Weeknote, Sunday, 05 Mar 2023

This will be a bit of an abbreviated weeknote because I have a lot to work on today. In particular, I want to get some more writing done because I have been a TOTAL WRITING SLACKER this week. Although that wasn’t all my fault.

I spent a couple of days this week with work in Poland. The main thing that I’m working on currently is an international project, which means I spend a lot of time with colleagues in Poland and Germany on Microsoft Teams calls. It was good to meet some of them face-to-face for the first time.

It was a flying visit both literally and figuratively, as I flew out from Stansted on Tuesday morning for meetings in the afternoon, stayed over for more meetings the following morning, then back to the UK in the evening. My biggest discovery (apart from I know not a single word of Polish) was that I like pierogies, especially when it has potatoes in it.

Flying, though, is not something I enjoy that much. Back in the late 90s/early 2000s I did a lot of it, mostly transatlantic, and it cured me of any notion of flying as romantic or exciting. I enjoy new places, but the logistics of flying in the post-9/11 era are just painful. Both Stansted and Modlin are small airports, which are usually more interesting and fast to fly from than big ones like Heathrow, but even so it’s just a dull and stressful way to travel. Next time I could go by train – it takes a day, but that’s all time when you can work (and I quite fancy the idea of going from London to Amsterdam to Berlin to Warsaw as it sounds quite intriguing and romantic).

Even though the trip only took a couple of days, it dominated the week. I had to stay over at Stansted on Monday night, as getting there for an 8am flight (arriving two hours earlier) would have been brutally hard. Add in packing time, returning time, unpacking and all the other things which surround the act of travel, and you have much of the week disappearing into nothing, or, as Jerry Pournelle used to say, “the time was eaten by locusts”.

What I’ve been writing

And suddenly this week I realised that I had the first draft of a chapter, which was a lot more than I thought I had achieved. What I actually need to do with that story is sit down and do a proper plot for it. One of the things that I have noticed about writing is I tend to dive in and write, then lose the will to live as I try and “pants it”. I have a rough outline, but it’s not enough: I need to think more carefully about what each scene is there to do, and how it advances the story. Of course, I can change it as I go along – I’m not going to turn down a great scene which doesn’t relate to the plot at the point of writing – but at least if I have a more detailed outline I can see the way forward when my writing gets into the weeds.

That’s part of the fun of what I’m doing: I’m learning how to write in a way which is unfamiliar and which challenges me. And I am definitely not too old for a challenge!

What I’ve been reading and watching

Reading has been a bit slow this week, although I got a fair amount done on the trip. I’ve been reading Constance, by Matthew Fitzsimmons, which is a sort of techno-thriller which I think I picked up as a freebie on Amazon Prime. It’s OK, but not my usual genre, and I can almost see the plot laid out before me just from having read the first chapter.

One thing I had noticed about myself is my tendency to drift into comfort reading, going through books that I have read before and which I find both easy and relaxing. I did some of that earlier this year when I raced through Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, and I am doing a bit of it again at the moment.

This time round it’s a drift through Arthur C Clarke’s Tales from The White Hart. It’s a collection of short stories written in the “club tales” style, which was popular in the early part of the 20th century. This takes the form of several short stories which are all bookended as if they were being told in a pub or club, and it’s a nice conceit. It would be interesting to do something reinventing that style for the age of the internet. What’s the equivalent of the club tale for the internet age? The Reddit romp?


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