Finding Time

It’s amazing what you can find time for if you really try.

Life could make things easier, but that’s a lame excuse. If you want to do it then you will find a way.

It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Ten minutes a day is 60 hours a year.

Bit by bit, making progress towards what is important.

Offline

Some thoughts on the internet…

I try to stay away from networked devices. It isn’t always possible. I work for a big technology company and that means that all the tools I use are connected. In my spare time I do copy writing and that often means I have to go online to do research. So what I really mean is that I try to manage my online use.

I have social media accounts but I don’t use them. Someone tried to contact me on Facebook Messenger and I didn’t find out about it until they messaged Tamzin to ask why I wasn’t responding. The responsible thing to do would be to close my account so that no one expects me to respond to anything they send there.

I subscribe to 22 RSS feeds but only a few of them post daily. Only one of them posts more than once a day and they are very short. None of them are technology related and none of them are “news”.

The internet is a powerful tool, but something feels broken about the way we use it. I don’t think that we should live there the way we do. Maybe that’s just an issue of nomenclature; maybe referring to a home page is what bothers me. But then I see reports about screen time and I ask myself is any time reasonable to spend online every day? Should the internet even be an every day thing?

I don’t have any answers. I’m trying to work it out. I think everyone should work it out for themselves because any answers I come up with will only apply to me.

A Room of my Own

I used to have a room to write in. The spare room in our little two-up, two-down terrace. I had a big desk and plenty of space. Most importantly, I had a door that I could close. After my son Jude was born, it continued to be my office, although sometimes when he had a difficult night I had to share it with him in the morning. When he was six months old my office became his bedroom. That was five years ago now.

Since then I’ve worked in a variety of places. At the dining room table, in coffee shops, on my lap. It wasn’t a problem.

When we bought our new house the plan was to use one of the bedrooms as a laundry room / office. But as we tore down walls and built them up again, as we decorated and furnished, the spare room was never a priority. Again, this wasn’t a problem. I was used to working wherever I could open a notebook.

I have written previously about the number of meetings I have at my day job. It is an hours drive away and I’ve been getting frustrated with doing that journey just to sit at my desk and sit on conference calls. So over the weekend I bought and built a small desk and wedged it into the spare room. The walls are unfinished, the carpet isn’t laid. There is no light in the ceiling and it still smells a bit like plaster. I’m sitting there now and I could not be happier.

It wasn’t until I got the space back that I realised how much I’ve missed having a room of my own. Or, in this case, the corner of a room. There is a door that I can close and that makes all the difference. Finally I have a place where I can go to write, or to work, and feel comfortable.

Week One Done

I now have a full week of posts on the site.

Daily blogging has gone well and it looks like something I am going to continue doing.

Some of the posts will be very short (like this one) but I expect others to be longer.

I am still planning to wait until April to make this page visible on the website, by which time I should have 21 posts published. Maybe then I will also syndicate to Twitter.

Don’t Stop

I’ve been brainstorming the first book of my fantasy series for almost two months now. The old me could have planned, written and published a book in that amount of time. I was starting to wonder whether I’d made a mistake, and potentially wasted two months of productivity. I was losing the excitement that had been pushing me on.

Then last night as I was working through the plot for what felt like the hundredth time, something happened. It clicked. Suddenly a dozen disconnected fragments came together and turned into story.

This is one of the things that I love most about writing. When everything seems to come together out of nowhere.

Now I think about how close I came to giving up on the project and wonder if there are other stories that I gave up once which would eventually have come together in the same way.

There is still a long way to go before I’m ready to start writing in earnest, but now I know that I will get there eventually. I just have to keep working on it and not stop.

Meetings

Today I have a block of meetings from 10am until 2pm. Which is ridiculous. And they are with different groups of people.

Sometimes meetings are worthwhile, more often not, but as more and more of my work week gets filled with meetings I question when I am supposed to get the work done that they inevitably generate. Presumably I should be doing it at home, but that isn’t going to happen.

Time & Tools

Time. Where does it go? It seems there’s never enough of it.

I seem to have a hundred projects on the go at the moment; at work, at home and writing. Everything is getting very busy.

I’m not sure that I’m keeping on top of it but I’m trying. It’s a real challenge to my analogue productivity philosophy.

Things could get even busier. Now is the time to make sure I have a robust set of tools and workflows to make sure I can handle it.

This was not supposed to be a post about the tools I am using, but here we go.

The primary tool I have is habits and routines. These are things that I have been building over the past few months (and will continue to build) that mean the day to day things are taken care of. I have time to work on fiction, I am eating well, I am exercising and I am spending time with my family. These are the bedrocks that I build upon for everything else.

My task management needs work. I am floating somewhere between several systems and have different systems depending on whether it is work, personal or writing. Ideally I would like to consolidate these things, probably using Todoist. Then I have about twenty different calendars in Google. The process I follow is to visit each of those sources every day and create an analogue day plan. This goes in a dot-grid medium Moleskine – although I will be changing that to a LEUCHTTURM1917 shortly because I carry around so many Moleskine notebooks that I can’t tell which one I need at any given time. My day plan includes all of the habits, meetings, and tasks that I plan to accomplish. Generally I split the page in four so that I have two scheduled breaks and a lunch. This only covers my day at work, my mornings and evenings are essentially habit focused with little variation.

One place where I think this can be improved is by also scheduling my weekends. It is something that I plan to look into.

Notes are another big part of my workflow. I use a pocket Moleskine for when I am out and about and Standard Notes for at a computer. This is an evolving system.

Then I have a series of notebooks for specific purposes, a “general writing” book which is where most of my writing starts off, fiction and non-fiction. A logbook which I use as a kind of diary to keep track of the things that I do each day.

Most of these ideas are from other people and a lot of the tension I’m feeling right now is probably a result of not having moulded them into a coherent “system” of my own. It feels like a process that I can’t rush, or I’ll end up skipping from system to system and never settle. It’s a cycle that I’ve gotten into before.

A few of the sources that have inspired my system which are worth checking out if you would like to know more:

Fantasy

I’m working on a fantasy series.

I have dabbled in writing fantasy in the past. The Girl Who Dreamed The World and Son of the Sea are two of the most relevant examples, although most of my stories have fantasy elements. They were both a lot of fun to write, but also a lot of work and at the time, my focus was on publishing as much as I could, so I decided not to pursue the interest. Recently though my focus has changed.

At some point, no doubt, I’ll write about the tools I use, but suffice it to say that they are mostly analogue now and that already means that everything takes longer. I’m fine with that, I enjoy the process much more this way, and it has caused me to re-evaluate my stance on publishing speed. At the same time I have started reading a lot more fantasy and remembered how much I enjoy it. So it was only natural that I would want to play in that world.

When I think back to the earliest stories I wrote (as a child, so nothing to link to here) they were mostly fantasy. I enjoyed the slow process of building a new world from the ground up and that is what I am enjoying again now. It’s a very similar process actually. I’m filling up notebooks with thoughts and plans and everything feels very fluid. Most of it won’t even be included in the series, but it is important that I know it.

All of this means, that I’m not sure I will release any more (new) books this year. There may be a few short stories, and I am targeting December to release the first book in the series, but I haven’t worked this way before, so it’s difficult to judge how long it will take. I will write more about the project here so you know where I’m up to. I think it will be worth the wait. In the meantime, there are plenty of other fantasy stories for you to read.

Again and again and again

This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to keep a blog. I’m not sure that I’ve ever done it successfully. Sometimes I will manage a few months, but more often it’s only a few days and then nothing for ages, until another post like this one appears.

I am reluctant to make any claims about what this will become, about my hopes or aims. This may be the post that is finally the start of a regular blog, or it may be the last you hear from me for another six months. So instead, I’ll write about why I want to keep a blog so much.

There are a few reasons:
1. When I’m doing it, I enjoy it.
2. This is my only platform to put ideas and thoughts into the world, outside my books.
3. I want you to buy my books and this might be a good way to convince you.

Although I don’t want to make any big plans for what this blog is going to be, there are a couple of things I’m doing differently this time, which I hope will either make the difference, or lessen my embarrassment if it doesn’t work out.

1. I am not publicising this. If you are reading this in March 2019 then I’m not sure how. I have hidden the blog on my website and am not pushing this out to Twitter.
2. I am only committing to March 2019. This is an experiment. I will post every weekday in March and at the end of the month decide whether I want to keep going.

I don’t know what I’m going to be writing about here. The things that interest me and the things that are going on in my life. You might find some of it interesting, you might comment or share things. You might decide that you’d like to try one of my books, or short stories. Ultimately though, I hope that I have a good time doing it.