The best of Melbourne winter

Saturday. The riverside and creek-side trails are bathed by warm sun. I haven’t cycled in a fortnight and my legs don’t want to. So I set off slow, and I stay sedate, and I take photos. Every local parent with cycling kids is out to enjoy the day as well, and I’m accommodating. A Coot squawks and on an empty football field the Willie Wagtail flits again. I steer round a bulldog, glancing back to confirm that yes, his owner looks like him. I nod at Droopy, the older man I always see going the opposite way, his long face impassive, impressed by his red-and-black lycra and his shoulder length curly tresses. The blazing carrot top of a speeding runner in black, under sun-drenched gums. Strollers with linked arms, lean identikit road racers, middle-aged riding couples with yellow see-me-don’t-kill me jackets, joggers so slow even I would blitz them . . . I see them all. Slow suits me fine, slow leaves me settled.

The Freshness Big Year pays its way, kinda

This week saw me resisting my daily exercise strictures. Melbourne was dismal and I prioritised work over fitness. I know, I know, the whole idea of the Big Year is that I inculcate a habit of everyday jogging, cycling, or gym, but the habit is not ingrained yet (will it ever be), so I missed a day, grumbled to the gym, grumbled again to the gym, and missed a day. By the end of Day 4, my Thursday, I had precious little to show over the half week.

Instead of clocking in to a habit, what ended up working was shame. I might not be fulfilling the Big Year, but it was in my mind, and over four days, a sense of regret filled me. So on Friday, unable to stand the ignominy any longer, I woke early and jogged in the dark, 5 kms through my streets. I didn’t feel cold at all, my lungs filled with air, and my pace of 6:35 brought a smile to my face.

Days 6 and 7? I cycled, not quite my weekly target, but hey, I tell myself, I managed five of the seven days during an off week. Not too shabby, I tell myself.

1,000 Big Year: The cosmos beats

One of those sun-blessed Melbourne winter morns. I cancel on a hike. I feel Lumberjack Cafe fill up around me. In 1967, Glenn Seaborg, Nobel prize winner and head of the Atomic Energy Commission, muses in his diary that perhaps it’s time for them to “develop a national policy” on radioactive waste. I scribble across my document of notes: “Wow, in 67, FINALLY, Seaborg tries to centralize handling of spent nuclear fuel.” I’m there, back then. The cosmos beats urgently in my chest.

Tractor Big Year: The chaos I need to extract order from

This Big Year – spending an hour or so every day puzzling out the new world of publishing – is working in spades. How fascinating but oh how complex! In the old world, you could never get noticed by publishers but if luck came your way, your publisher would just grab your Word file and go from there.

No longer do you need to beg for publishers’ attention but there are so many options in self-publishing! Just to give you a glimpse, here are a list of names one might look at (and this is not all by any means), taken from an online course I’ve been working through since May:

Mailchimp, Aweber, Mailerlite, ConvertKit, Ontraport, Infusionsoft, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat, Vellum, Jutoh, Calibre, Scrivener, Draft2Digital, Smashwords, Reedsy, Polgarus, Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Nook, LeadPages, Thrive Leads, Instafreebie, Bookfunnel, Bookbub, Freebooksy, Goodreads, Reading Deals, Bookrazor, etc., etc., etc.

My next task: a publication project plan. I can’t wait!

Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

1,000 Big Year: Let me admit that I’m vanquished

This photo could only have been snapped if I rose late, at sunrise. With heavy heart, I surrender: Melbourne’s winter has, this winter, roundly defeated me. And when I write “with heavy heart,” I lie: I’m treasuring every moment of sleeping or dozing after the alarm has blared.

The 1,000 Big Year makes 2018 simple: rise early, work the morning (6 hours), shun Facebook/emails, plan/monitor, and, as a consequence, churn out 1,000 words a day. Simple 2018 might be, but right now this Big Year is a flop. I’m trying hard to compensate – aiming for six hours uninterrupted – but life’s vicissitudes ensure most days are a failure (sometimes a glorious failure, sometimes not).

What next? Will sunny Spring turn me round? If not, what next?

A break from crime fiction: The Ann Tyler interview

On an extended break from mainstream and literary fiction,  immersing in murder mysteries, I nevertheless had to soak in a wonderful Louise France interview-article in last Saturday’s The Weekend Australian Magazine (originally in The Times), a most rare chat with 76-year-old Anne Tyler, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of 22 books that have sold ten million copies and delighted readers of all reading proclivities. No author could be further from the crime fiction currently filling my head but I just could not resist. I can heartily recommend every paragraph of this intriguing glimpse into Tyler’s life and personality, but of course one of its fascinations for me is this:

Each novel begins with a one-page outline. It is then written, section by section, in longhand with a Pilot P-500 black gel pen. She revises again and again until she types it onto her computer and then writes it out again in longhand. At a final stage she reads the text out loud into a recorder, all the better to hear what doesn’t sound right and make changes.

Oh, and better still . . . Anne Tyler’s 23rd – “Clock Dance” – was published a week ago!

Stillness Big Year: Daily time away from life’s distractions

Ten minutes every day wearing headphones, ten minutes with Andy Puddicombe, the guy behind Headspace . . . any effect? Well, it’s hard to tell. My expectations have always been low, for I treasure my busy mind and am not especially seeking blissed-out mindfulness. And some days Andy’s specific words or teachings make little impression, though I always find a blessed sense of relief in “leaving the world behind.”

The thing is, there is the general “zone out” effect of Headspace, a break that makes sense. But Andy also teaches a number of techniques targeting many different purposes, some of which you can glean from the names of modules: Restlessness, Happiness, Creativity, End of Day, Finding Focus, and so on. And I have to say some of these techniques are slowly but surely having an impact on my wider living.

One ten-day module, for example, is called Appreciation, and all it really teaches you is to sink into brief meditation and ask yourself: “What do you appreciate most in your life right now?” I can’t say the ten days of asking that question generated many profound answers, but now I can summon up that general feeling of appreciation, and, lo and behold, at odd times of the day I find myself smiling as I note something wonderful that I’d otherwise have rushed through unwittingly. I am, in a nutshell, more “appreciative.” That’s a plus, surely.

Freshness Big Year: The winter slog

Three and a half weeks back from vacation and the magic of the Big Year concept has again made itself known to me. Running or cycling down the hill on any of the grey, cold days since then, I was one grizzly old man. But the Big Year dictates I do something every day and sets weekly and annual targets that brook no disobedience. So I’ve swaddled myself in warm clothes and driven those legs through winter’s worst.

And when I examine the results over nearly a month, I’m amazed, for my negative self-talk has been inaccurate. Gym? Three times a week, as prescribed. Cycling? 50 kms each week like clockword. Jogging? The first full week only recorded 20 kms out of the weekly 30-km goal, for I was only able to make myself do short runs, but I’ve hit target ever since.

Absent the Big Year discipline, I’m certain I’d have been a couch potato venturing outside occasionally. Best of all, in the words of R.E.M., “and I feel fine.”