Tag Archives: Work

The Light, It Burns

For about the last two years the bulbs above my cubicle at work have been blown out, as have many of the others in my part of the office. This resulted in a nice cozy workspace, soft light from my two desk lamps and my computer screens. Not dark, but comfortable.

When I arrived at work this Monday I was dismayed to find that someone had replaced every single blown out bulb, bathing the office in a bright artificial glow. Worse still, because of the placement of my light, the light balance in my cubicle is thrown off, really bright to the left, still kinda dark to the right even when I switch on my desk lights. It’s a sudden and disorienting shift to my environment. It’s giving me a headache.

Now was a writer I pride myself on being able to work anywhere. I have configured my gear and what I carry to make writing on the go a snap. And my work programming environment is tuned to my needs as well. Two screens, whimsical desk decorations and my own coffee maker. I don’t want to be some fragile baby bird who can only survive if the conditions are just right. But like a bird I do like to nest and my cubicle was one of those nests.

My office downstairs at home is comfortable. The desks are a dark color and my three desk lights provide enough illumination for the surfaces but not so much as to blind me. I have the option of an overhead light when I need to see more of my under the desk spaces, and I can easily switch it off when I don’t. The whir of the dehumidifier is comforting to the point that it’s jarring when it isn’t running.

On the go I like dark coffee shops, or book stores with are illuminated but not oppressive. I like white noise, the only thing my office at work still has going for it with all of the blowing fans. The worst place I ever tried to work was my library’s quiet rooms. Bright, quiet and feels like you’re sitting in a tomb.

Part of my annoyance is that the change was sudden and since all of the bulbs are new, they are at the point of being their most oppressive and artificial. The office used to be this bright when I started working here, and truth be told I don’t have that much control over my environment here. I’m trying to get used to it, though I’m seriously considering unscrewing the bulbs or coming to work wearing sunglasses.

Do you like where you work? What makes it a comfortable space for you?

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Garbage In, Garbage Out

I’d say one of the things I’m already learning in my 30’s is the truth of an old programmer’s adage: “Garbage In, Garbage Out.”

When you’re younger you can do pretty much anything you want and get away with it. I’m not saying that drinking too much caffeine, or eating too much, or not getting enough sleep don’t have an effect. You just have a better ability to power through.

Despite being a “creative” I have a very quantitative mind when it comes to this stuff. It’s hard for me to make generalized changes like “eat better” or “drink more water and less soda” without quantifiable goals, plans and known results. Ironically I like my plans clear and my results fuzzy; “I feel better” not “I lost X pounds”.

Today I started my new work schedule which is an hour later. I could tell from the way I felt during the week, and how much better I felt on weekends that I simply wasn’t getting enough sleep. And I know from my own patterns that the solution to this couldn’t be “go to sleep earlier” since pretty much no matter what I do I can’t fall asleep before 10:30pm. I may have inherited some of the Trube “gift of sleep” but so far that only seems to affect the strong desire on Sunday afternoons to take a nap. I do feel more rested and less like a narcoleptic today, and we’ll see how the siesta time in the afternoon goes.

Another change was a hard one, cut down the caffeine and limit when you drink it. Like a lot of cubicle dwellers every time I get up and walk by the coffee pot I come back with some. Sometimes it’s decaf but that’s still 4-6 cups of coffee every work day (which in terms of the actual cup unit of measure is more like 10-12). My solution, brew my own coffee at my desk. I have a little 4 cup (the unit of measure) coffee maker from my college days and I brew a full pot every morning. I try to drink it before noon and don’t drink anything but water the rest of the day (2 water bottle’s worth). I’ve been doing this for a couple of weeks and find I am sleeping deeper (less waking up in the middle of the night) and I am feeling a little less high-strung. One down side is that I seem to be having more vivid dreams, not all of them pleasant but that may due to other kinds of input (shows I watch, news I hear, media I consume).

But what seems to have changed in my late 20’s and 30’s is that these kinds of changes actually have an immediate positive effect, or if I go the other way, an immediate bad effect. This might sound like a bad thing but actually it’s kind of helpful. Some of the stuff we do to be healthy can seem theoretical. At best it seems to effect only one arbitrary variable and not the systemic qualitative way we feel. What’s the basic goal of life? Be well, live long, and enjoy your time. That’s going to look different for all of us but it helps to get feedback from more than just external sources.

We’ll see long run if these changes actually result in better health, but feeling better is a good start. It’s a good lesson to learn at 30 rather than 50 (though I wouldn’t have minded really learning it 5 years earlier).

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Filed under Faith + Life

I’m too tired to write

The above statement is what I was telling myself for a lot of November and December of last year, and even this morning starting this post at 5:30 in the morning sitting up in bed I’m very tempted to pull the sheets back and take the extra thirty minutes of sleep rather than writing these words to you.

I try not to be susceptible to writing moods but the truth is my emotions and the way I’m feeling physically does affect my output. Some of this is taking the time to actually get a good night’s sleep and to be prepared for the days work. Saturday in particular I allowed myself a good night’s sleep, woke to a wonderful breakfast in the breakfast nook with the little red haired girl, then worked at Panera for a number of hours on a writing project. I was certainly tired and wired after the session (three large cups of coffee will do that to a person even  sipped over the course of four hours), but I also felt like I’d gotten good work done.

Some time at the beginning of this year I decided I wasn’t going to let the tired excuse stop me from doing the writing projects I wanted to. I wasn’t going to say that I couldn’t take on too many projects, write more blog posts, put more hours into the writing. There have certainly been days where I’ve wanted to renig, to drop some things, to reconsider, but on the whole I think it’s been a great month and I hope to have many more like it in the coming year.

This doesn’t mean I don’t take the headspace or the tired argument seriously. I think some things are obstacles to the creative process. They may be largely created by ourselves, but that just means that the solution has to be created by ourselves as well. Sometimes the solution to not being able to write at 5:30 in the morning is to go to bed a half an hour earlier, and sometimes the solution is to write the night before. Not all emotions can be channelled into useful, productive work, though with practice most of them can.

One of the basic things I’ve found is that I’ve more to say, and more to write on the practice of writing when I’m actually writing. I have more to say about technology when I’m immersed in what’s going on in the world, and when I’m writing code. And I have more to say about books and comic books when I’m actually reading them. Taking more on has given me more to talk about (hopefully some of it interesting to the rest of you).

This is also not an inviation to overwork. There are limits to the amount of work a writer can practically do. I’ve had periods in my life where I’ve created a lot of “output” but after a point only some of it was usable, and the rest needs heavy revision. And there are other comittments in life besides the work we’re trying to finish. It’s just as valuable and refreshing to spend time sitting on the sofa curled up with a loved one and a dog (maybe sometimes a cat though a dog is more acommodating of when you have to go to the bathroom).

The only thing I’m saying is, we usually can do at least a little more than we think we can. And writing every day, or nearly every day, makes writing easier and frankly a hell of a lot more fun.

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NaNoMaybeMo

This is the time of year when I’m tempted to do NaNo.

For those unaware, November is National Novel Writer’s Month or NaNoWriMo. The goal for all participants is to write a 50,000 word novel (or at least the first 50K of a novel) within 30 days.

I have done this before. It requires a writing rate of about 1667 words a day. At the moment I’m up to 2500 words a day for my work (and that includes formatting pictures and code), so if anything NaNo would be a step down.

There are some in the writing community who kinda look down on NaNo, seeing it as the kind of thing you do when you’re starting out, but not something that serious writers take on. To me, however, it’s kind of the embodiment of what a professional writer should be able to do, keep a consistent discipline going on creating a rough draft. Write every day. These are good things to be reminded of, and to encourage you to continue in your projects.

But NaNo can be disruptive. Almost always it falls for me when I’m in the middle of projects, and this year is no exception. I’m trying to finish revisions on Surreality while at the same time creating a structure for working on my new non-fiction project. The easy answer might be to use my non-fiction project as the basis for my NaNo, bang out a lot of the text I need, but that would require at least two hours of research prior to each session. I have a very understanding wife when it comes to the writing, but having me writing or working on writing for 3 hours a day for the next month is a bit unreasonable on top of everything else.

I could work on another of the many fiction projects in my head, or do revisions or rewrites on another. But that kind of work tends to shift focus away from other fiction I’m trying to finish. And my last NaNo is still sitting in a drawer. I was very happy I did it, and it kickstarted a rewrite of a novel I’ve been meaning to rewrite for years, but it kinda fizzled in favor of the immediate.

I do like the sense of community, of the “we’re all in this together” of NaNo, since I don’t have a regular writing group, or many writing peers to talk to. Though truthfully, at least in my community, many of the people participating in NaNo have a lot more free time during the day than I do, and can meet for writing sessions in the middle of the day. I work a job five days a week which has me out of the house from about 6am – 5pm, so evening meetings are kind of all I have time for (and not on evenings before I have to walk the dog which means I wake up at 4:30am).

As with many years, this is a nagging temptation that I’ll probably let slip to another year. It was a great feeling of accomplishment to do it once, but the writing life can allow for diverse accomplishments and feelings of success. Right now I’d feel successful if I could manage getting a first article written for my non-fiction book, and getting past the chapter I’m stuck in in Surreality. If I get both those things done by the end of the week… I can write another article and revise another chapter the following week.

And not to put too fine a point on it, but all that writing for work is making me a little tired for writing for myself. That probably explains the little more infrequent blogging, which I will try to get back up to speed this week.

Is NaNoWriMo something that tempts you or is too much going on with your writing life already?

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Filed under Writing, Writing Goals