Booting


There are times when I wish I could get a new computer, but I worry what I’d do with all that lost time. Now, I sit and I wait. I tap at my phone, which sometimes feels just as slow. There is a whine and and grind, and a flicker inside behind all the plastic tells me that something is eventually going to happen.

This is the moment, or series of moments, full of anticipation and disappointment for me. To you it may be unrecognisable, but too me it’s  the part of my day which belittles all my finest efforts to become a better and more productive individual. It is when my computer starts up.

To counter these intense frustration I took to tappitying on my phone, but that in its own right brings a similar level of frustration. Of late I’ve found a way to make the time pass more enjoyably, to the point that I don’t even notice when my computer has finished booting.

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When we were in primary school the odd time we’d get a teacher in the to keep and eye on us for half an hour or an hour so that we wouldn’t run riot and defile the entire classroom, as experience had taught our teachers wisely. Once in a while a teacher, clearly stumped with how to entertain a completely different group of scoundrels not of her own understanding, would distribute blank sheets of paper, pencils, and crayons with the instruction that we should ‘take the pencil for a walk’ then colour in the spaces. If there’s one thing I love to mess around with it’s colour, and when I was younger this was no different.

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Anyway, now I’m older messing around with colour is a less than frequent activity, but thanks to my dingy computer my line walk taking has experienced a rebirth. Unfortunately I’ve only got five colours, not including the usual black and red pens which are adept at getting lost under all the other crap on my desk.

Regardless. Behold. My new boot time pastime is becoming me.

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What do you do during down time?

 

Letter From Korea, August 2012


Suwon
August 24, 2012

Dear Ireland

I’ve been kicking myself a little lately because even with so much free time on my hands, I don’t seem to be getting the same amount of work done that I would like to be getting done. In a recent post I ranted about having too many distractions and found it difficult to scratch things off my list. Things have gotten a little better – I think – and maybe it was the rant that allowed me to get much off my chest. Still productivity, or lack of, bothers me still.

I get a lot of free time with my job. I won’t say how much but I will say that I am granted the luxury of less than normal holiday time, as well as limited contact hours in the classroom. So when I don’t get what I want done as quickly and easily as I should it bothers me. Preparing for the arrival of +1 is obviously taking up more of my time now, and a lot of this revolves around caring for Herself and keeping her company during the day, but I still have ample time.

Still, as the days pass things get done, gradually. Herself gets bigger and bigger and, bit by bit, I finish things I’ve being saying I should be doing.

One of those things that I haven’t had close to the top of this list is writing another blog post. I’ve kind of gone off the boil. I don’t really feel inclined to talk about anything going on in Korea so much – I think other people do a better job – and I also don’t feel that pushed towards talking about just day to day things that I usually go on about. I have a list of posts for this blog that I will eventually get around to, but for now I really am not inclined.

I know that I go through different things with varying levels of enthusiasm, and I know if I look back through my posts I’ll see months where I have written less, and months where I’ve churned out three or four posts every week. Now I’m not sure what to think as I do, I suppose, have some reasons for toning down the content.

Recently I bought an iPad to use, mostly, as an e-reader and browser. The reason is that I find a lot of content when I’m on twitter that I want to read but because I mostly use twitter on my phone and computer, I find it hard to read much of it. The phone’s screen is very small and my eyes hurt, and my computer is big clunky old thing that isn’t very mobile and the battery lasts about as long as it takes to boil the kettle, maybe less. So I figured the iPad would be a sound purchase.

Still, I keep looking over at my previously mentioned old dinosaur of a Fujitsu (about five years old, maybe more), sitting lonely in the corner of the room. This is my old warhorse when it comes to the written word,  and to really feel like I’m getting work done, I have to turn this on.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. I came across this blog post on a website called the Blog of the Impossible. In the article, the writer describes an odd but enlighening encounter with the inventor of the computer, Russell Kirch. Frankly, it reads as a bizarre situation, and the author is clearly and justifiably humbled by the interaction. The reason I’m talking about this is not because Russel Kirch is obviously an amazing scientist and inventor who has achieved much more than me, but because what he said about computers and creativity:

“I’ve been against Macintosh company lately. They’re trying to get everyone to use iPads and when people use iPads they end up just using technology to consume things instead of making things. With a computer you can make things. You can code, you can make things and create things that have never before existed and do things that have never been done before.”

“That’s the problem with a lot of people”, he continued, “they don’t try to do stuff that’s never been done before, so they never do anything, but if they try to do it, they find out there’s lots of things they can do that have never been done before.”

It’s an interesting notion. All around us are the tools to make the world a better place for ourselves, but we can be easily distracted by other entities which confuse us, making us wonder about what is the right pathway to be taking. Creation is such a simple concept and without it the world wouldn’t exist in it’s current state. In fact, I’d be willing to argue that without human innovation, humans would be still hanging from trees.

Making or creating new things can be as simple as changing your breakfast to the way you walk to work, or even just walking against the traffic going down the stairs in the subway – upset the norm. The blogosphere and twittersphere in Korea is a fine example of people going out of their way to upset the norm and to make changes to their life. In Korea, opportunities don’t happen for you and you have to step outside of your shell if you ever want move upwards. I suppose the same could be said of everywhere in the world.

Carried on from this idea is the second kind of reason that I’m feeling less inclined to write posts here of late. I’m beginning to think that I should be looking for markets for a lot of my essays here. I don’t see why not. I think they’re good enough, but many are probably too long for many people to read – I know when I look at a post on a website I automatically check how long it is before I started reading it. Certain people look for certain types of writing to read, and some people don’t want to read long articles, and some people do.

What does this blog have to do with that though? First of all, please excuse the comparison but I recall reading that it was a shame that T. S. Elliot spent so much time writing academic criticism and not writing poetry as this kind of swallowed up his creativity for years. I get the feeling more and more of late that I shouldn’t spend two or three hours writing a blog post, but  I should spend that time writing something else, be that an article for a magazine that will pay, or an essay, or some poems that have not gone past the stage of scribbled in my Moleskine notebook.

In Korea there’s not that many options other than blogging if you want to write and publish regularly, and while that’s a fairly narrow minded perspective to take, it is the truth if you ask me. There are only three newspapers, a handful of magazines in English, and then there’s a number of websites of varying quality and content. Fortunately, the internet is a magnificent gateway to so many more sources for anything you are involved in, and especially writing.

It may sound like an odd concept, but a computer can actually be a gateway to a more productive and creative life. This holds true in Korea for certain. Although, much like any piece of technology, so much depends on what you actually do with it!

 

Demons, Distractions, and Demands


I am my own worst enemy, and when it comes to giving advice I don’t think I stand a chance when put in front of the judges. Why would anyone care to listen to anyone who cannot claim to have achieved as much as they’d like to? I’ve an answer, and it is because I know what I’m doing wrong and I know that if you’re looking for a way to get over something perhaps, and I really mean perhaps, what I’m about to say might help.

I was born as a procrastinator. I’m lazy. I’m easily distracted. I tend to blinker myself from the reality of life’s requirements. Much of this doesn’t really effect me until that awful last minute arrives and I suddenly have to get everything done in a fluster. I don’t know if I was born like this. I don’t think I’ve inherited this gene from my parents. I do wish that I could be just a little bit committed to one of the many causes I assign myself to.

Take today for example. Up until about fifteen minutes ago, my plan for the day was going perfectly. I had woken up, had a light breakfast, read a little, then walked to the shops and bought some mushrooms and bread, then I cooked lunch for myself and Herself. I have since returned to the bedroom where I’m sitting under the fan writing a blog post, when I had initially set out to do more reading. I think I read about five hundred words (incidentally it was a book review for a book about helping writers to focus on their writing), and then I thought it would be a great idea to write a blog post. About what? Being distracted. I am not sure whether you could say I was inspired.

To add insult to injury, I’ve been out to the kitchen twice to boil the kettle for coffee and to find a particular blue pen, checked my email, twitter, instagram, the weather, and started reading an article about Ireland’s hopes for a second gold medal in the boxing at the Olympics.

It’s a curse, and I know it’s not something I suffer from alone. Fortunately, my income does not rely on me to be an overly productive writer, but one day I would like it to be so. I worry though that because of my reliance on being incessantly distracted, no one will give me a job because I’ll never get any work done, or I’ll be driven mad by stress because it took me until the last minute (again) to get something handed in on time.

Allow me to bore you for a moment with the things I’ve seriously (kind of) committed myself to (psychologically at least) over the past year or so, but which have made little to no progress.

– A distance feature writing journalism course (only one of ten assignments done)
– An application to do a Phd in contemporary poetry.
– A first collection of poems (many started, many submitted to magazines, many unfinished, and many rejected).
– A chap book of poems on things which people do all the time but which they never talk about.
– A collection of essays and short comments based around the posts in this blog and sold as an ebook.
– A memoir of my life in Korea to date.
– Various articles for magazines in Korea and Ireland, but most of which have no research carried out.
– Even more literary magazines with with submission deadlines and guidelines duly noted, but that’s about all the work I’ve done on them.

There could be more…

Oh yes, don’t forget all the magazines, novels, books, and links to articles online which I have stockpiled but never seem to get around to reading.

Did I mention I also have to work and that Herself is six months pregnant?

So, you see, by expecting myself to unrealistically see these goals through I think I’m causing myself undue stress. I know from my co-workers that none of them are stressed about that much, but by building up my own demands I have created this little red demon who sits on my shoulder and whispers into my ear, “why aren’t you doing this?”, constantly. Nagging, like my mother who used to ask me to paint the fences in the summer, and still I kind of metaphorically roll over in the bed and check whatever poxy internet site my finger is nearest to again.

The thing is, it is not as if all this comes down on top of me unexpectedly. What bothers me the most about this is that these are all things that I want to do. If you look at the the to-do list above, there is not one thing which I have been made to do. I have asked for all of this, and I want to do it all too. Perhaps it’s just a case of my eyes being bigger than my belly.

Right now you’re probably right in thinking that I’m an idiot, and I could have at least warned you before you started reading that this post would be mostly me complaining about my inability to start, let alone finish, things. I apologise for that, but if I had warned you I would never have kept your attention, and that would have meant that this piece of writing would have been a complete waste of my time and your time. However, allow me to remedy that.

The solution to all of this is very simple. It has to do with attitude, of course, and trust. This can be applied across the board to anything. While I consider myself a writer, I don’t doubt that this post can be applied to all areas of life, work, family, and personal development.

Firstly, you have to look at yourself, whatever it is you are doing, and know what it is that is stopping you from doing it. In my case, what is stopping me from getting things done is my laziness. If it’s something else, then what can you do to change it? Can you afford to take the steps to make a difference to allow you to do what it is you want to do, and if you can, then is there any other reason that would stop you from doing it?

I won’t suggest that you should stop doing everything you have been doing and start trying to achieve what it is you have always wanted. The world does not work like that, and no person, regardless of their ability, can be expected to start something new and instantly be a success. Yes, there are success stories of people who have done things like this, but this is why we call them stories and not realities. You need to work hard to realise your goals step by step. Slowly and assuredly is the best way to realise what it is you have always wanted to do. But remember, you have to start.

More importantly, trust has more significance than attitude. Trust is something which has varying levels of applicability and needs to be applied differently to different situations, and of course people. Trust should always be applied relatively to whatever it is you are trusting. That being said, you need to trust yourself that you can do whatever it is you are doing, to the point that you know the limits of your own ability. Set yourself small goals and gradually as you overcome each one, the next one will appear less of an obstacle, because you can gradually trust yourself to reach them.

Let me give you an example from my own experience. About two years ago I set myself the writing goals of getting a poem published and also getting some magazine work published. I overcame both of these goals after a fair amount of effort, but I did it. With the magazine writing, I have moved on to larger and more ambitious projects but which I believe to be realisable because I can trust myself to work within my limits. With my poetry, for some reason I decided to rest and think about my options. I didn’t write much or submit much for quite a while, and now I’m right back to where I started again, trying to find somewhere that will accept some of my poetry submissions. I wouldn’t be far from the truth if I told you I had zero confidence in my work at the moment, but am I going to let that stop me?

Trust also applies to the system you work with. To trust something, much like people, you have to know it and how it works. Whatever it is you do, learn what it is you are dealing with and understand it so that when you recognise openings or situations that you might be able to take advantage of, you will be prepared to do so.

For example, think of the amount of times you’ve gone hunting for a job only to turn up with nothing because you didn’t really understand what it was you were letting yourself into, leaving you all washed up with negative results. Even if something is apparently corrupt, if you know how it works then you can trust it to operate in a particular way so that there are no major surprises whenever you approach it to deal with whatever it is you’re trying to do.

Attitude and trust are, in my mind, two of the most important aspects of helping you to realise beyond your current situation. Both of these boil down to knowing about yourself and your broader situation. The more you know about yourself, the more you can get on with achieving your goals and crossing off items on your ever expanding to-do list.

Normal Service Could Be Resumed


I’m back from Ireland!

Not many minutes were sparable. Not much was written. Oh well.

Inallandanyways (as they say), myself and herself just finished a long break from the land of the morning madness, Korea. Two months for some wouldn’t be called a holiday more an adventure, I think, especially when you can’t afford it. Of course calling it an adventure isn’t a fair description because I only went to around two places I’d never been to before in my life, so there goes any chance of an exciting story.

Inallandanyways.

We missed, what I have gathered, was a miserably wet and humid Korean summer, so wet that herself’s uncle’s grapes aren’t doing too well (yes, he grows grapes) what with the lack of sunshine. We returned to a letterbox full of bills and an electronic door lock that didn’t work properly, fortunately not due to the use of a crowbar as a means of opening the door whilst we were away. Most of our plants are still alive courtesy of our wonderful local plant watering friends. However, there is no toilet roll in the apartment and this could remain the case as I certainly don’t fancy hauling 32 rolls up twenty floors – I’m imaging the lift will break the moment I walk up to it with said jacks roll!

Inallandanyways.

I took what was an extended and unplanned break not only from work and Korea, but also from writing. Not much happened at all to be honest. I finished off a few stories and articles and sent them on to their respective sources at the start of July, some of which will hopefully be appearing in print soon, but aside from a few blog posts I did feck all. It was great. So for those of you who have become accustomed to the wisdom that flows from these simple pages, I apologise to the extent that I really wish you don’t sit around waiting for more of my wisdom to materialise. I still love the attention however. And I love you, too. Platonically.

Inallandanyways.

Kind of odd going home for a long time after a long time. It had been over a year since I’d been in Ireland last, which isn’t really a long time, but I often get distracted when I am home. There are a few reasons for this but most of it revolves around seeing everything through rose-tinted glasses. Ireland is always an interesting place, and Dublin is still one of my favourite cities, but when you’re walking around trying to sample all its delights it can be fairly crap when you don’t have much money, you don’t have your own car (Dublin Bus anyone? No. Thought so.), and all my friends were busy with their own lives and, unlike when I was in my youth, the world didn’t stop on my return home. Which is fine by me.

Inallandanyways.

Coming back to Korea is always a little daunting. One thing that really turns me off coming back to Korea is the flight. I’m not sure why, but in an aeroplane many Korean’s seem to believe that the no electronic equipment and other repeated warnings aren’t for them because of some unwritten rule. I suppose all the misbehaviour (for want of a better word) points to the fallacy of the rules and regulations attached to passengers when flying, but I’d hate to be around if there was an accident because of it. I could go on about travelling in Korea a lot here but it would probably get me unnecessarily wound up. It was nice to return to my nice apartment up in the sky and I’m excited about lying down in my bed which is far better than any of the beds I was traversing over the past few months. Two months were great not doing work, but it’s good to be back to the possibility of routine and the possibility of chance – not many chances come when you’re doing nothing, right?

Inallandanyways.

I should have jet lag sooner or later so I should really go to bed with the possibility of some form of normal service being resumed.

Productivity -v- Creativity


I was reading another blog last night and the writer’s comments have stuck in my head since. In it she ponders whether or not it is possible to be both productive and creative at the same time, and that it is essential to all of us to shut down the production line and to be creative. What I want to find out here is can you actually be creative without being productive?

Creativity is essential in everything I do. I don’t think I could live as happily as I do without being creative. That being said creativity doesn’t eschew itself from me as visibly as it may from others. But still, I live to be creative. Enough of my self congratulation. What has all this to do with anything? Well, it is to give you an idea of my take on this subject. I’m creative enough to have my own opinion about what creativity is.

Before I go off any further, let me establish the perspective I’m approaching this subject from in case any lines are crossed. For me productivity, or being productive means producing or making (not creating) something. It’s a very business minded word in fact. When I googled it I came up with all sorts of help sites offering tips on how to increase an employees ability to do as much work as possible – productivity in this sense is closely linked to the production line and the efficiency of it.

Creativity or being creative, on the other hand, means both having the ingenuity and imagination to manufacture something original, but it is also a quality. It is the quality of being creative, depending on the level of creativity, which means to be able to create over and over again. Perhaps you can already see where I am coming from?

While thinking creatively is essential, it’s equally important to function and produce creative pieces. There’s not much point in allowing all these wonderful creative ideas build up – they have to be created.

Yes, there is a difference to being productive and creative, but what is important for anyone who is creative is to be productive in their creativity. There are plenty of ways to enhance the breath of creativity – long walks in the mountains, meditation, arguments, long hours of unrestrained drinking, and of course just creating more. But you have to produce something. In many cases it would have to function almost like a production line – especially if you are creative for a living.

Here is one of the true joys of being creative; being able to create over and over again like a production line is the most addictive part of creativity. Seeing your ideas form in front of you as something physical, rather than just an idea in your head or jotted down on a piece of paper. For me the greatest frustration of being creative is having idea after idea but not having the time or resources to see ideas beyond the blueprint scribbled on a small piece of paper.

Without productivity I can’t see creativity having the same allure. It is completely alien to the creativity I associate with, and that is of course productive creativity. For me creation needs to be practised to prosper, otherwise it’s just musing, which doesn’t get you anywhere on a best-sellers list.