Category Archives: Musings

New Year’s Resolutions 2013

The start of another New Year… meaning it’s time to make New Year’s Resolutions again! I know it’s an overdone topic, but hey, I’m desperate for any blog topic right now.

The more logical part of me likes to pretend that New Year’s resolutions are just a bunch of nonsense. After all, shouldn’t self-development be a year-round activity anyway, instead of something you whip up out of a sense of unfounded optimism at the start of each year? But the truth is: I love making resolutions. Maybe I’m just weird, but to me there’s something magical and therapeutic about opening my notebook to a brand-new page and start writing down things to must /want to do. I can’t really explain it. Maybe it’s just gives me the feeling that I’m working on my self-development, without well… actually working on it.

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What makes the whole resolution theme even more absurd is that my resolutions don’t really change from year to year. The specific details may differ, but in essence it always boils down to the following list:

  • Write more (and to finally finish a story for god’s sake!)
  • Read more (I’ve been on a decline for 3 years running… for shame!)
  • Blog more (that’s why I’m writing this)
  • Work smarter (and definitely not harder!)
  • Work out more (might be the easiest one, since it doesn’t involve a lot of thinking)
  • Be more open and caring towards my friends and family (hey, it is possible, right?)

(The only difference this year is that I left out the whole ‘love’ thing. I have to say I feel much better about myself as a result.)

And those are just the primary ones. Each year I come up with a bunch of secondary ones, because obviously I will have plenty of time left after I achieved my primary objectives:

  • Improve my Chinese
  • Learn another language
  • Learn to play a music instrument
  • Volunteer work
  • etc

I know what you are thinking right now. You’re crazy! There’s no way a normal person can achieve all these things in a single year! And the realist in me knows this. But he also knows that he has to co-exist with the dreamer in me, instead of battling against him. The dreamer in me derives much optimism and energy from absurdities such as this, and it is up to the realist to make sure that I actually sit down and work on them at some point… and also not to feel too discouraged if not everything works out perfectly.

Anyway, only time will tell what 2013 will bring. At this stage I’m still very much resolved to keep my resolutions. Let’s hope this feeling stays with me for a little while longer.

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Sources for Future Biographers

“I believe that I have read all of Dickens’s extant correspondence, published and unpublished…”

This is the first sentence of the acknowledgements section in Peter Ackroyd’s excellent biography on Charles Dickens. Reading through this 1000 page book it becomes clear that Ackroyd was indeed able to incorporate an amazing amount of letters and other types of written correspondence to form an as complete as possible image of Dickens.

As you and I well know however, the written letter is a dying species, so I can’t help but wonder what other types of source material a historical biographer 200 years in the future would use when he wants to write about a historical figure from our own time, where a person’s entire life is practically stored in the digital cloud. On the one hand you have the obvious sources, such as e-mail, Facebook or Twitter (which makes up in pure amount of raw information what it lacks in richness), but the number of potential sources that can be used is expanding all the time.

To see what else is there, I just have to look at all the different services I am using  — and yes, I sometimes fantasize about being famous enough that someone would write about me in the future. Another rather obvious source is this very same blog. A lot of ready information can be obtained by reading through my posts. But also look at online services like Google Reader for instance. What RSS feeds am I subscribed to? What articles did I star? What tags did I use? There are countless other examples. What notes have I written and kept in my Evernote account? What articles have I saved in my Pocket account? What YouTube videos have I tagged as my favourites? What files have I synced in my Google Drive? What books have I bought on Amazon? What music have I listened to in Spotify? What games have I played on my XboX and when have I played them? Will people think I wasted too much time playing video games when they go through my achievement list? And of course there is the all-important question: What do all these things say about me, if anything at all? What associations and perceptions do they conjure up in other people’s minds?

Privacy has become a very relevant topic during this digital age. How large a role does or should privacy play in the case of biographies? Imagine that 200 years from now a biographer would want to write a book about you: would you be ok having this stranger pry into your online records or would you have second thoughts about what to keep or what to delete (if it even helps)? Then again, is this really that much different from what happens now? Did Dickens, or other historical figures for that matter, always suspect, especially in his younger years, that future biographers would pore greedily over his every single word of every single piece of surviving written correspondence to get a glimpse of the details of his private life and personality so that it is subject for the entire world to see? Would he have been more careful with his words?

Interesting questions for sure. Now if you don’t mind, I’m off to find some intelligent and sophisticated articles on the Internet to save them to my Evernote account. And I guess it’s time to delete all those Backstreet Boys songs from my Spotify account and replace them by Chopin and Mozart.

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July 9, 2012 · 22:06

Using Charts to Express my Anxiety

I have struggled a lot with feelings of anxiety during the past few months. Lately I’m slowly getting back to the belief that anxiety is not an affliction but is very much a part of ourselves, a sign that we actually care deeply about something (partly thanks to this article). So in light of this, and highly inspired by the charts from the brilliant Elisabeth Fosslien (here and here), I decided to poke a little bit of geeky fun at my feelings of anxiety by creating some charts that express them. Sometimes a little bit of humour is the best remedy against feeling sorry for myself.

How it works is that there I always first show the ‘ideal’ situation, after which I show the actual situation in 3 important areas of my life: work, writing and love. The point is that the actual situations often deviate quite sharply from the ideal situation. The actual situations are not fixed however. Through personal development and life experience, we hope to approach the ideal curve in the end.

I hope you’ll have fun with these charts. Who knows? Perhaps you will even gain a little bit of insight 😉

P.S. Click on the charts for a larger view.

What is the Correlation Between Passion and Anxiety?

The writing and love curves consist of dotted lines instead of an unbroken line. This is because that even though the curves cover the entire x-axis, it is impossible to go below a certain threshold of ‘caring’. Thus the dotted lines are to represent that not all the points on the curve are within the realms of possibility, but are hypothetical instead. (Does that make sense?)

How do I spend my time?

The Comfort Zone

Someone shared this diagram on Facebook the other day. As much as I like this diagram, for my own purposes I’m going to look at it in a slightly different way. I like to imagine that we are able to expand and move our comfort zone as part of our personal development. Where our comfort zone overlaps with the magical stuff, that’s where magic becomes reality.

I also want to extend the concept of the comfort zone to include the state where you (pretend to) stop caring anymore in order to get rid of your feelings of anxiety.

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Writing short stories during NaNoWriMo

It’s November, and for a lot of writers it means it’s time for NaNoWriMo again. After weeks of inaction due to the busy schedule at work, I have decided to make use of this occasion to seriously start writing again, albeit with a different purpose than other Wrimo’s all around the world. No 50,000 word novel for me. Instead I will try my hand at a couple of short stories.

There are several story ideas swirling around in my head for quite some time now, and they are all desperately pleading to be given form and substance so that they can become something more than mere figments of my imagination. For now, I’ve picked two of them to work on. The first one is based on an exercise for the Writers Studio from about a year ago. It is a piece largely inspired by T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, and its challenge of the concept of ‘Might is right’. Ever since I wrote that piece I’ve been thinking about Sam and his relationship with Sir Bruce, and how it would evolve further. The other idea is something I thought up of just a few weeks ago about a writer who gets somewhat caught up by his own imagination. I chose that one because it was supposed to be a very short story in a very simple setting, something I can work on just to get myself into the rhythm again. However I found out today that the idea wants to be something more than a mere warm-up for the other stories. Not that it will evolve into a groundbreaking concept or anything like that — it’s still a relatively simple concept — but I believe now that it has the potential to grow into a story in its own right.

I’ve actually been working on these ideas since the end of October. Unfortunately I’ve found that I have become quite rusty, as I have trouble writing freely and let my imagination do the work for now. I find myself constantly falling back into my old habit of mulling over each individual word before putting it down on paper (before proceeding to cross it out again), so that’s something I need to work on the coming weeks. Well, at least I am putting in the effort again, even if the amount of time and effort spent is still largely concentrated around the weekends and therefore relatively limited. So to be honest, I do not believe I will end up with enough material at the end of the month to reach the 50,000 word goal, but that’s not my personal goal anyway. I will be thrilled if I can finish a couple of first drafts and use November mainly to gain momentum to start writing more in 2012 and beyond.

And to everyone who has taken up the NaNoWriMo challenge, or just the challenge to write anything at all, I wish you all lots of luck!

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The Pendulum Swings

An emotion is like a pendulum
The harder you push it in the other direction
The faster it swings back at you without discretion
So no matter how wildly your emotions swing
Just let them be and stop pushing
Only then will you achieve equilibrium

Ugh… I seem to keep churning out self-motivational stuff like these lately. I promise I’ll try something different again soon! 🙂

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Proverb of the Day

The advantage of not being able to think straight
Is having the ability to not think straight

Yup, that’s me. Full of foolish wisdom and nonsensical logic.

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Now for a bit of Armchair Psychology

The harder I try, the more I feel like a failure.
The more I fight, the more I feel defeated.
The longer I persist, the more I feel without hope.
Should I just give up then?
Because in the end it is not worth it.

I guess that’s one way to look at things, but if there is one thing I’ve learnt in the past two years it is that how we deal with our negative feelings is a choice each and every one of us has. So instead of focusing on the negative results, we can choose to turn things around and focus on the things we do, so that the conclusion we reach in the end is different:

The more I feel like a failure, the harder I try.
The more I feel defeated, the more I fight.
The more I feel without hope, the longer I persist.
Should I just give up then? *
Because in the end it is worth it.

Well, it doesn’t sound as eloquent and elegant as I hoped it would, but contained in this piece somewhere is the seed for a new poem. So something to work on in the coming weeks 🙂

* Just in case you don’t realize it and are even confused by it, the way you are supposed to read “Should I just give up then?” is completely different in the two versions. Both of them are intended as rhetorical questions, but whereas the first one has a negative connotation and should be read in a rather defeated tone as if the answer is a foregone conclusion, the second version is more positive and should be read in a skeptical tone.

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