Busy

This is a brief update on where I am right now and why I missed a few days posting last week.

It has been a crazy few days (6 in fact) and I am just starting to put myself back together again. I haven’t written anything here, or elsewhere, since Tuesday and that feels strange. I am itching to get back to my projects in progress, at least one of which will hopefully be done very soon.

We have been at the new house every day; sanding, painting, chiseling holes in the wall to fit plug sockets. It’s going well, but it is taking a lot of time. I’m sure it will be worth it when it’s done, but sometimes it’s difficult to remember than when you’re in the middle of things.

While I haven’t been writing, I have been thinking of ideas for new stories and some of them I’m very excited about.

Hopefully, towards the end of this month, we will get the house finished and move in. Then I can move back into something approaching a regular schedule and produce at a better rate than I have been.

Closure

Every now and then a wonderful thing happens. I’m not sure whether it is purely coincidence or if there’s some kind of cosmic law involved, but when it comes around the feeling is incredible.

Yesterday I finished reading a book (The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss) and this morning I finished the first draft of a new short story. In addition to that, I completed a load of work tasks that had been hanging over my head for weeks. There was, one brief moment, where I had no pressing need to do anything. All of the boxes were closed, everything was done.

Although it would be relatively easy to build a life without books to read, or stories to write, I wouldn’t like it. This is a light and dark thing, you can’t really appreciate one without having the other to contrast it with, and anyway, who is to say which one is more enjoyable.

It’s a good feeling nonetheless, and whenever it comes around I make the effort to appreciate it.

Earning Success

I had an interesting chat with my wife last night while we were waiting for dinner to cook. She told me that she thought I was going to make it as a writer because I am always persevering. Which is a nice enough thing to say, but it got me thinking.

Turns out that earlier in the day she had been listening to a program on the radio where the guest said that perseverance was more important to success than talent, and that if you persevered then you would succeed at whatever you were working on.

I fully agree with the first statement; hard work is more important than talent. I’m just not so sure about the second statement.

It seems to me a lot like the logic that wealthy people use to justify their own positions and the inequality in society. That they are wealthy because they have worked harder, they deserve it and people who are poor deserve what they have.

Which doesn’t really make sense. Are we really expected to believe that a CEO works harder than a deep-sea fisherman?

It’s an easy thing to believe because we hear it all the time. The trouble is, the people who tend to be invited on radio shows are people who have persevered AND succeeded. There isn’t a lot of attention given to artists who have spent their whole lives working hard to achieve something and then just not. It’s survivorship bias.

I am prepared to accept that the people who succeed tend to have perseverance, but I don’t accept that all people who have perseverance succeed. Believing that takes away from the massively important element of luck.

Which isn’t to say that people should stop trying. I certainly have no intention of packing up my pens and quitting. Maybe I will never have that lucky break. I accept that. But I know that if I stop trying then, if that lucky break ever does come along, I won’t be in a position to take advantage of it.

What’s Old is New Again

A few weeks ago I finally cancelled my Facebook account and I haven’t had a personal Twitter account for more than a year. Social media in that sense isn’t anything that I want to be involved in.

Although I hadn’t been using Facebook, cancelling it got me thinking about how we used to operate online before it existed and I remembered RSS.

If you’re not aware of it, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. Basically, it’s a way to get the contents of a blog sent to you when it’s updated. You need a feed reader (I am currently testing out Feedbin but there are plenty of others just a search away) and then you just tell it which websites you want to follow. So you don’t have to visit them to see if there is new content.

I stopped using RSS years ago because I was obsessively checking for updates. I had an app on my phone and it was easy to constantly refresh it throughout the day. Which isn’t really how it should be used. This time I will not add any kind of app on my phone. I will also block access to the site on my computer (which I’ll write more about another time) outside certain hours, so it won’t impact my work.

What I hope it will do, is kill that urge to waste time online and also help me to stop feeling as if I am missing out.

RSS is an old technology, but like CDs and like paper notebooks, maybe the old things are better things.


P.S. if you’re interested, the RSS feed for this site is http://jloscombe.com/feed/

Chaos For A Little While

Everything feels chaotic at the moment. Nothing is routine, it’s all up in the air.

We are getting close to the finishing work on our new house, but now it seems as if there are a million things to do at the same time.

I am now officially a supervisor at work and I don’t know what that means on top of what I was already doing.

I keep trying to stay away from mindlessly browsing the internet, but every day I fail at it.

Things are changing and if experience has taught me anything it’s that there will be a period of chaos. It might not last for long, but it will be a struggle.

What history hasn’t told me is whether the chaos is real, or all in my head. I am willing to admit that there might not be anything that is truly out of hand, but it appears so to me.

Eventually things will get better and I won’t be able to remember how frustrating this period is.

Eventually, I will decide to do it all over again.

The Analogue Method

I tend to think in terms of the “Analogue Method”, even when that name doesn’t quite fit. It is still a work in progress. There are still many digital tools in my life.

To begin with, ask; What is the earliest version of this I can roll back to?

Using music as an example, I was paying for a streaming service. The earliest version of listening to music that it was reasonable to roll back to was records, and I certainly liked the idea of that.

The problem is that I don’t have a record player in my car, and that is where I do most of my music listening.

The earliest convenient version then was CDs. Once I’d done that, I saw that there were many benefits which I hadn’t expected.

  • My car is older, so the ability to stream audio from my phone is an aftermarket add-on that takes a long time to start working. CDs are instant.
  • I listen to full albums now, instead of skipping between every song that exists.
    The sound quality is better.
  • If I buy second hand CDs then they are cheaper.
  • I own the music, my ability to access it isn’t based on paying a subscription, and will not go away once I stop subscribing.

It is difficult to think of many negatives.

And as time goes by, I will apply this approach to other areas of my life. It is surprising how few digital tools are an improvement on the analogue version that existed before.

Tools of Change

Our ways of thinking, perceiving, and acting, we now know, are not entirely determined by our genes. Nor are they entirely determined by our childhood experiences. We change them through the way we live – and, as Nietzsche sensed, through the tools we use.

The Shallows, Nicholas Carr

When I first started writing stories I used paper and pen. That was the most natural way for me to work.

Years later I moved onto a computer and then that became the natural way to work.

Now I have returned to using paper and pen and I can see that using a computer for so long has changed me.

When I’m using a pen I write longer sentences more slowly. I feel more connected to what appears on the page because I have put it there.

Writing on paper was not a specific goal I had when I began to change the way I used computers. My main ambition was directed at the way I consumed, rather than created. But it is a welcome side-effect. I enjoy the process of creation a lot more now.

It has also made me question my goals regarding consumption. If it is the medium, rather than the content, that is the problem, then is there a different way I can consume?

This morning I set up an RSS reader so I can see if that works for me. It might not, or it might need more tweaking. Maybe I will need to print the things that I decide to read.

It’s possible that I don’t have to quit the whole internet and instead I can find a way to use it that works for me.

Head in the Clouds

I used to live with my head in the clouds, dreaming about stories and characters.

Then the cloud became a place where data is stored and I went to live there as well.

The meaning changed and, without meaning to, I also changed.

I don’t want to live inside a computer anymore.

Tools of the Trade

I am eternally curious about what other writers use and how they use it. For a lot of people now that is a computer and software program, but I’m back to using pens and paper now, so mine looks a little different. This is a photo taken at about 6 o’clock this morning in the middle of working at the dining room table.

  1. Narrow Ruled Paper (no margin): I buy this in bulk. It’s nothing fancy and I use it for all planning and first draft writing.
  2. Pilot V5 Hi-Techpoint 0.5 pens (black): I do pretty much all my writing with these pens. I have used fountain pens in the past, but find them too fussy for longform writing. Occassionally I use other colours of the V5, but this is my go to because it’s nice to write with and you can buy them pretty much everywhere.
  3. File Folders: Every project gets its own folder. These are good for a whole short story but novels tend to spread over multiple folders. The colours have no significance.
  4. Moleskine Pocket Diary: I use this as a log book. I just list out what I’ve done each day. Also I track the books I’ve read and how much time I’ve spent writing.
  5. Moleskine Pocket Cahier: I always have one of these in my pocket. The stickers are so I can quickly see which side is the front.
  6. Pencil Case: mostly full of Pilot V5 pens.
  7. Coffee: I get up at 0530 in the morning, coffee is an essential tool.

There are other things I use at different stages of the process, these are just what I happen to have out on the table when the photo was taken.