Crisis Management 

Checked my work email this morning to find a number of crises developed overnight, so already I’m the fan of destiny prepped for the bowel discharge of fate.

Time is short on this morning’s bus ride, so this is a short blog entry about prepping for crisis.

1. Keep the routine as much as possible. I exercise in the morning before work. It would be tempting to forego this and head straight to the office, but the short term benefit of an extra hour would be extinguished by the long term break in routine. Better to exercise, be refreshed, and come into work all set.

2. Reprioritise, don’t panic. Crisis does not equal disaster. There may be a number of options available. I had planned on a number of things today, but clearly I’ll need to reorganise. This is different from ignoring what I plannned today – some of it will be quite important. If I need to move things to tomorrow or later it should be controlled and assessed, not simply dumped. That way I maintain control.

3. Communicate with the team. Not everyone will be needed to respond, but everyone should know what the situation is, and depending on the seriousness of the situation be able to reorganise and reprioritise their work. This means holding a quick briefing – I call these Scrums – of about 5 minutes to give everyone the details. This helps the team anticipate need and plan their own workload to help their colleagues.

So there are 3 quick nuggets for managing crisis. Incorporate it into your routine, not the other way round. Have an organised reorganisation of work priorities. Communicate with the team. All this will help develop a cohesive and disciplined response.

Social Work 101

I was brainstorming some ideas yesterday for articles to write. While I’m keen to build a fiction portfolio, I would also like to maintain a professional one too. I’ve got skills and experience (I would like to think), and it seems sensible to make use of them. I suppose there’s also a small practical reason, and that’s writers don’t make a lot of money. Maintaining a professional career is sensible for all sorts of reasons.

I managed a short list of about 30 single or two word ideas. My next plan was to build on these and maybe merge some into workable descriptions. I thought I’d start with a one-liner (25 words or less description of the article) before expanding to a more detailed paragraph.

As it happens, while doing this exercise, I remembered that I had toyed with an idea for a social work book a few years ago, called Social Work 101. The idea was to write 101 tips for aspiring social workers, based on practical issues that arise soon after qualification. Usually the problem being a ‘they didn’t teach us that in our course’ issue.

I couldn’t find the list on computer, but luckily had a hard copy. More ideas basically. I mention this because it reawakens the idea in my mind to develop a book, but it’s also a rich stock of ideas I have ruminated on in the past. For now I’ll focus on articles, and this list gives me more options.

So, getting back to subject, once I’ve developed those paragraphs I can start researching online. It’s possible someone’s written about the topic previously (although social work is not awash with publications), or give me ideas for a new angle. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the ‘Top 10 tips for…’ type of article either.

I could publish the articles myself online, on this blog for example, but that’s not a direction I want to go in. This isn’t about a regular stream of work (I’m paid a good wage for that). This is about a professional project on the side.

I’ll peruse the 101 list to get some more ideas. I’m conscious that I’m more focused on planning activities right now than actually doing them, so I need to move this forward lest I get sucked into eternal planning and no delivery.

Project Planning

You know that saying ‘fingers in lots of pies’, I always think ‘just how big are your hands?’…and ‘I’m not eating one of your pies.’

Well, my fingers need to spread pretty far at the moment (gross).

Shall I start again? I feel grossed out and I’M the blogger.

Projects. I’ve been planning projects. It turns out I have a host of them. In addition to editing my book, I have another book to write. I need to reorganise my photography website AND develop and implement a plan for regular promotion of my work. I’ve got AARGH number of short stories to finish, plus other writing projects etc. There’s painting, which I really want to develop this year. Plus there’s other writing projects. Oh and university, I have university.

I’m also moving house, because nothing promotes effective project work like packing all your belongings into boxes and moving them somewhere just to unpack them again.

I know what you’re thinking – ‘he’s insane, crazy, Donald Trump x10.’

Well it’s possible, but anyone’s welcome to my house so there is that difference.

Yes, it sounds like a lot, but I have managed to develop a pattern of working thanks to my book writing, so I think I’m in s good position to adapt. Realistic goals are needed, taking account of time and personal events (like holiday, which I realise will need some serious early preparation- road trip!). So that’s the work ahead this week, breaking it all down into manageable chunks.

Bring me your pies!

Hemingway was right (& I finished my novel)

The first draft of anything is shit. Hemingway.

So why am I quoting the great one? Well, I finished my novel…after a fashion.

First things first. I finished my motherfucking novel!! WHOOP WHOOP!

Ahem. Let me define ‘finished’ before I get too carried…oh my god I fucking finished it!…away.

So, it’s not finished, not really. As a first draft, it’s done, but there are sections that need rewriting, some chopped, others need finishing. That’s obviously the nature of a draft, but there’s some serious work to be done. Nonetheless, it has a start, middle and end. There is a clear set of events (the plot) and story. The characters are distinctive enough (for now).

I could describe all the things I reckon are wrong, need changing etc, but that will come in time with rewrites. For now, I’m just going to bathe in the celebratory glow, albeit briefly, and reflect on what I’ve gained and learnt from the experience.

This all started out of a NaNoWriMo, and just kept going. To persevere to the end really was something, if I’m honest, and I found myself pleasantly surprised at how much I looked forward to writing more and more.

I found an appreciation for simplicity and action. Too often I ended up in sections that merely described the characters going from one place or another. These were hard to write, and often fizzled out. Once I introduced a sense of action, or tension, then it became easier to write, and much more enjoyable.

Planning out the plot ahead of time made it possible. I did very little character background, inventing it as I went, or relying on brief descriptions. I wrote little world creation, again developing as I went. I didn’t write in chapters, I wrote in sections, with strands of events occurring before moving onto the next. That all help make the writing simpler for me. There’s a trade off that there’s probably more I’ll need to work on, but at least the whole thing is done, and I’ve minimised the risk of endless world building without actually writing.

I’ve learnt how important it is that I like my novel. I enjoyed the story, while accepting it’s flaws. It’s the type of story I would like to read. I think this is why I wanted to persevere.

There’s a way to go. My first job is to get some distance from it. Just get a breather. I want to be clear headed for the rewriting.

My next task will be to read the whole thing all the way through, from start to finish. I won’t make any corrections, or take any notes while I read. Only after I have read a particular section will I take down some notes. Then, I’ll break the story down into clearer sections and, eventually, chapters. This will help me identify the bits I need to rewrite, add or delete, and start the draft process.

So there’s work ahead, but fuck me if I didn’t just write a novel. Yes, it’s shit, but it’s also beautiful. You know people say babies are ugly, but adore them at the same time? I think this is similar…and without the poo and that weird white gunk babies seem to produce (hey, bonus!).

So there it is, my first novel. I’m pleased. I’m proud. And I look forward to the rewrites and watching the book grow.

Holy fuck I really did write a book. Awesome.

Why I can’t celebrate Australia Day

I appreciate the public holiday, I really do, and this being a country I love I wish I could celebrate. Alas, I cannot. 

When I cam to Australia I’ll admit that I was ill prepared for the adventure that would lie ahead, the exhilaration I get from just being here. If I travel abroad on holiday I feel like I’m going on holiday just by coming back to Australia. This place takes my breath away. I can stand in the outback, looking out over scenery that probably looked just the same thousands of years ago. There’s a spirit in this place, something that touches my soul (and I’m atheist). The people here have an openness and genuine spirit it’s difficult not to like. Australian’s work to play is the summary of it – they have the right idea.

I didn’t come here as an immigrant. I came as a citizen, courtesy of my father. But I spent most of my life in the UK. I might be Australian, but I haven’t lost the Britishness. Nonetheless, I feel closer to this country than I ever have to the UK. 

Even so, I’d never been the biggest fan of nationalistic celebration. I understand it, I get, but I never really embraced it. Being in Australia, having gained so much, I feel like I want to be a part of that celebration, giving back in some way for all Australia’s done for me. I would love to do it, but I can’t.

Some people call Australia Day Invasion Day. I can see why. If I really need to describe all the awful consequences of colonialisation, then I’m probably wasting my time, but it’s been brutal. Land taken away, murdered, raped, and their children stolen – Aboriginal and Torrens Strait Islanders have suffered greatly for the benefit of Anglo civilisation. I’ve got to be frank, but holding Australia Day on the day ‘commemorating’ the arrival of the British fleet, would be like Germany holding a national day on the same day as the Wannsee Conference.

I know, when Australians celebrate Australia Day they’re doing it to celebrate. To have fun, being Australian.I don’t see many people actively celebrating the colonialisation and racist policies and actions that followed. Most understand the past, even if not everyone is ready to face up to it.

So the people protesting today, the ones that call it Invasion Day. They’re not asking to stop Australia Day, they want to celebrate. I do too. All that’s being asked for, is for the date to be changed. That’s it.

This isn’t political correctness – that’s the far right bogeyman used to justify prejudice. It’s about what’s right,  respecting the indigenous population and having humility before the past. I realise it would be hard for some people; accepting crimes of the past, even for ancestors, can be difficult. Changing the date might be implicitly accepting that responsibility, and that guilt. I get that’s hard. But it needs to be done.

I’m not so detached from nationalism that I can completely ignore the cultural need for collective identity and celebration, but to celebrate Australia Day on this day, of all days, is unacceptable to my core. If you want to have a good day and enjoy with friends and family, go for it, but ask yourself, would it really make any difference if it was 25th January or the 27th? I don’t think so. Let those like Barnaby Joyce crap over honest and principled sentiment, let people collectively, together, celebrate, and please understand that holding Australia Day on the same day, that almost led to the extermination of the indigenous population, is not inclusive. Change the date, so that all Australians can celebrate together.

The Null Zone

Just not feeling it today. A dull malaise. Probably comes from no blog yesterday. I think I overstretched and in the process couldn’t complete the blog.

So, yesterday. I thought of a post about fake news, but wanted to convert it to the office environment about dealing with rumours and gossip (particularly malicious). Instead it has turned into some of epic blog post, and fatigue overtook me before I even finished it. Now it remains unfinished, and I haven’t the will to finish it. Unfortunately, I need to finish it, so this evenings’ journey home is likely to be my means of wrapping that one up. Two blogs for the price of one.

I shouldn’t be so unmotivated. Really shouldn’t. Maybe it’s just nothing – aspiration for the better of me and I’ll finish it tonight. Let’s hope.

I had considered this morning’s post to be about motivation, particularly self-motivation, but I don’t wonder if it sounds a bit cliche. Nonetheless, I think I’ll give it a shot, but it’ll be quick because I’m. Not that far off my final station.

1. Set realistic goals, not ideal ones. At least, not at first. Want to climb Everest, but feel sore after walking the street and back? Perhaps establish a longer term plan. Me, I am trying to get some semblance of fitness. I go swimming 3 times a week. It was 5, but by day 3 I’d be knackered and virtually unable to move by the end of the week. Supplementary exercise (like walking the dog) went out the window (not the dog, just the exercise). So I was rarely managing more than a few swims a week and very little else. Now, at 3 times a week, I can manage that capably, and other exercise on top. Notice how having a realistic goal delivers the same amount of swimming as the unrealistic, but gives far more flexibility for other exercises? Less is more.

2. Pick the best time for you and make it work. I used to go running at lunch. It worked, for a few months, but then two things happened. One, my feet got incredibly sore after running, and my legs, making it difficult to sustain the exercise – hence the swimming. The other was summer. Too hot to run. So I changed time to before work. This too is the other reason for swimming – time. It was far too much time in the morning to sort the running, whereas the swimming is more flexible for me. Ultimate it’s about finding the right moment of the day for you and making the time.

3. Find things to do while exercising. Bit difficult in the pool to listen to music, but I preoccupy myself with mini targets of numbers of lengths. For other exercises I use YouTube or iTunes to keep me occupied. It also helps me have an artificial time set to complete everything.

So that’s it. Amateur exercise tips. Of course, I have yet to succeed in the long term, but I will persevere.

Rogue One review

I’m well behind the curve on this one…wait a second…

…spoilers ahead (for the whole Star Wars films franchise, not just Rogue One)…

…behind the curve on this one, but after finally seeing Rogue One, and suffering something of a nerdgasm, I feel compelled to share my thoughts on this film.

It’s brilliant. Totally brilliant. Its visuals are outstanding, the pace keeps moving, and the throwbacks to A New Hope had me laughing in excitement and joy. The performances are excellent, and high spirited. Felicity Jones, Ben Mendelssohn, Wen Jiang, Donnie Yen, Alan Tudyk etc. etc. I really could go on. I loved the use of Peter Cushing for his image, and there was something truly poignant about seeing the wonderful Carrie Fisher right at the end. I must admit though, there were some other entries from a New Hope that had me truly rapt – more on this below.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Firstly, the plot and story. They’re both superb. Picking up the plot based on a few lines from the opening crawl of a New Hope was inspired, and the outcome even more so. This film really draws out the realities of the Empire in terms of their twisted ideologies of law and order. They destroy the city of Jedha to demonstrate that the Death Star actually works, justifying it as a target due to the presence of a band of off-shoot rebels led by Forest Whittaker’s impressive Saw Gerrera. Hundreds of innocent people are killed in the process, and to the films credit it highlights the futility of individual acts for the greater good. Jyn Erso risks her life to save a small child in the city, but that same child is almost certainly annihilated by the Death Star moments later. A subtle (I wonder even unintentional) signal that greater causes can not always afford to make sacrifices for individuals – something anathema to Hollywood heroism.

We see the Empire in more detail than we have before. Stormtroopers are everywhere; they freely assault citizens, tanks run through the streets, and a Star Destroyer can hover at whim over a city. There’s no effort by the Empire to disguise it’s authoritarian control. In the original trilogy we got a sense of the malevolence of the Empire, through Tarkin, Vader and finally the Empire. The destruction of Alderaan in a New Hope paints the Empire in modernist terms – a giant totalitarian entity destroying a whole planet – but it’s distant and lacking emotional context. Even the death of Leia’s father becomes abstract, and she barely has time to grieve in the film at all (indeed, I think one of her lines in the film specifically states “We have no time for our sorrows” or words to that effect). We see Rebels getting killed, but lack the emotional connection to make that have proper meaning. It gets even worse when we consider that (arguably) only two of the main good guy characters die in the original trilogy – Obi Wan and Yoda. 

Rogue One is very different, drawing us into personal, tangible, postmodern representations of human (and alien and droid) cost. Better than the Force Awakens’ lazy killing-off of Hans Solo, we feel each major good guy go through their sacrifices (ultimate sacrifices in fact) and even the minor Rebel characters have meaning by their deaths. This is a war film; people suffer, they die, and bad things are done by ordinarily good people.

We actually see Cassion Andor (played coolly but effectively by Diego Luna) execute informants and Stormtroopers. Executions, explicitly shown in a Disney film. Off the top of my head, I can only think of Lion King as a Disney film that has taken such a visual approach to murder.

The Rebels own discord and disharmony is demonstrated through Saw Gerrera’s extremist campaign. It’s not explained exactly how he constitutes an extremist, but it’s alluded to as being indiscriminate of civilian casualties. His band of rebels don’t pull punches, compared to the wider Alliance, whose very nature turns against itself through internal disagreement and strife. Rogue One demonstrates that rebellions, even good ones, lead to people committing savage acts. Think in real life, about Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki. Think about tales of supposedly ‘good’ forces committing war crimes of their own – raping and murdering civilians, torturing and executing enemy combatants. Rogue One doesn’t go so graphically of course, but as a ‘family film’ it’s great to see it bother at all to raise that moral ambiguity of war.

Subtle features like that are one of Rogue One’s biggest strengths, giving us a wider exploration of society and culture in the Star Wars galaxy, without getting sucked into the exposition all world building of the prequels. On Jedha we see the final passing of the Jedi lore – the broken statue of a Jedi in the desert, the abandoned Jedi temple. Hints of a religion that has now passed (at least, as far as the Emperor is concerned at this point). 

The Senate, which is finally dissolved in a New Hope, is featured as being a background issue. Nothing like the disastrous emphasis it was given in Phantom Menace, more the slight mention of a passing Republic, and an Empire finally coming into its own.

The best reference though, and I really don’t know if the filmmakers intended this, is Saw Gerrera. In the film he is portrayed as being dependent on cybernetic support after years of fighting. He uses an oxygen mask to help him breath. He is an extremist rebel, expelled by the Alliance because of his methods. I think back to the message of the original trilogy about Vader – “he’s more machine now than human, twisted and evil”. The message there is about losing your soul being represented as a visual decline (Vader’s reliance on machinery, Luke looking at his robotic hand, the Emperor’s withered features). In Rogue One this is thrown back against the Rebellion. It too can have a moral decline. If the filmmakers intended it, it was genius. 

I realise that there is a risk about such representation. Often bad guys are displayed as being visually repulsive, to represent that they are the bad guys. It’s an inference that can lead to prejudice against people with physical disabilities. In Star Wars though, the Empire is shown to be almost Aryan like in its all human make up, while the Rebellion represents a multicultural approach. It’s not like, say, Star Trek (with the borderline racist portrayal of virtually every bad guy except possibly Khan). Think Star Trek Nemesis, with the monster like Remans are portrayed as being solely, collectively, evil. In Rogue One, all the bad guys are portrayed as older white males. The Rebels have a mix of gender, cultural, race and species.

My biggest, personal joy, about Rogue One though are the references to the original trilogy, and even the slight nods to the awful prequels. We see a range of characters referenced – Vader and (ironically given his Hammer career) back-from-the-dead Peter Cushing are the most explicit. Again subtlety works for Rogue One, with little features of C3PO and R2D2 (giving a hint to the final reveal), the “I have the death sentence on twelve systems” guy from Star Wars (who gets lightsabered by Obi Wan for his troubles), and, for me the best, use of the original pilots from a New Hope. It’s logical really, since they would be flying multiple missions for the (fairly nascent) Rebel Alliance at the time. And we have a nice little cameo from Princess Leia right at the end, setting up a New Hope almost perfectly (and accounting for the ‘in your face’ opening of a Star Destroyer attacking her tiny Blockade Runner).

It’s Darth Vader though that’s the most effective, and demonstrates why he’s such a formidable presence on screen. For the first time we see Vader in full destructive capability against Rebels (possibly referencing more graphic portrayals in video games – I don’t know), obiliterating a small squad of Rebels in moments using the Force and his lightsaber. His brisk and irritable side come to the fore with Krennic’s overly speculative stretch for authority, getting force choked for his troubles. More subtlety, as Vader’s general scepticism about the Death Star – neatly suggesting it may compromise the Empire, and rightly foresees how it will ultimately strengthen the Rebellion – first seen in a New Hope, is explained in more detail. It is not merely about pride and the Force; Vader has a rational grievance about errors made by the Empire. It would have been interesting to see how that dynamic plays out with the Emperor, who clearly wants the Death Star built.

Seeing Peter Cushing used A LOT MORE than I expected also brought something of a sadness about his death. Obviously I wouldn’t expect him to ordinarily have survived this long – he was fairly old even in the 1990’s – but I had a tinge of nostalgia for an actor that, even now, from beyond the grave, exhibits a kind of charisma on screen. I wish we had seen more of him in a New Hope, but then Vader was clearly the bad guy for that whole trilogy so it made sense to focus on him.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a few little quibbles, because there are one or two. Not like the inconsistencies in Force Awakens, where I was left shifting between barely concealed exasperation one moment and then excited awe the next. These are minor things, but I figure for the sake of fairness I should mention them…

Forest Whittaker has a padlock on his foot. I know there might be a practical reason for it, but visually it looked a little ludicrous. What would happen if he lost the key?

There’s a totally unnecessary scene involving an octopus like creature that mind rapes Bodhi Rook (underplayed a little by Riz Ahmed). It’s all to establish that Bodhi is not a spy and telling the truth. The problem is that issue is very quickly forgotten about anyway. It was a little like Force Awakens in a brief, but redundant CGI display. It didn’t add to the story and seemed inconsequential. 

The Rebel Alliance hold it’s important strategy meetings in full view, and inclusion, of minor officers. I realise that this might represent the more communal approach of the Alliance, but I still found it inplausible that such a body would allow it’s most senior council and leaders to be so exposed. I mean, the Imperials wouldn’t need a high level agent at all, they could just get a spy in as the cleaner or something.

Also, there are some aspects of the Rebel Alliance that are exposed here that raise interesting questions about the original trilogy. In Rogue One, the Rebels almost fracture because of the Death Star, like that! [click of the fingers], with little regard to their wider strategic ability. I realise it’s a film and there’s a need to summarise discussion, but I was curious about the original trilogy. After a New Hope, why do the Rebels just hang around Yavin 4 to celebrate, when the Empire (and it’s fuck-off big fleet) knows where it is? Is there an attempt to remove Mon Mothma after the Rebels have to flee Hoth? What discord occurs then? And after ROTJ, do the alliances break down as old arguments resurface? Force Awakens suggest the New Republic survives (well, until being obiliterated very easily by a giant, giant Death Star laser thing on a planet), AND the New Order (Empire two) is in existence. Clearly not all the goals of the Rebels were reached after the fall of the Empire.

Kassion, Jyn and K2SO take the uniforms off a shuttle inspection crew, but none of the Imperial officers outside seem to realise that a) completely different people come out of the shuttle and b) that the people coming out of the shuttle are not people they work with.

The Empire conly uses small shots of the Death Star at first because the film doesn’t want to up the ante too early with planetary destruction. I did make a complaint about Force Awakens doing the opposite in a different context (Kylo Ren having a hissy fit with his lightsaber twice), but in this context wouldn’t it just have been better to say that they need to improve the calibration or something?

Vader’s Star Destroyer comes out of hyperspace EXACTLY where the Rebel fleet is trying to escape. No. Fucking. Way.

I don’t care how good friends Chirrut and Baze are – Chirrut repeatedly saying “I am one with the Force, the Force is with me” after several years would become too annoying. It also seems contrary to the approach of Obi Wan and Yoda when training Luke.

Baze shoots everyone he fires at.

Stormtrooper armour is utterly useless. Chirrut beats them up with a stick and they are knocked out several times with relatively minor blows from main characters.

The Empire has seemingly no sense of health and safety at all. This was a running joke in a New Hope, with the Imperial troops having no protection from the Death Star ray when it is firing and the tractor beam controls on an extremely dangerous platform with no railings, but it continues here. Swiftly opening and shutting vents (a little Galaxy Quest like to be honest), and important control panels located a significant distance away from other key equipment and on stomach churning flimsy high platforms. The Empire has no union clearly.

Darth Vader’s house is masochistic in nature. Anakin Skywalker loses significant parts of is body after forfeiting the high ground to Obi Wan and getting dunked in burning lava. It is the reason he requires the black suit and breathing unit (presumably the cloak is an aesthetic choice). So building his house ON TOP OF A RIVER OF MOLTON LAVA seems to escalate masochism to new levels. 

On that point, why does Vader invite Krennic to his molton lava house? Just to force choke him? It left me with the impression of Vader inviting people over purely for the sexual thrill of strangling them, while being situated over a river of motion lava, lava which almost certainly burnt off his dick. If we assume the cloak is black leather or rubber like substance, then I can’t but help feel Vader is a sadomasochistic sex fiend.

Who the fuck was the old guy at Vader’s house? His butler?! How did he get that job?

The Rebels spend a lot of time attacking the shields, which they can’t destroy, but no time attacking the shield generator until they achieve the unlikely success of disabling a Star Destroyer.

How is it practical to have a manual retrieval system for the archive when it’s the size of a building?

Galen’s plan hinges on Jyn being at the archive and knowing instinctively that he would name the Death Star plans after his little nickname. That’s right up there with the “Hold your fire. There’s no life forms,” guy from a New Hope.

Look, I’m being picky. Even the best films have little holes like this, but since I’m in the spirit of writing this now, I figured I’d mention those little issues.

It doesn’t matter. Rogue One is awesome, and to put it in geekdom terms, it’s better than Empire – although I acknowledge that’s like saying a Bordeaux is better than a Cotes Du Rhone. It’s a minute comparison. Simply though, Rogue One captures the spirit of New Hope, with the dark edge of Empire, and warms us up with the pleasure of a visually superb film. There are just enough throwbacks to produce nerdgasm, while being respectful to those actors. I loved it, and I think Disney have captured the essence of what Star Wars needs, far better with this than they did with Force Awakens.

Boredom Lingers

Well this is a thing. I’m bored at work. It’s not that I don’t have work to do. It’s not that I find it unrewarding. It’s simply that I’ve run out of urgent things to do. The things I do need to do are done. Sure, there are things I would like to do to wrap up a few things here and there, but ultimately I have very little to manage at the moment.

Now, I could say that this is the price for excellent skills of planning and organisation. I mean, really, I could, because it is. Zero emails in my Inbox. ZERO! No tasks waiting for completion. Notes up to date. I’ve come into my system the way I left it – on top of my work and riding it like a bron…err, you know what, I’ll just stop at being on top.

I had time to read a short book – Five Go on a Strategy Away Day. Utterly hilarious. I was never a Famous Five person as a kid, but I did read the Secret Seven, so I loved the references to a rivalry between the FF and the SS (in the book, represented as two rival teams in the same company). A great guide to cliche and the despair of ‘team building’ days that seem anything but. 

I reckon I should indulge in the opportunity for some creative work, but the truth is I just don’t feel it. I’m happy riding in the calm. Is this what it feels like? To be on top of your work? I’m used to working at a much more frantic pace, something akin to a crazed hyena on acid (I imagine, having never observed such a thing before).

 I’m not complaining of course, it’s merely an observation. Perhaps if I’m at the same point next week (unlikely as I have booked ALOT of meetings) then perhaps I’ll start to think about prioritising some time.

It’s funny, for some time it felt like I was a lifeboat adrift in a stormy sea. Now I realise, for the lifeboat, you want some energy to keep moving and finally get rescued or get to land. Right now, I’m becalmed. It’s cruisey, but I ain’t no cruise liner.

Shaking off cobwebs

I think I have finally recovered from my holiday. Sleeping is back to normal, regular pattern of work restored. I’m back to blogging.

Before I left for my hols, I had aspirations of completing my novel (first draft). I’m still short the ending, and wouldn’t feel sound retreading the earlier sections without completing the story. I have some benefit of knowing how it will end, at least at this stage in a manner that makes sense with the plot. 

I had high hopes to get this out of the way to free up time for other projects, complete short stories, maybe some professional articles as well. There are some personal priorities coming up – university resuming, probably moving house – that will inevitably draw my attention away. So I really need to bring things to a close. 

I don’t anticipate any NaNoWriMo acts of writing heroism this time. 500 words a day or so should do it. I just need to make sure that gets slotted into my routine, and then I can move onto other things and get a little distance from the novel before starting on the rewrite.

On the face of it this might look a little burdensome, but the truth is it’s a commitment I made to myself last year and it’s ongoing. I’m looking forward to doing all this stuff. The enthusiasm makes it less daunting. Up and at ’em I say!

Mystery of the crop

It’s a mystery. Like I’m a farmer in a remote location. I harvest my crop, and then some guy comes along at a pre-appointed time and collects my yield. I get my pay, they drive off, and I have no sense what happens after that.

That’s what it felt like today. I completed a job application. As per usual last minute (though not my fault this time – I just got back from holiday and only saw it yesterday, and the due date was today). I’m sure it could be better, but that’s not what’s bugging me the most.

What’s bothering me is that the post I was applying for is a step above mine – senior leadership. I had the job description, policies, notes and brainstorming, but it occurred to me – I don’t really know what my line managers do. I mean, I understand they must do something, because they’re often in meetings. I dearly hope they’re not meeting about having meetings. Occasionally I need them to approve something- my god like powersof decision making only go so far. I read the job description and think ‘yeah, but what does that look like?’

It’s difficult, accepting I have this level of ignorance about senior leader figures, but I genuinely had to think hard about how I would apply my skills to that role. My current role is clear, specific, and comfortable. Theirs is vague, ambiguous, and alien.

I know in my heart that’s not good enough. I should know what they do. In fact I need to – why would I entrust such urgent responsibility in the hands of people whose powers are so enigmatic. I am a trusting person, but not naive.

So, returning to the farmer analogy, and what happens to the crop, I have different choices.

Firstly, I could remain with my crop, ruminate on the possibilities and naturally acquire the knowledge. This would leave me susceptible to assumptions.

Secondly, I could ask the driver. This would open the possibility of interpretation – I would be at the mercy of the driver’s interpretation.

Thirdly, I could walk down the same road as the driver, and hope to find the knowledge myself. This puts more power in my hands, but then the crop would be neglected. 

Fourth, I could ask to go with the driver, to see for myself. This would give me first hand experience, but with a frame of reference to compare (the driver’s). However, it would also risk the crop being neglected.

If the driver refuses to answer (antagonistic or ambivalent), or gives a confusing answer (jargon), I’m a little left on my own. It would be better if the driver were in agreement.

And of course, I am relying on the driver to be knowledgable themselves, trustworthy, and have anything to show me. Wouldn’t that be something, if everyone was part of this system but had no idea of their role?

I’ve noticed that the driver has never offered to show me. Maybe they are ambivalent, or maybe they don’t want to ruin a good crop. I reckon I’m going to have to force the issue, and press the driver, my line managers, to drive me down the road.

You see, I know what strategic thinking is, I know what achieving results means, and building relationships. It’s the context of the the thing I’m missing. I have to explore their world to understand it,and decide if it’s really something I want to do.