New books: Winter and The Lost Continent

Bought these at Shakespeare and Company in Paris, which is not what it used to be (a fantastic secondhand bookstore), and has lost a great deal of its character and charm (no more wishing well), but still stamps books. For the sake of nostalgia I bought these there. Ali Smith’s “Autumn” was a delight, and I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t read any Bryson yet, but I have heard good things about him.

As for the last pile, Neil Gaiman’s “Art Matters” is a lovely little book, excellent as a gift, and the illustrations are magnificent. The rest still await for me to finish reading Ann Leckie’s “Ancillary Sword“.

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New books: Winter and The Lost Continent

Three Good Things

After reading the great “How to Be Miserable” I decided to start keeping a “three good things” journal at my bedside and write in it every night, right before I go to bed.

The idea is to write three good things that happened to you today, and if possible attribute them. It breaks off the habit of always remembering the bad, upsetting or embarrassing parts of your day, and I also found that it helps me (together with regular journaling) clear my mind and fall asleep sooner.

The good things don’t have to be large, sometimes they’re just a nice meal that I shared with someone, or something good that I read or watched, or just a friendly exchange with a friend or someone at work. The thing is, once you start doing it you:

  1. Realize that even in the shittiest of days there is something good to remember.
  2. Train your brain to look for those things throughout the day, so that you can have something to write down at night.

I’ve been using the Field Notes Resolution weekly planner for that, but you might want to use something larger. I just chose the Resolution because it gave me a reason to use the notebook, and it’s small enough that I’m sure that I will have something to write in it every day.

Three Good Things

My 2017 – an utterly positive roundup

 

2017 was the year I ran a race in my underwear.

I also read 42 books, almost twice as many as I originally planned on reading.

I finally finished the first draft of my novel and started working on the second draft.

I went on the Big Thunder Mountain Ride in Disneyland Paris, despite being afraid of heights, and I ran a 5k and a 10k mere hours apart in the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend.

I translated and heavily adapted a Parsley game for a friend’s wedding, arranged a Tabletop Day gathering, played  and I started playing Pandemic Legacy 2. So far Matt Leacock is killing it with the story on this one.

I saw and enjoyed Wonder Woman, and I saw and loved Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I planned on going to more movies (I can’t believe I missed Coco, but travel plans will do that to you), but I’ll make up for it in 2018 I’m pretty sure.

I ran three 10K races, two 5K races (and 3 virtual 5Ks), more kilometres than I have ever run in a year (over 700), and I broke my 10K PR. I ran like through downtown Washington to the Mall and Lincoln Memorial, and through Greenwich Park all the way up to the Greenwich Observatory. I learned to appreciate yoga.

I joined Tel Aviv’s Urban Sketchers and went to sketchcrawls in Jaffa, Neve Zedek, the Carmel Market, Rothschild, and Florentine. I drew 100 people in a week as part of Liz Steel‘s challenge, and I sketched more frequently than I ever have. Learning to let myself experiment with my drawings, let my lines be looser and fortunate mistakes to happen has been a revelation that I plan on exploring more in 2018.

I journaled each day for most of the year, and finally started filling all those notebooks I bought. 2017 was also the year I fell in love again with Moleskines, but more on that perhaps later.

I challenged myself to take a photo a day, and succeeded, and I plan on continuing with that challenge in 2018. It makes me stop, look around, think about composition, lighting, atmosphere — all things that are valuable to me both as an artist and a writer.

2017 wasn’t without it’s challenges, fears, troubles — but it was also full of triumph and hope, good things that I plan on carrying on with me to 2018 and beyond.

Happy new year!

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My 2017 – an utterly positive roundup

General update

  • My to do list today is 45 items long. It’s 10AM and I still have 33 items to go.

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  • I’ve been using the Forest app for the past week to cut down on my phone time, and especially my twitter time. It’s a fun take on the Pomodoro technique that basically lets you set a timer to plan trees in your forest. The tree grows when you finish your timer without touching your phone (you can have the phone play music or a podcast while your tree is growing, you just can’t fiddle with your phone). You can also accept calls while the tree is growing, but you can’t make calls/text/check apps etc. It’s a good gamification of the Pomodoro technique, and a beautiful app.
  • I’ve finished rewriting chapter 2 and am back to rewriting large swaths of chapter 7. Forcing myself to cut ruthlessly cut things down.
  • Reading John Scalzi’s “The Human Division” and thoroughly enjoying it. Also indulging in M.C. Beaton’s “Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House,” because I can.
  • Started working on my 2018 resolutions. It’s the fourth year that I’m doing
  • My (mechanical) keyboard is creaking. It’s time to swap out the keycaps and lubricate the switches a bit.
  • Cutting down on Apple technology podcasts. Getting a bit fed up with them and more interested in podcasts with more interesting content than “guess how much I love my iPhone X”.
  • That being said, I upgraded to an iPhone 8 (not a Plus or a X on purpose), and I’m OK with it. Still frustrated that it doesn’t have a headphone jack.
  • Ran a game of Parsley that I wrote for a group of friends using Discord, and it was a roaring success. Planning on running another game like that soon.
General update

This week’s recommendations

  • Book: The Night Watch, Sergei Lukyanenko. An urban fantasy that has restored my faith in the genre. Very Russian — melancholy, self-reflective, intelligently and subtly written — and very good. Lukyanenko takes Russian folklore and breaths new, modern life to it in a set of three interconnecting stories that have a fresh take on the concepts of good and evil.
  • Podcast: Writing Excuses. This 15 minutes long podcast is all the inspiration I need lately to get my ass into a chair and write. What more do you need? (They need a new, more modern website, but the podcast is great, trust me).
  • Tea: it’s been too hot and I’ve been too lazy to drink much of it now, except the occasional cup of Fortnum and Mason’s Assam Superb in the morning. A fabulous Assam, but still too expensive to wholeheartedly recommend.
  • Also: finally saw Wonder Woman and loved it. A fresh, nuanced take on a superhero movie that doesn’t apologize for having a female lead.

Jaffa street view
Old Jaffa record store baking in the sun

 

This week’s recommendations

Hey, Hey, What’s Going On?

  • I’m working on the second draft of my first novel (so far in Chapter 3 of 22), and outlining and discovery writing my second novel. Scrivener has been a blast for this too, allowing me to manage my characters and references to them without resorting to another tool (I’ll try to do a post about that later on).
  • I meant to give The Rook another try (I got annoyed with it after 30 pages during my first go), but due to a lot of upheaval at work, I started reading Linchpin instead.
  • Two of my co-workers (two of the best), are leaving: one to go abroad, and the other one to a different department. That’s made me rethink my future at work, whether I need to move as well and pick up a new area of expertise or not. After a lot of anxious soul searching I realized what I’d forgotten in all this mess — my dream isn’t to work in tech, it’s to be a writer. My day job is what allows me to write while keeping a roof over my head, nothing more, and every minute that I invest in it is a minute in which I’m not writing. This whole ordeal just made me want to double down on writing even more.
  • I’ve got a busy month and a half in July and August, and then things will settle down a bit more. My updates here may be sporadic as a consequence, as I prioritize my writing and running instead.

 

Hey, Hey, What’s Going On?

This week

Writing: Working on the outline of my next novel, and planning the second draft of my first one. Tough work, but there is progress, and progress is what I’m looking for.

Reading: Finished the delightful second Vinyl Detective instalment, “The Vinyl Detective — The Run-Out Groove“, by Andrew Cartmel. Enjoyed it very much, and can recommend it if you’re looking for an intelligent pick-me-up. On the verge of finishing “The Night Watch,” by Sergei Lukyanenko. A very Russian, darker but not dark-for-dark’s sake urban fantasy that is well written and sophisticated. Nothing like the childish dark urban fantasy novels that I’ve read lately.

Running: Got back on track this week. Getting myself used to progressively longer runs, and finding out that they aren’t so bad after all.

Drawing: except for a few quick doodles, nothing this week. I’ll try to get a quick watercolour in this weekend.

Also, if you are even a slight fan of Jane Austen, or like improv comedy, you will love this 30min comedy special by BBC Radio4: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08tvyw0

Latest flea market finds: two tins, one a WWII US Army First Aid Packet copper tin, and the other a British made Dunlop “Midget Repair Outfit” bicycle repair tin.

This week