The Perennial Miss Wildthyme

Mirrored from Twisting Vines.

Now available for pre-order from Obverse Books: The Perennial Miss Wildthyme, featuring Iris Wildthyme, and a story from me. It’ll be out this autumn, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to reading the rest of the stories.

The cover, by Paul Hanley

The cover, by Paul Hanley

(Should you feel unable to wait for your Iris fix, Iris Wildthyme of Mars, in which I also have a story, is available right now.)

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Rainbows and emptiness

We still do not have permission for our solar panels, although we have an official form planning letter which mostly doesn't apply to us. On Thursday it will have been 3 weeks and thus I can chase the planning officer to find out what the problem is with issuing a certificate stating that our lawful development is, in fact, lawful development. (Gah.) On the upside, Patio Dude has just sent an email saying he'll be round next week (which I sincerely hope means a week tomorrow and not tomorrow, for which I would not be prepared) to take up old patio and install new patio, new fence, and new pergola. In some glorious future year the pergola will, I hope, support GRAPES. (The grape vine already exists, but is quite small.)

Leon is now teaching himself to count in other languages (French, Russian, and Mandarin, so far). The internet has a lot to answer for. He is also keen on rainbows (from a colour perspective, rather than as a meteorological phenomenon), and the bin lorry. ("Taking the things to the recycling, to make them into new things!") In a slightly scary step we have taken away the stereo-pen (ie the baby pen that corralled stereo instead of child) without any incident resulting. I believe we are beginning to enter the "why" phase...

I have been GETTING RID OF THINGS in a middling dramatic fashion, and feeling very good for it. My room looks -- not empty, but the stuff that is there looks uncluttered. And I have now kept my desk actually clear for about 3 weeks now which is an all-time record.

And I have not one but two short story deadlines upcoming, which on the one hand is a good state to be in, and on the other hand, deadlines, writing, editing, etc. Yesterday I read through one of them and thought that it was pretty much OK which always makes me nervously wonder what I've missed or if I have lost my critical edge. (Did I ever have a critical edge? who knows.)

Now to finish sewing rainbow patchwork for Leon's upcoming birthday.

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Back garden photos

Mirrored from Twisting Vines.

I am pretty pleased with this.

Before (June 2011, a month before we moved in):

Eight months later (late Feb 2012, the week before I had Leon!):

One year on (July 2012):

Nearly three years on (May 2014):

Not bad going, really. More photos in the Flickr album.

(Currently it looks quite wintery but I might add a photo in a bit anyway.)

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Liberating Earth

Mirrored from Twisting Vines.

Look what came through the letterbox yesterday!

Book cover: Faction Paradox, "Liberating Earth"

A brand new Faction Paradox collection, featuring a story by me, among eight others. I haven’t yet read the others, as it only arrived yesterday, but I am greatly looking forward to them; especially the frame story by Kate Orman.

Available now from Obverse Books (hardback) or on Kindle.

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The joys of planning

Further to my previous posts musing on getting stuff done and the perils of the ticky-box approach, I have realised another interesting thing, which is that I can find researching and (in particular) Planning a Thing more satisfying than the actual Doing of the Thing.

The thing with planning is that you can research and consider and analyse and generally collate lots of information into a cohesive whole, and then make a considered decision based on appropriate factors. All of which is (I find) quite satisfying. And after that you can work out what needs to happen when[0], and whether you need to acquire anything, and generally, once again, consider and analyse and collate things into a Plan. A Plan is a beautiful thing.

But then comes the actual Doing, which involves hard work (physical or mental) and finding that you forgot to allow for this, that, or the next thing; and often the Doing does not entirely match up with the Planning in outcome either[1]. (Though sometimes it does, and sometimes it is better.)

And yet, Planning without any actual Doing is (probably) (right?) eventually going to be unsatisfying.

I could use getting better at Doing.

In other news, we are (hopefully) going to get solar panels! (They should be Permitted Development but due to the specifics of our covenant we have to get permission and it is proving a little more intricate than I expected. Which, really, I should have expected.) Planning the solar panels was fun, and also takes me one step closer to finishing my Permaculture Diploma which I am now aiming to finish by July. There is, inevitably, Another Plan.

[0] If you are very lucky, there may be a Gantt Chart.

[1] I often find it difficult to start writing something, for example, because in my head it exists in a whole and, it seems, perfect form, which is necessarily going to suffer when turned into cold hard words on paper. I am trying to get better at this. Also that is the point of editing, but it is still sometimes sorrow-making to read back something I've just written and realise just how clunky it is.


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New year update

My investigation in November into "taking more time off" was positive in that I felt better for it, and have tentatively concluded I should do more of that. (Where "that" is "having at least some time where I am not staring down a to-do list".) Actually doing it, as ever, proves harder. I'm experimenting now with ways to fit more work achieved into work days and thus have more time off. As Leon gets bigger (and so doesn't demand me as often) in theory this should be easier as I can be less interrupted and therefore more efficient. I am also hoping that lovely new noise-cancelling headphones will help a bit with focus (rather than, say, listening to everything else that's happening in the house at the same time.)

Read more...Collapse )

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2014 end of year meme

And here we are again.
(2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.)

2014 in reviewCollapse )

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Resting update

So last week (or the week before; whichever) I decided that I was going to REST in November. (Where "in November" is defined as "in the bits of November which are not Leon-days and when I do not already have commitments, i.e. only actually about 8 days in total.)

My observations so far:

  • I am not all that good at resting. I keep thinking "right, so what am I going to DO today? what is my GOAL? what do I want to ACHIEVE?" and then having to remind myself that what I am DOING today is nothing.

  • I am really not all that good at resting. My idea of 'doing nothing' is only spending an hour or so doing ticky-box useful things, and then the rest of the time knitting. And reading, which ought to count, except I keep finding myself reading things off the 'I really must read this' pile rather than just fun things. OK, sometimes the IRMRT pile contains unexpectedly fun things (if they were truly expectedly fun I would have read them already; they tend to be things that I might be pleased to have read but are not necessarily restful). But still. I mean, I do like knitting! But I find it curious that it is so difficult not to do something that I clock as 'vaguely useful'.

  • Having said all of that, I have had a couple of naps in the last fortnight, which were great! And I have done enjoyable reading and knitting rather than (mostly) hurtling around the place with the mile-long to-do list, so we will count this as a win.

  • When I have sat down for an hour with the to-do list, the enjoyment of crossing things off the list has been significantly higher than usual, which I found fascinating. Possibly partly because I was limiting the time I was going to spend doing it? Rather than having a whole day (and more...) of ticky-box tasks stretching ahead of me.

  • I do, overall, feel better than I did when I made the decision.

  • I do need to rethink what I'm trying to fit into my normal life at the moment. I have done some provisional thinking on this and will continue to contemplate it next week.

  • I have also done some writing just because I wanted to, which is an improvement on last month when it was all about ticking things off. This was pleasing. Long may it continue. (The interesting thing is finding the balance between the self-discipline of 'show up and write'; the feeling of 'I want to do this and am enjoying the process' (where 'enjoying' also covers 'this is hard work and exhausting but satisfying'); and the bit where you just need to keep on plugging.



Further updates at the end of the month, if I think of any.

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Motivation

Recently it feels a bit like I've lost my motivation to do things that I am usually intrinsically motivated to do (ie which I do for the fun of doing them). This is particularly true of "hard" things, but yesterday I sat in my room staring out of the window and occasionally checking Twitter for much of the day because I couldn't even see any likely enjoyment from even low-stress things like reading or watching something.

One possible reason for this is straightforward exhaustion, coupled with overwhelm (too much to do, too little time).

But I also found myself wondering if the process of getting better at extrinsic motivation and goal-setting has torpedoed my intrinsic motivation.

There's plenty of general evidence that extrinsic rewards can damage intrinsic motivation. But my own personal extrinsic rewards are of the "tick off an item on my to do list" variety (I get absurdly motivated by a tickybox, especially if it is a real box tickybox not just crossing an item off. I am ridiculous.). Is it reasonable that they might do the same thing as a tenner handed over by another person?

Tickybox motivation is of course just fine for things like doing chores or going to the post office or remembering to send invoices. But with things like writing or making something, the general productivity advice I read is always about setting long-term goals, then dividing them into short-term goals: write x hundred/thousand words a day, get this part of this project done by this deadline, that sort of thing. Sure, without some kind of goal or destination, you don't know where you're going at all. But I've done a lot of this sort of major/middle/micro goal-setting this year for important projects and I find myself feeling steadily less inspired. Which was not the aim.

I am not sure I have a solution. I'm not sure I'm even tackling the right problem. (See above re tiredness.)

My current thought is to come at it from another angle, by heavily limiting the number of genuinely ticky-box things I have on my list each week, according to my estimate of how long they'll take. So I only have x hrs of those things. Then all the rest of the time is for the important stuff, for which I have an overall goal but (in this new approach) no daily/weekly tickyboxes.

However, this is for next month. For this month I am ditching all the important projects (inc Nano, which I only started last week; oh well) in favour of a more important project of "not doing anything in an attempt to recuperate my brain a bit". See above re tiredness and lack of interest in things that previously engaged me. (Obviously this excludes child-care; and I have no paid-work deadlines this month due to doing them all last month.) Radical self-care. I find this a terrifying notion. I will report back.

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This and that

How is it nearly November?

For the first time in a couple of years I'm probably going to do Nanowrimo again. I spent a couple of weeks getting way ahead on work commitments, as I was expecting to spend October/November/December working on a big project. Big project will hopefully still materialise but hasn't yet, which in turn means that my work time is pretty empty, so I may as well do *something* with it.

I have also been doing a surprising amount of socialising, including a trip to Oxford to meet up with various folk, a couple of dinners with various friends I haven't seen in ages, drinks ditto, a visit to my sister, and yesterday, a very splendid party. Arranging social things is still a lot harder than it was pre-Leon (...obviously...) but in comparison to, say, a year or so ago it is much easier. Which is lovely.

I still miss climbing. I manage to go once or at most twice a month; it's still lots of fun but that's just not anything like the amount I should be doing to get any better. Maybe I should apply my "tiny changes" theory to this, but that warrants its own post.

I am slightly, superstitiously, scared to say this publicly, but Leon, over the last week or so, has been regularly sleeping 5-6 hours at a stretch after going to bed. This is the first time since he was born that he's done anything like that consistently. I don't think I'm entirely feeling the benefit of it yet, possibly because I can't bring myself to believe it / count on it yet. But this may yet mean that "being less exhausted" becomes a marginally more reasonable aim.

(He made up his first story the other day, too, albeit a pretty basic one*; and has suddenly got the hang of piggy-back rides; and grown about 2" overnight. Children are terrifying.)

* "Once upon a time there was a little Leon, with his mama, in the sling. Then they were very tired. So they went all the way home." He was, at the time, on my back in the sling and we were on the way home.

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