February 20, 2017

20022017

Music today is from Will Varley. I oddly discovered his music on an ‘Easy Listening’ inflight radio station while travelling 40,000 feet up on the way to England last year. Which is appropriate seeing as he’s English. But mostly, who knew plane radio would actually have a great undiscovered gem? This one, entitled ‘This House’ is one of my favourites.

It’s been almost two weeks since I last posted, possibly my longest absence since I started writing this blog. This is due to life being pretty crazy. I mean, life’s always crazy, but lately it’s been dialed up a few notches and not necessarily in a good way. It’s been busy, that’s the main issue, and busy with the things I’m not passionate about. My non-writing-pay-the-bills work is where most of this has taken place. A number of factors have aligned to make it so my eight hours each day in the confines of the laboratory/office are packed full of things to do to the point that I’m rushing through lunch and skipping my usual coffee break, and as I write this I’m thinking these are first world problems. Which they are, but problems are still problems and these are mine.

The main issue here is time. It used to be that I could slip in the occasional writing break at work with no one the wiser but now that’s been taken away which makes me increasingly more tired at the end of each day, giving me less energy to write even when I’m not at work. The thing is I also don’t want to burn myself out. I like to think I’m pretty disciplined. I get up at 5:30 most mornings, go for a six kilometer run, write for half an hour, and ride to work. I then work, ride an hour home, get whatever little tasks I can get done before making dinner, then it’s usually an episode of tv with dinner, read for a bit, and bed. Other nights can also involve socialising, usually with my writing mates, or with others I haven’t seen in forever because life gets in the way; which is great but ultimately all bills come due and so the extra hours I use those nights get subtracted from the following day. Weekends at the moment are likewise full. If I try to plan a catch up with someone at the moment I’m currently looking four to five weeks in advance. Not a lot of time left over to get thick slabs of writing done. And like I said, I don’t want to burn out either.

I was telling some friends of mine, Nice Guy Sean and his lovely girlfriend the Angel Belinda, about this schedule of mine last Friday night. I was at their housewarming and it was around twelve thirty at night (or in the morning depending on how you look at it) and I had gone over there after picnicking/watching a musician perform in the Melbourne zoo grounds with the Lady Holly and her friends as part of their zoo twilights line up. After telling Sean and Belinda about my routine Belinda asked ‘But, how are you here?’ It was a good question. As I was driving home later thinking about the conversation I realised that if I simply stayed awake for four more hours I would have been up for a full twenty four. She went on to ask how I kept going doing all of that every day? And didn’t I get tired? I told her I did, but that I really want to do all those things (the writing and exercise, not so much the work), so that’s what it takes.

It may come off like I’m bragging here but to be honest I’m not sure it’s really something to be proud of. If anything it’s a bit of a family flaw. I’ve seen my Dad go weeks with only five hours sleep a night and then wonder why he gets sick. I’ve seen my sister manage a schedule far fuller than the one I’ve just described until she inevitably crashes, hard. And I saw it in myself when I was driving home and realised I’d almost been up for twenty four hours but hadn’t noticed until someone pointed it out.

Work/life balance is an ongoing challenge for all of us to manage and I think doubly so for people pursuing creative careers. There’s always more that can be done and the ability to do the work is with you all the time. I once read a description of choosing to be a writer as assigning yourself homework, forever. I think the important thing here to note is that since the writer is their own disciplinarian and task master they must also be their own manager of time; which means they have to take care to set aside large periods of time for recreation. I’m learning that even if you like to write, it’s still work, and shouldn’t be included in your recreation time.

For myself, I’m now actively looking for a part time position. Preferably one where I can do the money earning for half my work week and writing for the other half. I’m blessed enough to be in a situation where this is possible, and hopefully it should leave me with my evenings and weekends set aside to do nothing. Or everything. Even more writing if I really want to. It doesn’t really matter as long as I’m listening to my body and ensuring I give it what it needs, whatever that may be.

For now that’s to eat some dinner, give my rabbit a pat on the head, and watch some tv with the woman I love.

I suggest you do the same (although perhaps not with my rabbit and woman)

Talk soon

Damian

July 1, 2016

01:07:2016

After having finishing the novelette last weekend I ended up not writing much this week; instead I plotted out a few ideas and tried to figure out what my next project will be.

I’m still very much in a prose state of mind, to the point where at night I find myself subconsciously writing descriptions of whatever odd things my brain is providing while I drift off to sleep. A good practice for the craft I suppose, but not great for my sleeping pattern. I’m tempted to go with another short story as I have an idea for one I really like. Two, actually, as an idea popped into my head as I was looking at the hairs on my arms while in the shower (thank you subconscious). It’ll be a very short one, probably fitting into the flash fiction section, and I think I might even try bashing it out this weekend.

However I’m also considering writing an idea for a TV pilot for the next project, mostly so I’ve got one in the bag in case any opportunities come up. It’s this idea that I’ve been attempting to plot out this week, but I’m struggling to fit it into a TV structure. Part of the problem is that I don’t know what the full story is. The idea came from one of the earlier scene-a-day’s I wrote back in 2014 (you can read it here if you like) and while the scene sets up a lot of intriguing things past Damian didn’t really have answers for them, and present Damian isn’t much better. I instead have colourful blobs of ideas that have yet to resolve themselves into the fleshed out storylines they will hopefully one day become. Basically I might have to let it gestate in the back of my mind for a while until I can see what the blobs are. Sometimes that’s all you can do, forcing it might get me answers but chances are they’ll be of a lesser quality that the one’s my subconscious might come up with given enough time.

Given this point I think I will go with the short stories next, and see if by the time they’re both done I have more in the idea bank for the TV one. Thanks for letting me talk that out, clearly I needed it.

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June is now over and with it my June Retune. Mostly it went well, although I have to be honest and say I unintentionally took a week off last week, using my busy work schedule to justify it to myself. This week I was back on it though and now have many pleasingly sore body parts.

The end result was a loss of three kilos but the real prize was getting myself into a routine that I am more than happy to sustain. I can now quite easily get up at six and get an hour of writing done before work. I continue writing during my lunch hour and, if possible, for even longer. Once home I do half an hour or so of exercise and call it a day. Having kept that routine for (mostly) a month now it’s feeling natural to do so and my body and brain seem to have adjusted; meaning I actually have all the energy to accomplish all these tasks without too much internal complaining. I’m also doing all this on a much better diet that I was before the retune started, mostly thanks to having cut my sugary snacking back drastically. Once again my body seems to have adjusted to this change as well. I’ve read it takes doing something consistently for three weeks for it to become a habit and this clearly fits that model. Yay, improvement!

I also wrote almost all of the novelette in that time, which at twenty six pages of prose is the longest thing I’ve written to date other than my screenplay, and I wrote that in a year and a half. So I think I have to include the completion of that wee story in the June Retune prize pack as well.

I’ll continue on with this routine for the immediate future, which was always the plan; giving myself the month long timeline was a lie I knowingly told to myself in order to maintain motivation. It’s weird that we can do that, and it’s weirder still that it works. I’ll probably be a little more flexible diet wise, especially when eating with other people, but otherwise the only other change I’d like to make is to get some writing done in the evening too. I never really managed to work that into the retune and, while I have a strong feeling I’m more of a morning person, wouldn’t mind seeing if I can learn to get used to that as well.

Hell, it should only take three weeks, right?

Talk soon

Damian

February 8, 2016

08:02:2016

After a busy and then not so busy weekend, following a balls out busy week, life is returning to some sort of normalcy – if there is such a thing. This basically means I should be seeing a return to routine, which I’m looking forward to (and then no doubt will eventually tired of after a few weeks). Sadly this comes at the loss of my brother Jonathan who has returned to English shores to continue his abnormal normalcy.

I’m expecting with this return of routine to also come the return of daily writing (as writing is included into the routine I think it’s a pretty strong hypothesis). In fact it’s already off to a good start. Apart from me currently writing the words you’re currently reading I also managed to get myself out of bed at six this morning to work on my script before work. Much like these diary entries my script writing had taken a hit during the week of work/social activity/sleep/repeat, and I’m glad to be once more making characters say and do things on a page.

I’m a big fan of trying to slip in a bit of writing before work. Not so much because I’m producing copious amounts of writing – I’m definitely not, half an hour to forty five minutes of writing might get me two pages at best – but that half an hour kicks starts my brain into thinking about the next elements of my story throughout the day. It’s the same logic behind eating breakfast, even if you don’t have a huge amount to eat in the morning it’s always a good idea because it kicks off digestion and gets the whole system started. If I’m lucky that half an hour will power up the subconscious part of my brain designed for story development; where it will masticate, break down, and spew thought provoking and discriminatory brain acids over the new bits and pieces I’ve given it and, after eliminating the waste (i.e. crap ideas), hopefully alert my conscious brain at some point with something I can use. The basic process of coming to an epiphany.

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Anyway I promised the other day to share some cool writing links and I mean to do just that.

Both of these have come from Warren Ellis’ newsletter which I’m unashamedly trying to emulate with these diary entries, so if you want to see a more well written version of this kind of thing you should check it out.

+ The little chart you see below comes from the troubled and genius mind of Dan Harmon, who you might know as the creator of TV shows Community and Rick and Morty. It’s a simple but incredibly useful piece of story structure that boils down a character’s arc throughout an episode. It’s similar to the famous Hero’s Journey but perhaps more useful in terms of the characters wants and therefore motivations.
Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 8.48.45 PM
+ We’ll stick with story structure for our second link which talks about The Levitz Paradigm, which is a plot structure device that’s been used for ongoing comic series for years. You can read a good run down of it here.

But I’ll add a quick quote so you can get the basic idea:

Basically, the procedure is this: The writer has two, three, or even four plots going at once. The main plot—call it Plot A—occupies most of the pages and the characters’ energies. The secondary plot—Plot B—functions as a subplot. Plot C and Plot D, if any, are given minimum space and attention—a few panels. As Plot A concludes, Plot B is “promoted”; it becomes Plot A, and Plot C becomes Plot B, and so forth. Thus, there is a constant upward plot progression; each plot develops in interest and complexity as the year’s issues appear.”

Pretty cool, right?

Isn’t learning great.

Talk soon

Damian