What a wonderful interview by Brandon Stosuy at The Creative Independent, talking to GQ writer Zach Baron. Maybe I’m a better writer than I was when I began, but one skill that I’ve made no progress on is interviewing. I’ve done quite a bit of it but am still shambolic. If I could implement these five tips, surely I’d improve?
A tough, sometimes anxious weekend up in snow . . . I don’t like snow, my body doesn’t like cold . . . not wishing to exaggerate but those eighteen hours above the snow line troubled me. At the same time, the scenery was spectacular and an enormous beauty paraded before me.
In both those circumstances – a testing time or a wondrous time – what could be more natural than being “mindful,” using the lessons of all those Headspace sessions to ease my chattering mind and “be in the moment”? Well, it turned out that I never gave a moment’s thought to any of my sitting-in-a-chair meditations. Headspace, you failed me.
Of course, the rational mind opines afterwards, the real lesson is, Andres, that you have a long way to go with Headspace and meditation. Your education is only just beginning.
Deciding what Big Years to do over my sixties is obviously of paramount importance. In May I decided to drop one planned such year, a Tough Hiking Big Year during which I might do the Tour du Mont Blanc, say, or the Western Arthurs, or some other famous slog. I figured I was done with masochistic challenges to self.
Last weekend we climbed the North West Spur up to Mount Feathertop, Victoria’s second highest peak. Once this hike would have had me sweating but confident. Now, underdone and less strong, the 1,000-metre ascent slammed my quads and, most weirdly, had me huffing and stopping. It was as if I were beginning pack carrying over again. At the end of two days, I was spent.
But here’s the mystifying aftermath: something in that unenjoyable battle sparked an ember. Isn’t this, after all, glorious? Doesn’t a physical test that gets you into remote, beautiful locations offer profundity. Should I reconsider the May decision? The jury is out.
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.