writing

Working hard at Procrastination

Procrastination. It sounds such a positive activity. We all love Crastination! Crastination for all!

Verb; To crastinate:  to dither about doing anything other than what is required at that time.

Presumably someone who does everything smartly to time, besides being anally retentive and a colossal bore, should be guilty of anticrastination. As I am a definite Pro on the subject of crastination,  I should be a Grand Master Crastinator.

I don’t see anything wrong with procrastination. Lots of useful stuff gets done as a result. I just wish it didn’t take up so much time to put off doing the things that really should get done. There is a time and place for everything, as they say. However finding precisely when that time and place is for certain tasks is profoundly challenging for the Grand Master.

There are a few things I really want to spend time on. These are my noble and cerebral exploits. And given that these are exploits of my own choosing, one would think they would be easy to slot into my working day (now free of any real ‘work’). But no. Grand Master Crastinator that I am, I find attending to the small and mundane tasks to be infinitely more satisfying than the noble deeds to which I wish to assign my time.

I have three personal goals at this point in my life. That’s it. These are the only things I should be focused on right now. So how do I lose days, weeks and months to ‘other stuff’? How do my Time Bandits (© Terry Gilliam) manage to rob me of whole days and weeks?

We all have our Time Bandits. Laundry is so much more vital than revision; alphabetising the book shelf really must be done before the assignment which is due tomorrow. And so is true with my own goals. Even though these are challenges I set myself, things I truly want to accomplish, they are challenging. They are arduous and hard. And so I find myself whiling away the hours on useful, necessary, but not essential activities instead of applying myself to what I really should be doing.

Take writing. I want to write, I truly do. I want to create, and gain wider recognition for my work at some point. But finding the time – there’s the rub. Even with no work to hinder me, the hours and days run away and still no words appear. My latest diversion was to create a calendar so that I could plan out when to write. Yes, I spent time planning when I could have been writing!

Procrastination is the bane of life for so many of us. Why do today what could just as easily be done tomorrow? To quote despair.com:

Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.

Not quite the same – I’m busy, just not doing the right things.

So how do we arrest these pesky Time Bandits? With a Plan, of course (just not as an excuse to actually working), but moreover with a rethinking of Priorities.  I like the tale of the rocks, gravel and sand. You may have read a similar tale:

Rocks, Pebbles, Sand – The Important Things in Life

A teacher took a large jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, about 2 inches in diameter. When the rocks reached the top he asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The teacher then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The teacher took a bag of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “Yes.”

He then emptied out the jar and refilled it in reverse order: Sand, pebbles, then rocks. This time, he could not fit all the rocks into the jar.

“What changed between these exercises?” he asked the students. He saw a sea of blank faces.

“The jar represents your life,” said the teacher. “These rocks? They are the most important things – your family, your friends, your health, your interests. The things most central to your being.”

He picked up a handful of sand and a handful of pebbles. “These,” he said, “represent the little things, the necessary but not important, the routine tasks. As we saw, if you fill the jar with sand and pebbles first, there is no room for the rocks.”

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, mow the lawn.

Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand and gravel.

With this parable in mind, my focus is now more firmly on my goals. So if you drive by my house and see the lawn overgrown, paint peeling and a gate swinging on its hinges you will know. I’ve finally got a handle on my rocks. Either that or the Cialis finally kicked in.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

What do you want to be when you finally grow up?

I suppose it’s the nature of ambition to look at the grass over the fence and yearn for something more, something different, something ELSE, that isn’t what we have. We strive our whole lives to grow our careers, to move to a bigger house, buy a better car. Our benchmarks are always upwards, always those who have more, or better, or faster, or sexier. Never downwards, to those who can only dream of attaining the station we have already reached. And then, at some point in life, we realise the material is not what matters. Success is measured in so many ways other than possessions or status. When I retire from my paid employment, it matters not what my workplace achievements were, the savings we made or the efficiencies of process we implemented. All this will be undone by the next bright young things in any case, eager to prove their worth to the next generation of MBA graduates eager to prove their worth to the corporate beast.

I truly admire those with the strength of conviction to step off the moving belt. To step away from the rat race and try to live their passion. I think back to The Good Life with everyone’s favourite girl-next-door, Felicity Kendal alongside Richard Briers, playing Tom and Barbara Good as they attempt to create the self-sufficient farming lifestyle in Surbiton, a suburban neighbourhood outside London. Okay, so this was a sit-com. Not everyone gets to share their idyll with ‘two puppies in a sack’ Felicity. She would certainly have provided a worthy distraction in the long evenings with no TV, that’s for sure!

But I digress. There are a good many real life Goods who have chosen to follow a path less trodden through this life. So many people, with the absolute conviction that they have the answer. I’m not talking about those with the get-rich-quick schemes we like to ogle on Dragon’s Den. These folk are no better than the rest on the Corporate Juggernaut. No, I’m talking about those driven by a passion to create. The writers and artists with the cojones to believe in their talent and their dreams, and with the tenacity to drive through with these beliefs through the hard times and the good. Some of these people are truly talented. Others have an average ability but they have the  tenacity (and possibly the wealthy spouse, I’m not sure) to allow them to pursue their dreams.

Emma Watson wallpaperExample 1: JK Rowling She is clearly a gifted story-teller at least for the first three books. Without her tenacity, though, we
would all have been the poorer for the lack of Harry Potter in our lives, and Ms Rowling would no doubt still be a struggling writer living in an Edinburgh garret. She did at least allow us to enjoy watching Emma Watson grow into a fine young woman 🙂

Example 2: EL James She managed to make a fortune out of a bad piece of soft-porn fan fiction. The whole 50 Shades saga is the epitome of pulp fiction (and not the ultra-cool Tarantino version). It is every housewife’s fantasy version of BDSM – all breathy spankings and not a hint of the pain a real cane strike might inflict on a naked posterior. Ask any English public school boy. Well, maybe not. I’m sure most of them are probably paying to repeat their schoolboy experiences as we speak.

“You don’t appreciate a lot of stuff in school until you get older. Little things like being spanked every day by a middle-aged woman. Stuff you pay good money for in later life.”
Elmo Phillips

But there we have it – I’m sure you can think of many more examples of people with mediocre to average talent, but with the tenacity and the balls (and no little luck) to drive through to success.

So that’s me – that’s what I want to be when I finally grow up. I want to be a writer with the cojones big enough to believe that I have something to say that the world needs to hear. I obviously need the financial wherewithal to finance this endeavour, and so I do subscribe to the weekly Redneck Pension Fund. But when all is said and done, if I can get my words published, and say I am a real writer, I will be a happy man as I move closer to the bright light, it is to be happy in my creativity.

If that means I need to write a BDSM fan-fiction, so be it. The research phase should be fun if nothing else, and that rope-tying course I did in Scouts could come in useful.

I’m a Liebster Lover !

Liebster 2014

Wow – my first blogging award. Thank you so much Pempi’s Palace. I’ve enjoyed my blogging experience thus far, but we all need food and my creative beast has a voracious appetite. During the April A to Z Challenge the Beast discovered lots of new crumbs of encouragement and grew as a result. Now this larger Beast is in danger of withering away in the face of a much reduced diet of follows, comments and views. Damn you, stats page. Can’t you lie just once?

Pempi clearly knows a thing or two about being a supportive little blogger. She’s an elementary school teacher, which makes her well placed to critique my writing, and she clearly knows a thing or two about managing tantrums – another known trait of the lonely blogger. It si heartening, despite everything I wrote in A to Z (and you can see the whole sorry month of effort by clicking on the A to Z 2014 link in my menu bar), that Pempi showed the admirable compassion to nominate me for a Liebster Award. Pempi, you should know that in some small way, your action has encouraged me to continue in my quest to create the written equivalent of a tomcat’s nocturnal serenade.

Just a little bit about The Liebster Award (from the German word meaning lovely or valued). It is an award to blogs with a small-ish following typically below 200 followers and is a recognition of that blogger’s work to create more interaction in the community. It is given to say I like your work – and although compared sometimes to a chain letter nothing bad happens if you don’t want to accept or pass it on.

As a grateful recipient of this Award I am required to send a cheque in the sum of $1000 to Pempi’s Swiss bank account and pledge my children’s college funds to her retirement pot. These things I would gladly do if within my ability. Sadly, the wardens restrict me to $1 per week for essentials, so instead I will opt to answer the 11 incredibly personal, though-provoking questions set by Pempi. I then have to find 5 more victims recipients to nominate for their own Liebster Award and set them 11 teasers of my own. As you will by now have guessed, a Liebster is not a rare beast, but it is the first Award anyone has thought fit to nominate me for since – well since whenever, so I’m taking it like an Oscar winner.

So, without further ado, here are my innermost secrets:

1) Who was one of your favourite teachers and why?

Tricky question as it assumes I had any favourites. Actually I find this question highly discriminatory. What if I had been home-schooled? Or raised by apes or wolves? Also, school was so very long ago. I struggle to recall the names of my children, and on more than one occasion I’ve been close to divorce for getting my wife’s name wrong (hence why men use nicknames – they can give all their ladies the same name). I had a few least favourites, notably the ones who attempted to improve my education via my bottom.

I do one teacher who was somewhat fun. He was my deputy head from primary school. The only thing I remember about him was his occasional readings from TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

Macavity’s a mystery cat, he’s called the hidden paw …

I had an English teacher who was a dragon. No, really she was. I saw her several times turn a naughty schoolboy into a heap of ash with a stare.

2) What was your favourite subject at school?

Biology was fun. At least, it was fun rifling through the text books to find the female anatomy pictures. Our biology teacher knew all about this. On day 1 of class he told us all to turn to page whatever and have our fill. He then warned us away from these pages by threatening to use the first person he caught looking as a live model. Teaching must have been so much easier back in the 1970’s. I liked chemistry too – we almost set the lab alight making magnesium bombs.

3) What was your least favourite subject and why?

I was never the right shape for Physical Education and this was the time when there were winners and losers at school. Also, I don’t know if they realise, but most of the school year falls during the coldest times, so why do they send kids outside? I remember bitterly the winter cross-country runs wearing a vest and shorts, or playing rugby on a frozen field. Soccer was a highlight, but even then, the slap of a soccer ball on a frozen buttock delivered a sting that a city gent would pay his dominatrix highly for today.

In classes I quickly came to understand the truth behind the phrase quality over content. A pretty wrapper can hide a lot of ugly junk, and teachers are not immune to the shiny object illusion. In my A level Geography class it became very apparent that the teacher didn’t read our homework. The girls in class produced neat, pretty  and colourful work. I on the other hand, did not. My work was accurate but my maps were no coloured. One time I decided to do the pretty coloured drawings, but also included several obvious errors. I got the same grade as the girls that time.

4) Do you prefer to read books on a Kindle or the old-fashioned way?

Always real books. It gets very expensive and dangerous to fling a Kindle across the room if you get exasperated with an author’s strangulation of the language. Books are like people. Some will sit pretty on the shelf, untouched but beautiful to have around. Others will be enjoyed once and then cast aside, an aperitif to the main course, and still others will become dog-eared and broken-backed because they’ve been enjoyed by so many people. Not sure that’s how I wanted to make that analogy, but I leaving it in because I’m running sort of words.

For me the chief reason for books over a Kindle is practicality. Books are eminently portable, easily sharable and low-cost disposable. And I’ve yet to pick up a book and find myself unable to read it because its batteries are dead.

5) What type of person inspires you?

Stoical achievers. I admire those who have faced adversity to achieve their own greatness; people who’ve achieved things far greater than I, perhaps because of their challenge, like they had to prove something to themselves. I met Rick Hansen on his second cross-Canada wheelchair marathon, and Chantal Petitclerc  who said she would not have achieved what she had if her accident hadn’t happened. I vehemently dislike people who live their entire lives via social media, telling everyone every time they at a meal or use the bathroom, or worse, attempt to elicit sympathy by teaser posts like “the worst is over, thank God”.

“the worst is over, thank God”.

6) What was (or is!!) your favourite toy to play with?

I like playing with cars. They just got bigger.

IMG_5577

7) When did you begin blogging and why?

I got into blogging as a fast track to fame and fortune. I’ve tried the traditional routes like gambling, crime and male prostitution, but none of these pastimes has given me the same inner peace as I get when I our my heart and soul into a piece of writing, knowing that I will bring peace and joy to countless people (countless because a count of zero is zero). I am fulfilling my destiny to become the next JK Rowling. The surgery is scheduled for next month and then I will be halfway there, and falsetto.

8) What blogging tip/tips have you learnt that you would like to pass on to others?

Don’t. Just, don’t. Don’t do it. If you value the sanity of your mind, move away from the keyboard. Put down the tablet. Go outside and dig the garden, walk the dog, speak to your significant other. Anything. If you turn to the DarkSide™ and enter the World of WordPress (or, God Forbid, the Blackness of Blogger) you risk your soul being sucked into the vortex of the anonymous critique.

On the other hand, if you have any nice recipes for crispy chicken fingers with a marmalade glaze, feel free to share this invaluable tip through the wonder of the Interwebs. Personally I would rather not read about your amateur therapy night experiences. Save those for the banality of Facebook.

9) What would you like to learn to do next involving your blog?

The randomness of my blog has been fun, but alas, I do believe the time has come for some order from the chaos. Being serious for a moment, I started this nonsense to see if I could actually string together a few words of my native language and make people laugh or cry (hopefully at the right places). Over the last 6 months I’ve found I can do that, though not with the same regularity or results I would archive if I just cut an onion under their nose. Still, I think I;ve got something to offer the literary world. I’m thinking of now using my blog as a sandbox for story telling and development (because everything written to this point has been 100% factual).

10) Is there anyone you would love to stop by your blog and leave a comment?

Anyone who can pluck me from obscurity would be good. It would be wonderful to think that a great comedian is one day wandering through the WordPress Wilderness, desperate for some sustenance from the heat of criticism for their work. They look down and there at their feet is the oasis of my blog. As s/he drink from my literary fountain they discover new life coursing through their veins from my witty repartee. This comedic god/goddess seeks me out to be their creative muse and I’m elevated to a castle in the stars.

Alternatively, I’m happy for anyone to pass by and comment. Anyone at all. Please ?

11) Name one thing that you do in your life that you think makes the world a better place.

Make people laugh. Unless it is supposed to be a serious moment, then that is bad, of course.

True story:

Following the death of my mother-in-law we had a bit of a get together at the house. Everyone was there including the vicar. Our black labrador, Milo, was wandering around the room and the vicar reached down to pet him.

“What a nice dog,” he said.

“Yes,” said I. “He’s actually a golden labrador, but we had him dyed for the occasion.”

 

Okay, so now to the tough part. 11 questions of my own for my victims:

1. If you could be from anywhere else in the world other than your home country / state / town, where would that be?

2. What is your favourite cheese and why?

3. What do you want to be when you grow up?

4. Any pets?

5. Where in the world would you like to be, right now?

6. Who in the world would you want with you in this ideal place?

7. What do you enjoy now that you hated as a child?

8. And conversely, what do you hate now you loved as a child?

9. What are the first 5 words you think of when you see this >

Beach-Umbrella

10. How do you feel about blogging Awards?

11. In what circumstances would you give a stranger money?

And to whom do I want to offer this award and the chance to answer my questions?

Ranting Raven

Rose Red Stories

Four Bags

Ginge Club

Aewl’s Abode (a fellow AtoZ survivor)

I do hope you each choose to participate.

 

In celebration of A to Z 2014

survivor-atoz [2014]

I woke up this morning to find May outside the door. I haven’t seen her for a while, so we had a nice chat and a cup of tea.

May brings with her the end of the April Fools joke that was the A to Z Challenge. I hope you’ve enjoyed following along this month. I feel I gained by stretching my writing muscles, and I’m personally pleased with some of the creations I produced. Personal faves for me were the posts I wrote as a story teller. If you didn’t catch them, there are easy links below:

F – Flamingo

H – Haggis

L – Lizard

M – Monkey

P – Praying Mantis (okay – this was a poem, but I loved writing this one)

S – Seagull

W – Wolf

Z – Zebra

So, with April behind us, I bid farewell to the Challenge. I hope you stay with me for the ride from here on out.  In celebration, I give you my Alphabet Poem.

A               Armadillo started this A to Z mirth,

                  An arsehole boss brought down to earth. (more…)

Z is for Zebra

ZYou know what it’s like. You start the week full of energy; you are going to do great things this week. You’ve got free space in your calendar and this is the week for that major project. Whether your work is for yourself or for Da Man, the same rules apply.

As the week progresses, obstacles appear and things get a little bogged down. With Friday approaching you’re rushing and cutting corners. And when you realise you have to work Saturday to finish up, you can bet there will be some short cuts taken.

Your predicament and mine are nothing new. The same has been going on since the dawn of time. In fact, the Dawn of Time was the very first example. God had grown bored with the old décor of the Universe, and felt a change was in order. He decided on a major renovation. He spent the entire weekend clearing out junk. He threw out all the old planets, took out all the old light fittings and swept everything clean. He hung up dust sheets to keep the mess contained, and went to bed, dreams of His new Universe swirling in His mind. (more…)

W is for Wolf

WThe shrill ringing of the telephone woke Rebekkah. She had been dozing in front of the fire with her big grey wolf of a dog. Last night had been her first evening out since getting home for the Christmas break, and she had made up for lost time. She was in her final year studying Kineseology and this was her first trip home since September.

She glanced at the clock – 3pm already – then reached for the phone. “Hello, Rebekkah Redmoor, who’s calling?”

“Good afternoon Ms Redmoor. This is Able Alarms calling. We have an alert from Mrs Forsyth. We called her home but got no reply. This number is listed as our emergency contact.” The caller was polite and efficient.

“Yeah, that’s my Grannie. What d’you want me to do?” (more…)

V is for Vulture

vultures

Word spread swiftly, like wildfire scorching up dry summer grass. The first whispers reported became telephone calls, and then the new technologies kicked into gear. The words gained their own life, fed by rumour and the frenzy of greed and power.

Facebook: “PM me, I’ve got news”

SMS: “It’s happening, get here now”

BBM: “Did you hear? Finally!”

Twitter: “OMG. Can’t say more! Gotta Go”

Word spread faster than sound as data packets flashed off satellites, whisking to their destinations. The vultures leapt on each set of words. Could it be true? Their salvation after so many years of waiting for their rightful inheritance? (more…)