November 29, 2017

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Another tune from Kim Churchill for today’s blog song because the album’s so good that I’m still listening to it. This one’s called Weight Falls.

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Current chain of writing days: 9

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I’m currently in training for a half marathon. Despite a previous resolve to do one a year, indefinitely — which I have admittedly only done for the past two years — I didn’t think I was going to do one this year. Dropping the ball on the third time round wouldn’t have been great but I was okay with it because I knew the cause, writing. Most of my not-at-work/not-socialising time this year has gone into writing, a fact that I’m pleased with, and would have accepted as a reasonable excuse to shirk past-Damian’s running resolve. Add to that that training for a half marathon is inevitably a time consuming endeavour involving building up your stamina over weeks to be able to handle longer and longer runs, which end up going for hours at a time. Like just about everybody I know, I felt like I have no free time, and so cramming hours of running every week into an already bloated calendar seemed impossible.

Luckily my brother, Matthew, stepped up to coerce and convince me to think otherwise. Well, all he really did was send me a text that said he was planning on running a half marathon and would appreciate it if I could do it with him, but it was the motivation I needed to ensure I didn’t break my streak, especially as I was keen to support Matt’s own efforts.

Let me tell you about my brother. Not only is he an excellent teacher and family man, he’s also someone who when he sets himself at a task gives it his all. At the start of the year he wrote a list of 2017 goals on a blackboard in his garage. He purposely chose the word ‘goals’ over ‘resolutions’ because he felt that you could only ever succeed or fail at a resolution, whereas goals could be changed depending on circumstances, and therefore still be achieved even if not in the initial form. How fucking great is that. It’s pragmatism at its best. It’s also just about everything you need to know about Matthew.

Two of his yearly goals were running based. He’s been running for years, off and on, much the same as I have, but he’d been more off than on at the end of last year and so to counter that he decided he would attempt to: 1) Run a thousand kilometers across the year, and 2) complete a half marathon. Pretty lofty goals for someone who hadn’t been running consistently for some time. Hell, lofty even for someone who had. To complete the thousand kilometers he would have to run at least twenty kilometers per week. He started out strong, hitting this target through the hotter months and into autumn but then slowed down come winter, until the point where he knew he wouldn’t achieve his initial goal. So, he altered it; reduced the number, and ensured he would keep going rather than quit altogether. Pragmatism in practice. I still love it. He also decided to double down on the goal to complete a half marathon, but, it being later in the year, and, with the longest distance he had ever ran previously being ten kilometers, Matt knew he needed extra motivation and so the message to me was sent.

Which brings us to last Sunday, we’re halfway through our training (four weeks into the eight we’ve given ourselves to get half marathon ready) and appropriately we’re about to run twelve kilometers (a half marathon being just under double that). It’s early in the morning — to avoid the heat, which is still present anyway, although more in the form of humidity thanks to some recent rain — and we’re standing on the Maribyrnong river running track ready to go. We click the button on our watches to measure our distance and we begin. We chat as we go, probably not a good idea as it uses precious oxygen our moving bodies are desperate for, but this is also our catch up time, and so on we talk between breaths. At two kilometers Matt’s watch beeps (as he’d set it to do) and he says something to me that I really liked, the very something that made me write this particular blog, in fact. He tells me that in his classroom they’ve been practicing celebrating every victory, basically that celebrating a completed goal is great but to also acknowledge hitting the milestones on the way to that goal. He then held up his hand and, still running, we gave each other a high five. Every additional two kilometers his watch would beep and we would slap our increasingly sweaty palms together, every victory celebrated. As mentioned, Matt’s previous longest run was ten kilometers, so as we stepped over the ten kilometer mark and into the ten point zero one kilometer mark Matt threw his arms into the air and let out a whoop. And why shouldn’t he? He’d just run the furthest he’d ever run before; it wasn’t the twelve kilometer goal we’d set for the day but it was surely an accomplishment well worth celebrating. By the time we did hit twelve there were more whoops, more high fives, and then the ultimate celebration, breakfast.

What I like most about Matt’s goal adapting and every-victory-celebrating is that both of these ideas actually help motivate you to keep going, and ensure you feel success and pride along the way. Which you should. If you set out to go for a ten kilometer run but only do five, you shouldn’t berate yourself for not running ten but rather celebrate that you went for a run at all. You just ran five kilometers, well done you.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to just running. It can, and in my opinion, should, be used anytime you set yourself a goal. For myself, I plan to use in for my writing. If all I have in me on any given day is to write one sentence, well then at least I wrote that sentence, and I’ll celebrate that fact.

Feeling like you’ve failed is a poor motivator. Celebrate every victory. Matt did, and last Sunday he ran the longest distance he ever had before, and by Christmas, he’ll likely have doubled it.

Talk soon

Damian

March 30, 2017

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Song for the day is Game Plan by Busby Marou, an Australian duo whose acoustic guitar rifts alone make them one to listen to let alone their sweet blues pop melodies.

At the start of the year I posted about how I had a grand plan where I would acquire a yearly calendar and put a cross on everyday I wrote with the aim of getting long chains of crosses which would then work as motivation, because a long chain is a pretty chain and I don’t want to break something pretty.

It’s worked, to a degree. I’m still marking crosses and I have more days than not with crosses on them, but I haven’t created any really impressive chains yet (I would post a photo of my calendar here but I’m writing this at work so you’ll just have to use your imagination). The good thing about the calendar system is that you can see where you’re coming up short and for me it’s the weekends where I’m most often breaking. This is surprising. If you had asked me before I started I would have thought the weekends were a lock as they’re when I have the most free time and logically I should be using this free time to write. However, also logically, being flat out during the work week the weekends are also when I want to sleep in, read books, and be lazy; not to mention social commitments and getting things done around the house that I don’t have the time for during the workweek. Also, it just goes to show how useful structure and routine is. I rarely break on a weekday because I’ve got it programmed into my schedule that I’ll get at least half an hour writing done before I leave for work, and if I have any free time during my work day (like right now for instance) I will definitely use that time to write as reading a book, being lazy, or sleeping just aren’t as easy to get away with.

So, I’ve located the problem and while I’m mostly happy with the amount I’m writing at the moment I wouldn’t mind trying to increase it and get myself one of those long beautiful sexy chains. That’d be sweet. Last year I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where I wrote roughly 2,500 words every day for a month. It was tough and the writing wasn’t my best but it clearly showed me just how much writing I can get done if I commit to it, so I’m planning on trying to replicate this. I won’t aim to write quite so much and the goal isn’t to try and write a novel, it’s more Write Every Day For A Month (or WriEvDaFoAM, not as catchy admittedly). April will be my month and my goal will be simply to write 600 words every day. Why 600? Because I said so and because it’s 100 more than 500 and I don’t really have a reason, it just seems doable. Traditionally NaNoWriMo takes place in November but if people can have Christmas in July then I think I can get away with this. Hopefully by the end of the month I’ll have a chain of crosses so beautiful the crippling pressure not to break it will keep me writing indefinitely. Wish me luck!

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Keeping things still on the writing front, I recently came across the blog of writer Chuck Wendig. He’s an American author of just a crazy amount of books, a number of which are about writing. Admittedly, I haven’t read any of his books…yet. His blog on the other hand I can’t get enough of. It’s equal parts writing advice, writing challengers, personal journal, and mysterious macro photos. Across all of these his ability to write well and his ability to write humorously is extremely evident. Like I said he’s exceptionally prolific when it comes to churning out books, which alone makes me interested in anything he has to say when it comes to writing advice. The fact that he writes well and is incredibly successful doesn’t hurt either. Sometimes his writing advice is spot on, hitting marks on the act of writing itself, to how to stay motivated, to how to navigate the industry. Sometimes it’s pure nonsense, in the best way. I’m not sure which one I prefer. The latter can tickle my funny bone so well I have no option but to laugh out loud, like I did with this post which I read in a quiet office block, earning me a few looks.

If you’re into blogs, into writing, or into having a chuckle I suggest you check it out.

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Remember, everyone’s a little bit weird but we’re all trying our best.

Talk soon

Damian