1Writing (Blog)

Sometimes I have thoughts or observations that I think may interest other people.
Sometimes I just need to rant.
Sometimes the two collide.

Read, comment, reply or scroll on. The choice is always yours :-)

Why you can’t do Everything (and why you should stop trying)

Time to concede, give in (but not give up). There is more stuff in the world than you can ever see, there are more things than you can ever do, there are more people than you can ever hope to meet. The world is limitless but your time money and energy never will be, and even if they were, the gap will still be too wide to bridge.

Why is this important? Because every time you get that sense of being overwhelmed by calls for your time, money or attention, you need to be able to say “Stop! It’s OK for me not to have all bases covered”.
I love coffee, craft beer, bread, music, and while each of these forms part of my daily life and I want to be expert in each of them, there is a limit to my capacity to take on new information, a limit on my time to experiment with each, and a limit on my motivation to always be pushing into something new versus the comfort of something familiar.
Sometimes letting yourself off the hook is just as important as holding yourself to account. In fact failing to do one can mean you fail to do the other too.

So it’s ok to just dabble occasionally, I don’t need to beat myself up if I never become either artisan or expert in any of the fields that interest me (although clearly expert beer drinker is admittedly easier than expert brewer!)

Donovan.

A Piece of the Action (or “if you can’t beat them, join them”)

2am comes around again and here I am on another mission to save my sanity, or maybe better this time, to save the world.

Conversation over dinner last night turned to the subject of religion (maybe unsurprisingly for an atheistic household) and I posited how a lack of belief in god should be celebrated more; specifically being able to survive the challenges of everyday life without the knowledge that some greater power “has your back” or is there to answer the call if you need extra support.

Surely if we are living without this it should be recognised as quite an achievement by believers, even if that recognition is tinged with sadness for us living without a god and his love. OK, so that might be disingenuous but while I have questioned people’s beliefs when the topic has turned to religion, I fail to remember being met with the same level of inquiry to understand life from the other side of the belief divide.

And now I am awake again in the early hours and find myself thinking on a related but more fervently impassioned tangent. What would it take to create a new religion? If we are truly predispositioned to believe and large parts of society are so resistant to the encroachment of secularism, how can a non-believer leverage the religious privilege that is enjoyed by those of faith?

When can I start a school that can access government funding and choose specifically which children it wants to attend? When can I remove my own children from parts of the education curriculum where I think the government has it wrong? When can I get my un-elected position in the house of lords? When can I write off tax against money spent on things that I believe in? When can I get my slot on Radio 4s “thought for the day”?

No of course I’m not serious; a claim to any such privilege is completely specious regardless of whatever worthy, noble, righteous, or doctrinally imposed beliefs I may hold.

That is entirely the point.

Whatever my identity (gender,race,sexuality,beliefs,heritage) I, and anyone who shares any element of common bond with me, or shares none at all, should be considered equal in the eyes of the law and have the same rights and protections.

What I choose to believe (or declare as a personally held belief) should neither elevate or disadvantage me – assuming that my beliefs cause no harm to others.

Someone accused me of being an ideologue the other day. Having had to look the word up I’m now happy to own that; some ideas are worth hanging on to whatever opposition you come up against.

Donovan.

The Calling

It’s 2:36am. Clearly I’m not asleep, given these words are being typed into a laptop literally as I write. Fortunately it’s fairly unusual for me to be this awake in the middle of the night. When I am it’s often as a result of some caffeine intake later than is really sensible, but not that’s not the case today. Rather than disturb anyone by tossing and turning in bed with an increasing level of frustration at not managing a further period of REM I’ve consciously decided to get up and make some practical use of the situation.

I’m reminded of something I saw about people historically having 2 periods of sleep rather than one. A quick search and I find a post on ScienceAlert which was posted only days ago (although originally posted on The Conversation a few years back) which at least confirms I didn’t imagine that even if it doesn’t explain my current state of early morning consciousness.

But this post isn’t about reasons for failure in the ability to sleep for 6 or more hours uninterrupted, and yes I know that kind of makes the previous 160 words kind of redundant preamble but hey, this is all bonus time so who cares!

No, what I want to pick up on is something that is something that I think has been bothering me for a number of months now; What should I be doing? From the age of about 13 I’ve dreamt of performing and working in music. I’ve sung in choirs, vocal ensembles, fronted several bands, written and produced songs in the 30 or so years since then, with varying degrees of satisfaction and enjoyment. I keep coming back to it but never feel like I’ve done enough. Then I dipped into a book I’d bought my wife for Christmas, Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of not Giving a F**k”.

I’d been questioning the point of the 9 to 5 and looking for something with more meaning, and was looking for some feel good words of wisdom that would bring things back into focus. I found a chapter which could have been written just for me. You can read it in a slightly amended form on Mark’s blog but in essence the bit that I tuned into (no pun intended), was where he describes his realisation as to why he never made it as a rock star. This left me wondering if I, like Mark, “wanted the reward and not the struggle.”

As I lay awake in bed immediately prior to deciding to make use of the temporal insomnia, my mind flitted back to songs I had had in my head during the previous day, a Seal track lead me to an Erasure song from the same time then to thinking how I don’t listen to Erasure as much as a used to, despite never falling out of love with them. The conscious chain of thought then drifted to “A Little Respect” and back to an idea for an act I had a few months ago of doing a one man show consisting of songs from 80’s synth duos. It would allow me to go out, sing songs I’ve always loved and stick a mannequin behind a keyboard if I didn’t manage to find anyone else interested enough to form an actual duo. Pet Shop Boys, Go West, ABC, Hue and Cry, Tear’s for Fears, Electronic, the aforementioned Erasure and even some Wham! would make for a fabulous “guilty pleasure” playlist. With tracks from each new duo providing an excuse for a prop or costume change.

I remember being introduced to the idea of visualisation as a means of helping to achieving goals. The principle being the more detail you apply to the idea of you doing something, of actually picturing all the tiny details of what you are wanting to achieve the more likely it is that you will get closer to success in that pursuit. Well my visualisations certainly don’t lack the detail. The question I’m facing is, “Is this the struggle I want to pursue?”

If I was so intent on music as the source of struggle and happiness, why am I writing a blog post about it first rather than picking out songs for a setlist? Surely the latter takes less effort than pouring out the previous 700 plus words? Is the writing another excuse to avoid starting the hard work, one more busy reason not to be phoning venues, committing to gigs, getting out there and actually performing if I say I enjoy it so much. Would I be better suited to simply writing as a creative output where the emotional risk of failure is zero?

I keep coming back to music, can’t seem to help it, the ideas for shows, lyrics, picking up mutating earworms out of new songs I hear. Despite the fears, I know having performed in front of people, the moments spent delivering a song you love to an audience who appreciate it are ones of true joy and satisfaction. Maybe it’s just been so long that I’d forgotten what it was I enjoyed. Maybe I need to stop writing and start picking out some more songs for a setlist…

Definitely (Maybe) Tomorrow.

Donovan.

Unfinished Business

A bit of Housekeeping first. Well no, actually first is a bit of planning to get the priorities in the right order. Housekeeping is one of the priorities but definitely in quadrant 2 of the Eisenhower Matrix (see the previous post on “getting ahead of your own curve”). So I’m going to plan the housekeeping. It doesn’t need to be frequent but it does need to be on the calendar.

Having dealt with the planning and prioritising we can get on with the matter at hand. Today is going to be Blog Post Housekeeping Day; Looking through drafts, picking out ones that are almost complete, working out if they are still relevant or can be discarded to the “bin and gone”.

Why is it worth doing? Despite the best of intentions when starting off, stuff is always getting left behind, incomplete, orphaned, forgotten. Mostly it doesn’t matter (most things don’t) and while accepting that is important to our sanity, there is a benefit to pulling out the best of the rest and salvaging useful bits from the debris we leave in the wake of our busy lives.

In this case it’s pulling out ideas that stand the test of time and turning them into meaningful output (or at least putting them into a shortlist for further review and attention).

There are currently 15 drafts in this WordPress account in varying degrees of completeness vs 73 published posts. That would be 2 weeks of output if I went back to daily posts (or enough for the 3 months at my current post rate!) without the need for any more soul searching for ideas. Even if I pick out 2 or 3 it’s going to more than pay back the half hour to skim through them.

The same is true for much of our digital lives, stopping to review folders of files and pulling out potentially useful things, or flicking through the last months auto-uploaded photos and tagging key memories to return to later is really worth the time. Far more rewarding than yet another scan down that Facebook newsfeed.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t complete the process. That’s not the goal.

Housekeeping is like house cleaning, potentially endless with diminishing returns, but if you never do it, you will ultimately get overwhelmed in the shit you’ve left behind you.

You may also find that taking the time to look back over things can also help to refocus your forward direction as well.

Always more to come, just probably not tomorrow.

Donovan.

Big World, tiny window

I want to know what’s going on. I want to see what’s out there. I want to make best use of the next 20 minutes of my lunch break.

There is a big world out there and while everything is now connected and in ‘easy reach’ you have to know not only what you want to find but also where, and how, to look.

Your phone really isn’t fit for the purpose of viewing the world. Physically small it’s hard to assimilate information at a glance when a glance will only give you 1 paragraph of text to read (followed by the obligatory banner advert).

You not only have a small window, it’s also all too easy to fall into the trap of pointing it repeatedly in the same direction. Whether Facebook, Google or BBC News all you can see is what is trending or has been curated to hit either mass appeal or worse, explicitly for you based on your previous activity assuming you are happy in your own echo chamber.

Discovery is hard when it requires continual breaking of habits.

So what to do? Where to go? And how to travel?
I’m trying to work that one out. In itself it is a personal voyage of discovery. I’ll report back when I reach a new shore.

Maybe (but not likely) Tomorrow

Donovan.

Boo!

Back once again like a renegade master. D4 damage with the ill behaviour!

Hey pop pickers, missed me? No of course not but then again, ask me if I’m bothered…

Deafening silence as expected. Not to worry, I write to satisfy my desires to emote, not for external validation. (No seriously, this really is the case. I’m not kidding myself that there are a raft of people just desperate to read anything and everything I have to say. The benefits of writing here rather than twittering on directly on social platforms is that these posts will be here for as long as I keep the servers running and won’t get lost amongst the detritus)

So what’s been happening? And why am I back here having previously withdrawn into blog hibernation and publicly declared Spring to be my next outing?

All good questions. Why am I writing again? Well, why not? I have reserved the right to write as often as I like and to contradict previous statements of intent whenever it suits. The intent was genuine at the time, however I don’t feel any need to be bound by the previous version of me who held that intention. I am no longer he.

My step back from social media continues, in it’s place I sustain more time for meditation (thank you Sam Harris), and music production. 

Music related work has been going well, Re-working songs from snippets of old recordings combined with new tech has been enjoyable and fruitful. Not to the publishing standards I hold but certainly moving towards being ready to unleash them on unsuspecting audiences sometime next year. I have posted a new version of the Strawberry Thieves song “Can We Do It Again” in order to gather some feedback on the mix prior to publishing more widely. Listen below

So as we rapidly approach the end of the year and so a good time to be reflecting on the achievements of the 365 days assigned to the numerator of 2018. So in no specific order:

  • Park Runs: 33
  • New Park Runs: 12
  • Organised 10k’s: 6
  • Half Marathons: 3
  • Triathlons: 2/3
  • Total Distance Run: 702k
  • Total Distance Cycled: 502k
  • Total Distance Swum: 26k
  • Comedy Shows attended: 6
  • Gigs attended: 4
  • Festivals attended: 1
  • Hero’s met: 5
  • Parties thrown: 3
  • Weddings Attended: 2
  • Wives acquired: 1
  • Craft Ales tried: 54 56 57 59 64
  • Blog posts: 70
  • Books Purchased: 16
  • Books Started: 10
  • Books finished: 3

That’s all for now. More as it occurs to me

In the meantime happy celebrations!

Donovan.

Keeping on the straight and narrow

I relented this weekend and re-installed the Facebook app on my phone. I did it because I wanted to upload more than one photo to a post and it’s not possible to do that in the mobile browser version. But having done so I’ve already identified the ease of access means the temptation to ‘keep checking’ for updates is proving challenging.

Should I be able to excercise better self-control? Maybe.

The same could be said for deciding to stay off the booze for October; It feels like I should be able to control and regulate my alcohol consumption without the need for a public declaration. Taking the ‘should’ out of the equation, I know from experience it’s easier to remove temptation at source by simply not buying any wine or beer as part of the weekly shop.

I’m not without some level of self-control but my view is if there are things I can do to make it easier to achieve a desired outcome then it makes sense to do them, regardless of any self flagelation in respect of a lack of will power.

So the Facebook app is now gone from my phone (again) and there is no booze on the shopping list for this month. I am taking control and that given, maybe the method really doesn’t matter. I will be sober for the next month and have less of my free time sucked into the Internet black hole, both of which are positives.

There may be more posts as a result too.

Donovan

Hiding behind busy

I’m busy working on this post. It has a objective and an identified end point. I do this everyday. It started as an exercise in discipline and an opportunity for creative output. It has worked in lots of ways, a learning curve, sometimes a chore or burden but often a mental release, and invariably enjoyable – who doesn’t love talking about things they like? (and obviously that includes talking about yourself).

There is a “but”. Part of me wonders if this is not all just an excuse not to be doing the harder work, the work with a higher risk of failure. Longer term goals, more effort, less concrete guarantee of reward.

The harder work can’t be done just anywhere; This post is being written in the car park at work before I start my day proper. I can’t tweak vocal lines from here. So the blog could still happen at some level, but I’m beginning to think it shouldn’t be getting in the way of the more important work.

The same is true for the physical challenges I choose to undertake. Yes, they are a good driver for general fitness but they sit in the diary as artificial objectives in place of something less certain of success. They are an easy win in spite of the training requirements, but the cost again is time that could be spent elsewhere.

Upshot? The ‘almost daily’ may well become more ‘almost’ than daily. We’ll have to see how that goes. I’ll keep you up to date, although to be honest, regular readers (yes, all 3 of you), will probably work out how I fair.

Maybe Tomorrow

Donovan.

History in the making

Yesterday didn’t turn out how I expected. The planned long run was cut short as I realised the niggles I was experiencing in my hip were not going to fade, and were only likely to worsen if I continued on for the intended duration.

For a while, as I was debating the decision to abandon the run, numerous things passed through my mind; Was I quitting too readily? Should I carry on regardless? What would the impact be on my longer term training? What would I write in my next post given that I’d announced my intentions?

As I mulled over the options there was a realisation that whatever I chose to do, I would be writing the justification in my head after the fact. 

The things we tell ourselves about decisions we make and situations we find ourselves in are a retrofit history. Our truth is to a large extent what we choose it to be. 

Realising that enables you to leverage more control over how you feel, as you can choose to write from a positive perspective. It’s a bit like the power of visualisation but in reverse.

The hardest job we have is selling those ideas to ourselves, if we crack that we’re either onto a winner or maybe, just simply closer to delusion.

Sometimes what comes tomorrow is the best thing about today.

Donovan.

Going long

Today I’m going long. Long, as in long distance. I’m 2/3rds of the way along my plan and I need to move things up to the next level.

I need to run for about 3 hours. It’s slightly daunting;  whilst I’ve some experience of the level of endurance needed from the triathlons I’ve completed, I’m moving into unknown territory from a running distance point of view. Not knowing if there are limits and what they may be. 

I know I need to give myself positive mental markers. When I get to six miles I need to think ‘that’s over 25%’ and at ten miles ‘that’s half way’. The hardest part will be from 15 miles onwards as I push on past previous distance bests so I need to remember that each additional mile is an achievement. Fortunately as my route is on familiar roads I’ll be able to use the visualisation techniques I’ve mentioned before. 

That’s it really. Every additional word here is now just putting off getting my shoes on and making a start. Stepping past the apprehension is the first hurdle and the simplest way to achieve that is the Nike strapline.

Donovan Jones will return….