Last year I listened to an album each and every day. Every 3 days, I stopped and jotted down some notes and a rating (archived on a Pinterest board). At the end of the year, and into the early part of this year, I bemoaned the fact that, while pleasant, that intense effort didn’t restore my love of music. I was listening no more frequently than back in 2016! Well, the strangest things happen . . . suddenly, nearly a year later, my rock mojo is back. At home, on the street, at work in a café, gorgeous modern music plays. It’s a tonic and an inspiration!
Ha! I was delighted to see that one of my heroes, artist and creativity inspirer, Austin Kleon, recently posted about “My year with Thoreau,” his daily reading of the abridged journal of Henry David Thoreau. By any other name, I call that a Big Year, and his post makes it clear it was a fruitful one. Take a look!
(Image from his post)
Amidst time pressures, I’m managing to stick to an hour of afternoon time on researching “how to publish.” Now that the crime novel is out there, I reckon I understand at least the basics of general self-publishing. I’ve turned back to researching what I’ll need to do extra for the nuclear history book, and my first topic of research is photographs.
Histories contain photos. Where do you get photos from? Well, you can’t just cut and paste them from Google. Using a seemingly public Internet photo might be okay for a Facebook post that only a handful of friends see, but if you stick an image, unacknowledged, in a book you’re selling, there is a real risk that the image’s copyright owner will come to hit you.
One source of photos is image databanks run as businesses. Shutterstock is the one used by most general image users. Shutterstock images aren’t always cheap but mostly they’re modestly priced. But surprise, surprise, Shutterstock doesn’t have many nuclear history photographs of use to me.
Getty Images owns what might be the world’s best images. They charge accordingly. The Getty collection has some brilliant, relevant photos. Searching for “Walter Zinn,” one of my main characters, produces six photos, four of them relevant (I feature a screen shot, blurred somewhat, assuming this quirky blog won’t thereby incur copyright wrath). One of them is an image I have never seen before, one never used in any book. I take a look: it costs $650 and is “editorial only,” which I take to mean can’t be used in a commercial book!
Imagine my disappointment!
Call 2018 a well-meant mistake. Too many Big Years, full of strictures . . . failure of the most important ones. It’s one thing to acknowledge defeat, it’s another to move on. Right now, I need, deep inside, the knowledge of that daily call to discipline and action. Right now is a busy time but I have some ideas . . .
Once upon a time, not long ago, I used to run 10 kms at a time. In 2016 I ran that distance 170 times! Now, for reasons either physical (injury, cold) or mental (loss of willpower), I’ve been reduced to building up distance very slowly.
After 2-kilometer jogs around home, I increased to 3 kms, then 4 kms. I ran a 5-km route through my local streets. Then a few days ago, I ventured down to the Yarra River for the first time in months. Such peacefulness after busy concrete! My aim was to run 5 kms, something I used to do along the river so, so easily. Well, I stopped to walk-and-run after 2 kms, utterly daunted by something I couldn’t name.
Back to footpath running . . .
I’ve posted how disappointing this Big Year has been. Perhaps it can’t be called a dud but a success? No way.
But I should note one interesting observation that arises from asking this crucial question: after ten months of striving, am I more “fresh” or “energetic”? Or have I gone backwards and sapped energy through trying too hard?
That’s not an easy question to answer. Yes, exercising has remained a good daily habit (if not 100% adhered to) but compared to my 2016 and 2017 fitness, I’m a sludge right now. Yes, I have corrected some dietary aberrations – I drink less on average, I don’t max out on cheese and I snack less – but so what? I’ve struggled with early morning energy but is that attributable to the failings of this Big Year? So much has happened this year, including the flop of another Big Year but, on the other side of the ledger, wonderful times with family and friends, publication of a book, and much “life learning.”
Am I fresher? Or do I have lower energy? Has the Big Year influenced this judgement one way or the other? For what it’s worth, here’s my threefold verdict: (I) I feel strong and fit; (ii) whether my days sizzle with energy depends more on intrinsic resolve and sense of vision; and (iii) experimenting hard with exercise/diet regimes positions me well for a surging future. If this Big Year hasn’t panned out the way I wanted, I’ve kept at it and learned so much.
This is meant to be a selfie of me hunched over, lamenting the trashing of a Big Year. The photograph didn’t work out as planned but I’ll let it stand as it does convey a little of how wounded I feel. How weird, I hear you say, how weird to worry about odd annual targets that no one else knows anything about. It’s not weird to me at all, I respond.
This Big Year was designed badly. It’s way too complicated. It doesn’t inspire. Its goal is obscure. My second most important focus in 2018 IS NOT WORKING AS IT SHOULD. But there is hope . . .
I began 2018 saying I wanted to be “balanced,” “fresh,” and “energetic.” I set a bewildering array of daily “must dos”: exercise 9 times a week to cycle 90 kms, jog 30 kms, and visit the gym 3 times; AFDs (alcohol free days) on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, cutting average daily alcohol to 2 standard drinks; set alarms to go to sleep and rise; cut out platter cheese and afternoon snacking. You can see what I’m aiming for, a holistic mix of good daily habits. This aim unravelled early.
By March I realised I couldn’t afford the cycling hours and cut that from 90 kms a week to 50. By April I was barely hanging onto curtailed annual goals without any firm weekly habits. A big hiking holiday set back my regular exercise fitness considerably and in September I cut my annual cycling goal to 2,000 kms (only half of my original goal, which makes a mockery of that original notion). My jogging target was cut to 1,000 kms but then a leg injury and a cold reduced me to shuffling 5 kms on each jog instead of the confident 10 km runs I was doing throughout 2016 and 2017. My cycling has almost stopped. Motivation is low.
The complexity of the year was nonsensical, really but right now where am I?
Look, a basic commitment to daily exercise remains strong. After all my travails I have gotten out and exercised 75% of my days. I don’t call that good enough – certainly that’s not a Big Year – but it’s not irredeemable. If I can build my jogging back to 10 kms, I think I can hit 900 kms for the year, substandard but a base for next year. I’ve lost my cycling mojo and hope to get out enough to clear 1,500 kms for the year, a pittance really. And I’ll do well to end up with 70 weights sessions in 2018, not enough to justify the gym membership.
All those other silly little goals? (They’re not silly, they just shouldn’t fit into a Big Year.) I haven’t faithfully stuck to Mondays to Wednesdays alcohol free, but over the first ten months of the year, I have averaged 3 AFDs per week and 2 glasses per day, as desired. (But to be honest, I’ve only done okay because of Dry July, a month off the grog.) No, I no longer eat platter cheese or snack before dinner, but hey, aren’t those trivial?
So . . . if I ever do a fitness/exercise Big Year again (and I certainly don’t plan one for 2019), I’ll make it dead simple and an inspiring impossibility, rather than this “Freshness Big Year.” For now, I’ll push on to the end of the year, seeking to exercise daily and restore my jogging and cycling capabilities. I’m not happy with this but 2018 is what 2018 is.