Such a sweet day. One rollicking, fraught chapter of life – this blessed life augmented by my 2016 Big Years – ends. Tomorrow the next instalment thuds in.
Only a weirdo does a Big Year, right? Why court needless strains when you’ve no manager bossing you, right? Enjoy life, right?
I hear you and thanks but no thanks.
2016 is almost done . . . oh, I cannot wait to begin my three 2017 Big Years.
Can I offer some numbers, please. This year I jogged 170 times, adding up to 177 hours. Unfortunately I only commenced monitoring my gym visits on Strava late in the year, so this next number is approximate, but add 112 hours (at home I hit the gym on every non-jogging day, but when traveling, that’s not possible). Even more time consuming, this year I’ve instilled daily stretching, probably only missing a handful of days, so go ahead, slap on another 350 hours.
We end up with 539 hours committed to the Big Year. Assuming 18 waking hours a day, 30 days or a full month of the year was spent in the service of an obsession.
Whoa, I hear you say, how stupidly wasteful. Andres, I hear you chortle, have you added a month onto your life and if not, aren’t you crazy?
All I can say is that the sums are correct but your conclusion isn’t. If you watch the TV news every night, plus another hour afterwards, you’re in the same ball park. If you read The Age newspaper for an hour a day, you’ve “wasted” three weeks. Anything worth doing is going put a dent in your year. And shouldn’t your year be filled with activities of value?
I don’t. Cope, that is. Writing novels used to be easier: miss a self-imposed deadline and I was a couple of months late. But this leviathan of a book seems to never reward but always to crush.
It’s all my fault, of course, as anyone except I could see from the start. I spent far too long gathering far too much material on an expansive topic. I made no attempt to winnow – my mantra was “I’m keeping an open mind.” I drowned myself and now writing is a brain-shredding exercise in slash and burn.
The upshot is that whenever I’ve planned, any realistic plan stretched out to infinity, so my actual announced “plans” have always been dreamy aspirations that quickly soured. Disappointment after disappointment after despondency after dejection . . . you get the picture.
I don’t often chat about this because responses tend to be unhelpful. The reaction I hate most goes like this: “Ah, but you’re keeping yourself busy, it’s clearly a labour of love, thank goodness something interests you, so many retirees get bored.” Find me a steep cliff, I think (but don’t open my mouth).
Luckily, this Writing Big Year spurred me to find mental models and working methods that have sped things up. On a wing and a prayer, my 2017 Writing Big Year (it’s actually 15 months) bestows on me a “plan” that is, I reckon, a real plan.
These last few weeks, I’ve been practising. Here’s the drill: every day, listen to an album, either through home speakers or on-the-move bluetooth headphones; take some form of notes; after three listens, wrap up that album with what I call a “reviewlet,” a mini encapsulation of my experience in a form that’s meant to be swift and simple; every week buy an album (the rest come through via Spotify); keep searching for the best of new music to queue up for listening.
Here’s the rub: hearing isn’t the same as listening. When I was young, we soaked up music fully and effortlessly. Music was life itself. Music surrounded us. Asked for an opinion, we could rattle off song names, the guitar riffs, the lame tracks, the scorchers, the highly specific genre positioning, an album’s societal vibe . . . all this after what seemed like no time at all. Every key record lodged in our minds whole and replete. We LISTENED.
I’ve lost that. Last week was a typical, hopeless practice attempt. If I played an album through while writing, either the writing vanished or the music did. Walking to Bar Ristretto with Angel Olsen on headphones partly worked but I felt careless and unsafe. On spare evenings, ragged with tiredness, could I work through an album in its entirety? No, I could not. As a dress rehearsal for the first week of January 2017, last week came as a fat flop.
All this doubles my determination to carve an hour out of each pulsating day. Somehow. Somewhen. Have the courage, Andres, I whisper, to LISTEN and tap into the sublime.