a blog about stuff.

  • It occurs to me that one of the biggest struggles I’ve been having with everything, from my art to my writing to my efforts to tackle various projects, is that I’m stuck in a rut of trying to see the big picture first.

    This is likely linked somehow to a dozen years of government work with titles like “strategist” or “architect” or “project manager” where having a huge overview of a highly detailed system is important to communicating about that work so that one can (a) stop the scope from shrinking because people focus on the details and forget the plan and also to (b) explain the big picture to the people with the money whose attention spans are incredibly short.

    But in life, words, and art while the big picture is important, actually doing the “work” means focusing on one thing at a time: like writing a really good sentence, or drawing a single tree, window, or person. A good novel might be thousands of really good sentences strung together into a story. A great piece of art might be five hundred tiny pieces of art cobbled into one image.

    I, on the other hand, have been stuck in the rut of the “big picture” … and I need to change that.

    I have been trying to understand the story I’m writing in the fullness of everything, trying to tell it all in a handful of sentences …rather than say, writing even just five awesome sentences per day that add to that big picture.

    I have been trying to define the pictures I’ve been drawing and painting with the perfect single pen stroke or sweep of a brush, and forgetting that I could fill a single square centimeter with detail a few times per day and then over the course of multiple days or weeks build up dozens or hundreds of square centimeters with an amazingly detailed image that would blow the minds of people who looked at it.

    I forget these things and rush to communicate a big picture first. And this is backwards for all the stuff I want to accomplish.

  • I’ve managed to fill my days.

    Part of my worry for this sabbatical-thing I’m doing was that I would find it a little too easy to park on the couch and burn through hours of Netflix or video games or whatever.

    I’ll be the first to admit that the big adventure-type stuff I’d keyed into in my early planning has been a little slower to manifest. Part of that is general fatigue. Part of that is parenting obligations. Part of that is getting my mind around money and spending.

    But the little stuff is coming together great. Going for long walks. Keeping up with the yardwork. Doing more reading, and a bit of writing, meeting up with friends, and putting in volunteer hours. Those things have been finding a groove in the day-to-day.

    The gap I need to address (but mostly just for my own self) is around writing. I have this notion in my head that if my list of daily accomplishments included more than a step count or keeping the dirty dishes from piling up, that if that list included putting words on paper that somehow I’d be fulfilling a core promise of this career break.

    That is to say, part of me sees becoming a Creative Guy as core to the change I’m trying to manifest through this opportunity. We can talk about the reality of that at length, shuffle along the trail of logistics and other bits that need to align for me to become a published author or a creative independent of some kind. But that reality will not manifest through yard work. That reality only has a shot with practice, effort, and daily accomplishment of tangential goals. In other words, I need to start a practice of daily writing. Soon.

    Deep breath.

  • Now that I’ve been off work for a few weeks and back from vacation for nearly as long as we were out of the country in the first place, I’m mentally scrambling to try and settle my mind into some kind of productive routine.

    It’s all well and good to make up lists of the goals and tasks you are hoping to accomplish with an abundance of free time. It’s another thing completely to dive in and start tackling those goals and tasks with any sort of structure.

    That’s the tricky part, right?

    Actually doing the “stuff” that you set out to do.

    Part of the motivation in rekindling this old website (into a brand new website with brand new posts) was to attempt to recreate some of those self-motivational moments. In other words, if I find myself writing about the stuff I’m doing, I might be motivated to do more stuff.

    The hardest part, after all, is just putting on your shoes and stepping out the front door. If I start making plans a few days in advance by thinking about and then writing about them, well, it seems like that just might be the kick in the ass that I need to start whittling away that list a little more actively.

    Or maybe I’ll just start staring at my keyboard instead of the backyard.

  • For a string of consecutive years we volunteered to help out a a cultural pavilion operated by our neighbours for the local, annual heritage festival.

    Each year, a hundred-ish groups set up tents in a big park and sell food that is reflective of their ancestral culture. Our neighbours, having immigrated from Paris a dozen years ago, joined that group and immersed themselves in assisting with the event. We tagged along and became volunteers, cooking and helping with a dozen other set up and tear down tasks.

    The pandemic ravaged the festival. And a string of other circumstances meant that the last time the group sold their wares on an August long weekend was in 2019. As a result, nearly everything about the location and operation of the food pavilion has changed for 2023, and we’re joining them (probably for the last time in this transitionary year) to help set up and cook.

    I spent two evenings doing kitchen assembly this past week, and later this morning we’re going to venture over to the festival grounds to kick things off with some hands-on work.

    On my Giant List of Sabbatical Goals, volunteering was itemized as something I wanted to do while off from working. I could write something about how it never hurts to be out there doing community work and how every hour worked volunteering is a networking opportunity or building skills. But I could also write that standing in a tent in a field for a few hours cooking sweet foods and watching people is mostly just a fun way to spend a day or two out of the house.

    Either way, I’m going to be cooked myself by the end of this long weekend.

  • One of my goals, though it likely seems a little underwhelming to many, is to read at least two books per month: one fiction, one non-fiction.

    Just two?

    I’m a slow reader, for a start. I don’t skim. I absorb and re-read, and then usually pause at the end of a chapter to let things sink in.

    I have a friend who can read a book in a couple hours. When she puts her nose into the pages I guess she just sinks in and shuts out the world.

    I drift.

    It also doesn’t help that because of my slow speed I rarely read fluff. I usually sink into books that are as thick as a loaf of bread, and as dense as pound cake. They take longer to read because of that, too.

    The first book I’ve finished since starting this site is Otherland: City of Golden Shadow, book one in a four part science fiction series by Tad Williams which was published about twenty-five years ago.

    I read the paperbacks a couple years after they came out, having picked them up on one of my frequent lunch-break sojourns to the nearby bookstore. The four books took me the better part of a year to push through back in the early aughts, and while I’m not going to dive into book two for a little while, revisiting part one was an awesome reminder why I have kept these paperbacks on a prominent place on my bookshelf for the last couple decades.

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