Still here

It’s been a while, huh? Yet another long period without posts. I’m back for as long as life lets me. I want to start blogging more regularly. The plan is:- posts like this, sharing things I’m working on, finding interesting, or useful, with occasionally longer posts when something warrants a bit of research or I have a lot to say. Any how, anonymous readers, are you well? Say hi.

I regularly get distracted online – it’s too easy to type the first few letters of a social media site into the address bar and zoom off, when the browser autocompletes the address. It’s barely conscious at this point – open new tab, type ‘tu’, hit enter and bam, I’m on Tumblr, before I really register what I’m doing. I installed LeechBlock for Firefox a few days ago, created a list of all the sites I was going to impulsively and losing time on, and set it to block them between 0900 and 1800. I highly recommend it – it’s very effective, and keeps me on track. It’s easy to subvert, but to do that I have to actively do it, and I become aware that I’m deliberately procrastinating. LeechBlock’s ‘you’re blocked here, lad’, is like a little Rinzai slap during mediation, keeping you on task, keeping you focused.

Despite having many wonderful books for my birthday this year, and for Christmas last year, I’ve read barely any of them. It’s a trend continued from last year, and I fully blame the pandemic. I’ve broken that streak by reading Show Your Work by Austin Kleon (his blog is pretty great, too, by the way), in April and then last weekend I started reading The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk. I first heard about it in Tim Ferris’s incredibly vulnerable interview with Debbie Millman, disclosing his abuse, and was immediately intrigued by the title. I used to suffer with terrible IBS that seemed intractably linked with anxiety, and a book about the links between the body and trauma sounded very interesting. To be clear; the book is talking about capital T Trauma, and focuses on research about patients with PTSD, or complex PTSD. It can be intense in places; trigger warning for descriptions of pretty much the biggest traumas humans can encounters, including sexual assault, war, violence, natural disasters. This isn’t something I’ve ever been through, but it’s really interesting to see the links between your brain and body that perform in similar ways in anxiety and depression, if on a much more severe scale. I really recommend it if you’ve got any interest in psychology or biology or the links between the two. Van der Kolk is an easy to follow writer and makes the neurology of the mechanisms of psychological trauma easy to follow, and is meticulous in his rigour. He points out and addresses the arguments of detractors and notes where research has yet to be completed that provides empirical explanations for his observations. Well worth a read.

My WIP, Halo of Flies, is going swimmingly. There are only a handful of scenes left to write and then I need to do a fair amount of editing. I’ve written parts of this book an uncountable number of times, and ‘editing’ is going to involve stitching the first draft together from the new stuff and the dismembered parts of the previous drafts. Franken-novel, here I come! Once that’s done, I’ll have a finished first draft, and I can start giving it to close friends and family to read. I’m quite excited, (understatement). It’s been sitting in my head, taking up space for five or six years now, and I really would like to see it finished so I can use that psychic energy for other projects I’m desperate to pursue. I already know what I want to write next.

For years I’ve been searching for the perfect personal knowledge management system/ task management system combination that turns my personal life from a raging whirlwind of chaos into a highly functioning machine, and I think I’ve finally found it; a combination of using Obsidian.md and… a bullet journal. The combination of quite niche, techy solution and a notebook and pen is hilarious to me, but it works.

Obsidian.md is great for storing information and making links between it. The interface is nice and simple, as well as allowing you to open multiple notes at once, in separate adjacent panes. The graph overview shows links between notes – which I love – allows you to include or eliminate tags, and colour code projects based on keyword phrases. Great stuff. A note: it uses Markdown for text formatting; I’m not a Markdown convert, but I don’t hate it as vehemently as I used to. I just don’t think it actually adds anything for the average user. I believe a WYSIWYG editor is on the way for Obsidian, and I’m looking forward to it.

As for the Bullet Journal, I’ve used one on and off for years. I think the first time was around 2015/16, but I’ve never really made it stick. Unlike other management systems, however, it’s the one I always come back to. I have an undying love of notebooks and writing things down (I blame almost all of my education being analogue), and I think that simple fact, that I enjoy doing it, keeps me coming back to it, over and over. This time I’ve just decided not to quit – my pitfall is always that I have a failing somewhere (human beings, failing? My god, how novel), and end up blaming the system, instead of blaming… human nature? The fallibility of man? And begin looking for alternatives. Instead of throwing the baby out with the bad note book, this time, I’ve resolved to work out a BuJo solution to it. I might do separate posts on how I’m using BuJo and Obsidian another time.

Much love from what feels like the rainiest May in years.

In which I make a reading list

I haven’t been thinking about much today; I’ve been pedal to the metal writing, (3000 words before lunch! All junk, but eh, who cares;  some of it was good, and it felt great to make something). 

I have been thinking about the books that I want to read, however. I think this has something to do with the fact that I’m not enjoying my current read. It’s teaching me a lot; about what I value in books, about my aesthetic tastes vs Murakami’s, so I’m going to continue for now. I won’t be re-reading it like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – it’s just too big.

Continue reading “In which I make a reading list”

In which I write a letter

Dear Reader,

I hope this finds you well. I hope you’re living a pleasant life under quarantine, and that your biscuit tin is never empty.

Since your last letter, I completed another scene of Halo of Flies. It’s going fairly well, I’m building up a nice momentum that doesn’t feel too strenuous to maintain, and I’m enjoying the writing itself. I’ve always loved coming up with worlds for people to inhabit; I think that’s why fantasy has always appealed so strongly. I’ve been thinking about this world for so long that it’s good to have people to finally inhabit it. If I can maintain my current pace, I should have the first draft completed by the 22nd of June. Mark the date on your calendar and if I haven’t completed it by then, you’ve my permission to give me a good ticking off.

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In which I hesitate to write about politics

I hesitate to write about politics. It makes people (including me), fairly angry, a lot of the time, and when you have strong opinions about something, it doesn’t necessarily engender good thinking or good writing. You have to be much more careful to reign yourself  in and examine your assumptions. In the first draft of this I referred to a certain political appointee as a professional asshole, and while I think that’s true, I recognise that it’s an opinion. Opinions are like professionals assholes, in that politics is already rife with them. See? I did it again. I just can’t help myself.

Continue reading “In which I hesitate to write about politics”

Old man climbs a mountain with the New Weird

Good lord, it’s the twenty-fourth of February, already. I hate it when people do that, ‘WOW! It’s [INSERT TODAY’S DATE] already!’ but I do it myself all the time – the passage of time might be linear but our experience of it is so relative that it sneaks up on me all the time. Days might pass slowly, but weeks seem to flood past. One day you’re starting university and someone sneezes and you’re close to a year away from your thirtieth birthday, wondering if you’re really not that bothered about all the things you ‘should’ have done by now. I always have taken my time with things. My mother’s name for me when I was a child was ‘Hurry up!’ and my middle names were ‘we’ll be late!’ What I’m saying is, thirty or forty or fifty, I’ll get there when I get there. ‘Whether it’s writing,’ he said, stroking an invisible, long, white beard, ‘or relationships, or self-actualization, it can take time, but it’s time worth taking.’

Continue reading “Old man climbs a mountain with the New Weird”

VIII

I’m going off writing. Words are cheap and we’re bludgeoned with them constantly, and finding signal amongst the noise is becoming harder and harder. More importantly, it more and more feels futile to attempt to say anything worthy. Why bother? Wont it simply be howling your throat raw in a screaming maelstrom of voices?

How can I possibly say anything that lasts in this environment? I can’t remember the things I read online today, let alone this week. Let alone this month.

In this environment, where everyone has their own loud hailer, isn’t there a greater likelihood of contributing to the noise than cutting through it?

I’m not anyone special and there’s an arrogance to assuming that, of all the people speaking, I might have something to say that’s more signal than noise.

And yet I come back to it, over and over, unable to stop. In love with words, pouring them out, endlessly, it feels, from the tip of my pen, from the tip of my tongue, from finger tip to keyboard.

There’s a Blank on Blank where Kurt Vonnegut talks about writing being becoming, it being reaching into a student’s mouth, pulling out the tape there and seeing what’s written on it. He talks about it being exhausting and that being why some people refuse to do it any more. It’s one thing to refuse and quite another to know that you can’t. One day, I wonder, will I come to the end of my tape? Will there be a clunk as I come to the end of the reel? What will be at the end? I dread to think?

Norma Mailer said of his novels, ‘each had killed me a little more’. That’s how I feel. Each word written or typed feels like another minute off my life, whether they’re used to shitpost on twitter or write a poem or a novel I believe in, and yet, I cannot stop. Stopping is somehow worse. You might as well ask the sea not to come in tonight, or ask my heart not to beat.

The thing is, you can’t give in to despair. Perhaps each word is a minute off — or a minute spent? — but in the same way a minute spent typing garbage into a spreadsheet is a minute you’re never getting back, either. It’s less about the fact that you’re spending your life — there’s nothing you can do about that, you have no choice but to spend it — and more about deciding what you want to spend it on. Writing, sure, so when you write, are you going to spend time shitposting on twitter or on something you believe in?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

In the same Blank on Blank, Vonnegut says writers are professional over-reactors, if that helps you out any, gives you more clues.

Personally, I don’t know what he means…

A Crisis of Blogging

I’ve been having a crisis of blogging for the last several months, since the summer. You can see it in the sporadic and strange posts I’ve plastered on the blog, like the stickers you see on lamp-posts and traffic lights and phone boxes. The urge to post, and to write something worthy of posting, has been overwhelming, but my satisfaction with the results has been… mixed.

In early December I read an essay that inspired me to start a small project I thought might be the answer. I thought Peanut Brittle would result in daily content for the blog for the entirety of 2020 that might even mildly interest readers, but we’re a couple of days into the year and I can already tell I don’t want to continue.

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III

Writing turns me from one person into shards of multiple people bound by nothing but a single skin.

‘Find your voice’, they says, ‘write like you,’ they says, but when you’re several different voices depending on what you’re writing and how seriously you want to be taken, or whether you’re feeling flippant today, or simply just pouring the junk out, feeling like one person is hard enough, let alone one voice.

Fiction is even worse. It requires you to get into the head of a character enough so that when someone reads a voice on the page, they can’t see me moving their mouths or my face behind their mask. After a while you begin to lose track of where you stop and they begin and vice versa.

At least, that’s how it is for me, anyway; it’s probably not a sign of something worrisome.

And sarcasm never comes across properly.

Arrival of the Harvestmen

This is something I’m going to start doing, mostly because I fancy it, but if anyone asks, it’s to build discipline.

Summer sunshine, (or indeed, any sunshine), the warmth, and the gentle balmy breezes are to be treasured, like gold or rare memories. Most of the time. When it comes to getting solid sleep, warm air and humidity are like little goblins who poke you awake every few minutes. I don’t think I’ve slept a solid night through in weeks. Damn Hotair. Damn Humidity. Warty little, sweaty little, greasy little goblin fuckers, jabbing me while I sleep. Last night was no exception.

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