Wednesday, February 24, 2016

That all-important opening line

Denise Baer over at Baer Books Press had a brilliant idea for a blog post. Why not get a bunch of authors to share their first lines ... and then say why it’s a good opening line!

She collected a total of 21 opening lines and some of them are real corkers. I particularly liked #1 and #15 (and my own, of course :) )

You can read them all here. See what you think.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Sad times

People die all the time. It’s an integral part of life, but 2016 seems to have started off with a disproportionate number of prominent departures.

I was around in the 70s when David Bowie repeatedly unsettled the music scene with one tangential shift after another. Growing up in a house that revered classical, and recognized nothing more contemporary than the wartime big band sound, Bowie was a delightfully subversive influence in my younger years.

From the movie world, we mourned the untimely passing of one of my wife’s favorite actors, Alan Rickman. His dry, sardonic delivery made him an outstanding screen villain, but his characters were always deepened with touches of insane humor.

I suspect nobody this side of the Atlantic will have even heard of Terry Wogan, but he was a British institution and someone I remember with great fondness from radio and television.

Then, of course, I opened up my browser last night to the double whammy from the writing world - Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) and Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose).

May they rest in peace, and may their work live on.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Innie or Outie?

Following on from my last post, I’ve been reminded this week of the importance of the right kinds of time.

I am profoundly introverted, though you may not know it from meeting me. I’m not shy of meeting new people, in fact I enjoy it. At work I speak my mind in meetings, and I have no qualms about talking to an audience of 200 people. I even relish the opportunity and get a buzz out of it - providing the audience is friendly and the topic is something I know and care about.

What makes me introverted, though, is that all of these things exhaust the heck out of me.

That is the Jungian or Myers-Briggs view of introversion/extraversion. Where do you get your energy from? Extraverts are energized by interactions with others. That has the opposite effect on introverts, who are energized by their inner world.

My work involves almost non-stop interactions with people throughout the day. At the end of the day, and at the end of a working week, I depend on enough down time at the weekends to recharge my batteries.

Last weekend, my Division held an off-site all-staff conference. Non-stop networking - Yay! - then back to work Monday.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a fabulous weekend and a chance to hear perspectives from offices all across the province, but you can guess what this has done to my energy levels. I’m just about holding on by my fingernails until next weekend.

Time to retreat into my shell for a bit :)

So how about you? Are you an innie or an outie, or somewhere in-betweenie? Do writers naturally tend to be introverts? How do you cope with demands of life and work that conflict with your natural preferences?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Too much of a good thing?


It’s something I see echoed by writers on blog after blog. Can’t find the time. I need more time. And I feel the pinch at both home - trying to squeeze an hour or so here and there for writing in amongst work, family, errands, after-school activities and appointments - and at work, where my calendar sometimes looks like someone’s tipped a box of Lego blocks all over it.

Then, after a particularly bruising couple of weeks, something odd happened. I found myself with a couple of days almost entirely meeting-free.

And I realized, you can have too much of a good thing.

Here was a golden opportunity to get things done. And I did. But it was utterly draining. Yes, I feel drained after a day rushing from one meeting to the next, while wrestling my inbox into submission in between, but having hour after hour with few interruptions is equally challenging.

I used to be able to focus for hours on one thing, but I find I’m become so used to interruptions and producing results in brief bursts of activity, that I now depend on that pattern of working.

In fact, there’s research to back this up. The Pomodoro technique of time management advocates breaking work up into roughly half-hour bursts with short breaks in between. The trouble is I am used to having my day broken up into bite-sized chunks for me, so I’m out of practice planning my time for myself.

I find the same thing happening at home. A day at the weekend with no specific plans? Should be a gift, and yet it happens so rarely that when it does, after a while I get restless and start needing something else to turn my attention to.

I never had this problem as a youngster. Before children came along and family dominated a large part of my life, I could keep myself creatively occupied for hours, days, weeks at a time. I look forward to retirement (a few years off yet) with thoughts of returning to that blissful state. And yet I wonder...
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