May 12, 2013
After a near heart attack following working out how much I spend on lunch at work I’ve decided I need to find a better solution.
Work lunchtimes are becoming a bit of a challenge, although Maidenhead has a reasonable selection of places to buy instant edible food from once you factor in cost, general health and then diabetes the selection drops dramatically. I appreciate as a grown up I should be capable of preparing a decent meal to bring in with me but mornings tend to be incredibly hectic with a toddler yelling for his breakfast and a general sense of panic to get to work before the world implodes whereas evenings are work filled until late or I’m just too tired to care.
Buying food in the town centre was fine pre-diagnosis (cost issue aside) but since has been a bit more of a problem. I can eat relatively easily if I go to a restaurant but that’s right out on a regular basis for both time and budgetary reasons. So, I’m stuck with supermarket food or takeaways, both of these suffer from the same problem – they tend to be stacked full of the stuff diabetics should avoid: bread, pasta, potato & rice. A large amount of what’s left is either salad or high in fat. The high in fat has to be avoided both because of general health considerations and because diabetics are prone to heart problems. There’s only so much salad I can face and have you looked at the price of a decent salad recently?
The main frustration is with myself, I’m a competent cook, the majority of what we eat at home is cooked from scratch and we have a varied diet I just have trouble transferring this into food I can take away from the house.
So, I need to find a way to eat at work without spending half our profits and without killing myself, my requirements are:
– Must be easy to prepare in advance, preferably in large batches to be frozen.
– Preparation time on the day of eating (or the night before) should be an absolute minimum. Sticking something in the oven for half an hour is fine, anything more is out.
– It must be financially sensible, ingredients should be those we use anyway or things we can make use of elsewhere. If it’s going to cost the same over time as buying lunch in town there’s no point.
– It must be healthy.
– I need to allow for variety, I can’t face eating the same thing all the time. So ideally things I can cook in large batches which can be frozen for a decent length of time.
– I must want to actually eat it. This sounds obvious but since I was diagnosed I’ve picked up some real food issues. There are some meals now which I cannot face and will make me nauseous to try and eat, it’s entirely psychosomatic but I don’t seem to be able to get past it at the moment.
The first solution – pasties! Obviously. Bear with me on this. Normal pasties are clearly right out what with the white flour and fat and all but the general concept is a strong one, a fully contained meal which requires no additional preparation and nothing extra to go with it but contains a decent combination of foodstuffs (carbs, protein, fibre, etc). I make quite a lot of diabetic friendly flatbreads/pancakes at home using a mixture of spelt flour, wholegrain flour, oat bran and flax (it is nicer than it sounds) so I’ve modified the recipe to make a basic pastry/bread type case which I can fill with STUFF, more importantly different stuff each time I make them.
I’ve just finished making the first batch with a samosa type filling (less of the potato and the addition of some mixed seeds/green veg to balance up the carbs/fibre). They look edible, which is a start. Will find out tomorrow and hopefully get away from wasting a hell of a lot of cash.
Any suggestions on recipes will be gratefully received.
January 14, 2012
Having become increasingly disgruntled over the last few years with the industry I actively chose to become a part of it’s time to start looking at alternative income streams.
I’m not really in a position to complain too much, I earn a relatively comfortable amount doing a job that imposes no serious health risks, nothing strenuous and is only as stressful as I let it be – which is pretty damn stressful but that’s my problem, not that of the industry. The issue is that as time goes on I’m working longer and longer hours for the same amount of money. I’m spending more and more time and cash ensuring I have the skills and the tools to keep my business in the position it’s in while I’m finding we are being squeezed more and more both creatively and financially.The bulk of the issues are down to how I run my business, mostly with managing expectations and having spent too many years accepting work of a type I should have passed on. While this is something I am addressing I also need to consider the long term implications of an income which is directly tied to the number of hours I can put in.
So, here I am with a big bucket of useful skills – pre-apocalypse anyway, I’ll be useless once the zombies take over – most of which I rarely use to their maximum effect, I have good a work ethic (possibly more ‘workaholic’) and the motivation to get stuff done. I’ve considered a complete career change but the responsibilities of mortgage and small child make this a very difficult choice. I’ve considered giving up on the self-employment lark and getting a proper job with security – as much security as this industry allows anyway – but again I can’t see a huge long term benefit. I have friends who have done as such and are generally no happier, with little more free time for family or personal interests (my real goal) and I just don’t have the lack of ethics or the desire to claw my way to the top and make the big money.
In this modern world of free and easy communication and commerce there are other options. An income methodology which is becoming increasingly alluring is that of the micro-business. Rather than concentrating on one big core business with big clients and big budgets the idea is to split your time amongst many smaller ideas, each of which can bring in a small amount of income so removing the reliance on any one client or business. This (in theory) allows for flexibility and fast evolution, one idea not doing so well? Kill it. Another idea doing better than expected? Feed it.
All fairly obvious for a large corporation but not something I would have considered for a small business or individual until fairly recently. About two years ago friends started telling me it’s what I should be doing. I did agree right away with the idea but have done nothing about it, mostly through fear of failure and because of workload but it’s time to give it a go. I have no expectations of making a massive change in the short term, and long term I fully expect to still be running my business – albeit in a more efficient and effective manner. I’m aiming for a better balance, if I can be in a position where I have income not linked to my primary business I will be more able to pick and choose the more creative or financially beneficial projects. I might also get the occasional guilt free holiday.
I’m not going to set any targets initially, it’s going to be an experimental and fairly organic process, I also don’t plan on buying any of the shonky looking books on the topic because there’s the worrying smell of snake oil self help around most of them. I will however be talking to friends and acquaintances who have already succeeded in getting off the ground. Wish me luck and I’ll try and keep you updated, also let me know if you have any experiences, good or bad with making a living like this.
January 1, 2012
Looking at facebook or twitter at this time of year you could be led to believe that the next twelve months will include a monumental change for the better in all of mankind. Everyone’s at it, planning to be, healthier, more rounded, generally better people. I am as guilty as anyone else, a few days holiday and I’m ready to turn my life around by the end of the week.
It’s not just New Year, I feel like I spend most of my life trying to make major life changes, at any one time I’m trying to do any and all of the following: finally write an album, become good enough at illustration to produce a book, do something entirely different for a living, exercise more, eat better, spend less money, own less stuff, work more, go out more, spend more time with my family, spend more time with my friends, be more socially aware, be more politically aware, spend more time on my own (in a positive way), be smarter, be more organised, look after my car better, look after my house better, be more polite, sort out the crap in the attic (both metaphorically and literally), be more charitable, write three blog posts a week, spend a few hours a week out with my camera, learn to edit video properly, draw cartoons, accept more work and handle it better, finish/start all of the several thousand personal projects I’ve planned. Plus a host of other crap that bounces round my head on a near-constant basis.
Most of these things are not destined to happen, those that do, do so to such a small degree it’s immeasurable. Ennui may be a minor cause of this ongoing failure but the real root cause is there’s just too much to deal with. These self-defined expectations compounded with the those from external sources (clients, family, society, etc) become so overwhelming that rather than face any of them, my brain switches directly to standby. I’ve tried a handful of self-help books and techniques, all of which have been at best pointless, at worst they have intensified the shouting in my head. Anything promising a complete life change in 9 hours (or similar) do nothing more than add pressure and things to the big list of stuff to sort out.
I’ve been reading Oliver Burkeman’s Help! in which he takes a skeptical and logical look at the self-help industry. I started reading it for entertainment value, but have learned a fair amount in the process. Primarily I have realised something which should be obvious, people (generally) cannot make huge changes to their lives in quick easy (or even hard) steps, it’s just not in our nature. Tiny incremental changes which over time can build up to make a difference are much easier to fathom.
No more big resolutions, no lists of major life changes, just try a little bit here and there as and when the opportunity arises.
Happy New Year.
November 1, 2011
The learning to write music plan is going well. Better than expected in some ways. I’ve so far managed to overcome the self-defeating procrastination fairly well and put in some practice most days. More importantly I’ve managed to get back into it again on those occasions where other things (sleep mostly) prevent me practicing for a while. I’ve got a pretty good balance between time spent studying and time spent improvising and writing tracks.
I had completely forgotten about the ‘cold light of day’ issue that comes with any creative project, where you work hard into the night on the best track/illustration/whatever EVER only to find it’s a bucket of poo when you review it the next day. I’m not finding it too difficult to deal with this time round as I feel I’m making some real progress, I’ve also accepted that it is an important part of the learning process even if it’s a little cringe-inducing at times.
Learning music theory properly is one of the most inspiring experiences, although I’m disappointed I’ve not made the effort previously. The need to understand music theory appears to be fairly subjective, I’ve spoken to some talented musicians who claim to know no theory and in the past I’ve lazily tried to convince myself that I could be one of them. I’ve also realised how much I’ve tried to persuade myself that by writing ‘experimental’ music I could sidestep the effort involved in learning how to do things properly. The acceptance that I need a technical understanding of a subject before I can be creative with it has taken a long time to get to but I’m glad of it. I can’t state strongly enough how much difference a basic understanding of theory has made to me and I really wish I’d done this years ago. Music theory is good yeah!
I’ve been learning through a variety of sources, the best being Michael Hewitt’s Music Theory for Computer Musicians. I was a bit put off by the name expecting something a little reductive but it’s proved a brilliant introduction to theory, the book title could do without the ‘for Computer Musicians’ bit as the computer music side of things is minimal.
So, I’m getting there and hopefully soon will be able to translate the noises in my head into a format that other people can hear. I’ve got a Soundcloud account http://soundcloud.com/anxioussilence which I’m considering uploading some bits and pieces to once I’ve got the hang of structure a bit more. I am very wary of posting anything publicly as don’t really want (at this point) to encourage criticism because I am a delicate flower (who can’t be fucked with arguing with people on the internet). I’m also incredibly wary of any of my friends hearing any of my nonsense as many of them are incredibly talented musicians who may instantly hate me once they become aware of my utter lack of talent, on the other hand they might be astounded and instantly agree to form a world destroying industrial hip-hop band with me.
September 21, 2011
I’ve spent years failing to be a musician, and now I’m just about ready, with a bit of hard work to become a failed musician.
Three of the things I most want to do with my life are art, photography and music, not for profit or the adoration of others (although both would be a pleasant bonus) but for my own enjoyment. I have as yet failed to do much of any of these. I had a brief spate of success with photography – success in the sense that I actually did some, rather than I was a successful photographer – which I put down more to the enthusiasm of my good friend Scott (a very talented photographer) with whom I used to make many trips to explore and photograph things. Unfortunately a change my life circumstance have made it increasingly difficult to find time out for such trips and I can’t seem to get up the enthusiasm for the art on my own at home (a poor excuse).
The primary issue I have is that I just don’t know how to write music, I don’t quite get the creative process and as such am afraid of mediocrity and failure, although as with any other art form failure and mediocrity must be part of the process, very few (if any) are able to pick up a skill and be stunning at it straight off, you need to fail to learn and be a bit shit before you can be less shit.
An important part of any creative process (for me) is the social side, having people you can learn with and from. The times I’ve been most active have been when I’ve been spending plenty of time with proper musicians, most notably Nick Reincarnationfish – who introduced me to the software I love (Reason and Ableton Live) and also to an awful lot of the music that has inspired me over the years. Nick has unfortunately and selfishly moved to Leeds which prevents my easily hanging around his flat making unpleasant noises. There are plenty of online locations for the socially impoverished to knock about ideas and techniques, but frankly I’ve always found them to be a bit intimidating and scathing to the uninformed (me).
Recently my relationship with writing music has changed for the better. Some friends had some ideas for a small musical project which I’m helping out with, this has instantly highlighted how fucking awful I am at writing music, but also given me the impetus to start learning properly. In the past I avoided the need to actually learn and understand by insisting on writing impenetrable experimental noise and shitty remixes (which I shall not be posting online), to be fair to myself, I was interested in writing impenetrable experimental noise so it’s not all bad. When sitting down to write something a bit more straight forward – you know, choruses, verses, drums, bass and lead – I have not a clue where to start, but that’s fine I’ll start at zero and work my way up. I’ve shed the fear of mediocrity, I know everything I write initially will be shit, I just won’t play it to anyone.
One of the big setbacks I’ve had to deal with is my workaholism. Having spent years with the mindset that if I’m awake I should be working and if I’m awake and not working I’m worrying that I’m not working has made it difficult to do anything that I cannot tie directly to work. I’m working (haha) on this and intend to be 40% less mental by the end of the year. I’m currently forcing myself to spend an hour a day doing something creative which is not work related. This generally happens about midnight when sleep would be more sensible but it’s a step.
This has all caused me to become stupidly excited about the forthcoming release of the next version of Reason . I absolutely love Reason, and Propellerhead in general, their attitude to their customers has always been fantastic, as displayed in their current Pay What You Want deal. I’ve always had this awful habit with Reason (and Ableton Live) of upgrading to the latest version, playing with it for a few hours and then ignoring it until the next version comes out. I’ve been fighting this with my sudden massive geek love for James Bernard whose blog and tutorials manage to be exciting, interesting and not at all elitist or condescending. I’ve learned more about sound design and production in the last week than in the entire previous 35 years (thanks James).
So, maybe this year I’ll finally write that album I keep promising myself.
(I am aware that this blog is increasingly a blog of excuses for not doing creative things rather than a blog about the creative things I have done. I am very aware of this.)
I am Bob. This is my blog. It is an outlet and a substitute for real life. It contains my art, photography, illustration and thoughts on mental health (I deal with anxiety on a pretty much constant basis).
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