Month: April 2015

That Golden Substance

Having written about making the best use of time for writing and creative projects on Monday, I want to hold myself up as an example of how not to do it.

This has not been a productive week on the fictive side of things due to day job interference. Normally that interference is limited to my time and creative energy being occupied entirely by day job concerns. A classic of that particular genre was June last year when I had three pressing projects all happening simultaneously and a three week holiday to get it all done before.

But that’s just not having any brain left – basically an aggravated form of the situations I described in the artist hour piece.

The problem this week has been sleep. I have not had enough sleep.

Now, it’s worth pointing out that I habitually run a sleep debt. About the most sleep I will usually manage to obtain of a night is seven hours during the day job week. On the weekend, I might be able to catch up somewhat on the weekend, perhaps socking away a ten hour night to help recover. All of this is while I really function best on eight hours of sleep. I have known all of this for a while.

I’ve also suffered some especially woeful sleep weeks in the past. There was one in particular where one of our boys was ill and needed repeated overnight assistance. That was a hard week.

The reason I note this week’s sleep lack here is because of the impact it has had on my writing. I have written a couple of blog posts, but no words or plot or outline. It feels like five in the morning all the time, a time when I can work on well-defined problems but cannot readily perform significantly creative work.

Again, this should be nothing new, except it really is: I’ve only realised the connection because of the contrast between this week and last. While we were away I solved character timing issues effortlessly and corrected the outline to match without hestitation. This week I’ve glanced at the outline and shied away; I’ve struggled with indecision and doubt.

I attributed my improved creativity to working on the difficult stuff when my brain was more ready to address those problems, but now it occurs that the lack of sleep has compounded that problem.

So, get enough sleep. That’s my advice.

All I have to do now is figure out how to follow that advice myself.

Maybe I’ll be able to work on that at the weekend.

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Things I Will Never Do

It’s good to have goals and interests – I have lots of both – but part of life is recognising that there are not unlimited hours in the day or in a life and to make choices about what to spend those hours on. These choices mean that there are things that one will just never do.

Now, this post is about conscious choices rather than circumstantial limits. So, much as I would like to be a fighter pilot, or an Olympic-level sportsman (in fencing, say, because I like fencing. Or volleyball) I have known for a long time that those choices were simply unavailable to me because of my vision alone. Everyone has these unavoidable constraints: physical limitations and mental barriers are just something to be accommodated.

I am also not thinking of activities which I just wouldn’t want to do. I have no interest in drugs, say, or country dancing, or hunting. Those are – regardless of my abilities – simply not attractive to me.

What I am interested in here are things that I might have done, but I chose to do something else instead.

Anyway, without further ado, these are some of the things I will never do.

Play An Instrument

I like music and I enjoy plucking strings and making noises with trumpets as much as the next person, but I don’t play an instrument beyond the most clumsy rote memorisation.

If I did I would probably enjoy playing occasionally now. It’s a dexterous skill and I take great pleasure in that kind of fine control. I like driving and cycling and wood working in large part because I am using my hands and my body in a coordinated and skillful way. It’s one of the reasons I liked fencing back when I did that.

But the fact is I did not learn to play any instrument as a child, and I do not want to spend the time to learn now.

Jump Out Of An Aeroplane

Heights don’t worry me and I like rollercoasters*. Doing a skydive would actually be enormous fun, I think.

However, my ankles are crap. I sprain one or the other once or twice a year. If I did a jump, I would be so worried about spraining an ankle when I landed that I would not be able to enjoy the experience, so really it’s just not worth even trying.

Build A Battle Robot

Back in the late 90s there was a show called Robot Wars on British TV. It was a lot of fun, and I had some ideas for building a robot to enter in that competition.

It was called Trilobot, and it would have been styled roughly in the form of a trilobite or horseshoe crab, with a curved shield at the front and an axe which would serve three purposes: to damage other robots; to flip other robots once they were wedged onto the shield; and to right trilobot itself.

I started collecting materials for it (at least for prototyping) and designing mechanisms. I even got a radio-controlled car kit so that I could learn more about that aspect of the endeavour.

But all of that was abandoned when I moved to the States instead.

Run A Competitive Marathon

I have run – or at least participated in – one marathon. It took a long time. I said afterwards that I would not do another marathon unless I felt there was a fair chance that I would be able to complete it in substantially less than four hours.

The timing of my marathon was deliberate – it was before my wife and I had children. I was fairly sure that it was the last realistic chance to be able to spend the time needed to train for such an event.

And I was completely right: I’ve entirely abandoned the idea of running another marathon because of the time commitment needed – the long training runs simply destroy your weekends.

So, much as I would love to be able to trot out and run a sub-four hour race or even a Boston qualifier, it’s not something I will ever do now.

Be An Actor

My sisters and I started our stage careers in the Green Room programme at our local playhouse. It was tremendous fun and I learned a lot.

But I haven’t acted on stage in thirty years or more. My sisters have both done many amateur productions, and the older of the two performs regularly at her local theatre to great acclaim.

I actually think I could have done some of that, and I use my acting skills in playing roleplaying games, for example. But I know the professional option has passed now – I will never play James Bond.

So, that is my slightly depressing list of things I will now never do. What are some of yours?

[*] although it does depend a little these days on the kind of rollercoaster.

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