as I well know.

So my solution is simple. I keep writing tools at the ready. I find an hour or so in my day to knuckle down and be relatively undistracted. I take a deep breath. And I write. In fact, one of my goals for National Young Writers’ Month is to sit down every single day and do some serious(ly awesome) writing, and, despite still being slightly intimidated, I’m super excited about it.

When I address the reasons I don’t write and start to correct the bad habits, impulses and behaviour, I start to find that I’m paying attention more. I’m more mindful and doing something worthwhile. I’m active, content, living more meaningfully, more connected with my imagination and the world around me. Everything deepens and broadens, becomes richer and stranger. I become more inspired, bursting with ideas. I’m making time to do something I want to do, something challenging, transformative, therapeutic, experimental and fun. I’m summoning meaning, understanding and power. I’m growing as a writer, progressing, and maybe making something useful, something that might bring me some scratch. But more importantly, it might be of some benefit to me and to others, in some small, subtly spectacular or profound way when it’s out there, shared with the world. Nothing but me, the words and their readers.

And I guess, after addressing Why I Don’t Write, after tapping out a decent chunk of sentences, I think I’ve just explained after all, in a roundabout way, Why I Write.

Balance

As I return to blogging with renewed gusto and a shiny new design (though with a few adjustments pending), I wanted to nut out a few things I’ve been mulling over lately regarding balance.

This year, (beyond recently recovering from [thankfully not catastrophic] computer meltdown, getting a cold, travelling around a lot – life happening, basically) I’ve had times where I had no job whatsoever, times where I was working volunteer roles I could throw myself into with varying levels of vigour, and periods where I was either working casually or swamped by working two jobs at once.

But now, I’m settled into one good, fairly steady, part-time job at the National Library of Australia. Which is awesome. It’s my first real, kinda grown-up job. Like, I get my own desk and everything. But thankfully I’m doing a lot of stuff that isn’t just deskwork too. Anyway, both my finances and my schedule have become a whole lot more regular, so that’s good!

So now, I’ve got four days a week where, from roughly 9 to 5, I (mostly) work at this job. But for the times when I am not at work, it’s almost as if the idea of “this time is mine” has been brought into starker relief.

As I’m sure many people know, after a day of work, it’s easy to just get home, blob on the couch, eat dinner in front of the TV, fart about on the internet, collapse into bed, repeat. I used to be a bit scathing of this kind of behavior, but I totally get the impulse. The full 9-5 can drain you, and I’m only just  breaking out of that lazy blob pattern.

So this brings me to what I’m pondering on. It begins with that old chestnut of ‘work/life balance’. I recently read an article by Damon Young  that talked about this, and he clarified the point that really, you’ve got be mindful of this balance, and you’ve got to realise it’s kind of a question of value.  It’s like “This is my time, so what do I want to do with it?”  It’s not like being at Uni, where you could always be studying, preparing more for a test or whatever. It’s not a casual job where you could be called up any day. And it’s not like unemployment, where you need to spend ages seeking and applying and preparing for jobs. Now, I’ve got my practicalities of money situation pretty sorted. I like my job. I’m not overworked. I don’t really take work home with me. So like I said, this time is mine. It’s a kind of freedom, a serious privilege, and it’s a weird, new feeling. After a year or two of post-study job-seeking flux, it feels like that part of my life is sorted and balanced for now.

Then there’s the rest of my life (the parts that aren’t work) to balance. For example, I need a good night’s sleep (I really do). I need quality time with my girlfriend and time for all the domestic practicalities. I want to write and I want to read. Those parts are easy. I know I value them (or value being on top of them, when it comes to the domesticals) but the more I think, the more I realise there’s so much more that I’m trying to balance, prioritise and find the right time for. Some seems almost essential, some desirable, some a luxury, some I’m not sure.  Let’s see what else there is: music, interwebbernauting, hanging with friends, TV, movies, video games, going for a walk, travelling, volunteering, baking a pie,  something else, anything else. I can’t do everything. So what do I want to make part of my daily/regular practice and what do I want to reduce or cut out entirely?

In my spare hours at work, beyond the realisation that a Word document can be well-disguised as important business (rather than a wobbly blog post),  I’ve realised I’m able to browse the interwebs, in the slow times, when there’s no other work waiting for me, and nobody minds.

One series of interlinked info holes I recently burrowed down into during my work hours was Samuel Cooney‘s slighty old (in internet time), but rather good bunch of guest posts on the Southerly Journal blog, including this post, which in turn links to a David Sedaris essay in the New Yorker. Here’s a quote at the core of all this that caught me. Imagine a four-burner stove:

” One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work.’ The gist, she said, was that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two. “

I’d recommend checking out the links I posted for further pontification on those matters. But there’s an interesting thought here. What do I have to sacrifice for such a solitary pursuit as writing, or any work I value and pursue? Can you just turn down the other burners a little bit, rather than turning them off completely? Can you alternate? I tend to alternate in neglecting my friends and family, sometimes both. So there is a definite hermit scribe tendency there already. Still, I want to say this analogy is flawed and that you can balance everything and have it all. But really, I’m not so sure.

Anyway, on this note, I have amazed myself lately by becoming a morning person for the sake of cultivating a writing habit. My routine’s not perfect, but I am rising early, sitting down and writing most mornings, without too much distraction, for a good hour at least, before work, or longer on weekends.

I’m still trying to read more books. That’s what has really suffered lately. I read a good amount and variety of stuff online, from tweets to longform essays. But I know I need to carve out a book reading habit amongst it all too. And that the o-so-hard (and privileged) but necessary choice is: less TV and less farting around online in the evenings. I want those things too, but I value book reading more. So the next step is making my life reflect my values.

And that could get me into even broader questions of life, ethics and deep deep meanings,  but I need to get ready to go to Newcastle today, so I’m going to leave it at that. But I’m pretty sure my time with TiNA will be valuable and that I’ll have plenty to write about upon my return. Imma gonna give this blog the love it’s always deserved.

PS: Just after I finished writing this, someone else’s blog post, in a similar vein, came up in my newsfeed. Nice.