August 30, 2016

30:08:2016

Currently I am very tired. Tired to the point of my eyes being somewhat bloodshot. There are two reasons for this. Firstly because my day yesterday started at five thirty and ended at midnight, and secondly because once I did go to bed my brain and body refused to sleep. Mostly this was because I had had a really good night recording some podcasts with the guys from Sanspants Radio.

While they host a number of programs the one I participated in is called Movie Maintenance and involves taking a movie, tv series, book, whatever, and basically laying out where you think it did well and where it could be improved. Sometimes even pitching an entirely alternative plotline of your own making to either add or replace the canon of whatever it is you’re doing maintenance on. It’s a lot of fun. I was called in last night to do one on the Wheel of Time series, a sprawling fantasy epic written by Robert Jordan that goes for fourteen books. I’ve been reading and rereading this series since I was in high school and so felt well equipped to sit around and chat about it for a couple of hours. In fact that describes a near perfect evening, which it was. One the adolescent version of me would have been very jealous of. For this one we were looking less at how to improve the series – which doesn’t really need me messing with it too much anyway – and more at how you would adapt it to screen. Mostly though we just talked about what makes it the great series it is. It won’t come out for probably a month or more, as the guys already have a fair back catalogue of pre recorded episodes to upload first, but when it does I’ll relink it here.

My only complaint about the night was that I enjoyed it too much. My brain kept itself awake bubbling with ideas for what other content I could rework. I think what I like most about the practice, other than it’s just fun to sit around and talk about the things I love with like minded people, is that it’s a really good way for me to improve my own story writing. Not only does it cause me to critically analyse other successful stories but it also forces me to fairly quickly try and come up with an alternative plot line that will still hit all the major story structure markers. This kind of quick story generation is great, and allows me to train my brain to take that original spark of an idea and then pass it over to the analytical side of my brain that can tease it out and find the beats of the story within it. A process I currently find challenging, but that will only be improved by practice.

All in all I give it an A+

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In other writing news, I had a post recently talking about how I wanted to get simultaneous projects on the go in order to jump from one to the other whenever I found myself flagging, thereby getting the maximum effort from myself on a given day. I didn’t really manage it last week but so far this week it seems to be working well. As of right now I have three writing tabs open (including this blog) and am finding that moving from one to another is keeping my fingers flying. I’m replacing the usual distractions of email or facebook with writing something else, basically tricking myself into writing more. Sneaky.

My major project is still my most recent short story which is coming along really well now and which hopefully I’ll have the first draft of done by the end of the week. I’m pretty excited about this one because I know I’m not going to try and shop it around, instead I’ll record an audio version which I’ll release in mini chapters on this site. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for ages now so it’ll be nice to actually make it happen.

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And that’s probably enough of me writing about myself for one day. In order to cleanse the pallet here’s a video from futurism about a company that has designed a floor to harvest the kinetic energy from our footsteps. Which means a dance floor would become some kind of super generator! It truly is an amazing age when you can harness the power of boogie.

Talk soon

Damian

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August 28, 2016

26:08:2016

Yesterday I made a decision. After getting to a point in a short story where I couldn’t figure out what to write next – I know point B and point D, but point C was eluding me – I decided I needed some proper brainstorm time. I recently heard some advice about how the best time to brainstorm is when you’re brain is focused on an activity but said activity is just boring enough that your thoughts are likely to drift. The key is to hit that sweet spot between where you’re focused enough that you aren’t just zoning out, but not so focused that it’s taking up all your attention. Examples include showering (the obvious one), driving with/without music (depends on how much the music grabs your attention), or even perhaps going to the toilet. My problem felt like it needed more than a single trip to the toilet and, as I cycle to work, decided that my morning ride would be the perfect time to nut this problem out. Usually I listen to audiobooks or podcasts as I’m riding the twenty kilometers to or from work; which well and truly takes up my attention in a very enjoyable way. Obviously, that wouldn’t work for my objective and so I kept my headphones in my bag and rode with only the sounds of the animals and the traffic (arguably still animal noises) to listen to.

It worked a treat. I did have to somewhat forcibly keep the problem in my thoughts but by doing so my brain resigned itself to it’s given duty and started to work on various parts of the story. It was interesting how my brain hopped from one part of the story to the next, working away at each section like a rabbit who can’t decided which leaf of kale to eat first so ends up chewing on all of them. While the subconscious part of brain was chewing the metaphorical kale the conscious part was simply trying to keep up and catalogue all the ideas that were coming through to it; keeping the good and discarding the bad. It was great. By the time I was halfway through my ride I already had a number of little ideas for various parts of the story that was sure to keep me writing for the next few days. I couldn’t have been happier – and then I crashed my bike.

Let me back track just a moment and tell you one more detail about this ride. I got rained on. For about ten minutes or so the heavens opened and down came the rain and washed poor Damian out. It wasn’t a big deal, I’ve ridden to work for about four years now and so this has happened countless times, and I was so jazzed about the success of my brainstorm that it didn’t even dampen my mood. What it did dampen however was the inside of my handle bar cover.

I was about ten minutes from work and was riding up a small hill in a fairly secluded section of the bike path. As I was going uphill I lifted myself up out of my seat to pedal harder, putting my weight forward on to the handlebars. As my left leg came down my weight was redistributed to my left arm and the handle bar cover it was holding slipped right off. The handle bar cover hit the ground and I crashed down hard beside it. Unfortunately for my hand, knee, and shoulder the gravel on this section of the bike path was particularly gravelly (see photo above), meaning I fell onto a carpet of rough stones that tore through my skin like it was crate paper. I was ultimately fine, obviously, I’m not writing this from a hospital room or anything like that, but I was banged, bruised and bleeding. My bike was completely fine, so that at least was a small blessing. I rightened both myself and my bike, tenderly climbed back on, and, holding my torn left hand away from the handlebars, rode the rest of the way to work.

I was mostly aware of the graze on my hand but by the time I got to work it was my knee that was leaking blood everywhere, and I mean everywhere. I have some pretty grotesque photos (because that’s the smart thing to do before treating an injury) but won’t share them here for fear of upsetting anyone (available upon request). Luckily, I work at a hospital so it wasn’t to hard to get some bandages and bandaids. Unluckily my wounds were bleeding so much it took quite a while for them to stop so that I could actually apply the bandages and bandaids without them immediately getting soaked through.

What did I do while I waited for the tears in my skin to stop bleeding? I wrote the ideas I gained from my ride down. The number one rule for whenever you get a good idea for your story is WRITE IT DOWN. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the middle of the night, if you’re still wet from just getting out of the shower, if you need to pull over while driving, or if you’re bleeding from multiple points in your body after taking a tumble off your bike. You Write. It. Down.

So, while you could say my brainstorming bike ride had some ups and down (no pun intended…I think), I mark it ultimately as a success, one I intend to repeat (not the falling off my bike part obviously, come on guys). My plan is to forgo the pleasure of an audiobook on the way to work when my brain is awake and alert, but partake of the entertainment on the way home when my brain has clocked off.

Like it has today.

Talk soon

Damian

August 21, 2016

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I was going to share some songs that I’ve been enjoying lately at the end of this blog but instead decided to move them to the start so you can listen to them while you read.

I’m all about the multitasking.

First is a song from an English band called Amber Run. I’ve been really enjoying their sound lately which has elicited more than one steering wheel drumming session while I’ve been driving.

Second is an Australian singer songwriter by the name of Dustin Tebbutt who’s been on my radar for a few years now but who has just recently released his first LP.

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The cherry blossoms around my neighbourhood have started to bloom which means that not only will they look gorgeous for the next few weeks opposed to the barren and bare look they exhibit for most of the year, but also that spring is coming; and it’s about damn time. The other side of the globe has had their turn at sunshine and warmth and days that last a full twelve hours, and it’s just about our turn again. I’m very happy about this. It’s about a week and a half off from the calendar version of spring but I feel like it’s already upon us. The last few weeks have provided some sun as well as slight increases in the warmth and duration of that sun and because of this I feel like my motivation and energy levels are beginning to thaw from their winter chill. I’m excited and enthused about being more productive and filling my non-work hours with greater activity – opposed to my more recent endeavours to maintain warmth, eat a lot, and move as little as possible.

The cornerstone of this burgeoning hyperactivity is to write more. I did okay at maintaining a not terrible level of this interest over the winter months (even if this was somewhat interrupted by outside forces as described in my last post) but now want to take it up another notch. I read an interview with the fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss recently and he had a line about how all the time other people spent watching tv, he spent writing. That’s my new goal, to spend as much non-work time as possible writing. To really cut back on my other entertainments and put that time into embedding letters into a digital page.

Part of my plan to achieve this is to start working on multiple projects concurrently. As I’m still very much a novice this is something I haven’t attempted before, only ever working on one project at a time. Pretty much any expert in the field will tell you that to get the most from yourself it’s a good idea to have multiple projects on the go so that when you become stalled with one you can work on the next one, rather than wait around until inspiration hits. So that’s what I’m going to do. When I hit a wall with one project I’ll start on the next one, tasking my subconscious with the job of solving the problem with the first one while I do so. I’m also going to try and vary the type (prose, scripts, blogs, and even some plays) and tone (drama, comedy, children’s etc) of these multiple projects so that when I move from one to another it feels actually feels like I’m doing something different.

The second part of this plan is to continue to educate myself in all things writing. Firstly because when I’m too brain dead at the end of the day I can still move forward with my writing experience by watching a video or listening to a podcast on the topic rather than actually by writing. Secondly because it’s just a great habit to keep. It can seem obvious a thing to do but often I’m so into the practice that I can forget about the theory, and it’s my opinion that you’re never really ever done with the theory. It’s especially a foolhardy thing to neglect when we’re living in the information age, and you can learn just about anything thanks to wonderful people who are willing to share their expertise on the internet. Just last week a Kenyan man won a gold medal at the Olympics in javelin and learned how to throw by watching youtube videos. If that doesn’t inspire you that you can learn real skills through the internet and self educating I don’t know what will.

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Finally for a bit of entertainment and amazement a quick video from the people of futurism about roll out solar panels that can be used in disaster areas, and realistically also a number of other situations.

Talk soon

Damian

August 10, 2016

10:08:2016

It’s been awhile since I’ve written. Mostly this is due to the welcome and enjoyable distraction of Brother Jonathan and his girlfriend Alex being in town. These crazy kids are over for a short two and a half week stint before returning to their real lives in London and Vienna respectively. Having them both be in the house with The Lady Holly and myself has been delightful. It makes coming home from work a treat where anything can happen, even if that anything is just the usual routine with the addition of their persons; because that addition is the treat. I know once they go I’ll miss them both terribly, it’s hard having your best friend and womb mate on the other side of the globe, but seeing how happy they are together well and truly makes up for that. Plus once Jonathan becomes fluent in German and manages to move his butt to Vienna I’ll have a place to stay in that gorgeous city whenever I want. Not a bad thing.

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Back to the writing. It’s been sparse, at least compared to what I was achieving last month. Apart from the welcome distraction of family it’s also due to me being burned out from work. Covering two roles has, unsurprisingly, become a chore and in the last week, and with another coworker away I’m now covering three positions. As expected this has eaten up both my time and energy and left me in a bit of a writing funk – one where I open whatever I’m working on and then nothing happens. My brain just shrugs at me, I shrug back, and then we both watch tv. It’s demoralising but I’m strengthened by the knowledge that even though it’s not coming up with much my brain is still trying to generate story. I know this because as I go through my busy day I’ll think of something, or read an article, and my brain will try to apply it to one or more of the projects I’m working on. It’s not giving great results, unfortunately, but it gets points for trying, or at least a condescending but appreciated ‘great effort’ ribbon. I’m also comforted by the knowledge that by this time next week both co-workers will be back, which will leave me to return to my usual role and hopefully have more space in my brain for the important things. If not, then I’ll contemplate taking some time off to write. This is something I’ve been thinking about anyway, work really gets in the way of solid writing sessions and I think I’m just about ready and disciplined enough to throw some caution to the wind and give it ago. At least that’s what the free spirited side of me says. The responsible side is more like ‘Well…money’. He’s a bummer, but he has a point. We’ll see.

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In novelette news all my readers have gone over it and given me some great notes which means it’s pretty much at a stage where I’m ready to share it around. What I’d like to do is try to enter it in some competitions or submit it to some magazines. This unfortunately means I can’t yet post it to this website as I had originally planned, as comps and zines request that the work not be published anywhere else and posting it here technically counts as publishing. I am writing another short story though which should find it’s way to this site.

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I read a quote recently that stated that taking up writing was like giving yourself homework every night for the rest of your life. That made me very happy. It mean’s I’ll always have something to do, never have an excuse to be bored, and will always have more to learn. What a wonderful thing.

Talk soon

Damian