This Week

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Politics have no relation to morals.

Life

This week started with a birthday bang and ended with a wistful whimper.

First of all, thank you for your birthday wishes. It made my day so much brighter to hear from you. I smiled all day long.

Well, almost all day long: that evening, poor FunkyPlaid got hit with a nasty flu. We spent the rest of the week huddled inside our chilly flat with bowls of homemade soup and purring cats. Not such a bad way to spend the time, except for the flu part. (He is feeling much better now.)

One of my birthday gifts from FunkyPlaid was a Misfit Shine activity and sleep monitor! I finally got to switch from Fitbit. I’ve used Fitbit devices since 2010 and all of them have had miserable battery life. The Shine uses a watch battery that should last 4-6 months at a time. It also tells time, and I can wear it many different ways instead of just in a crappy plastic wristband. So far, I’m pleased with it. Time to take it for a run and see how it does.

Week 2 of 12-week wellness programme: I am doing well with some aspects and not so well with others. I already have a lot of experience with paying attention to the various foods I shove into my face. However, I’m rubbish at group interaction because it’s all done through Facebook, plus most of my group is in a different timezone. But I have a peer coach now and we’re going to work together via email, so I feel okay about that. 

In general, I’m not feeling that great about my life right now. The birthday week was a good distraction, especially because I was more social than usual; I scheduled plenty of Skype sessions with faraway loved ones and had coffee with Babs at Artisan Roast. But now all that is done and I am again facing a bunch of unhappiness.

And Leonard Nimoy died.

Work

Not much progress happened with JDB1745 this week, as we rethought how to structure the location authority. I cannot wait until this part of it is finished, mostly because we have been doing authority work for what feels like forever and its payoff is so “of course, that’s what a database is supposed to do.” 

One thing I learned from the weekend gig this week: many of the “life hacking” feeds I read don’t mention the importance of being a good coworker. I think it is far more essential to be a good coworker than it is to achieve inbox zero every day.

Here’s my top three suggestions on how to be a good coworker:

  1. Leave your bad mood at home. I’m not talking about venting here and there; we’re all struggling with our lives outside of the workplace, and it’s good to be able to share your gripes with your friendly acquaintances. But the second we allow the residual negativity to impact how we do our work, it becomes everyone else’s problem too.
  2. Refrain from discussing your religion or your politics. Think of how you’d feel if someone started expounding the virtues of something you really, really disagree with — and you are trapped in an already awkward social situation like a workplace, where you’re not sure how to confront someone on that without it impacting your future working relationship. 
  3. Do something that will make a coworker’s life a little better. If you appreciate the job that someone does, tell them. If you know one of your coworkers likes a tidy workspace, tidy up a little bit of it. It doesn’t matter how small this is, as long as you show that you realise that our lives intersect in this place called work.

Writing

No blogging this week. What started as a birthday-day break ended up a week-long break. I have a few last book-club posts to write.

I took a bunch of handwritten notes for a short story in progress. Handwriting my drafts is working so much better for me, I’m kind of surprised that I forced myself to work against this for so long.

Hobbies

I had these once, I think.

Media

I finished reading “Turning Pro” and restarted “The Bees”

FunkyPlaid and I saw “Birdman” and I loved every moment of it.

Top artists I listened to this week:

  • Postmodern Jukebox, again, always.
  • Bo Burnham, and I’m still on the fence about him. He’s a bit frantic but I love the wordplay.
  • Kevin Hart, which won’t happen again. I made it through four tracks of his live comedy album before giving up.

FunkyPlaid and I gave up on watching “Dead Like Me” and switched to “Pushing Daisies” which is superior in every way.

Ink o’ the Week

I received five new ink samples from Goulet Pens’ Ink Drop, although I’ve only tried one so far, the lovely Caran d’Ache Divine Pink in my Esterbrook Dollar Pen. It’s fuchsia, in the best way.

The Lamy 2000 still has J. Herbin’s 1670 Stormy Grey in it. Still so good.

This Week

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Rhythm.

Life

It has been cold in Edinburgh but not so cold that I can write that without apologising deeply to my family in the godforsaken tundra. Still, biting cold. Right now it is raining and the rain, I can say with authority because I was just standing in it waiting for a Sunday bus, is the kind of rain that wishes it were snow so it lands like little stinging hail-drops.

On Tuesday, FunkyPlaid and I went through to Glasgow to visit a friend and help her with some computer issues. The photo above is of her cat sitting on a silver platter atop an old Scrabble set. She was perfectly happy to sit up there (because it was near the radiator, I think) and the sight of it made me giggle.

Fitbit step-count: ~50,000 steps out of my 70,000 weekly goal. Not great, but better than last week.

I am supposed to be reducing caffeine and sugar while on the 12-week wellness programme I mentioned. I haven’t done well with this. My justification is, as usual, that I already have to give up croissants for the rest of my life and now I’m supposed to give up tea and Junior Mints? So I’m a big baby and I need to get that under control. But Thursday I met Kaite at Cuckoo’s Bakery and had a gluten-free banana and sea-salt caramel cupcake with hazelnut tea and I didn’t feel guilty, not even a little.

Okay, a little guilty.

Work

The JDB1745 naming authority work is complete! Well, as complete as things like this ever get, which means it is as polished as it can be for this phase and we really need to move on to location authority work next so, yeah.

As I was entering trial deposition data this week, I discovered yet another instance in which our data sets do not conform nicely to a template and require some creative thinking. This has to be at least 80% of database design for me: I think I’ve got a template that works, and then when I start entering data I see, nope, no, there’s more than a few instances in which this template just does not work.

As for the weekend gig … well, I wish the entire working world would get on Slack already because my work email inbox is a terrible place anymore.

However, I work with lovely people who wished me a happy birthday-eve. I am lucky and grateful.

Writing

I blogged the heck out of this week (thanks, book-club).

I also wrote a scene from a short story in progress, and am excited to write more. Part of this has to do with the book-club pick, and part has to do with me finally accepting the fact that I do my best creative thinking with pens and paper, not in front of the computer.

Hobbies

What are those again?

I did download SimCity BuildIt but after about an hour of gameplay I found its freemium bullshit unbearable: here, waste your time until interesting stuff happens, or pay real-world money to make it happen sooner. No thanks. Deleted.

Media

I haven’t read anything about my bees this week because it’s been all about “Turning Pro”. What? You haven’t heard me talk about this book one million times already? Right. 

CN Lester’s “What cis men could learn from trans masculinities” gave me a lot to think about this week. I often think about gender and identity and, especially now, the politics surrounding them. I try to write about these ideas with compassion and respect, and as I have so much more to learn I am glad that I can rely on CN’s intellect and insight to help me along the way.

Top artists I listened to this week:

  • Holy Other, a recommendation from Scott. Good electronica, great writing music for me.
  • Glass Animals, which we were listening to in the car on Tuesday. I had forgotten how much I liked it.
  • The Handsome Family, because John Hodgman sang “So Much Wine” on his podcast and I loved it so much I wanted to hear the original. (I liked Hodgman’s version better.)

Hey, I decided to watch the first episode of “Better Call Saul” because I heard mixed reviews about it. I enjoyed it, and I think I would have enjoyed it even if I hadn’t seen “Breaking Bad”. That’s saying something. 

Ink o’ the Week

Tweet o’ the Week has been replaced by Ink o’ the Week! I love fountain pens and ink and I have to have a place to express that. In the future, I’d like to post ink tests and reviews here; for now I will share my “daily carry” pens and what they are inked with:

  • Lamy 2000 – J. Herbin’s 1670 Stormy Grey, deep coal-grey with flecks of gold, a perfect Scottish wintry grey
  • Faber-Castell Loom Piano – Diamine Damson, the plummiest plum to ever plum

Turning Pro – Day 7

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This is the seventh day in a series of posts for Desk’s digital book-club pick, “Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work” by Steven Pressfield (Open Library). The series begins here.

Today I read from “My Own Moment of Turning Pro” to “The Professional Lives in the Present”. I don’t have much to say about this part of the book, because what I found most valuable was the reiteration of the qualities the professional possesses that Pressfield listed in “The War of Art”. (I won’t list them all, because I think that book is definitely worth a read, but my favourites include “The professional shows up every day” and “The professional does not take failure or success personally”.)

However, I think we can all have a feeling or two about this quote:

The amateur tweets. The pro works.” 

But I love Twitter! 

… I know.

I have been guilty of tweeting about cool things, or retweeting others’ cool things. And it’s not like I’m going to stop altogether, but it is easy to convince myself that I have made movement toward becoming a writer by retweeting other writers or tweeting about the act of writing. Even this meta-talk about writing is a bit amateurish on my part. (I’m choosing to forgive myself because all this reflection is in the name of turning pro.)

Pressfield adds a nice juxtaposition at the end of this section: the professional is ruthless with himself and the professional has compassion for herself. Yes, we should not hesitate to murder our darlings, as the famous phrase goes, but we should also guard the joy that comes from creating. It is a difficult balance.

Turning Pro – Day 6

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This is the sixth day in a series of posts for Desk’s digital book-club pick, “Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work” by Steven Pressfield (Open Library). The series begins here.

Today I read from “The Amateur will be Ready Tomorrow” to “Rosanne Cash’s Dream” on my lunch break at work. And then I uncapped my fountain pen, cracked open a brand-new Rhodia dot-grid A5 notebook, and wrote a full page of fiction.

It’s not good writing, but it felt great.

I read the section called “The Tribe Doesn’t Give a Shit” with amusement. This is a part of the process, maybe the only part, that hasn’t bothered me much personally. I know fantastic people in this world and yet I have never once felt as if I am part of a group of people I need to impress. Pretty early on I internalised the knowledge that I should just do what I enjoy doing and not worry if I fit in anywhere. In Pressfield’s words:

“When we truly understand that the tribe doesn’t give a damn, we’re free. There is no tribe, and there never was. Our lives are entirely up to us.” 

So Pressfield keeps talking about going pro and I want to know what he means already. I want steps. I want something to act on. He senses this like magic and tells me, finally:

When we turn pro, we stop running from our fears. We turn around and face them.

Fair enough. I’m pretty sure I know what this means. It means that when I sit down to write, I write. I don’t let the fear of never being good enough stop me. When I have an idea, I write it to completion, even if it goes off the rails and can never be rescued. I write. I finish. I do the work.

I got this.

Turning Pro – Day 5

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This is the fifth day in a series of posts for Desk’s digital book-club pick, “Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work” by Steven Pressfield (Open Library). The series begins here.

Today I read from “Accidental Incapacitation” to “The Amateur Lives in the Past” and a few quotes stuck out to me. The first was:

“Fear is the primary color of the amateur’s interior world. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of looking foolish, fear of under-achieving and fear of over-achieving, fear of poverty, fear of loneliness, fear of death.” 

Sure. It’s impossible not to relate to this quote. Pressfield goes on to state that the pro is just as afraid, so that’s good, because I don’t see losing my fear anytime soon. I read once that bravery isn’t the absence of fear, anyway. Or maybe that was just Peter Quinn in “Homeland”. #quinning

I bet Quinn doesn’t even have a Facebook account, so the next quote doesn’t apply to him at all:

“The amateur fears solitude and silence because she needs to avoid, at all costs, the voice inside her head that would point her toward her calling and her destiny. So she seeks distraction. The amateur prizes shallowness and shuns depth. The culture of Twitter and Facebook is paradise for the amateur.” 

Well, yeah. The Internet is the ideal environment for the amateur. There is always a website or fifty, vying for one’s attention, constructed in such a way that the experience feels engaging even if it is comprised of a set of completely passive interactions.

I also think that Twitter and Facebook can be powerful tools. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves: time spent on social media isn’t creative time. It can be constructive, but there’s a difference. I think that’s what Pressfield is getting at here.

One more quote that struck me:

The amateur and the addict focus exclusively on the product and the payoff.” 

I agree with this, because I tend to get very caught up in what the result will be of what I am creating. “Where will I perform this? Where will I sell this?” This is not to say that I shouldn’t be savvy about markets or gigs, but rather that I have lost the excitement of creation for its own sake, focusing instead on its packaging and the eventual (I hope) reward.