Primitive writing tool – the index card

First things first . . . I’ve nearly drafted my entire Chapter 2, but that word “nearly” means “not nearly at all.” To tame the unruly slag heap of research material, I’ve taken to scripting plot points that move around a bit in time (we’re in the late 40s and early 50s). Scripting software is available – Scrivener is one fine choice – but feels too much tailored for fiction not nonfiction, so I’ve resorted to pen and scraps of paper. I now have all but four of my plot points drafted but what I’ve got is marred by jarring continuity and mistaken duplications. Some of it flows and works, but some is a mess.

So I’m slowing down again and writing out plot points on old-fashioned cardboard index cards. Shuffle . . . shuffle . . . shuffle. Primitive, eh?

Jogging Big Year: Boon or peril?

Six months in, am I positive or negative about my every-day-activity 1,600-km obsession? Let’s talk physical first:

  • Without a doubt my fitness has improved; it would be surprising if such a ramp-up of activity didn’t show up in stronger muscles and enhanced cardiovascular performance. I like this uplift. Run times, though still slow, are maybe 5% faster. The times when I gasp like a dying fish are less frequent.
  • In spite of much whinging, and anxiety about “breaking down,” here I am, still upright and mobile.
  • Finally, accustoming the body to very regular work seems to pay dividends for general health: no colds, ditto stomach disorders, good energy levels . . . all round “healthiness.”

Would I have gained these benefits by just “resolving to run more,” instead of hammering daily, daily, daily? The jury is out on that question.

And what about more general existential questions? Does a Jogging Big Year make a difference? More on that another day . . .

How to rescue a wrecked Big Year

It’s just after mid year (EOFY I would have labeled it in a former life) and one Big Year – that of the jogging obsession – is, I reckon, swimming with head above water.

But the other, far more crucial Big Year – the writing one – has hit an underwater shoal. In truth, it was a flawed, if deliberately over-ambitious aspiration for 2016. Imagine the fear in confronting the primary work target for one’s year! I’ve taken the overwhelming step of turning one Big Year into two Big Years. Now to ensuring delivery . . .

I only have three weeks until an extended hiking trip, so reassessment is vital. If I knew how to shift existential purpose with a casual pen, well, I would. But it’s difficult. And so it should be. The work begins . . .

My Cranes Big Year: when oh when?

I’ve been trying not to think much about my aim to conduct a Cranes Big Year, twelve calendar months during which I seek, see, photograph and write about all the crane species of the world across every continent. This is a very different “big year” to jogging more, or writing more productively, or devoting time to activism. The “cranes” notion is an unbidden one, coming from deep inside. In some sense, the cranes have spoken to me.

Well, a sixty-year-old needs to schedule the more physical years earlier rather than later, so I’ve been avoiding cranes. But take a look at this photo of brolgas at the Western Treatment Plant! David Adam, a member of Victorian Birders, has captured a familial scene I’ve never witnessed. As soon as I saw this shot, I knew the Cranes Big Year must be bumped up in the queue. David, thanks!

How to run fast . . . or slow . . . or fast

You run four times a week, every week. It’s familiar, right? So you can decide on any given day whether to run slower or faster, right? Well, it doesn’t work that way.

Sunday’s jog was like punching through molasses, horrid and slow from the beginning. The next day seemed no different but when Strava gave me the first kilometer split, I realized I was travelling fast, very fast for me. Off I went. This morning, running early after a rainy night, I felt just as good as two days ago, and anticipated a similarly sweet Strava call, but no, I was slow again. A different slow – hey, I felt fine – but slow indeed. The three days’ average paces (minutes/km) were 6:21, 6:11 and 6:22. We’re talking a difference of 300 meters!

So . . . if you’re an athlete, I guess you can fine tune fast or slow days. For the bulk of us thudding around the streets, running remains a mystery. The best you can do, it seems to me, is to take the slow days with the fast.

Reviewing – a future Big Year – and new Book Mark site

Lit Hub, the interesting website for readers, has decided to do for recent books what Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic does for films, i.e. aggregate and average public reviews. It surveys a wide range of publications, and whenever a new book gains enough critical mass for three or more reviews, Book Marks pronounces an A/B/C average rating and sums up critical responses. The Book Marks website is vibrant and attractive, and there is some benefit to being able to quickly ascertain a book’s reception. But I’m not partial to Rotten T and doubt if I’ll use this site. Just as a parcel of Amazon reviews can be superficially worth examining, but always ends up as confusing because you just don’t know where the reviewers are coming from, I believe in following individuals, critics with consistent outlooks and standards.

A few years down the track, I intend to do a Reading Big Year, reading some three or four books a week for all fifty-two weeks of the year. Should I review them all? The idea is most attractive, if scary.


How to cut distraction: Build a brick wall

There are so many ways to organize a day, especially if you’re willing to rise before everyone else. Distractions abound. I decided to try a different way of structuring time. As soon as I’m up in the morning, I will write uninterrupted until noon. I call this the AM Brick Wall, a barrier cutting everything else off. No newspaper, no email, no Facebook, no SMS. Let’s see how this idea fares.

Jogging Big Year: the role of the physio

My left foot: recurring twinges of near lameness in that outer edge under the ankle . . . occasional arch soreness . . . two months old . . . random recurrence during jog . . . random recurrence sitting at a desk . . . time to visit a physio, someone cognisant with regular exercise, someone who won’t prescribe useless rest.

When failure morphs into deferment, do we cry?

Am I disappointed that my core goal for 2016, to complete a draft manuscript, has turned to ashes? Am I disappointed that what I said would take one year will take two?

Of course I’m stricken. Or rather, I was stricken. But aiming high and failing can bring rewards. I aimed for something I can’t deliver. But now I see what I can aspire to deliver. If shipping the book takes two years, not one, but I’m at last confident, deep down, of getting there, then I can sigh with relief, pick up pen, and get to it.