How I Got My Head Back

Image by me, from the Story Map I worked on in Stockton-on-Tees

Image by me, from the Story Map I worked on in Stockton-on-Tees

So it’s been 2 years and 5 months, and it turns out that I actually have to write a PhD, now. Quite a lot to do really; have started actually saying ‘no’ to brilliant arts practice opportunities (sob), and am gearing up for May-September being Just PhD Months. In starting to ease into that it turned out actual sustained and deep concentration seems to have been an ability I’d lost. I’ve been busy levelling up all my multi-tasking, map-view, tabbed-browsing, horizontal thinking attributes, but try to settle to just one detailed task and my brain just sits there and FIZZES. So I fixed it. A bit like getting better at exercise, by throwing myself in at the deep end/just seeing if I could hit a half marathon distance in one go (what, no one else does that?). Anyway, I’ve been spending time away from the internet. And you know what? It’s fucking amazing. Like realising there’s a buzzing in your ears only when it stops. I am so much less stressed. I have the room for my brain to sink into things, I feel actually, genuinely productive, and when I return to the web, much more refreshed.


That discipline stuff, partly, but mostly a Chrome extension called ‘website blocker‘; I’ve pasted in amazon, bbc, guardian, Google reader, twitter, Facebook, etc., urls in, set my blocking hours of 9.30-1.30 and 2pm-6.30, and defeated that breaker of discipline: habit. Now when my click wanders to the Twitter or Facebook shortcut in a ‘something to do while I remember why I opened the window in the first place’, or an unwitting link takes me there, I get a lovely message that reads “Relax, you don’t need to fill your head with this stuff, You should probably be doing some work, yes?” And it’s almost always right. Coupled with new rule ‘the world will not end if you do not reply to the email immediately’, a muting of both computers’ email alert noises, and a phone with data and WIFI signal turned off from 9am-6pm I’M FUCKING FLYING. And while I love the people I know online, and respect what it offers me (almost all of the work I’ve had in the past few years for example, and some brilliant places for learning, finding cool stuff, and having my mind widened) I suddenly, suddenly find myself productive, concentrating, and to be honest, happier. Which is nice. Something something ‘in moderation’ something.

In that productive vein, here’s a few things wot I have done/am doing, UPDATE COMMENCE:

I did another Story Map with the brill Third Angel/mala voadora team in Corby. In this one I attempted to post an entry for every single country that we covered (all of them: 202) –  a much more literal content-based representation of the show. This involved a photo, piece of text, and links to the CIA World Factbook (the least disputed record of what is and isn’t a country among geographers), for EVERY SINGLE COUNTRY. That, assuming I took no breaks (I didn’t), turned out to be 3.5 minutes per post, and only then if I started regularly (which I didn’t because I took the cards as they were covered by team, which was only 2 in the first hour, a lot more later on)… and those 3.5 minutes needed to include searching for details, writing a paragraph version of a story and taking, editing, and uploading a photo. Oh and the website went down to tumblr’s daily image post limit (which I had no reason to discover before) and I had to drastically re-theme for about 45 minutes around 1pm. Anyway, I finished about 60 (40 unstirred, 20 storied) countries short. You can see the results at:

I’ll be doing another Story Map in London next weekend – this time at the Albany. I think another version of the web coverage will be used in this one. I think we’re going to try and make it a lot more audience-focussed. It’s the last for a while, but we have two versions of coverage which is very much an account of the team’s journey, and one of the content, so this time I’ll do a lot more talking to the audience, asking them to tell new stories to me (& the web), and to re-tell their favourites.

Also, next week is PERFORMANCE IN THE PUB EVENT 2 – with the lovely and funny Laura Mugridge and Daniel Bye. It got a lovely highlight from Lyn Gardner in the Theatre Tips on Friday, and there (fingers crossed) seems to be growing interest. With a venue capacity of 70, and if you’re travelling especially for it (you should!) I’d recommend getting your (donation-based) tickets up front, you can do that over here. GO GO GO.

Also I should have a rather exciting lineup to announce (and flyer) for event 3 on that night, too. Stay tuned.

And finally (for now) I’m going to do a triathlon. I’ve hit my target for fundraising for the brilliant FareShare, but you should definitely donate if you think secular food charities are worth funding – they feed 35,000 people a day redistributing just 1% of supermarket food that would otherwise go to waste. Feels like a really tangible and useful way to do something about individuals, couples and families being tipped over into poverty by regressive government welfare reforms and the financial climate in general. Go here if you fancy doing that. Triathlon is 22nd of April, wish me injury-free training!

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