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.

Turning Pro – Days 3 & 4

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This is the third and fourth 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.

I’m playing a bit of catch-up today and reviewing the sections “The Addict As Dramatic Hero” through the end of Book One. Unfortunately, I had a tough time relating to Pressfield in this section of the book. Although I enjoyed reading about his time picking apples in Washington state, and living all alone in a cabin with just a cat and a typewriter, I haven’t had a life like that at all. Moreover, I don’t think that creative professions require itinerant lifestyles to succeed. I see how it could be helpful not to be bogged down with the routine of a 9-to-5 job, but I don’t think it’s necessary. However, an idea I do agree with is that it is easier to break the cycle of addiction when one is freed from a routine that supports it.

Later on in the book, I came across a quote that resonated deeply with me:

“All addictions share, among others, two primary qualities.

  1. They embody repetition without progress.
  2. They produce incapacity as a payoff.” 

Pressfield goes on to mention some specific addictions, none of them surprising, especially one we’re all familiar with these days: distraction. We talk about how we just can’t stop checking Facebook or ponder why we know who the Kardashians are, but even these superficial protestations belie our priorities. For me, checking Facebook is the embodiment of the phrase “repetition without progress”.

This section ends with some musing over the pain of being human, and again Pressfield’s wording gives me some trouble because I don’t think of the struggle of life in terms of an “upper realm” that I cannot reach, not exactly. Or maybe I am thinking about it this way without this particular Platonic phrasing, because when I write, I do glimpse something else, something Other, that exists outside my paltry experience of reality. His words left me wanting a more practical metaphor, but perhaps I should try seeing it his way for a little while. I did like this quote: 

The addict seeks to escape the pain of being human in one of two ways — by transcending it or by anesthetizing it…. The artist takes a different tack. She tries to reach the upper realm not by chemicals but by labor and love.” 

Labour and love. Now these words I like.