Words are a lifelong education

Author Big Year

I first came across COPACETIC in one of James Lee Burke’s florid, brilliantly written Robicheaux series. The hero’s sidekick, out-of-control Clete Purcel, uttered the words in casual conversation and I had to scramble to my dictionary. The word means “very good or going very well” and it’s a dialogue word, not an in-text word.

It turned out James Lee Burke would trot out this word too often for my liking and in recent years I’ve dropped his books. But Nadia, the hero of the brilliant “Russian Doll” Netflix series (I’ve reviewed Episode 1, with the other episodes’ reviews out soon), uses the word, much to my pleasure. But here’s the amazing thing. Nadia’s utterance was the first time I ever heard “copacetic” spoken. I’d assumed it’s pronounced “coppa-ketic,” which has a nice ring to it. No, not at all! Nadia pronounces it “coppa-setic.”

Isn’t language wonderful?

Big Decade climate change impetus: Read this!

Big Decade and climate change

34 central banks issued an open letter five days ago, outlining how the world’s big banks reckon they should act as climate change accelerates. More worrying, though, is the language of normally reticent bankers towards the end of the letter:

“The stakes are undoubtedly high, but the commitment of all actors in the financial system to act on these recommendations will help avoid a climate-driven “Minsky moment” – the term we use to refer to a sudden collapse in asset prices.”

My corporate career, among finance professionals, never produced this kind of emotion. The back of my neck crawls.

Wings Big Year: A Corella

Wings Big Year

I’ve been noodling away at the subject matter for this Big Year, namely what is birding and why do I care and what might I need to know in order to write about it. But my internal debate has stultified. Yesterday, in Docklands of all places, I spied some Little Corellas, waddling on grass, with other species, pecking away, and I stopped to admire their handsome features and purposefulness. I realized this project needs a restart. I’ll go back to square one: much has changed in my life recently, is birding still so important?

Author Big Year: Day 139

Author Big Year

Last Thursday I wrote: I’m still trying to shed a five-week-old, minor, yet annoying, cold, so I rose an hour late. First-thing tasks meant I got to my Finders Keepers table as late as 10 AM but then I settled in, better than I have for ages. What’s changed? Well, for one thing, the next five weeks are quiet ones at home. For another, some of the acute mental anxiety over the plots of a couple of chapters seems to have abated, seemingly subconsciously. And soon Gentle & Tusk #2 will be out in the world and I can stop fretting over that. In any case, I worked really well for four hours on Chapter 11, the economics story. 673 words, rather pleasing. Eight hours in all. Good.

Author Big Year: One hour will do

Author Big Year

Katoomba up in the Blue Mountains. Three days of more or less remote hiking, three days of short day hikes and touristing. A brief haven period before our final group dinner and I get a leave pass to True To The Bean, a lovely “espresso and waffle” cafe. Sorting out my “stuff” on tablet and online takes a little while but now I get an hour to write. Golden!

Creativity as stabs of light

Creativity and sleeplessness

Marina Benjamin writes, in her memoir “Insomnia,” that sleeplessness can be regarded as a blessing. I endorse her elegant view:


This is what I wish to effect in my own life, the better to discern the flicks and flecks of pink so casually strewn across my fields of vision and experience. I want to flip disruption and affliction into opportunity, and puncture the darkness with stabs of light.

2018 Stillness Big Year: Take that, mindfulness!

Stillness Big Yesar

Last year, I successfully spent ten minutes each day setting up a mindfulness practice, or at least the beginning of one. Well, here’s what Marina Benjamin, in her brilliant kind-of memoir, “Insomnia,” thinks of my efforts:


I have long believed that mindfulness has its limitations. It overvalues the present moment and neglects the way the human mind wants to knit together past and future, lived experience and speculation, so creating conditions for narrative thinking or autobiographical orienteering. With its resolute and faithful focus on a single object of thought, or on doing away with thought altogether, mindfulness is about as edifying as praying to a toilet roll.

And again:


I have come to the conclusion that mindfulness is much like tidying the house. It is focused and satisfying in concentrated spurts, but it lacks a direction of travel. It seeks to keep things as they are. It leaves the world unchanged.

Author Big Year: Days 74 to 105

author Big Year

I haven’t reported for a while for the simple reason that it’s been a tough period, which by now has amounted to 32 days. Remember the goal is 6½ hours of writing work a day, making due allowance for downtime. Well, I had 9 days off during this period, and the overall average achieved was 5½ daily hours. But the disappointing aspect was that I only spent 2 hours/day on the only thing that really counts: drafting words. I’ve been swamped by book production and marketing strategy and setup.

I can’t do much about the future. I’ll do better and report more often.