Feeling low-level anxiety about all the things I could be doing today, as I wait for a big 2pm phone interview. Some work I thought I’d be doing today shifted into tomorrow and the day after. So, there are things I could be doing, and should be doing, and probably will get down to in a few minutes.
In many ways, I guess my problem comes down to having two speeds. I’m either having to prepare, plan, research and write to a tight deadline, or edit something, read something - or else I don’t have anything directly pressing to do. It’s not that I find it difficult to relax, I can read a book or play a game, but when I do sit down, I often think about the things I could be doing. I suppose it’s part of being a grown-up. There are things to tidy, file, fix, clean. Bikes, ceilings, dust, stories. People to communicate with, things to plan. Exercise to do. Money to make.
So, this year, I’ve gone through my in tray and filed most things, this has taken me half a year to complete! I’ve gone through papers and scanned them and filed them, this has taken several years.
Now I have a slight letup in my workload, though I do still have things to edit, a long project to work on, interview transcriptions. Videos to edit. Lots to read. Interestingly, I never seem to factor reading into my working day, and maybe I should. Papers, news, blogs, novels, Wired magazine articles. Educational videos to watch.
I imagine, the art is being content with what you’ve done, and what you haven’t. Knowing there’s sufficient time to do what needs to be done. And relaxing with that knowledge, trusting. There’s enough time for work, time for rest.
I remember one occasion where I was working as a journalist, and about to fly to the states for a three-day conference. A freak weather event closed the airport in the US. Heavy snow. Very heavy. My flight didn’t go. I heard about it at the gate. I suddenly had three days back. I wandered around like a ghost, enjoying time, going wherever. Seeing people. Feeling like I wasn’t really there, a deliciously guilty feeling, and enjoying every moment.
I like travelling because of just that feeling. You can’t really do very much apart from travel and be yourself. When I’m on a train or plane, there is little I can do. Might be different for you. Emails, writing, planning, sure. But not really. It’s noisy, and hard to concentrate on that stuff for any length of time. So, I like to read books, people watch, listen to music, send the short messages I’d been meaning to send. Enjoy being content with just travelling.
But I’m not travelling today, I’m at the desk. Trying to work out whether I’ve just wasted a little time, or invested it. Hopefully the latter. Either way, I’ve decided to pick up the editing now. The deadline is end of tomorrow, after all.
Trying something different this morning: free writing to a song. This is called ‘Aqua’ and I wrote it to ‘The Wind that Shakes the Heart”, with minimal editing. Do listen and read if you have the time. JRx
I see aqua. Aquamarine. Open waters. The golden sovereignty of sand. A line of foam. Feel the sun’s hot fingers stroking my neck. There were only two places I burned there. Once in Tanzania. Once somewhere else. Israel? Florida? Indonesia? Dubai – I don’t recall. But the heat. It lingers in your mind. On cold days like this. To float on the waves. In the waves. No cares. Freedom. Scuba diving over a jagged reef. The glittering, glimmering coral. Transfixed by the beauty of fish. Lost. The depths beneath. Stretching down to death. Resting above it all; knowing I’ll stay up here. Held aloft by the air in my lungs. The density of my bones. My kicking flippers.
I love words. I love their exactitude. Their nuances. The following 38 words are from Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan. See how many you know, and leave me a comment below.
The Peripheral - William Gibson
Loved this imaginative tale about the future connecting directly with the distant future through some crazy wormhole. I read it after seeing a 3d video where Bill Gates recommends it - and wasn't disappointed. Gibson is one of my fav authors, and he continually comes up with the goods. Read it if you want your mind expanded.
Farenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
Just read this imaginative dystopian tale about a ‘fireman’ who burns books to stop the population from thinking and rebelling, but has a change of heart. It’s very prescient, particularly on stupefying mass-media consumption. A good, quick (3.5hr) read, worth the investment.
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
Brutal & compelling dystopian fiction. Like being in a slo-mo car wreck. The narrator says near the end: "I’m sorry it’s in fragments, like a body caught in crossfire, or pulled apart by force." Not planning to watch the TV series.
I hit on a fantastic was of scheduling my reading time by working out how long it will take me to read a particular book. I wish I’d done this when I was at Uni, studying Eng Lit & Lang. Ploughing through Chaucer, Shakespeare, Austen, Sterne, Joyce… Putting in the hours.
So, you know how a DVD, Netflix or Amazon movie tells you exactly how much time is left? Well, for my last three books, I worked out roughly how many pages I can read in 30 minutes. I doubled it to get my hour rate. Okay, stay with me.
Then I took the total pages in the book, and divided it by the hour number. The figure is roughly how long it will take me to read the book. It's also meant I can keep track of how long I have left, at any one point, by taking the pages left and dividing them by my hour figure. So simple!
The results are:
There you have it. Life changing, in a small but satisfying way. You can try it for free if you like!
Joshua Raven, novelist. Read about my writing and my life here. And have you discovered 5fingers yet?