Writing Big Year: Abstract and Niemann and creativity

I’ve already posted about this but let me keep sharing Niemann’s hard-won conclusions about creativity (I’ve taken notes from all over Abstract’s Episode 1, don’t expect my notes to retain overall coherency) (here’s the YouTube official trailer for the 8-part series):

I’m convinced you always have to change direction while things are good. . . . I need to be in control and I need to have a very clear sense of where I’m going and why something is working and not working. On the other hand I’ve also realized that being more free-spirited is needed. I’ve found that I need to develop these two personas separately. . . . be a much more ruthless editor and be a much more careless artist. This I find psychologically exhausting but there’s good stuff happening there. . . . I take very specific time off for this kind of free creation because I know it’s basically impossible to do under a deadline. Literally just sitting in front of a piece of paper and just doling stuff and being fearless . . . there’s something there that I need to go back and investigate further.


Writing Big Year: A full refresh

A big year is meant to give you 365 days of existential certainty: “come what may, every day I know what to do.” Well, the Writing Big Year has shifted completely and I’m redefining it.

Put simply, my 2017 goal was to wake up early every day and draft the nuclear power book. To get my 20 chapters done, I recast the year as the next fifteen months, that is, I’d finish Chapter 20 in March 2018.

That target changed completely when I finished Chapter 3. I now have Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 5, plus an earlier draft of Chapter 4. I don’t think they’re too bad. But if the full book was meant to be 800 pages (I know, I know, it’s long!), well, the first five chapters should take up 200 pages, but the tale I’m telling goes way over 200 pages. Two choices: trim or do something else. If Joe Publisher instructed me to trim, of course I would, but there’s no Joe Publisher, and cutting down would be such a wrench, and in any case, I think the story I’m telling is damned good enough. Conclusion: don’t trim, do something else.

What does “something else” mean? I’ve now taken the decision (thanks Daniel Kabel, thanks Pam Kabel) to publish in three volumes. The titles on this blog’s image are jokey-fake but you get the picture. Each volume covers a quarter century. And I’ll accord myself the thrill of self publishing (in ebook and print-on-demand forms) Volume I as soon as I can. But I won’t let off the pressure to draft the whole saga.

So to avoid doubt, as the lawyers intone, the Writing Big Year is recast:

  • Rise early
  • Protect the writing cave and write
  • Draft Chapters 1 to 13 (two thirds of the book) by December 31
  • By December 31, publish Volume I
  • By December 31, also publish an old murder mystery (why the hell not?)

(Next year’s main big year will be a continuation, completing all drafting by May, publishing Volumes II and III, and commencing another writing project.)

I now have a week-by-week program. I begin.

Fitness Big Year: No easy solution to a poor start (Part 2)

Cycling is such fun! I can’t believe how liberating, how natural, this sport is. But I spilled again the other day, reminding me what a novice I am, and haven’t found adding distance or speed as easy as I’d fantasized. Bum on seat, pumping legs while the upper body is oddly tensed, seems to stress this old human more than running on concrete ever did, and that’s a huge negative surprise.

Right now, with 46 weeks to go, even if I settle into a routine of 100 kms a week as planned (and I’ve yet to achieve that), I’ll end up 300 kms short of the year-end goal. What to do? Blithe answers – go for some of those 100 km rides all the regulars do on Saturday mornings, or just add an extra weekly ride for a couple of months – don’t work. Writing is far more important, so I just don’t have the time!

If it comes to the crunch, I’ll even retrench my aims. But right now, I make a decision to work towards an extra 10 kms a week. I’m not even sure which ride I’ll extend. I can’t even summon the mental energy to program out the year. So for now I’ll just have faith that over the next month or so, I can gradually up weekly distances and at the same time bolster speed in order to keep this cycling gig to a series of modest intrusions into my writing days.

Fitness Big Year: No easy solution to a poor start (Part 1)

6 weeks in, 46 to go, and something needs to be done. I’m over my minor injuries (courtesy of the red theraband in the photo) but all my 3 goals loom  large, maybe even to an insurmountable extent.

I’ve been to the gym ten times this year and easy calculations tell me that, allowing for quite a few weeks when I simply won’t have access to a gym, my 100-workout target is way under water.

The solution? Easy. Trot to the local gym thrice a week rather than twice, as often as possible. This doesn’t fill me with joy – I’ve never fallen in love with weights – but my propensity for ongoing physical niggles suggests that upping the conditioning could be a good thing.

So I can handle this issue. The other two are more intractable . . .


Big Decade: The war against coal

This year, for me, is 3 Big Years, of writing, fitness and rock music. It should, oh it should, also include joining the war against coal. Nothing contributes more significantly and directly to the heating of our planet than the mining and burning of coal. We needed coal but that time is gone.

So . . . so not much. I’ll find a way to contribute dollars towards the anti-Adani campaign in Australia but this year’s time is taken. Sigh.

(Image from Michael Leunig’s website)

Rock Music Big Year: Christoph Niemann on pop music

Episode 1 of Abstract: The Art of Design (on Netflix, check out its trailer here) is a revelation! I don’t binge watch, but I’m going to chew up these eight episodes. Apropos the Grammys, here is Christoph Niemann nailing why my Rock Music Big Year so wonderfully fans the embers of my love of rock music:

The idea of pop music is not to invent a new story but to tell the same story again in a new and interesting way.

(Image is from Netflix but I sourced it via this Curbed review)

Rock Music Big Year: Can the Grammys help me?

Yesterday morning I did something for the first time in my half century of music listening – I took a look at the Grammy results. I mean, look, everyone knows they’re a vortex of suckiness. Of the 84 category winners, I have only heard two – David Bowie’s Blackstar, intriguing but surely too avant to line up against the Adeles; and Flume’s Skin, also too challenging for the rap/country set. I saw Ron Howard’s Eight Days a Week doco on the Beatles. But serendipity slapped me: Cage the Elephant, a wonderful band, won Best Rock Album for Tell Me I’m Pretty, an album that inexplicably bypassed me. Stick it on the list and sigh with relief that scanning the Grammys list was a waste of time but not a complete waste of time. (Image of Cage the Elephant from here)

Writing Big Year: Taming the tumult

Congratulations, Andres, you’re working so damned hard . . . but on the wrong things. Well done, kiddo, your Big Year (rising early, harnessing energy, etc.) seems a big success . . . but you’re considering messing with it. A change in writing/publishing strategy is afoot . . . but you can’t imagine transforming yourself. Sharp advice sneaks in (thanks, Daniel Kabel) . . . however, imagine the wrench of such a revolution!

All this is a way of saying my beloved has gone hiking for a week and loneliness threatens. But the week is also an opportunity. Drift all alone, grow calm (call it mindful, if you like), sketch options and their implications, and find the space to change course.