January 3, 2018

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Music today comes from The Northern Folk, who I saw open for The East Pointers a few weeks back and was blown away by; not least because they are a ten piece band. Their sound was unique and folksy, utilising their many instruments, and with vocals to match. This one is called Stovetop Coffee

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Words written for the year: 2528

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Hello and welcome to 2018.

My 2017 culminated in a flurry of activity; appropriate, seeing how that’s how most of the year felt. It began with the arrival of Brother Jonathan from the distant shores of Austria, with my  future sister in law, Alexandra, on his arm. Their return home (at least, my home) is always a welcome one, but especially so this time, as it had been over a year since I held my brother in my arms. Things didn’t stop once all the hugging was caught up on though, as my other brother, the one they call Matthew, and I still had a half marathon to complete (as previously mentioned) I’m happy to say it went well. We started at six in the morning joined by our cousin Dominic, all of us fresh and chatty, and ended at just after eight, significantly less fresh and chatty. Two solid hours of running. The breakfast that followed felt well earned.

Christmas came next, spread out over two days to accommodate all the family. Many presents, drinks, food, and games meant the days had the special feel that holidays should, helped along by not having to go to work, or even plan out much beyond eating. This didn’t last long, however, as come boxing day, Jonathan, Alex, Holly and I, headed back to Melbourne to jump on a plane and fly over to the North Island of New Zealand. We were there for a wedding, and so our visit was a short one, four days, but full to the gills with driving, walking around beautiful places, a heavy dose of bananagrams (look it up), and of course, a wedding. It was the first time I had ever been to a wedding where I was a stranger to both the bride and groom, as they were friends of Holly made from her time living in London. It’s an odd thing to introduce yourself to someone whilst simultaneously congratulating them on the ceremony you’d just witnessed. Still, the night was a good one, and my lack of familiarity with the happy couple didn’t diminish the joy of celebration.

We got back to Australia just in time to celebrate the coming of the new year, more fun and family, and here we are; 2017 over.

It was an incredible year for me. I got engaged, traveled to Borneo, was nominated for awards, and had a book released with my writing buds, plus plenty more. All of it felt like moving closer to the mountain. It was, without doubt, one for the books.

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Now with 2017 in the rear view mirror it’s time to look ahead at 2018. This time last year I wrote about how I wanted to write every day, crossing off each successful day on a giant wall calendar as motivation. Here is how that calendar ended up:

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As you can see I had a rocky start, then managed to find my groove, with most of the blank spaces that followed either due to holidays or special events. I’m proud of that spread, but want to kick it up another notch this year. Which brings us to the first on my new years goals.

I wrote a few weeks ago about Brother Matthew’s impressive goal list for 2017. He had nine, which also happens to be his favourite number, and so for this year he’s given himself another nine. When he told me this I jokingly responded that as my favourite number is four (D is the fourth letter of the alphabet — younger me was very logical when it came to choosing a favourite number) then I only had to have four goals. The more I thought about it, the more I liked having a list of four goals for the new year. Four would fit well to the unofficial goals I already had in my mind, and if I wrote them down and defined them properly I was more likely to stick to them. So, using the S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, Time-bound) goal setting technique the Lady Holly uses with her students I wrote down my four goals for 2018.

The first, as alluded to earlier, is a writing one. Last year to get the daily cross off on the calendar I just had to write something, a single line would do the job, preferably more, but if that’s all I had then that would do. This year it’s not that simple, as my first goal is to write 600 words a day on average across the year. That ‘on average’ is important, because it means I can write excess and have words in lieu, or make up missed days later if I need to. I’m hoping the former is more the case. Usually I don’t like the idea of running-on goals and being able to make up for missed days later, because it can be too easy to use this as an excuse to be lazy and then have a insurmountable number to hit. To negate this I’m making it so I have to use my weekends to catch up on any word counts missed during the week, so that number doesn’t snowball on me if I start missing days. Instead of the wall calendar this year I have a spreadsheet with every day of the year written in one column and a word count column right next to it waiting to be filled. I’ll also keep a running log of the ‘words written for the year’ on every blog post, instead of the former ‘current chain of writing days’.

The second goal I stole from Brother Matthew’s own goal list; run 1000 km across the year. Another goal that requires consistency every week, but one I believe is achievable.

Goal number three is likewise stolen, and that is to read 25 books (or more) during the year. Far too often I waste time browsing on my computer, at either social media or who knows what, only to later lament that I never have time for reading. This year I want to flip that, less screen time, more page time.

These first three goals were easy, all being continuations of goals I already had, just better defined. But of course my favourite number isn’t three (my name doesn’t start with a C after all) and so I needed one more goal. After allowing my brain some time to marinate on it I decided I wanted it to be a photography based goal. I often take plenty of photos on holiday but want to get back into the habit of taking photos of everyday life as well. So, in order to achieve this, I’ve brushed the dust off my old blipfoto account, a site by which you add one photo a day, taken on that day. If you wish, you can follow along here.

That covers most of the main stuff, there are other things of course, like getting married to a girl called Holly, but one thing at a time, yeah?

Wish me luck.

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Remember, take a breath. Here we go again.

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Talk soon,

Damian

 

January 11, 2016

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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