From the Desk Remix! – Information Overload and Lettuce!

Information overload.

We are living in an environment of information ubiquity, which is at times amazing.

At other times, it can be a problem.

Too much of a good thing turns out not to be good for us.

Consider this – how many doughnuts is too many? You are correct, no amount of doughnuts is too many as long as there is coffee to go with it!

Our need for new clothes to cover our expanding waistlines and the doctor’s report on our health may indicate otherwise, however.

Currently, I am reading too many books, studying too many online courses, writing too many articles/stories, and trying to work in too many art mediums.

All at the same time!

There is so much knowledge I need to acquire and so many creative things I want to do, but too many isn’t good for me.

I started musing over this today due to our recent family pet acquistion of a tortoise.

George is an amazing creature but he goes wild for lettuce. He won’t eat anything else.

It turns out that lettuce to a tortoise is like McDonalds to a teenager, or coffee and doughnuts to me.

George loves it but it isn’t good for him, as it has relatively little nutrional goodness for him.

I am trying to do too many things all at once, which I love doing, but I might not get as much from them all in the long run as if I was more focused.

I need to change my ‘diet’ and so does George.

Tortioses, however, are notoriously stubborn – something we weren’t told when we bought him.

Apparently, given sufficient water, they can go without eating for up to a month.

It turns out that I must be stubborn too, because I have been on a ‘diet of lettuce’ for a good while, knowing that it can water down everything I am trying to achieve.

George needs to change his ways and so do I.

So George and I are going to enter a pact. We will wean ourselves off of ‘lettuce’ together.

I acknowledge his side of things will be easier as I will be witholding his preferred diet and, although he may hiss at me in outrage, I will need to exert great self-discipline to match him.

I need to be more specific about what I will accomplish each day in writing and art, read one book until I have finished it, and follow one online course to the end before starting another one.

And if you can’t keep a deal with a tortoise, who can you keep one with?

Chase Jarvis – Creative Calling – Pt.2

Last week I shared some takeaways from the first session of Chase Jarvis’ Creative Calling Bookclub – if you missed it then click here!

Week 2 was about focusing on the I.

  • I – Imagine what you want
  • D – Design a system to do it
  • E – execute the plan
  • A – Amplify

So Imagine what you want.

Then be creative and take it further – take it as far as it will go. Push the envelope. What does the want look like now?

As a writer my want might be to get book(s) published. I can push this further to, publish enough books to mean I can write full time. Plus, I want to publish a fiction book one year and a non-fiction book the next year.

Let’s keep being creative!

The fiction books I want to write will be a series and some stand alones. The non-fiction books I want to write will be sport based, focused on the teams I follow, spending a season with each. Other creative arts as well.

More creative!

Let’s not worry about bestsellers but add in a podcast and still sharing writer’s knowledge to help others on the journey. I’m pretty keen on music as well – and art – so maybe the odd book or the podcast can cover these subjects?

Where does this all leave me?

Planning!

I might not be a full time writer yet, but I can sure plan as if I was!

I can set out a three, five, or ten year plan – or all of them.

What books do I plan to write first? Fiction series – more chance of catching a book deal when there is the easy sell, several more similar to the one an editor/publisher might like. I want the fourth book I write to be non-fiction.

I’m going to develop a podcast alongside those first few books – writer’s craft and the other creative arts I’m interested in. Part of this development is to start talking with other creatives in these different fields. This is preparing the way for the non-fiction books.

All the time I’m developing and adding to the blog/website.

The timeline is the guide for me to get my butt in the seat researching and writing! It all might be completed slightly sooner or later. It almost doesn’t matter. I can adapt and adjust, so long as I keep researching and writing.

Whilst doing all of this I need to keep learning and take on board new stuff.

For this Chase Jarvis recommends the following – DEAR.

  • D – Deconstruct
  • E – Emulate
  • A – Action
  • R – Review

In all of the areas I have identified I need to Deconstruct – Look at the best in craft in the type of fiction and non-fiction I want to write. Listen to the best podcasts similar to what I want to produce.

Then I need to Emulate – I need to practice all of those good things I deconstructed from the best in the business.

I need to take Action – by analysing what I have produced and checking it against the guides and teachers from that original deconstructing.

Finally, Review – go back to the beginning and start all over again, with the new writers/podcasters who have risen to the top since I last looked.

Now it’s your turn!

What’s your 3 or 5 of 10 year plan?

Day 464 – A List of Recommendations.

Pre-amble:

It has been a day of sunshine and torrential downpour during a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon.

The sunshine was still warm but – it seems – typically for August – well hidden by cloudy masses, but for the brief periods it did emerge it was glorious. I have really noticed that the light has changed over the last couple of weeks and it seems significantly weaker, indicating the quick changing of the seasons.

The torrential downpour – including hailstones – was spent under a canopy of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. I mused briefly if they were trying out new special effects for a performance of Macbeth. We soon made quite a large and disparate group of shelter-seekers and I genuinely felt sorry for a young woman who made her way over, just as we were thinking it was safe to head out, who looked like she had just dived in the river, and was wringing out her jumper in a resigned shrugging of her shoulders.

The Recommendations:

Sitting outside Holy Trinity Church, I finished reading Where the Wild Winds Are by Nick Hunt. I mentioned this book back in Day 446. It is well written and blends travelogue with cultural history. Definitely worth a read.

Before we left for Stratford I listened to a couple of great radio programmes – apologies in advance if you can’t access them outside of the UK.

The first was The Early Music Show focusing on Bach’s Orchestral Suites. J.S. Back is my musical hero/legend so this was an easy listen, but the information and different recordings used to illustrate the history of these suites was awesome. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b08c2n8h

The second programme was Soul Music and focused on telling the story of the South African hymn/anthem Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika. Inspired by a tune from a Welsh hymn writer, through the Apartheid struggles, and into Nelson Mandela’s vision of a united South Africa, this programme tells the whole incredible story. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b06qjtqs

Day 463 – Sunday Reflection.

I’ve been busy revamping my study.

Basically, I’ve got rid of more stuff I had forgotten I even had, or had kept because it might be useful at some point. I decided that some point had been reached and that the stuff wasn’t useful after all.

A family desk taken by my eldest son, freed up space for an armchair I’ve been looking at with fondness for a while now. I write at a standing desk, but I was hankering after a seat to muse, imagine, read, in.

I thoroughly recommend a standing desk if you don’t usually use one. Some are very pricey but mine is about the size of your laptop and does the job perfectly.

Revamping and tidying up are often necessary but also serve as perfect actions for not writing.

I sway between being really frustrated when I don’t write and just accepting that sometimes my brain needs a pause to fix something in a story, or make the necessary links to the next stage of the story.

I’ve probably mentioned this before but I don’t plot/plan in a James Patterson kind of way. Once the plot is down on paper then I know the story and my brain is off to the next one. The discipline to then take an extended plot and write it up into the finished novel eludes me. Be honest though, James Patterson probably feels the same way, which is why he has all of those co-authors.

I plan more like Lee Childs. I turn up, like Jack Reacher (okay – like a Jack Reacher who has been placed on too warm a wash cycle than the label directs!), meet a couple of people – good or bad – and the rest happens from there.

I am currently writing something new and it is requiring a little more thinking than I am used to. I think? Or I am doing a good job of pulling the wool over my own eyes. Sometimes, kicking back into the habit of hitting a word count each day, no matter what, really does get the job done.

I confess that all my normal habits have gone a bit wayward, with the only one remaining intact is the one where I listen to a new album everyday. Writing 1000 words a day has become disjointed. French language learning hasn’t been learnt for almost three weeks now. Exercise has not been what it should be. I have read more, and listened to podcasts and audio books more frequently.

My cotton-wash-when-it-should-have-been-a-wool-wash Reacher gives a Gallic shrug (as he can’t remember the phrase he was looking for) and wanders off into the night to regain his writing habit and his credibility . . .

Day 456 – Sunday Reflection.

For about twelve hours, the Welsh rugby team were number one in the world rankings. Then a poor showing against England saw them slip back to number two. Poor defence contrasted heavily with the one which secured them the Grand Slam in the 6 Nations. Too much reliance on training park moves saw players going to ground without even being tackled. But the real reason for the Welsh slip was the fact that I watched the first half of the match. I knew I should have just let it record and then watch the glorious victory later on, but caught up in the excitement of cementing that number one spot, I succumbed to impulse over over fair reason. As a sports fan, life is an endless journey of finely tuned decisions which can affect your team. If you don’t believe me, then look at the 49ers preseason win over Dallas – I didn’t watch it live and they won. Okay, I had no way of actually watching the match anyway but that isn’t the point. I didn’t watch the Wigan game and they beat Hull KR. I also didn’t watch the Canberra Raiders NRL game and they did lose. As I said, it is a fine line to walk.

Day 442 – Sunday Reflection.

A week of habit breaking, but not in a good way.

After a one day break in my habit of learning French – actually I missed out by five minutes on maintaining my streak by losing track of time – I then managed a couple more days before blowing it by a couple of days.

Next I blew my Tour de France blog, about five stages from the end.

Then I discovered that Simon Armitage was made Poet Laureate back in May – how did I miss that news?!?!

I did start writing new fiction and not just draft revising.

I read more.

I climbed back on the bike – literally.

A mixed week. Could do better on the report card. Not the end of the world though.

That’s the thing with habits – easily broken but just as easily started.

Day 439 – Aloud.

When you write, read it back.

Not in your head. In your head it sounds different.

Read it aloud. Preferably to someone.

Most of the mistakes and awkward sentences will become apparent to you straight away. Some the person listening to you will point out.

It can be challenging. Not everyone reads aloud well. Not everything you will write will sound good. You have broad shoulders and a tough chin, you can live with it.

Happy reading!

Day 438 – To TV or Not To TV, That Is The Question.

One piece of writing advice is to destroy your tv.

You’re a writer of books, so read ’em and write ’em.

TV was invented to distract you and allow advertising to sell you stuff.

So that should be enough for why not to TV.

So Why to TV?

Plot and Characters in a story arc.

Most tv series don’t give you much more, other than a great source of material for building ‘cliffhangers’ into your chapter endings.

Watch how each episode is finished. How does it wrap the events of that episode but how does it inform on what went on in previous episode plots or signal something yet to come.

What character relationships are there and how do they develop?

Not everything needs to make sense. A lot of TV shows don’t even try to explain shifts in scenes or seemingly impossible plot points – they just know you want a conclusion to that episodes situation and to see how the relationships between the key characters is furthered.

Perhaps you don’t need to fret over all of those details which were giving you sleepless nights after all.

Day 433 – Idea Notebook.

Some writers seem to swear by a notebook. Others swear at the mere suggestion of one.

Most artists make sketches. Most musicians will record something on their mobiles – probably.

Have some way of recording your thoughts, ideas, research, and inspirations, is essential.

Too much happens to us on any given day to remember every idea we have.

I think it was Under the Dome which Stephen King had the idea for when he was still a teacher. He may even have written a scene or section. That became something special when he eventually returned to it after becoming one of the most successful novelists of his generation.

Whether you use apps on your phone, or a notebook, or both, keep them handy and use them. Read back through them on a regular basis.

Transfer those ideas as you develop them to a bigger notebook or your laptop.

Return to them and with a little TLC they will grow into something special.