The State of Affairs

  • I’ve been running 25k per week for a few weeks now, with a 10k long run included.
  • I’ve started doing daily push-ups for the past week (30 per day). I still need to get back to doing strength exercises.
  • I’ve been reading a lot more and writing a lot more. After a bit of a slump, I decided to give the Streaks app a chance. It’s been helping keeping me on track so far.
  • My second draft has been going in some ways better than expected, in others worse. I hated rewriting my university papers, and I thought that rewriting a 120K word novel would be a pain, but for some reason it isn’t a hassle at all. The first four chapters were simple fixes, but I hit a giant plot hole that I hadn’t noticed once I reached chapter 5. I trashed chapter 5 and chapter 6 completely, writing them from scratch (on the bright side they’re much shorter and better now), and it looks like chapter 7 is going to have to undergo the same treatment. Writing a novel is a process, and I’ve learned a few things about writing since I started, which means that scenes that I wrote almost two years (!) ago just don’t work right now. At least I’m enjoying the process so far, though it is a rather lonely one.
  • Gratuitous photo of a gorgeous Tel Aviv summer sunset from yesterday’s 7k:

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    The State of Affairs

    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

    When things don’t go entirely as planned

    Several things didn’t go as planned this week, as I had a few unforeseen schedule changes, a bit of bad luck with my running, and a pretty bad day at work near the end of the week. As a result, both my running and my writing suffered (I missed a writing day and my long run is going to be 6k instead of 10K).

    So what do you do when things don’t go entirely as planned?

    Get back on the horse — so you missed a day, or didn’t make your daily word count, so what? Projects that are worth doing don’t live and die on a day (looking at you NaNoWriMo), but on accumulated body of work done over several weeks, months and years. Do you know what is entirely unhelpful to achieving that work? Getting so caught up in you missing a day that you decide to give up entirely. Get back on the horse, get back to fulfilling your daily goal today instead of fixating on what happened yesterday. .

    Don’t go into a spiral of trying to make up for the lost work — that’s a great way to set yourself up to fail. If you set 500 words or a 5K run for today, you probably aren’t going to be able to do that and make up for the 500 words and 6K that you missed yesterday. So then you beat yourself up again, feel crummy, and set yourself up to fail by dragging more and more work with you from day to day until you give up. If you missed a day, then you missed a day. Move on.

    Focus on what did happen — in my case, my reading this week sky-rocketted, and I spent more time with my family. That doesn’t make up for everything else, but it is something positive that I’m glad happened.

    Partial work is better than no work — I ran a 0.5k this week, which sucked, but was better than nothing. There were also days when I wrote only 20 or 30 words. That’s not great, but its better than nothing, and every little thing can keep the habit going.

    Check what went wrong and when, and see if you can learn from it for the future — were you too ambitious? Do you need to rework your plan to account for something that you couldn’t foresee when you first built it? Don’t make excuses, but do be honest and make some changes if necessary.

    Leave enough ‘breathing room’ in your schedule for these kind of off days — this was my biggest mistake, and the one is going to be hardest to fix, long term. My running schedule can (still) suffer a few delays, but I’m prepping for a race in the fall, and I can’t really afford to leave things like my long run for the evening of the last day in the week. Earlier is better, and making sure that your goals are achievable even if you aren’t at peak performance is important — especially for endurance sports like running and novel writing.

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    Some beautiful dahlias to make up for the slightly depressing topic.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going out for a run.

    When things don’t go entirely as planned

    This week’s recommendations

    Podcast: Download. Jason Snell, with Stephen Hackett as a editor and a rotating pair of guests talk technology in what is the most charming, informative and polished of tech podcasts. Worth listening to if only to hear the “story you might have missed” segment.

    Book: World War Z, by Max Brooks. Forget the movie (it has nothing to do with the book), and forget that this book is “about zombies,” because it isn’t really. It’s an “oral history,” very well written and researched, of a plague of the kind that exposes our humanity to the very core — all the good, all the bad, laid bare. A facinating and disturbing read precisely because it is so very realistic.

    Tea: Lately it has been nothing but Yorkshire Tea, in dependable teabags, brewed stronger than you would believe possible and taken with milk-and-sugar. My aunt died last week, and at times like this I look for “comfort tea,” simple and soothing in its familiarity.

    Also this week: Nasturtiums are hanging in there, despite the hot weather.

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    This week’s recommendations