May 11th, 2020 – 593 – Day fifty-six

I’m taking a break from work and about to go out on my daily walk. Weird to think I was too scared to even consider doing this about 3 days ago and now I feel totally fine about getting out and about. More than that, I feel much more contented, even productive as a result. It’s a much-needed change, and I couldn’t ask for a better day. I hope the park isn’t too busy all the same.

TFS is now at 47,400 words, and I feel right this moment, it’s at the mid-point. It’s the end of Chapter 23 and would make a 90K~ story when done, so that’s ideal for me. I also love the twist that I came up with today to break into the second half, and I feel my eventual-imaginary-readers such as yourselves will do too. Sometimes when you write without constraint, the best twists hand themselves to you.

I still think some planning has value, but I’m starting to feel only to sell yourself on the initial story. After that, it’s far better to freestyle it. Without a bit of planning, I think you can get lost in the weeds or rabbit-hole on irrelevant detail, but if nothing else, it’s more fun when I don’t know the exact way things will play out. I know most of it, but it’s nice to be surprised by your own work.

I was just shy of 10,000 steps yesterday, so I will aim to either match that, or if I do start feeling a bit off at least crest 8K. I’m not certain 10K is sustainable, but it did help me sleep better last night. After that, I’ve got some resources to finish adding to the college staff induction page, and then in the evening, I should be finishing up my playthrough of The Secret of Monkey Island. I’ve just reached the cannibals.

May 10th, 2020 – 592 – Day fifty-five

After the success of yesterday’s walk, and a decent night’s sleep – if one where I struggled to nod off as I’m still in a bad ‘switch off’ routine – I think I can say touch-as-much-wood-as-feasible that I have a workable trajectory. If I go for a walk each day, I can start to burn off some of this excess weight and start to limber up for my rowing machine. It also gives me some much needed fresh air.

Even after yesterday went well, I have to admit I’m a bit nervous about going out, if only because I know the rosy image of ‘plucky cheery Brits all in this together’ is a fallacy. Still, for the most part, people seem ok outside, and I haven’t had to deal with any sweary sociopaths myself yet, at least not since the lockdown started. I’ll be taking my headphones and listening to Peter Clines’ Ex Communication. The Ex Heroes series is a great read if a little eerie in its backstory about ‘lockdowns’ and ‘global pandemics’.

I feel TFS is going alright, but whilst I have a window to break into the midpoint of the novel, I still feel the voice is a bit off. It’s got gripping action and suspense, but I want to find a teensy bit more heart, and bring out more of Kim as a character. She is probably my favourite character in the series, so it’s vital I get the vision of her in my head onto the page. Maybe walks like these will help dislodge more gems. I did at least at long last figure out what her McGuffin was. Only took what, a month?

 

May 9th, 2020 – 591 – Day fifty-four

I’ve managed to go up in the world of screen displays. My last monitor was ok, and I do still have it as a back up of sorts, but wasn’t much bigger than a laptop screen. My new one, well, it’s 60″ so it’s plenty big enough. I bought a 5 metre HDMI cable and hooked up my desktop to my new TV, and I’ve gotta say it’s a lot more fun writing on such a huge screen. When I do get back to the flat one day it’ll be a delight to work and play video games this way.

All this is well and good but what of writing? Well, today I wrote at 3pm, so I’m all good for that. I’ll be going to bed as soon as I hit publish on this entry. It’s a big step forward in reclaiming some normalcy in life, or ‘normal-ish’ as I’ve taken to calling my goal. Aiming for normal isn’t realistic in the short term. But today, I made a big step forwards in reclaiming normal: I went outside.

Mum and I went for a walk in one of the nearby parks, keeping a safe distance there and back again. It was nerve-wracking to be out and about, but I’d forgotten how much I love walks. It set my mind straight, and I will now be going for walks near enough every day. I’ll go by myself for the most part, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to rack up 8-10K steps on a good route. If I allocate an hour to walk, then tell myself to get my writing done first, then I should be able to carve out a sustainable routine.

I am not back in full control yet. I don’t think I will be until the lockdown is lifted, but as things stand, I’ve never been closer to normal-ish in this stretch. Exercise is my big goal. Remember 1K is my number 1, followed by ‘fix routine’. That goes hand in hand with stabilising my mental health, but with my confidence to go on walks restored, I can tackle both of these and chuck in ‘get fit again’ for good measure. I have a plan. Let’s see what happens.

May 8th, 2020 – 590 – Day fifty-three

Today was a better day, albeit a bit shorter. I took a sleeping pill before I slept last night, and well, it knocked me out for over 13 hours. That was, unexpected, but not the worst night of sleep ever. As you can tell from this late post, I have been a bit behind ever since. Some of that is also just me being stupid. I got an HDMI cable in the post today to hook up my PC to my big TV, and couldn’t resist playing  my favourite game through on it: Day of the Tentacle (1993). It’s sorta a three way tie between that and ‘To The Moon’/’Finding Paradise’, but I think DotT is still #1. It helps I can play the entire game in my head with all the puzzles.

TFS is going reasonably well, 44,000 words long so getting right to the midpoint now. I’ve even figured out my False Victory for the middle, and it’s a pretty satisfying one. Was emphasising to my best friend today – she’s an artist and needs to believe in herself more because she’s pretty darn good – that close to all artists hate their WIPs. In fact, I think in most cases, if you’re an artist, and you don’t have serious reservations about a project during it, then it’s probably beyond redemption. Lack of tension to me indicates a lack of value. If composition is the unseen art, then what weight can your medium carry if you breeze through it. I’m sure exceptions exist, but idgaf.

Right that’s enough prattling from me. Today was otherwise pretty normal. We raised a glass at 5pm with the street for VE Day, though I’m looking forward to VC Day as some people are suggesting calling the day Covid-19 is stamped out. Guess we’ll see. Oh, and I may be going on my first walk in the park tomorrow, so that’ll be interesting, if a little nerve-wracking. I’ve seen several people hurl abuse and the like at people in the streets, so I’m a bit unsure how I feel about going out into the world.

May 7th, 2020 – 589 – Day fifty-two

One day for every card in the deck, minus the jokers. And, the rules card. And assuming this isn’t Magic or I’ve still got a Beatles-week to go – look point is, man it’s been a while. For once I’ve hit target at a sensible hour – ish – so I’ll be sleeping on time, but today had other upsides after work too. The biggest of all was mums visit, not just so I could see and chat to her, but for the package she bought along.

Restored.

You wouldn’t even know. This side shows the seam clearest, and frankly, it blends in such a way that it could easily just look like that. My step-dad did an amazing job on repairing her, and I can confirm after a few games – most of which I lost but hey I haven’t practised in two days – she’s at full strength. I’m, close to, but I’ve got a bit more of a journey yet.

TFS is now sitting at 42,967 words, meaning it’s crossed what I guess you could call the ‘Spectrum’ threshold. That is, the ‘final’ wordcount of TSS 1.1, the first typed version. It’s also now closing in a bit on the midpoint which I think will make the story a bit easier to write. Intrigue and mystery is my ‘fun and games’ section, and it’s no understatement to say it’s a weak area for me. Practice is needed, hence me writing the book in the first place.

I also finished my third personal journal, the 300~ word page-a-day aside I do after target each day going back to day 5 of 1K. Always feels like the start of a new era, but all of that is for tomorrow. I’d love to stay up and play some more games but I want my sleep cycle back, so I’m taking some sleep aid pills and knocking myself out for the evening. See you on the other side, my imaginary folks.

May 6th, 2020 – 588 – Day fifty-one

I’m starting to accept that I’m not ok, and that no one is really so I needn’t beat myself up for it. Of all things, it took damaging one of my brand new chess pieces to figure that out. My hand cramps betrayed me at the worst moment, and right now I’m waiting to hear back if my Queen can be glued back together.

It took seeing that and realising I felt nothing to realise that the Queen broke a long time after I did. I’m not ok. I haven’t been ok for a long time now, like most people. I’m lucky I have my writing, my novel at 40k and growing every day to keep my mind off things. But I have to accept that I’m struggling hard.

Hope you’re holding up ok my imaginary readers. We’ll get through this. Not as easy to repair as a chess piece, but we will figure it out.

May 5th, 2020 – 587 – Day fifty

Had a rough day. The data rebound back and forth a lot at the moment, but what can you do. Sorry for the shorter post, but I’ll go into the why when the dust has settled. It’s no biggie, bit it’s a bit sad. Only a bit though; after all the world is going through a heck of a lot worse. Catch up tomorrow.

May 4th, 2020 – 586 – Day forty-nine

I, had a bad night last night. Stress had been a bit of an issue of late, in no small part because this is all such a shift in routine for me. As it was, I have been struggling to find my groove, and have acknowledged this. Well, after trying to sleep at 10pm, giving up at ten to 1am, eating half a tube of digestives, and then smashing the rest of the tube all over the bed, I’m willing to admit I may be a teeny bit more stressed than I realised. Just a lil. But now that the elephant has well and truly tooted, I can’t ignore it anymore.

I started today between work jobs getting my bedroom sorted. I did not realise how much my living space had been allowed to deteriorate, but then I was blinded by unacknowledged stress so, no kidding. It’s amazing what you’ll ignore when the pot is boiling over and on fire, especially when using all your willpower to ignore that. With all the detritus and leftover biscuit evidence removed, I managed to make the space much more homely, and with a bit more fresh air, it’s working much better for me now.

I have also made a compromise in my favour on my duty of care, in that I am not watching TV in the evenings anymore. I don’t mind the occasional bit of TV, but I was watching as much as I watch in an average week every single night. That was such a bad shock to my system, not helped because I find watching the news sickening. I get my news online and in written form because it’s easier to cross-check it. TV chucks it all at you with a water cannon and uses brand names to stamp what they say as authentic. Sure online outlets do that too, but it’s easier to pause and open a tab to check.

In TFS world, I feel like I’m starting to find this novel’s voice at last. I’ll need to go back and make changes to make said direction work, but the logline ‘Young impetuous journalist hiding the demons of her past faces up to all too real ones in her present’ has expanded to realising when you need to open up, discovering what you’re made of as a person and reading between the lines. The latter one is a meta and in-story theme and I would love to be able to nail that if nothing else. So all told, I’m pretty pleased so far. Guess I need to keep working on keeping my own demon at bay.

May 3rd, 2020 – 585 – Day forty-eight

So in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, there is a great example of perfect task management built right into the game. When you’ve paid off your first house instalment, you gain access to something called ‘NookMiles+’; NookMiles are a currency you earn for your achievements on the island. With the plus service, you get micro achievements each day, with a starting group of 5 tasks to complete. Often these are ‘Water 8 flowers’ or ‘Hit 5 rocks’ or ‘Shoot down a balloon’. When you complete one, a new task slides in to take its place. The original 5 all gain you bonus points too, meaning even as new stuff slides in, those remaining of the 5 should still be a priority.

This is a Perfect time management model. Some of the smartest and most productive people in the world advocate for picking your top priorities and ignoring any others until those are done. In other words, saying ‘here is a list of the 30 or so things I need to do. These three are the most important. I will ignore everything else until these 3 are done.’ The thing I adore about AC:NH approach is it acknowledges you will have other incoming things, but that the ‘original highest’ still demand more attention. If you can pick off a newbie when it slides in with no effort, sure, do it. That’s the same as doing any two-minute actions right away.

Say you’re in a work situation. You have a backlog of some 50 tasks – me right now at work – and you identify that ‘Build this user guide’, ‘Fix this issue on the website’ and ‘Run this report for the day’ are your top 3.

You start one, and then an email comes in – not a call, ignore those, if it’s important they will put it in an email. Answer calls from your manager, not from anyone else. The email is an important request. You still have your top 3 slots full, so you complete task 1, then review your remaining list.

This new email is important, but just a tad less so than the OG 4th place item on your list, “Send update email to manager about X”. That 4th placer now slots into your 3 task rota. You start on task 2, and when that’s done, the email you got slots in as your new 3rd task. Now it’s ok to work on it.

To review, you started out with:

  1. User Guide
  2. Website Issue
  3. Report
  4. Manager Update

You started on 1, and this email came in:

  1. User Guide
  2. Website Issue
  3. Report
  4. Manager Update
  5. New Email Task

You finished 1, and then everything bumped up by one. Note, even though ‘Manager update is now in the top three, it’s still less crucial than the remaining two original ones.

  1. Website Issue
  2. Report
  3. Manager Update
  4. New Email Task

You complete the website issue task, and now that new request falls into your top 3.

  1. Report
  2. Manager Update
  3. New Email Task

While that report is still a crucial task for you, if the Email Task is quick, it is now ok to do it because it’s in one of your available slots.

I’m no David Allen, so I would need to polish this up a lot more to make it much use to anyone, but I think Imma try this model for a few days and see how it goes. It’s nice being able to decree ‘not until I have a free slot’ rather than the far more vague ‘when I have a moment’ or even the premature promise ‘in a bit’. I’ll update on how I get on with this in due course.

I hit target half an hour ago from me writing this line. That’s a huge weight off my shoulders because it means near enough no matter what, I can get an early night tonight and fix my routine. I need that so bad at the moment. My next big task today will be catching up the Bullet Journal, from all the way back on the 17th of April. That’s how bad I fell out of my routine. But that happens, and it’s more important to pick up the pieces and get back on track than flagellate myself, in a punishing sense. Not that the other sense is productive but, you know I should think before using words like flagellate…

TFS is now 38,500 words long. The scene I wrote today should be a real nail biter with some polish applied to it, but I’m still conscious that in its current form, the story is very much a series of events, not quite a story. It’ll take some careful reflection, picking of themes and key plot devices. I have done a bit of said tweaking already but it needs oh so much more. I’d do that today but it’s about 7th on my list, so got to clear a lot of other major tasks first. Wish me luck.

May 2nd, 2020 – 584 – Day forty-seven

My routine is still a mess suprise suprise. The one good thing right now is I’ve gotten good at playing chess against myself and I’m finding it a lot of fun as a zen activity. I still play on the chess.com app too of course, but not against other people just yet. I’ll get there but confidence and stability need establishing.

Writing is in a bit of a stronger position. I’ve managed to get a decent B-Story going, but I think this one is going to need a ton more edits than VOL and WHT. I always knew there was a high chance of that – it’s what happens when you write freeform. Even so the core story is working pretty well. I just need to keep chipping.

Fixing my routine is my #2 priority second only to writing each day. My three goals at the expense of all else are:

1. 1K*

2. Fix routine

3. Lose weight. Or, I think 3 is lose weight. This one is tricky because as much as alcohol and the extra junk food are fattening, they’re also keeping my mood stable. So really I think it’s actually…

3. Stabilise mental health so I can focus on losing weight.

My job fits into 2, so don’t worry I haven’t lost sight of that. So next actions:

1. Write a thousand words*

2. Transfer BuJo backlog to journal after 1 tomorrow.

3. Relax tomorrow after 2 so I’m refreshed for Monday.

Can’t put a price on a good plan.