Weeknotes 2021-06-13: The right sort of fear

Lookahead

Looking forward to this week: Finding out what my brain is thinking, now that I have some time to listen to it.

Not looking forward to: First post-lockdown dentist appointment in a long while.

A square of light falls on a wall, alongside a dressing gown hanging from a door.

Monday 7th June

Started the week and ended the holiday with a cold shower. Not out of choice, just the result of a small water tank, but I made myself enjoy it. Not as cold or as salty as the sea last week, anyway.

Drifted back along the coast after seeing the centre of Bournemouth and various family members. This past week, I’ve been switching off a lot – in terms of plans and timelines, as well as expectations.

I wasn’t sure (are any of us?) if it would be weird meeting up with the wife’s family after such a long time. Some of them have moved house. The kids have got bigger. New roads have been built.

So I’ve just enjoyed seeing what turns up with each busy hour, then relaxing when I can. It feels like a long time since I’ve just settled into days like that. It feels good.

This week I’m signed up to the Writer HQ’s free course on short story writing, so I spent the evening reading and watching some short stories. I peeked a bit at tomorrow’s lesson and wrote some stuff down. Maybe I’ll wake up and feel like a fraud.

Tuesday 8th June

Blogpost Dharma Nerds: The Art of Seeing seems to tie nicely in with storytelling – we use words to set a scene, imply actions and emotions, and trick the brain into filling in the gaps. Perhaps the same is true for setting out bold visions and grand strategies which, after all, are not much except a structured story of a possible future.

First day of a new chapter and you can do anything. Where do you begin? (After making coffee, obvs)

Wednesday 9th June

I can’t remember the last time I had two days off off, like no pressure to do stuff, or even to enjoy myself. Decades. It’s therapeutic, I tell you.

I’m happy exploring accidental conversations and links which look like they might be relevant (hello again, Twitter and Mastodon!).

I’m also really enjoying the quickfire Writers HQ course: I’ve always struggled to "shape" a story beyond some initial paragraphs, and the exercises are pushing me to think much more about endings, and about "being interesting". In practice, that means being more interested in myself firstly, which I tend to deprecate because, well, attention is scary. But I love words, and being able to wield them better seems like not just useful for flash fiction, but for the story I want to tell about what I want to do next – and how I tell that to myself as well as to others.

Thursday 10th June

Okay, day three has been… Fun?

I woke up with a chunk of energy seeping through my veins. I tore out the old, towering broccoli bushes with dilapidated flowers, and trimmed the bush by the front door. I closed down some browser tabs to save a handful of Watts and brain cells. I started some networking, came up with a new google doc to structure my plans (in my head it’s designed in the style of a board game board, so has been christened The Big Board despite it fitting on one screen*).

I looked up some free online events to start attending (wow so many!) and carried on writing for the week’s course. Also managed to get to the dentist. Feeling good.

A few things I’m trying to consciously avoid:

  1. Doing too little. Honestly, I do love slacking and gaming, and it’s too easy to just pick up Bomberman online and kill an hour. Save that for the evenings.
  2. Doing too much. Fingers in pies and apps in groups make it easy to over commit and get fragmented and frantic. The gameboard doc aims to limit focuses-in-progress (FIP?) and – ideally – will let me keep a balance, but let me adjust that balance on a regular basis. Not quite sure how yet, but that’s the intent.
  3. Getting lost. At least half of what I do should fit into some sort of longer term plan. Anything not part of a loose ‘roadmap’ plan should be kept fun, and not take over.

Having vague plans and unstructured time reminds me a bit of my MSc days (except I’m my own supervisor now). Mental note to dig out those memories and channel them.

Friday 11th June

Channeled the Masters days by setting aside an hour after the morning school run to read something of interest, sat In a cafe. Really fascinated by this permacomputing article/manifesto which sets out a lot of where my brain is at these days.

Carrying the pro(ductivity/fessonalism) into the end of the week. The big game-style board sheet is my fitness coach and sounding board, and reminds to do what I should, not what I’d like to. For me, procrastination comes from fear, rather than laziness – especially fear of completing/finishing and opening up my own ideas, in case someone rubbishes them.

But the Big Board demands progress and so I neatened up my personal "business plan" document and sent it to a prospective accountant. Let’s get this ball rolling.

(The key thing to remember about Business Plans and Strategy is that they’re all made up, all stories dealing with the uncertain future, and just there as guides and references for You in 3, 6, 12 months. So they don’t have to actually be right, just they should make sense, and just writing one is better than not. So, scary-but-not-scary, and the completer-finisher brain needs to remember that a plan is never complete.)

I also dropped Marie Prokopets a personal development question on her ProductHunt AMA ("Ask Me Anything" – a chance to pick the poster’s brains on their experience). I focused on this time of personal transition that I’m going through, and she gave a lovely answer that reminded me that being scared is healthy – if change isn’t scary, it’s often not challenging or interesting.

And by happy synchronicity, a copy of Transitions, by William Bridges turned up, as recommended by Steph.

* Absolutely a Doctor Strangelove reference, well spotted. I’m happy running my life according to cold war paranoia rules.

Reflection

Do I know what my brain is thinking more now? Kind of. I think I’ve got a bit more confidence in the thoughts running through, and in myself. I know I just need to get out there and talk to people, and I’m getting some energy to do so.

Was the dentist as bad as I’d thought? No. Spent 5 minutes waiting, 5 minutes being checked over, and 5 minutes paying. Fastest £23 I’ve ever spent.

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