January 30, 2017

30012017

Music today is from an instrumentalist called Tony Anderson. He has a number of albums but is more known for his work providing music for films and television. His music is ambient, emotional, and damn near perfect for writing to, able to provide tone without the distraction of lyrics.

I just saw a screenshot a friend of mine posted on facebook. It was an interaction he had on twitter where he tagged a celebrity in a photo he tweeted and the celebrity responded. That itself is telling of where we’re at today. He facebooked a tweet he had with a celebrity. The world is weird and not just because anybody is contactable through social media but because it made me think of how much we give of ourselves into our phones.

It wasn’t even the multiple layers of social media present in the photo that started this thought. It was the notification bar at the top of his image that was almost accidental added when he took the screenshot. It was littered with symbols displaying all the apps and functions that were currently in use on his phone. Tweets were being received, photos were being synced, something was being downloaded, awards were given for playing games, and a multitude of other symbols for things I didn’t know, as well as arrow suggesting there were more symbols that weren’t being displayed because there wasn’t enough space on the notification bar. Then when I scanned across to the symbols on the right – those for bluetooth, wifi, reception etc. – I saw that his battery was almost empty. It seemed like a perfect analogy.

untitled-1

I have felt like my friends phone must right now. Overtasked, overstimulated, overconnected, and running on nothing. Too often I can feel like this. I get it, I want to be productive. I want to connect and play and sync and download. The problem is there’s just too much of it. Too much content waiting at our fingertips that it’s impossible to get through all of it, but our fear of missing out tells us that we must. Articles to read, tv shows to watch, interviews, recipes, music, photos, memes, advice, videos, news, and an endless stream of social media that we can just keep scrolling and scrolling through endlessly in an attempt to get to the bottom of the metaphorical well. Instead we just end up getting lost in it.

The trick, of course, is to know when to log off; but it’s so hard to do. A dead battery is a clear sign that it’s time for a break but instead we just plug in the charger and keep on going. How many of us check our devices as soon as we open our eyes in the morning and how often are their screens the last thing we see at night. I’m as guilty as anyone, which was why seeing the screenshot rocked me so much. It felt like I was looking at a notification bar for myself. It instantly made me want to stop and do nothing until the bar was cleared.

Remembering to do nothing, or at just less things at once, is the hard part. Often I think to myself I’ll log off from whatever I’m doing right after (insert digital activity here). Then that digital activity leads to another digital activity to another digital activity, or three, or four at once, until all the tabs in my brain are open and I’m exhausted and I’ve forgotten that I was going to set aside some time to do nothing. Then I remember again when I lay down to sleep and find myself weary but wired.

So, consider this your reminder, and mine. A reminder to stop, cool down, and recharge quietly. What am I going to do now? Well, first I’m going to post that screenshotted status bar somewhere where I can see it regularly then I’m going to go give my girlfriend a hug and read a book.

Talk soon

Damian

++++

Also, because I saw this earlier today and it seemed appropriate here’s a comic from Poorly Drawn Lines

great-pic

Advertisements

January 25, 2017

25012017

Another track from The Revivalist is today’s blog song mostly because I haven’t been able to stop listening to their album Men Amongst Mountains since the last time I posted. The track’s entitled King of What and provides a beautiful and unique combination of sobriety and funk

Another thing that’s happened since the last time I posted is that the Lady Holly and I went on a holiday. The Sunshine Coast in southeastern Queensland was our destination and it lived up to it’s name being both sunny and on the coast. Beaches weren’t out main destination however, as neither of us are really beach babes owing to our pale skin and fear of the sun.

We instead took to the hinterlands and spent most of our time walking through the rainforests common to the area. It was truly glorious. I’m no stranger to Australia’s national parks having grown up with parents who, on a lazy weekend or trip away, would choose to take their four children on a bush walk over, say, an amusement park. For this I thank them, amusements parks are overrated in my opinion (and the rides are way to scary). However, these trips were usually in country Victoria where the landscapes, while full of foliage, lend themselves more to the browns and duller greens of the bush rather than the multitude of colours that are found in the rainforest. While I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Amazon any kind of jungle stills amazes me. The variety of flora is thoroughly outstanding and the scope of it equally so; the Lady Holly and I quickly got sore necks from looking up so much. Walking underneath the giant canopy, feeling the temperature drop ten degrees as we did so, was blissful and soothing in a way I didn’t realise I wanted until I was there, and it was nice to spend time with my girl where we could talk, and laugh, and be serious, and be silly.

We were also blessed in the abundant amount of wildlife that made itself known to us as we wandered around this beautiful part of the country. And I truly mean the wildlife came to us. From the balcony of our first accommodation, located on the edge of one of the national parks, we watched as a sugar glider glided onto a tree not an arm’s length away from us where it started battling with another sugar glider that we hadn’t even know was there! I took what photos I could but mostly we just sat amazed and stared at the adorable little creature as it ate ants and quickly became one of our new favourite creatures. After spending some time inside we decided to go out onto the balcony again to see if we could spot any other wildlife. I took a single step out then immediately stepped back inside because a large (about the size of corgi) ring-tailed possum was looking at me. This possum, who we named Barney, was not at all intimidated by our presence and instead chose to quickly rush at the door, no doubt hoping for food that past vacationers had fed him. We took more photos, both amused and a little afraid of his boldness, sure that if we let him Barney would happily enter our small cabin and make himself at home. The next morning a brush turkey had taken Barney’s place and was waiting at our door for us to wake up. During the week that went much too fast we also saw many kookaburras, parrots, and other birds, multiple species of lizards (including one half the size of my pinky finger), all sorts of insects and spiders (including one the size of my hand), and a large goanna who walked a path with us for a while before lazily making his way up a tree. It was my kind of holiday.

Of course, residing as we do in Melbourne, we had to fly there. I don’t always do well with flying. I have a not uncommon phobia that inevitably dulls some of the initial excitement of a trip like this. As I often do before having to fly I found myself the night before imagining myself in the plane, pushed back in my chair as it and I left the ground. I think my brain completes this ritual as a way of psyching myself up for the real thing, an attempt to get used to the idea before it happens. It might help, I’m not really sure because when the reality is facing me and I feel my body leaving the ground for real my heart still begins to race and my hands grip hard to whatever they can, desperate to hold onto something solid. I find it unlikely that I will lose my fear of flying anytime soon seeing how it is grounded so thoroughly into my adult psyche, but I don’t really mind because the good thing about this fear is that it consistently reminds me that anything worth doing is worth some hardship. Every time I fly the challenge of facing my fear is immediately rewarded with a new place to explore, or, alternatively, the comforts of returning home; as well as an elation when landing that someone can only experience after a near death encounter (or an encounter their brain is convinced was near death, even when it wasn’t). I know the statistics say how unlikely it is that I will die on a plane, or at the very least tell me all the ways I’m more likely to die just from going about an average day, but this never seems to have much effect on my involuntary reaction. Probably because that’s how phobias work. Nevertheless I will keep stepping on to planes no matter how much my autonomic nervous system wants me not to because ultimately I know the risk is always worth the reward.

For now my reward is being home alive and safe with memories of a week spent in the wild.

Talk soon

Damian

January 13, 2017

13012017

Today’s blog song is by The Revivalists and is called Keep Going, the choosing of which will be obvious once you’ve read this blog. Even beyond me having a gribe The Revivalists are exceptional musicians that I have only stumbled upon recently and you should definitely check them out.

I’ve been feeling the painful need to grow lately. It might just be the burgeoning firsts steps of a new year causing this but it’s probably also caused by a recent rejection.

Over the Christmas break I applied for a job in the industry I would prefer to be working in, one that would have been a massive foot in the door, if not also arm, leg, and torso. Unfortunately, due to a number of people sending me the link to this job and telling me to apply, I thought I was in with a pretty good chance. It turns out I was not and yesterday I got the “Unfortunately…” email telling me I wasn’t even getting an interview. It sucks and it made me feel shitty. What was worse though was that my ever helpful imagination had already gone ahead and shown me the future that was sure to unfold once I got this position and now with that swept away I feel in a rut.

I want to write and I want someone else to pay me to do so. I know I should be putting myself out there more if I really want to achieve this but am stuck on how to do so. Networking seems like the most obvious answer but is something I abhor due to the cringing fakeness of it all. However, I’m also aware this probably stems from my own fears and insecurities, and ultimately that’s how the game is played like it or not.

Still, to be more proactive in pushing for a writing career I need time; both to write and to seek out – or make – opportunities. That’s the next problem. Between my full time job, current writing, social life, extracurricular activities, exercise etc, it’s often hard to find time or energy to continuously pursue other options. An excuse, yes, but a reality as well.

What do I do? One answer would be to quit the full time job and really “give it a go.” Give myself the time and space to do everything and anything I can think of that will move me towards the mountain. I’ve got to admit, it’s pretty fucking tempting. Except for that pesky logical side of me that’s aware that doing so will cause me to have a not insignificant pay cut, and realistically I’m not as financially secure as I’d like to be to jump off the bridge like that. Which leaves me either playing it safe and continuing on the road I’m on or taking a risk that definitely has no certainty of paying off and could cause me to miss out on other things due to lack of funds etc.

Fear’s a real bitch. Clearly it’s what’s causing my current anxiety (and arguably all anxiety). I don’t often think of myself as a fearful person but that it’s there is undeniable. Fear of being stuck, fear of not achieving my dreams, fear that I’m not doing enough, fear of putting myself out there, fear of rejection, fear of missing out, fear of letting the people around me down, and fear of not growing. The fear is getting old and it’s exhausting.

Ultimately, I don’t really know what comes next. Probably something somewhere between the two extremes of my options. What I do know is that I’ll keep writing, keep educating myself, and keep a radar out for any opportunities that do come my way while trying to figure out how to find more – and probably keep being fearful because that shit is hard to turn off.

What I also need to remember is that growing takes time and usually happens at a rate that can’t be seen. Which means I probably am still growing, I just wish it would happen a little faster.

Talk soon

Damian

January 11, 2016

11012017

The blog tune this time is The Gun Song by The Lumineers, it come from their album Cleopatra which may well have been my favourite of 2016.

Crossing off days on my calendar has commenced and just like that the year is already a little shorter.

My plan for this year is to try and write everyday (beside’s New Year’s Day where I spectacularly failed to meet my resolution immediately) . To ensure I achieve this I have acquired the tools of a yearly wall calendar, a marker, and a big tin of just-do-it-you-lazy-idiot which I’ll use to paint over any I-can’t-be-bothered feelings that crop up. To be fair, I’ve made it pretty easy for myself to succeed by setting the bar low in terms of what constitutes ‘daily writing’. I have an unofficial daily word limit of 600 words, which can go towards whatever I’m working on; a short story, a script, an outline, or even this blog (157 words so far). However, I’ve also decided that as long as I open one of these documents and really try to write something, even if all I get out is one line because my brain, or motivations, or writing juice is all tapped out, then I still award myself the coveted cross on the calendar. For the moment it’s more about ensuring the mindset and practice is in place.

So far this plan is already paying dividends in the form of a completed short story, which I stamped the final period into yesterday. After getting home from work (and not having been able to sneak some writing in during work hours) I was sitting at zero for my daily word limit and so made a coffee, force fed myself way too much leftover Christmas chocolate, and got to work. I added around 740 words to the story and was ready to call it a day and made my mark on the calendar. After dinner however, with both my food and sitcom watching tanks full, I found myself opening up the story and thinking about what should come next. My fingers continued their typing and a very enjoyable 900 or so words later I was done and so was the story. It still needs a polish but is a testament to what can be achieved by plugging away everyday.

I currently have nine crosses and I want to keep that train going. As the year goes on hopefully I’ll increase my daily word limit and have less instances of shortages in writing juice. We’ll see.

++++

In things not about me, here are some bits from the internet that I stumbled upon recently and enjoyed.

First up is this TED-ed talk by Jia Jiang who purposely completed a challenge in which he sought to get rejected for a hundred days in a row in order to help him get past his fear of rejection. He did this by approaching strangers everyday with some absurd request they were likely to give a definite no to. The results were funny and entertaining but also informative because once he did get past this fear he found he could actually turn some of these no’s into yes’.

+

Next we have an animated version of Dan Harmon’s universal theory of storytelling. This comes from other similar story synopsis’ like The Hero’s Journey or the 5 Act Structure but simplifies it in a way that I found easy to understand and easy to use, and it’s animated so you don’t even have to read.

+

To keep the animation train going I’ll finish with this animated short about a dog doctor who’s wondering if she should have instead been a stay-at-home dog. Beautifully drawn and a lovely exploration of choosing a dream career over more “normal” goals all done in the space of two and a half minutes! A very enjoyable watch.

++++

I’ll leave it at that for today. In the meantime give a conspiratorial wink to a stranger, make a new animal friend, and hug your loved ones until they feel uncomfortable.

Talk soon

Damian

January 2, 2017

02012017

I thought to mix things up this year I’ll add a song that I’m currently enjoying to the start of every blog that you can listen to as you read, if you’re so inclined.

First up we have a Melbourne band called Woodlock whose music is all so excellent I had trouble choosing a single song, nevertheless I did because I’m a warrior.

++++

I feel conflicted over new years, the idea of resolutions in particular. I’m a firm believer that if you want to change something about your life you can do so on any day, any hour, any minute – not specifically at the end of December 31st – and that delaying until the end of the year is just that, a delay and an unnecessary one. However, I also believe that it’s easy to forget about making changes. It can be very easy to continue life without evaluation and therefore never even think about any changes you might want to make, let alone start doing anything about them. It’s for this reason that I like new years and it’s resolutions because it provides us all that opportunity.

For myself my hopes for the new year are much the same as they have been in recent years; write more, stay healthy, and be good to the ones I love. This blog is a way to ensure I keep up the first, not only because to publish it I need to write but also because I know there are readers who will continue to expect new posts and badger me if they aren’t forthcoming; these people are my parents – bless them. I also have a second system though to ensure I keep writing. It comes from some advice I saw floating around the internet earlier this year that originated from Jerry Seinfeld. You can read the original article here but the setup of it is that when a young comic was learning the ropes he had an opportunity to talk to Seinfeld and asked him if he had any advice. Here’s what he said, and I’ll simply quote the article here:

“He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day. But his advice was better than that. He had a gem of a leverage technique he used on himself and you can use it to motivate yourself—even when you don’t feel like it. He revealed a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write. Here’s how it works. He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.” “Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.”

You can guess what I’ve done. One of the benefits to working in lab is that you use a lot of equipment. This equipment needs to come from somewhere and so you then get salesmen and women coming to the lab to buy you coffee and talk about their products. These salesmen and women will also bring knick knacks and doodads with their company’s logo and products printed on them. At this time of the year those doodads include giant wall calendars like the one detailed above. So, I have placed said calendar on a wall in my study and I plan to start crossing days off one by one, starting today. Admittedly, I was going to start yesterday but after a lazy morning at our friends house and then driving a very hungover Lady Holly and I the two hours back home only to realise I hadn’t come off as easy as I thought from the night before I decided to leave it until today. Starting a new year’s resolution on the first is cliche anyway, although I guess breaking a resolution on the first is equally as cliche…either way I now know breaking a resolution straight way certainly takes a lot of pressure off of it.

That’s my plan for the year, I don’t expect that I won’t break the chain at some point but I do expect to get some mighty good runs in.

Remember: The trick is to get a little better everyday.

Talk soon

Damian