The role of songs versus albums . . . esoterica for most, but I’ve always eschewed the “hit single” in favour of the more meaty album. Pondering the role of music in my life, pondering a Music Big Year of some sort, the “30 Days, 30 Songs” notion resurrects that debate. (By the way, I’m not criticising this playlist per se – the first two artists, Death Cab for Cutie and Aimee Mann, are among my favourites.)
Check out “Productivity and the power of trust.” A short interview clip but coming from Charles Duhigg, whose new, wise book I’ve just worked through, and from Susan Cain, hero to us geeks, I read it carefully. It’s true, psychological safety is, for some of us questing souls, hard to obtain. I like to think my Big Years, within a wondrous family and life, offer me a refuge, at least a little.
Unexpectedly, a wonderful two months of hiking was affected by the Jogging Big Year. I’m investing much emotional energy into that year, so distancing myself from it for so long – two months! – worried me. Luckily, part of the running commitment, one I rarely allude to – is that I’ve committed to stretching (a long-established routine of one hour) – each and every day of 2016. By hook or by crook, no matter what country I was in, I managed to fulfill that resolve. Peace arrived, like a dose of Zen.
One hundred books a year, two a week, is a thrilling prospect and goal, yet most of us shrink from the very idea. Consider a most intriguing course, How to Read a Book (the image above is taken from the its website) from a most intriguing blog site, Farnam Street.
My Reading Big Year (2025?) will aim higher, maxing out the fun.
Twice recently, in rambunctious social gatherings, dread has seized me, completely unbidden. I recall one specific thought: Armageddon is nigh. A dead weight settled over my chest.
Both times the sensation departed as quickly as it arose, but I’ve kept thinking about the topic. Like melancholy, dread is a therapeutic notion in small doses, an emotion preventing complacency.
My Dark Novel Big Year – a novel so dark my family should reject it – might slot into 2021, so it’s distant. But the book’s idea is a first page I drafted years ago, and it’s somehow always close to my heart. I felt it again this week. Welcome, blackness.
In the September issue of the Australian Birdlife magazine, Jonathan Franzen, my hero in more than one regard, was asked in interview (in Papua New Guinea of all places) about “the appeal of traveling the world birding.” I swooned over his response, here’s one angle:
And also it gets you to places that would otherwise not get to go. I spent the first half of my life going to churches and museums in Europe. Now I arrive in Italy and my first question is, “How do you get to the nearest sewage treatment plant?”
Oh, for a Birding Big Year!
Laraine Herring in her On Being Stuck: Tapping into the Creative Power of Writer’s Block:
Begin keeping a word bag. . . . These bags can contain any word you gather throughout your day: single words, phrases, sounds, textures, smells, tastes, experiences. You can keep them on your smartphone, record them in an old-fashioned notebook, or even write them on slips of paper and place them in an actual bag. You don’t have to know why you’re selecting the words. You don’t have to know where or if they’ll fit. You are just creating a nonlinear word record of your day.
August and September were hiking months with only sporadic opportunities to jog. I got out only twelve times, mostly in the first half of August. The overseas runs were invigorating and seemingly speedy enough, but I knew the terrains were mostly flat, so upon returning last Sunday, I wondered how I’d go. Well, the first jog soon after the plane trip was grinding and my slowest (on that route) since February! Had I really lost eight months’ worth of hard work? Monday’s jog on a different route was the slowest since May. Yesterday, on yet another route, energy surged and my pace was about the same as before the jogging holiday. Thank goodness!
I’ve posted a few times my ongoing observations from working through this book for the second time, little snippets that haven’t amounted to much. Today I finally conclude my rereading.
Do you have a habit you wish you could get rid of? Scoffing biscuits an hour before dinner might, for example, be one. Well, Duhigg does offer fresh insights. Gather research over a couple of weeks. What is the cue, the moment and the motivation that triggers needless eating? What is the reward? This research needs to be thorough, for the cue might be subtle. For example, the thought of impending dinner might not just trigger raw hunger but a desire to “call it quits for the day.” So: cue = 5 PM thoughts of dinner; routine = overeat; reward = relief from the stress of the day. Now, here’s what you do – replace the routine with something else that satisfies the same reward. In our case, we might set an alarm for 5 PM, grab a book and walk five minutes to read for fifteen, and the same reward results: aaah!. Systematically stick to the new routine and after a few weeks, bingo, the Tim-Tams rot in the pantry.
The trouble is, I don’t seem to have many really bad habits, at least in my own mind. At this point in my life, I’m more interested in creating “better” new habits, and here Duhigg’s book isn’t, for very good reasons, as helpful. It helps to appreciate how cue, routine, and reward combine to form a big new habit, but the hard part is determining exactly what the new habit should comprise, and having the motivation to instil it. That, I realise, is tough.
A Big Year is, it seems to me, a highly specific way of instituting new habits. The cue is a brute force one: do something every day for a year. The reward is whatever yearning or fascination impels the Big Year activity in the first place. After 365 cue/routine/reward repeats, on December 31, hopefully something of a new, intoxicating habit will have formed. Let’s see!