Blog Writing: the Neverending War of Time, Organisation, Priorisiting, and Managing Expectations

Writing seems like an endless journey of organisation and reorganisation these days. It’s too easy to say that there aren’t enough hours in the day, and in fact this would be untrue. What matters is the organisation of time, prioritising my blog, and managing my own expectations. 

Organising Time

Faced with the resumption of university, I can now take an intelligent guess as to where a lot of my time is going to be used up for the next few months. It’s easy to take an instinctive reaction and retreat from writing, but I did that before, and I reckon I paid a price for it. In fact, my last retreat had nothing to do with university. Becoming overly focused on a NaNoWriMo project, I ended up finding my time being all spent on that, even after November, and simply decided to ignore my blog. There was no particular reason why that should happen, but I figured I wouldn’t have time to write the blog. Without testing the hypothesis, I simply stopped. Now, months later, and I’m still struggling to reorganise everything to get back into a regular habit of writing each day.

Time is finite, which is fortunate, because you know how much there is going to be. Time is also, conveniently, organised for us, into 24 hour blocks to make days, and 7 days in a week (well, in Western society anyway). Assuming one is sleeping an average amount of eight hours a day, that leaves 16 waking hours each day to do something. 16. I should be able to fit something in there. I won’t reflect too much on this topic of time right now – I’m actually going to cover it later in the week. The point I’m making here is that if you know there are a fixed number of hours in a day, you have structure as to how you organise your daily writing.

For me, this means considering where my free slots of activity are. These are generally points where I’m not working on something. I should be able to find spare time in there to write a blog post. 

Managing Expectations

Another thing to consider is how much I write. I did a quick check of Chuck Windig’s excellent blog Terribleminds. One blog post, that didn’t seem particularly lengthy, was about 250 words. Another was 1000 words, and that was a lengthy piece about healthcare in the US (good reason to write longer). Even so, 1000 words is not particularly epic in the grand scheme of things – maybe 40-50 minutes of straight writing. 

The point I’m making here is that it isn’t necessary to write lengthy polemics for every blog post, so I shouldn’t set the bar that high. Do I really need to write hundreds and hundreds of words, if just a few paragraphs will do? I know I’ve started on subjects and become dismayed that they only fill a few blocks of text. In retrospect, I should fixate less on the length and more the breadth of the subject matter (…now there’s a double entendre I realise, but I’m sure you get my point).

Prioritising my Blog

So, my new approach is to plan out the subjects ahead of time, create the draft articles with a few notes for basic structure, and then complete over the course of the week. A single spurt of text, and a re-write, shouldn’t require a great deal of time, and by managing my expectations of my work (i.e. How long it needs to be), it should still allow for me to complete the other stuff that needs doing (like studying for example).

I already go to a writers group each week, so that provides for fiction writing time. With some reorganisation at a weekend, I can do similar then, interspersing with my university studies. It should be a nice counterbalance to my academia to have some fictional writing highways to travel. 

I won’t deny, I’ve been here before. I am a perennial planner and re-planner – called procrastination in some quarters – and this isn’t the first time I’ve tried to restructure my writing strategy. On the other hand, I reckon I’ve become better about this stuff these days than I used to. I’ve always reflected on how, at work, my day is well organised and work completed on time. Somehow I have yet to bridge that gap between work place efficiency and general efficiency in my life. They shouldn’t be that different in honesty.

It’s about getting into the habit of writing. Like exercise, making it a daily ritual. This week I have four more subjects planned to cover the other week days. The key will be creating five new ones in time for next week. Small steps, but they’ve got to be made.

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Winter Write-up or How I’ve neglected my writing and I need to change

Something happened. Something snapped. I’m hoping it wasn’t a muscle. I’ve been working out more, so that might explain it. Then again, this is a mental thing. 

Let me start again.

Last night I was writing. Well, rewriting I should say. Any hoot, in the midst of my literary lat pull downs it occurred to me that I don’t write often enough these days. 

There were a group of us talking about how much time we commit each day, often to unnecessary futile tasks. If we committed just 7 minutes a day to writing that would be 200 words a day (assuming 30 words a minute). 365 days x 200 = 73000. A novel.

I like my morning preparation for the day. The routine works. Early bus. Arrive I. Plenty of time for a coffee. No rush and easy start to the day. Time on the bus to listen to music, get in the mood. It’s almost meditative.

No doubt it has its benefits, but in the meantime important words are being left unsaid. Or, rather, unwritten. I do two bus journeys each day. 20 minutes or so each. Even if I was to reduce my writing time to 20 words a minute, that would be 800 each working day. In 6 months that would be over 100,000 words. 

Writing can also be meditative. And I exercise most days so I think I am sound in mind, spirit and body. I definitely need to rethink the routine. 

I kinda persuaded myself that university work was a good excuse to set aside the blog, but I’m not so sure. Seems like a cop out to me with hindsight. I reckon I could easily have made the time for both.

So the blogging is back, each weekday, and maybe the weekend if I get a chance (fuck, I just need 7 minutes). In the meantime, I need to reacquaint myself with writing projects, which I’ve handled with kid gloves for the past few months. Not acceptable. Bad mental-projection-of-myself-as-a-writing-slave-monkey.

Looks like the bus has nearly arrived.

Remember, 7 minutes.

Photography desire

So, the other day, while on my daily commute home, I had cause to take the train home since I had missed the various buses home. I decided it was quicker to take the train rather than wait for the next bus.

On stepping out of the train at Perth station I had a view of the concrete block next to the art gallery. It was fading light, and normally the bland concrete would simply blend with the dull steel grey of the darkening sky. This time though, sunset light fell upon the building and delivered sharp contrast and lines against the background. The building was transformed under the orange glow, and simple concrete turned into vibrant urban visage.

At the time, I was moving quickly to get to my next train, only had iPhone on hand – at that distance a hopeless task of photography. The thought that occurred to me was along the lines of wanting a camera lens (and obviously camera) to get the shot. The actual words in my mind were ‘that’s the kind of view I want to make love to with a camera lens.’

…sigh. Yes, weird. 

Setting aside the distinction between badly chosen words and paraphilia, it has in fact opened my mind to a new realisation, about my passion for photography. This last year has been about writing, setting time aside to work on writing projects. I even delayed my degree by a year to do this, but the principle casualty has been photography. It’s not that I have lost interest, or passion, but time I might take for trips and camera walks, has been set aside for literary pursuits. 

I still love photography, but seeing that building reminded of desire. The desire to capture a moment on frame, whether it be film or digital. It is refreshing to be reminded of a core passion, and that moment it was about pure desire to take a photo. 

I’ve still got the love.

What shape am I?

Do oranges dream of being grapefruits and having more curves? Do grapefruits get jealous of oranges and their more toned bodies? Are lemons petite blonds of the citrus world? Where do limes fit into all of this? It’s all a question of shape.

I have been on something of a health kick these last few weeks. I exercise at lunch, mainly running, and my food intake has, well actually that’s stayed the same. The big difference is reducing my drink intake. Barring a couple of social occasions with friends, my alcohol intake has reduced to virtually nil.

The benefits are loss of weight, feeling good about myself, and no doubt my liver has stopped weeping (I’m sure I could hear it in my dreams, like the distant sob of scared and frightened child).

However, I have been here before, exercising, reducing food etc. on those occasions the benefits have been short term. It would be nice to reach a state of equilibrium where I can enjoy a glass or two of wine (it’s always at least two – who the fuck only has one glass of wine?) without worrying about my weight. Truth is though I have always slipped back into old habits, so my approach needs to be more long term than previously. I guess I am developing a diet that will last for life, rather than in terms of weeks or months. 

The problem right now though is that I really have no idea what shape I’m meant to be. I have been overweight since I was about 6. It probably peaked in my late teens to early twenties before I managed to get some better control on it. I first went to a gym in my late twenties which had some impact but not long term. Bouts of massive weight gain have roughly coincided with bouts of depression. In fact, as I think about it now, I have probably spent a quarter to a third of my life depressed. 

Anyhow, I depress, sorry, digress (haha see what I did there?). Body shape. I’ve never had a moment where I was happy with how I looked, so I have no frame of reference for how I will look if I get to optimum weight. Nancy, my long suffering but wise (cracking) partner, says that it’s more important how it makes me feel rather than some aesthetic consideration. Of course she’s right, but I grew up as a child of the 1980’s, the last of the Generation X. I still have these influences about ‘looking good’ (good o’le neoliberal culture). I have never – never – been satisfied or content about my appearance. I particularly dislike my chin and the slight Some days I actively avoid mirrors. It shouldn’t matter, but it’s a distracting thought that has lingered for decades.

I’ll have to get over it. Just as the exercise and diet is about setting up a habit for life, I’ll have to overcome a life long habit about I think about myself. Being healthy is going to deliver better dividend than looking healthy. Exercising that discipline of thought is something I need to fit into my routine. Chances are I might never be happy, setting myself against an ideal I can’t possibly hope to match. So I need to retrain my habit of thinking and move beyond the superficial. That’s the way forward. Be a grapefruit and be happy about it.

A world of Bill Shorten lookalikes

Circumstances have led me here to the Perth – Fremantle train to get to work. I see inside the world of daily commute, monotony of work, and occasional carefree indulgence of spare time.

My journey is never lonesome – even the empty bus still has a driver. The only person who talks to me is the automated voice on the Transperth line. I’d like to tell them (female st the station, male on the train) how grateful I am for their guidance. I doubt they’d understand. We have a healthy uncomplicated relationship.

I feel like I could belong. I’m surrounded by faces, each reminding of people I’ve met and seen in my life. I’m sure that one guy looked like Bill Shorten, until I saw the guy next to him that looked even more like Bill Shorten. I know what you’re thinking, two much BS.

For the most part though, these faces are familiar, but still strangers. I see type. It’s an early morning world of office junkies, kids in school uniform, hipster and hipster light, in cold weather beanie wearers and leather jackets. Book readers, music lovers, YouTube viewers. All types of bodies, looks gestures, hair or none. 

I’m endlessly curious about what these people are doing. I’m spending anywhere up to 2 hours a day on public transport. I should make more use of it.

10 hours a week, with about 48 working weeks of the year, say 500 words an hour. That’s 240,000 words a year, just from travel to work and back.

In Freo. Today’s going to be tough. 

Naked without my headphones 

Last night as I left work, I realised that, yet again, I had forgotten to get my headphones. Normally I realise before I hit the stairwell and go back and collect them, but on this occasion it was only after the door shut. As a security feature you cannot open the door from outside, forcing you to go all the way downstairs. Since I was rushing to catch a bus this was quite frustrating.

Normally this situation would generate something akin to a feeling of panic and utter frustration. It would not be unexpected for me to sacrifice the bus, so I can collect my headphones. For some reason, on this occasion, I mustered enough self control to travel home sans headphones.

In the past I have found it difficult to prepare for my day, walk to work etc. without the presence of music. It is something approaching dependency to have such a need. It all helps me prepare for the day.

Now you might be thinking, if they are that important to you how come you forget them so often? Well, the simple answer is absent-mindedness. I am quite capable of forgetting to bring headphones, but then suffering a major existential crisis as a result. Maybe it’s a masochistic thing.

So now I’m on the bus, cramped into seating that has so little legroom I think it has been designed for amputees. The bus is busy, but quiet. There’s only a low level of school child chatter. The adults are staring into space (and yes, they are wearing headphones…bastards). One school kid, with glasses and hair that looks like 1950’s George McFly, gives me a creepy stare as I glance around the occupants of the bus. I suppose it is a little unusual for someone to be looking at everybody and then typing furiously into their ‘phone, so perhaps his suspicious glance at me is warranted. On the other hand, dramatic licence allows me to assume that he is some kind of adolescent daemon child that has a pack of ravenous, but loyal, dogs who appear at inconvenient moments for a protagonist, and he could set me on fire just by looking at me and making his eyes glow red.

So I can’t say the lack of headphones is opening me up to new auditory experiences. The bus rumbles on, but I feel it more as sound in my ears, rather than vibration in my body. This isn’t a particularly new experience. 

I’m just realising how crappy I’m feeling this morning. I’ve been dealing with a light cold this week. Not strong enough to keep me at home, but not weak enough for me to feel reasonably functional. I have a perma-headache on the periphery that is thankfully combatable with drugs, and a slight sense of drowsiness without ever being tired. I also have a sick feeling in my stomach, but think that has more to do with the lurching stop/start motion of the bus.

I’ll persevere, and man up. Freo awaits.

Sensible duvet matter

School kids are back. All the seating is taken up. Welcome back kids.

I wasn’t sure if a theme this morning. Back in my Tumblr days (sounds a long time ago – just a few months to be honest) I just wrote about things I saw out and about. Nowadays, I feel like I need to have sensible duvet (that was meant to be ‘subject’, not duvet, but since I’m a fan of humorous autocorrects, I’m leaving duvet in there) matter for serious consideration. Should I be looking to such solemn subject matter, compared to more frivolous nonsense? I reckon I’ll stick to the serious, because I am my least funny when I try to be. When my humour is more organic to the situation I get the impression I get more laughs.

On the other hand, is really possible to be serious in a world of Brexit, Pauline Hanson (for fucks sake Queensland), Donald Trump, Jeremy Corbyn, the RNC allowing members to openly wear guns after a series of mass shootings in the US.

This things make life difficult to take seriously. And so somehow I’m left with trucks driving into large crowds, axe wielding people in trains, and my day job in child protection.

Thank god for writing and photography is all I can say. When I was younger I used to deal with this differently – Mario Kart 64 and Goldeneye on multiplayer with my friends…and arguably the Adelphi pub in Preston. Those were the days. Pokemon people are much easier to understand in that context. You go find those Pokemon, because the world is a little too fucked up to do otherwise.

This has all turned very morose. It shouldn’t be. My life is good. While I know many others are not having a good life or even a good day, I guess me having a good day is a good place to start. It has a knock on effect – a team mirrors its leader. More impervious or resistant to stress or tension (at least, that’s the plan).

Like getting on the bus this morning. Some people would bemoan the lack of seating, but for me it represented the return of the familiar. It was comforting to have social order restored. If I were in a different mood I imagine the scenario would be very different (‘fucking kids everywhere!’).

Well, time to wrap up again. Back in Freo. Might try to write a little before work.

Dancing on my literary grave

Am I dancing on my literary grave? Every week I have a new idea and want to go with it, but then this leaves half completed projects in my wake. It’s becoming a serious problem, like I’m a drug addict trying various treatment centres but never persevering, because I haven’t found the ‘right one’. We all know the truth though.

I am not making the full segue way between idea and story. So I start out writing, get to about 1500 words and then realise I’m getting no where, because I hadn’t thought that far ahead. I have lots of great ideas, but I have only a few good stories. I need to bring some order to my creative chaos.

The problem is that I love planning at length, but dislike implementation. When I was a kid I played wargames, collected models and painted them, and built crappy armies who were highly dependent on rolling a 6 on a dice roll. In all the years I spent in the game I amassed two armies. I held many more army books describing each race and their models. I used to plan out future armies to terrify my enemies, but I never actually built them. Cost was part of it (if you’re a parent and you kid mentions Games Workshop then I suggest you mortgage your house and prepare for serious financial pain). The main one though was that it is, of course, much easier to talk about something (or think about it) than to actually implement it. Corbynistas please take note.

So I am less surprised at the idea I have thus far struggled to eke out a consistent train of story development. Maybe I am being too hard on myself. After all, this is the first time I have truly dedicated spare time to the progression and design of stories and writing. I put off a year of my degree just to do that. 

Nonetheless I need to start getting into a better process way of thinking, otherwise my computer will be littered with half finished ideas and no story. 

There may be a sense of avoidance. Procrastination can be quite deliberate. Writing a story is one thing, but then editing, drafting, redrafting, getting feedback, redrafting again, getting published. It’s very trying. So perhaps it’s easier to never publish and just be a writer without actually producing a final product.

Even this blog is a form of procrastination. If I only write 300 words a (work)day that’s 1500 words a week, which equals roughly 75000 a year – that’s a novel (and I’m being conservative on my word count). I could be writing a novel in a year. 

Maybe I’m just being a bit over fussy. I’m writing a story at the moment that I have pretty much worked out from start to finish, so in theory that should not prove too challenging. So I am able to generate ideas and get them to story. Maybe it’s like this for all writers. I’m not sure.

Well, time will tell. If I am disciplined enough my current story should be done by the end of week. I wonder what I can find to put it off.

Strategic

I have a job application I’m completing, for a position a bit above my pay grade. It’s a far more senior role, and I reckon my chances of getting it are somewhere between nought and zero.

It’s one of those lists where micro level interactions and case practice have little benefit. I am stepping out into a world of strategic thinking, operational plans, and business units. I even had to check exactly what strategic thinking actually means.

I think I find the most difficult part of this role is the fact that I don’t naturally think in those terms. I know I am a strategic thinker, but I don’t specifically think to myself each day ‘what is the strategy?’

Achieves results, communicates effectively, builds productive relationships. That’s getting married and having a baby isn’t it?

Even giving examples is fraught with difficulty. I could use STAR – situation, task, actions, results – but I feel like I’m overblowing it.

Situation – everything was fucked up

Task – stop the fuckedupness 

Action – held a team meeting and listened to everyone’s opinions and produced a new set of goals and targets for the team

Result – we were fucking awesome

All my star answers are broadly along those lines. 

What I’ve had to do is be a little more pragmatic about what I’ve done and apply the heady job description titles after the fact. I am pretty confident I have done stuff, achieved results and there was some kind of plan. It’s like translation into a new language.

I’m sure I’ll sort something out.

In Freo already.

Telling a story

What is the purpose of a photo? Is it to tell a story? I don’t mean as an optional, I mean as a general characteristic. Are landscapes stories? Selfies? Abstract Neo-feminist cubism? (I may have made that last one up – I will google later to see if that exists).

Seriously though, I have seen some interesting photos unduly hampered by the descriptive that it tells a story, or, worse still, that a photo has failed to convey a positive impression but it lacks sufficient narrative.

I tend to take more abstract shots. Often landscapes and urban street shots, but generally my preference is for abstract. It’s never been my intention to tell a story through the casual manipulation of angle, light and framing of subject matter. At least, not deliberately. 

I’m cutting this blog post short as I struggle to catch up on some writing. I am woefully behind on my intended word count and so need a little catch up. 

Follow this link here for a bit more about story telling