Semi-socialite

In an attempt to fix those annoying tech issues, I deleted all the social media apps from my phone only to have the subsequent experience (and rest of the internet) tell me it’s not enough—a factory reset would be imminent *DUN DUN DUNNNN*

So I was happy to drag my feet a bit, and found one pleasant side-effect of being app-less. It was only for a few days while work and other commitments pushed the phone reset lower down the priority list. But I found I could focus better on writing and reading.

That “hooked” feeling I’d get from feed scrolling transferred to books and I am so very pleased. I’m getting to stuff that’s been on my TBR for ages, approaching my work with a clearer head, and the weird thing is I’m not even going cold turkey on social media. I just don’t have the apps on my phone right now.

Actually, wait, those are only half-truths. I’m on a “feed restricted diet” right now too 😛 I get five minutes each of Twitter and Facebook a day (unless there’s something undeniably work-related I need to take care of). And now that I’ve reset my phone, I’ve put Goodreads back on there—but you could argue that Goodreads isn’t really a social platform, it’s more like a beefed-up logbook of stuff you read.

I wonder if it’s the combination of convenient internet-enabled devices and engagement-centered design that creates that dangerous combination. When you sit at a computer to do something, you have to sit at the computer to do the thing. But with a smartphone, you can not only spend your precious micro-minutes, but the extra tax of context-switching too.

Or am I the problem? Do I have poor executive function and self-control in the face of digital temptation? 🤔

At any rate, my phone is running smoothly and I’m okay with being a bit less twittery and instagrammy at the moment. My manuscript is running on schedule for now. And I’ve finally been able to pick up Perihelion Summer by Greg Egan and B.K. Bass’s final book in the Night Trilogy 😄

Photo by arvin keynes on Unsplash

Being busy happens when life makes plans for you

I reject the idea that being busy is a badge of honour. If anything, being too busy may be a sign that we’re not being kind enough to ourselves, giving ourselves time to rest, which is hardly something to brag about even if it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

We may not mean to be busy, yet life happens and we end up that way. Maybe in our pursuit of meaning and happiness, we took on one too many enjoyable things and overdid it a little—or a lot. Or maybe we got caught up in the hidden tasks, the unpaid labour, the little extras that project managers need Gantt charts for.

That’s certainly how my last few years materialised, anyway. My rearview looks like a long, dark tunnel, stretching so far back that I can barely see the pinprick of light at the entrance. But the road ahead looks brighter. April has been a raging nonce of a month. A heap of big, demanding long-term projects converged at once, which was intense but came with the silver lining of getting them all out the door.

Actually, no, they’re not quite out the door. At the moment, they’re still in the foyer putting their shoes on, but it’s progress and I feel better for it. I’ve caught up on a huge backlog of filing and admin as well, and am now getting closer to catching up properly on email, unsubscribing from ancient spam, et cetera. It’s been a productive time, even with all the recent pandemic business that’s been going on in Western Australia. Looks like when things go awry, I deal with it by buckling down, focusing local, and taking comfort in things I can control. It’s left me with room to rediscover things I love that I’d let fall by the wayside.

This week, I’m working on “Sunset”; I’m working on a novella release of About Henry; I’m working on maintaining work-life balance as we head towards the light.

And it feels good.

The pain you choose

There are only 26 days left until the new year. I don’t know about you, but this winds me up a bit, especially when I think about all the things I meant to do since January, but haven’t done yet 😬

Self-pressure is not the greatest thing, but I saw this quote yesterday:

“We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.”

— Jim Rohn

It makes me question which kind of pain I’ve embraced this year, and which kind I’m now facing as we count down our sleeps to the end of the month.

I have many regrets about this year. Like the unfinished WIPs I need both hands to count. I regret the times I stressed over how many there are—to the point where I couldn’t muster the energy to just start working on one. I regret taking on so much work and letting everything get unmanageable. I regret neglecting self-care and mental health matters. I regret worrying so much about stuff that just wasn’t that important in the end.

I know I have workaholic tendencies. But doing more work isn’t the same as being disciplined about work. So, lesson learned, hey?

I’d like to be able to say, “Next year, I choose the pain of discipline,” but it’s never that easy. This isn’t the sort of choice you make once and live happily ever after. It’s a choice you have to make, over and over again, every time you hit that fork in the road between The Thing You Gotta Do and Some Other Thing.

Well, here’s to making better choices in 2021. It’s hard to feel too bummed when you still have the power to change.

On procrastinating better

Today’s world has plenty of distractions that can easily be shut out on a good day. But when your energy is low, even a single notification on a quiet afternoon can kick off a solid 20 minutes of farting around!

I’ve been procrastinating lately. Like, a lot. So much that people around me have begun to worry. This NYT article about procrastination belying hidden psychological problems rings way too true. Don’t worry, this isn’t a doom-post. I will be fine. However, I am fascinating by how easily a little innocuous procrastination can creep up and become a big, looming beast standing over one’s shoulder.

The question today is more about how we can procrastinate better. When we don’t have the luxury of putting life on hold while muddling through our psyches, how can we avoid missing important deadlines or stressing the hell out?

I asked a professional PA, Karisma Carpenter, to help me out. Here’s what she advised:

A dedicated workspace to avoid psychological contamination:

“Well for starters try to give yourself a designated space to get your work done that’s away from distractions like the TV and snack cabinets.”

A clear, easily reference-able organisation system:

“Set up something visual like a large calendar. This way you can put due dates and any other things you have going on in one central place. Try breaking up your task into sections so it’s easier to manage and not so daunting.”

Social accountability:

“Share your progress. Tell a friend or even post on Social Media what you plan to accomplish, so that you have someone or somewhere to check back in with about your progress.”

Hacking your brain’s reward circuits:

“Reward yourself! Everyone deserves rewards for doing things they need to, even you. However make sure you rewards are comparable, for example for 20 minutes of productive work give yourself 5 minutes to relax or do something fun.”

Mindful and deliberate self-care:

“Know when to call it quits! I know, I know, we’re talking about being productive here but, if you have been putting true effort into getting work done and nothing productive is coming out it’s time to take a time out. Trying to struggle through it will only make you frustrated and make your task at hand suffer. So do something relaxing like take a 10 minute walk, or grab a bite to eat and come back to your task. Sometimes being distractible means you need a break, so remember to look after yourself too.”


Karisma Carpenter is a full-time PA/VA I met on Facebook while struggling with some of my research. Based in USA, she’s a nerd of many fandoms who helps authors with things like design, administration, social media management, book promotion, project management, scheduling, and more.

Status Update — Sep 2020

Writing has not been a priority of late. Instead, I’ve been making time to tidy my dwellings, reconnect with my feelings, and try and knock over all the stuff my mind tends to wander to when I’m supposed to be working 😅

And so my things have been thus…

Writing and such

Writing has consisted mostly of boring stuff, aka. non-fiction stuff for work. My bread-and-butter writing isn’t especially exciting, but I must admit, it does bring some relief when I’m anxious or stressed. I suspect it’s because there’s no emotion in it, not like there is in romantic and dramatic stories.

None of my big fiction projects have seen much love in the last couple of months, but I’m working on a couple of short bits and experimental pieces. My “weird fiction” story got accepted for publication—yay! It’ll appear in the Autumn 2020 issue of the Kyanite Press journal.

There’s a teaser excerpt coming out in next month’s Dot Club. Plus more information on this blog real soon.

Tidying up my digital life

Which means closing accounts and retiring profiles I’m no longer active on. It’s funny how many things get “left open” out of FOMO or nostalgia or the fear that we won’t have it at some arbitrary point in the future when we might want it again. I’m in need of some proper cleanups at the moment, though, and that oh maybe approach is standing in my way.

As of today, I’m no longer on Wattpad, Noveltrove and Lushstories. Thank you, readers, for following me there. I hope you’ll continue to enjoy my work in the spaces where I’m active. Like this blog 😊

Health, fun & other vitals

Self-care means working on my goal setting and time management, as this is proving to be super important while trying to get all my adulting out of the way 😅 I’m also really enjoying nice smelly things (candles, soaps and oils) and delicious tea.

Currently consuming:

Recently finished:

Playing:

  • Gloomhaven
  • Merchant RPG

And recently on the socials…

A sweet piece of my culture.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CErFumegRUb/

Riding the wave

Photo by Linus Nylund on Unsplash

My mental health has not been amazing lately. It doesn’t feel right to complain about it, as I very definitely have nothing to complain about. I live in an area with very low COVID-19 case numbers, where we can walk around safely without other people wearing masks, where even our gloomy weather is quite beautiful.

I kept my job; my industry has not suffered immensely (touch wood); I have a roof over my head, a partner who does not subscribe to domestic violence, and friends who check in on me out of the blue. I’m under no illusions here: I am very lucky.

And yet, there are times where words escape me or I stutter and mumble even when I know exactly what I want to say, where even the simplest questions are too hard to answer, where leaving the house is too unfathomable, where everything seems pointless or contaminated even when I know it’s not, and I laugh at jokes I know I’d normally find funny even when I don’t feel the laughter building from within.

It’s irrational and it’s odd. I wonder if it’s neurological or hormonal or nutritional. I wonder if it’s the cold or vitamin D or protein or hayfever or cabin fever or emotional contagion from others. It makes sense to blame workaholism and burnout, but in reality, I don’t know. The anxiety and depression—they’re just there.

Sometimes this just happens; the tidal wave sweeps through me and I have to ride it out.

A surfer rides a wave under a pink sunset sky
Photo by Linus Nylund on Unsplash

15 tips from my writer self-care toolbox

I’m lucky enough to have my health and a lot of choices for sustaining myself in my sedentary, solitary writing career. But even knowing how much it helps to get off my arse and do other stuff, I still end up burrowing into deep rabbit holes for long periods. The force of writing inertia is so strong 😅

Anyway, these are some of the things I have to make a conscious effort about in order to look after my heart, mind and body as I write. I thought I’d share this list in case you wanted ideas for your own self-care toolbox, or if you need commiserations, or just a reminder to get up and look after yourself today too 🙌

  1. Go for a long walk in the sun
  2. Stretch often throughout the day
  3. Do a core workout a couple times a week (planks are good)
  4. Snack on fruit & nuts as well as biscuits & chips
  5. See friends in person every couple of weeks (ideally over a long walk)
  6. Slack off every now and then to relax and recharge
  7. Lift heavy weights to maintain muscle mass and bone density
  8. Take purposeful “life admin” days so tasks and chores don’t keep piling up
  9. Spend quality time with family as often as possible
  10. Drink 2L of water per day (more on training days)
  11. Indulge/invest in hobbies without feeling guilty
  12. Set aside “spa time” every week
  13. Use chores as a way to take a break
  14. Put on good music/podcats/TV often
  15. Make time to just daydream

What are some of the things on your writer self-care list?

Edit 20 Aug 2020: This is a very important #16 that must be on here…

https://twitter.com/hemsbest/status/1295757561883492354

Now go do that thing you gotta go do 🤗

Status update — July 2020

These are interesting times we find ourselves in. Though saddened by the losses from turbulent events over the last few months, I’m simultaneously thankful for the shake-up. I’ll refrain from addressing specifics here, because there’s so much more to say than what I can fit into this post.

But generally speaking, something was not right in the life we once called “normal”. I’m optimistic that we can dismantle the rotten parts and build something better, but seeing it all unfold still stokes my nerves. It’s frightening to see how desperately some still cling to the old normal in the face of such overwhelming need for change. I get that change happens slowly, and one can only hope it doesn’t happen so slowly that we as a human family end up needing an even bigger shake-up further down the track.

Well, anyway, here’s what my last couple of months have been like…

Writing, publishing and Camp Nano

Sunset on a Distant World is on a publisher’s slush pile. I’m not expecting to hear back for a couple of months, but all my heads, shoulders, fingers and toes are crossed and hopeful. In late June, I wrote a piece of “weird fiction” to submit to the Kyanite Press journal. Whether or not it gets accepted, I’m thankful for the chance to try a different genre. It came at a serendipitous time, as this type of fiction has some overlap with Project H, which I’m working on this month for Camp Nano.

And, oh: Where the Sun Always Shines, an anthology of feel good stories, is out now!

A Twitter hiatus + my relationship with social media

Recently, I deleted Twitter from my phone. A dear writer/editor friend pointed out that reading so much for work can make spending time on an ephemeral text-heavy platform a bit of a mind-killer. And my experience for the better part of this year so far has lined up with that.

Within 48 hours of deleting the app, it felt as if a fist had unclenched in my brain. Within a week, I found myself more able to focus on tasks in front me, and give more attention back to goals and habits that had fallen by the wayside.

Twitter is like a massively crowded pub—shouty, noisy, and heaps of fun if you’re up for that. But there’s a reason I don’t go to pubs as often these days, and it’s not (just) because pints are now $15 in Perth. I feel more relaxed after my break, and look forward to taking a more laid-back approach to how I spend my time on that site. And on all the other social platforms.

For the time being, Twitter is staying off my phone, and I’m enforcing a “no scroll hole” policy on myself. I’ll still see your mentions and messages, but may not get the opportunity to reply in a timely manner. If you need to reach me, HMU on email or Instagram instead 😊

BLM and activism

In the past, I’ve shied away from anything labelled “activism”, because I’d always understood activism to mean a confrontational big-bang approach to driving change. But in the last few weeks, I’ve learned about quiet/introvert activism and what an activism toolkit might look like if overt protest isn’t something you can sustain. It includes the kind of stuff that could slot easily enough into everyday life, and helps keep the movement going between heated moments.

Right now, I’m researching and learning more about specific issues (like Australia’s constitution having a provision for discounting votes made by people of a particular race 😱), working on being a better ally, and going in a bit harder on any “activist” things I’d unknowingly been doing before. Oh, and exploring how and what it means to be more consciously and conscientiously outspoken.

Health, fun and other vitals

Self-care is currently setting boundaries around work and play, consuming enough calories, getting 10–20 minutes of sunshine most days of the week, and striving for 2L of water everyday.

Currently reading:

Currently watching:

  • Luis Miguel: The Series
  • Family Guy
  • Dark

Currently playing:

  • Mindustry
  • Merchant RPG

And recently on the socials…

https://www.instagram.com/p/CCXrtJFAR99/

That life-changing resolution

I’m visiting Viviana MacKade today, talking about the (not New Year’s) resolution I made in 2014 that changed my life. Through my late 20s, I knew I wanted a career change in my 30s. I was a few years behind my deadline and, for a while, it looked like it was gonna happen at all.

Then along came this thing. I wasn’t even searching for it—a dear friend living overseas just happened to drop a mention while we were chatting. Only months later, I was on a completely different path to a totally different place.

What things did you stumble upon that changed the course of your life forever? Tell me here, on Vivi’s blog, on social media, or email me or whatever. I’d love to hear your story.