How to focus in an age of distraction

How to focus in an age of distraction. Image from learningfundamentals.com.au

 

I came across this infographic on Tumblr the other day, and just really liked it.  I think it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed by life, especially if you’re working online, and sometimes it’s important to take a step back and assess everything.

There are things on here that I should do – like turning off the internet when I’m writing.  I’ve found using the Pomodoro Technique helpful with that, though – I simply don’t switch out of my writing program for the 25 minutes that I’m writing, and that’s that.  I’m always thankful that I work relatively fast, so even on a bad day when I only get that 25 minutes of focused time, I usually manage somewhere around 1000 words.

Email checking I’m bad on, since my phone alerts me, and if it’s near me, I tend to pick it up and check my inbox.  Twitter and Facebook I only check at the beginning and end of the day (and sometimes not then).

I’m sure I can do things better.  Then, of course, I have a toddler in the house, which means that all plans can go awry in a heartbeat.  I’m just thankful that he’s generally well behaved, non destructive, and that I have family who help me get writing time.

And that said, I’m going to get away from the computer for the morning and the husband and I will take the kid swimming.

 

Saturday links

Dingos

This photo of dingos I took at the zoo last weekend makes me want to write a story about dingo shifters. They look so human.

This has been a strange week.  I started off the week with a massive burst of energy that was, unfortunately, somewhat short-lived.  The end of the working week saw a couple of bad days for me, but I am proud that I still managed to write, even if I didn’t manage much else useful.

Links for the week:

C. S. Lewis on Why “School Stories” and Media Distortion Are a More Deceptive Fiction Than Fiction

Neil Gaiman addresses the University of the Arts Class of 2012.

The seven bad habits of successful authors.

How reading novels can make you a better person.

How to use your iPad to help you lose weight.

A map reveals how much of London actually lurks below the earth.

So what the hell is urban fantasy, anyway?

What is running a Kickstarter really like?

Tuesday therapy: Know your rights.

The 9-5 guide to staying active.

Unstuck: an app that helps you achieve your goals.

 

Aurealis Awards 2012 Judges announced

Tehani has released the list of judges for the 2012 Aurealis Awards here.

Coping and pasting:

FANTASY NOVEL Helen Merrick (C), Joe Marsden & Cathie Tasker

FANTASY SHORT STORY Kathryn Linge (C), Peter Hickman & Tania Walker

SF NOVEL Alex Adsett (C), Lorraine Cormack & Alex Pierce

SF SHORT STORY Ben Payne (C), Dorothy-Jane (D.J.) Daniels & Cat Sparks

HORROR Stephanie Gunn (C), Emma Kate & Rob Riel

YOUNG ADULT Lyn Battersby (C), Lynne Lumsden Green & Gillian Polack

CHILDREN’S Jenny Hegedus (C), Joy Lawn & Tim McEwen

ILLUSTRATED BOOK/GRAPHIC NOVEL Deborah Biancotti (C), Andrew Finch & Kaaron Warren

COLLECTIONS/ANTHOLOGIES Katharine Stubbs (C), Sarah Hazelton & Matthew Chrulew

 

Yes, I am judging horror again, and convening the panel this year to boot.  I am really honoured to be able to judge again and to be asked to convene.  I love judging the awards – it’s a lot of work, but I get to read a lot of stuff that I wouldn’t otherwise have come across.  Getting the books is always a nice bonus, even if I do usually end up with two copies of things because I’ve already bought them!  But that just means that I get to pass on awesome books to someone else 🙂

Some moments are sobering: Pain

Pain scale from Hyperbole and a Half, which remains the Best Ever.

Sometimes you have moments that are sobering.

For example: this morning, while browsing Twitter, as I am wont to do in the mornings, I came across someone posting a pain scale.  This one was slightly different to what I get to use at my rheumatologists’s, which is just a little sliding scale thing from “Hey, I’m okay” to “Kill me now” (I may exaggerate slightly on those labels).

Anyway, on that little sliding scale I usually put my daily pain levels at somewhere in the middle.  Because, yanno, it’s there, but mostly I just ignore it and get on with everything.  Sometimes its worse, and I head to the painkillers.  For the record, it’s usually back pain (SI joint mostly) and headaches that have be running for the pills.

Also – Running for the Pills is totally my new band name.

Ahem.  This pain scale was slightly different to what I’m used to:

So, on my rheumatologist’s sliding scale, I usually place my regular amount of pain somewhere in the middle, around a 5.  But looking at this, and the activity tolerance scale, I’m actually usually at a 7-8 on a daily basis.  That kind of stopped me in my tracks.

I know that there are probably people who would say that these kinds of pain scales aren’t that useful for chronic pain, and maybe they’re not.  It’s certainly true that I’ve gotten used to being in some kind of pain pretty much all the time.  Right now, most of that pain is fibro related, since it’s cold this morning, which always triggers at least a mild fibro flare.  That will improve as the day gets warmer and I move around more.

These days I put a lot of effort into appearing functional, despite the pain.  I get up, I shower, do my hair, put on makeup.  I try not to talk about it much in real life.  I don’t need a cane to walk any more.  I can stand on public transport if I need to.  I go out walking, I lift my kid up when he needs it (which is a bit, since he’s a huge cuddler).  But it’s still there.

And still, I know that there a lot of people who have a lot more, a hell of a lot more, to deal with.  I am acutely aware of the privilege I have.  I don’t have to work, because I have a wonderful spouse who supports me financially.  I choose to work on writing, and I am mostly able to pursue this because of family support giving me childcare.  I have access to the medical care I need and can afford to see specialists and get tests done.  I don’t have to worry about affording medication.  I am so, so, lucky, and I know it.  Hell, I even got to have a kid, which a lot of people don’t get, especially those with chronic illness.

Still, it kind of sucks, and sometimes I need to say that.  And then I get up, and just get on with things.  There’s a lot to be done, even with pain.

Making some changes

I’ve been vaguely dissatisfied with the way I’ve been using several social media sites for a while, and so I’ve decided to make some changes.

The first one is Facebook.  I’ve now set up my writing stuff as a page, so people can like it instead of asking to be friended.  I’ve set up another personal profile, which I’ll only add some people to.  If you’re not added, you’re not really missing out on much, since most of my babbling will be over here and on Twitter still 🙂

It’s going to take me a while to get everything set up the way I like it, but once it’s done, I’ll be happy.

Sometimes there are rainbows…

Rainbow

Supernumary rainbow spotted yesterday

 

This is a post that, frankly, I hesitate to make.

Here are some facts: I have been sick with autoimmune illness for over ten years now.  It’s a vague thing, this illness, and has been shifted around from being called lupus, to undifferentiated connective tissue disease, to seronegative rheumatoid arthritis.  Fibromyaglia is always along for the ride, as well.  Whatever it’s called, my treatment has remained the same – DMARDS, painkillers, the occasional fun dose of drugs that come with the warning of “Side effects may include death!”.

This illness was the prime reason I had to give up my career in science, any chance of working full time.  I took pills to sleep, took caffeine in a desperate effort to stay awake.  On a bad day, the most I could move was between the bed and the couch.

There has been improvement over the last decade, slow but sure.  I was able to do some gentle exercise, but the pain and fatigue was always there.

These last handful of months I was trialling a new drug for the arthritis, since it had gotten bad over the summer.  It looked good, but then looked bad, eventually causing liver damage.  I was pretty much a mess, then, with all the symptoms that I hadn’t realised were caused by that damage.  Chronic illness is fun – you can be nauseated, unable to sleep, unable to think, in pain, bloated etc etc – and you just think that it’s part of the usual mess of symptoms.

I have now been off the drug of evil for a week and a half.  I’m going to go and get my liver functions tested again today, but I’m going to be very surprised if they’re not normal now.

But, here’s the rainbow: I feel fantastic.

I’m sleeping without needing to take drugs, my mood is awesome, I’m walking between 3-4km most days (including a handful of sprints in there), I’m losing weight for the first time in years (weight I need to lose).  I’m not needing to nap during the day, and I’m actually able to work and concentrate for a decent length of time.

I don’t know if it’s even possible to challenge your body in such a way that you can “fix” autoimmune illness.  It’s entirely possible that I’ll crash and burn sometime soon.

But for now, I’m feeling awesome.

And oh Gods, I had forgotten what it feels like to have energy, to be able to concentrate properly.  I managed to work my arse off getting a short story written and submitted on a tight deadline.  I have energy to actually play properly with Liam.  I walked around the zoo on the weekend and still had energy to walk home from the train station.  I had sore muscles after that, but I didn’t crash out.

I don’t know if this will last.  I hope it lasts.  To not have to ration energy again…well, I’m probably not going to do myself any good in thinking that way, in case this doesn’t last.

But for now, I’m making the most of it.

We’re going to the zoo…

To celebrate my birthday this week we decided to take the kidlet to the zoo for the first time on Saturday.

I think he was more enamoured of the fact that we went on a bus, train and ferry to get there, and of the other kids at the zoo, than the animals themselves 😉  But he did like the meerkats and some of the small monkeys and he seemed to love the nocturnal house.

And – so cute – on the way home he turned around and asked “Go zoo again?”.  Heh.

I took a bunch of photos that I need to spend some time processing, but here are a few:

 

Kangaroo

Kangaroo who thought it was a cat, sleeping in the pathway.

Cheetah

Cheetah

Happy Mother’s Day

IMG_0192

Happy Mother’s Day to those who are celebrating today!

I feel so extraordinarily blessed to have this little guy in my life.  I wouldn’t give him up for anything, and I would fight every dragon for him.

Think this is anything that every mother feels?  Maybe it is, but today it feels like a triumph for me.  Because this is the first Mother’s Day that I can truly say this:

Taking a dive

IMG_5349

An oldish photo of a lunar eclipse, fairy lights and car lights.

 

“Artists have to take a dive, and either you hit your head on a rock and you split your skull and you die… OR… that blow to the head is so inspiring that you come up and do the best work that you ever did. But you have to take the dive, and you do not know what the results will be.” – Maurice Sendak

Catching up on links from the last two weeks.

How to stay motivated.

Crappy first drafts of great books.

Ellen Datlow talks about editing anthologies.

What cancer statistics really mean.

How Joyce Carol Oates would launch a writing career today.

Why body detoxification is a myth.

How do you mother yourself?

Resisting Resistance.

Peter M Ball (and the spokesbear) talks about social media.

Storyfix begins their deconstruction of The Hunger Games.

Jack Dann shares some writing keys to the kingdom.

Goddess Leonie talks about how she gets creative work done with a child.

Blogging tips for newbies and veterans.

How to live well.

Why are so many vampire stories weak?

 

What happens to girls when they read a fashion magazine?