Winter Goals

I almost called this post “Winter Resolutions” until remembering I don’t do resolutions anymore. Maybe they work for some people, but for someone as easily distracted and prone to busyness as myself, they’re too wishy-washy and vague to be of much use. Several years ago, I ditched my new year resolutions and started in with yearly goals.

What I’m working out today isn’t a goal yet, but it’s heading in that direction.

Yesterday, I bumped into a concept I remember reading about a couple years ago. Usually, when something like that happens, it’s a tip off that I need to pay attention this time around. The article was about the Norwegian concept of koselig – a sense of coziness.

When I quit driving for FedEx, my winters improved immediately. How could they not? I went from driving around in a truck that had minimal heat, freezing hands and feet no matter what I did, dealing with snow storms, icy driveways, and all the rest. Going from that to sipping coffee from inside my warm living room watching the flakes fall was downright heavenly.

However, that’s been awhile and I’ve felt seasonal depression nipping at my toes the past couple years. Put it alongside a busy schedule and coziness starts sounding pretty good. So I’m trying to build a goal around being a bit more kos this winter.

I’ve started reading some other articles to get some ideas, but what’s struck me most is the idea of being at home with friends and family. The idea of setting aside some time specifically for that might sound obvious, but it’s a bit of a revelation to me. Call me a slow learner, I don’t care.

One of the other takeaways for me is just changing my attitude towards the weather itself – especially the part about there being no bad weather, only bad clothing from the first link. I’ve always struggled with finding outside winter activities as an adult. My one trip snowboarding was fun, but I mostly spent the day making craters in the mountain with various parts of my body. Maybe it’s time to finally find that winter activity and get going on it.

So there you have it, a goal in progress.

the majority

Another newspaper blackout poem from several years ago finally seeing the light of day. Once again, this concept was stolen from Austin Kleon.

It’s interesting going through this folder that’s been sitting idle for years now and discovering what’s inside. Some of it is okay, some is just me playing around and making a mess, which can be fun to look at as well.

Everyday Creativity

To say I don’t enjoy Halloween would be overstating it. I enjoy the candy, the festive atmosphere, and from time to time, I’ve even enjoyed dressing up in a costume. But overall, I have to admit that the holiday is, for me, and overall meh on the excitement scale.

The trouble is the costume. I’ve never had a good eye for these things and lack the motivation for the truly grandiose ideas that have come across my mind. Sure, I could spend months putting together that Voltron costume, or… I could order pizza and watch the Empire of Dreams documentary for the fifteenth time. Pizza and Star Wars wins every time.

Then I read about mundane costumes from parties in Japan, and think maybe I’m not out of the game after all. Costumes that require minimal props, can slant towards the snarky, and require an explanation? It’s almost like this thing was invented for me.

As Rob Walker points out in that post, it’s the combination of observation and creativity that makes it really interesting. Finding those things or moments that we all see but don’t register with everyone until they’re pointed out.

It’s made me think more about the things I write about. The majority of the poems I’ve written come from a personal place and could be considered confessional in nature. A lot of those poems are also born out of moments or images that wouldn’t be considered all that dramatic all by themselves. Someone sitting on the couch playing a game of solitaire. Walking along a sidewalk. Those moments wouldn’t make great action movies, but they do make for interesting settings for a poem. All it took is the patience (or boredom in some cases) to stare at them for awhile.

The script I’ve been working on is another example. It’s not a huge “save the world” sort of thing and the original idea started out with a very simple moment that kept coming back to me over and over, demanding to be looked at more closely. It was the mundane idea of someone sleeping on a couch and being woken up suddenly. That’s it. But eventually, there was some more to it – I just had to be patient (or bored) enough to wait for it.

I suppose it ties into how Stephen King describes stories as fossils in On Writing – how they’re actually all there and just need to be dug out. A little bump in the ground is pretty mundane – almost like someone’s glasses steaming up as they sip a hot beverage.

It’s when you dig a little bit deeper and realize there’s a whole skeleton down there waiting for you that things get really interesting.

The Little Gaps

“The problem is no longer getting people to express themselves, but providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say…. What a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing…the thing that might be worth saying.”Gilles Deleuze

This quote bounced into my inbox this morning via Tim Ferriss’ weekly 5-Bullet Friday newsletter, and came along at just the right time. You see, today is my day off.

My work schedule is based around a print deadline every two or three weeks, depending on the month and how we maneuver around holidays. As someone who spent a few years in a rapid development freelance gig, this is right up my alley and keeps things from dragging on too long (always a danger when timelines get longer with projects). I do appreciate some of the pressure because it forces me to not be too precious with my work. After all, at some point, it doesn’t matter how cool the design is, you just have to get the damn thing done.

On the other hand, the danger of running the creative tank empty is very real. That’s a problem.

I once worked as a recording engineer with a stage actor who was voicing audiobooks. In spite of the books actually paying his bills and buying groceries, he never gave it the proper respect it deserved because he considered himself a stage actor first with everything else beneath that. Which meant his preparation for these books would be spotty, he’d show up late, and generally pitch a fit if we had to spend a little more time with something. Dammit, he was an actor dontcha know!

Thinking of him keeps me vigilant to not let myself slip into the same habits. Perhaps my day job isn’t high art, but it actually requires me to flex my creative muscles constantly in a disciplined way. Ultimately, I’ve found that helps the passion projects because I’m not like the guy who suddenly needs to lift a car off his kid but hasn’t seen the inside of a gym in decades. I’ve been putting in the time, building up strength, and then I get to direct it.

But back to the day off.

One habit I’ve been instituting this year, more or less regularly, has been giving myself a “day off” following a print date. That doesn’t mean I do nothing, it’s just that I give myself permission to get nothing of business value accomplished. It might be a day spent reading or watching movies – taking in some kind of creativity and feeding my imagination. It might be a day spent writing or revising poems or a script (my tentative plan for today) to get something done that doesn’t pay the bills. Could be having coffee with a friend and doing a whole lotta nothing.

No matter what, it goes back to something Joe Strummer once said – “No input, no output.” Keeping that balance has become a rewarding, if difficult, point of focus for me. How about you?