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A kind of COVID-19 recovery plan

It’s been quite a while now since I set any goals for myself beyond listing what to do in the current week. Like a lot of people (and governments), I think, I initially thought of the COVID-19 pandemic as something that would keep us locked up for a few months before everything went back to normal, and my response was to wait until exactly that happened. But six months later I realise that things aren’t likely to be “normal” for a while yet and I ought to get on with whatever I’m going to do given the circumstances.

For the past month or two my university role has also given me enough to do that I haven’t had to think much about what else I might do—to the point of becoming a little frustrated at having had several items on my to-do list that never seemed to get done. At the same time I’ve taken up the role of “Masonry Deputy” for the Society for Creative Anachronism, meaning I’m responsible for the computer system behind Being Masonry Deputy is (so far) surprisingly like being an academic course advisor in that most of the work involves dealing with requests sent via e-mail rather than working on any grand projects, and the Kingdom never stops sending e-mail.

My first goal, then, surely ought to be to find a pattern of work that balances responding to those day-to-day requests with working on longer-term projects, while escaping the oppressive sense of busyness that I’ve experienced over the past month or two. I groped for something like this when I wrote my recent entries on Rest but I’m yet to find a satisfactory answer.

My writing projects in particular progressed only very slowly if at all while I was busy with other things. But I’ve finally brought a novella-length manuscript as far as I feel I can take it according to my current ability as a fiction writer. The next step is to find an editor and get the manuscript in its final form.

At the same time, I have an incomplete manuscript for which the first complete draft is in sight but needs another ten or fifteen thousand words to complete the story. Ideally I’d like to get those ten or fifteen thousand words out before I start another National Novel Writing Month, but I’ve spent the best part of two months now not thinking about what those words should be. If I am going to finish the draft before November, I need to to get the work in front of my mind again.

Regarding National Novel Writing Month itself, I’d like to write a thousand words of day of historical fiction, based on research that I did into Portuguese Asia while I lived in Singapore. But I have no idea of a plot or of characters, and I still have a lot of research to do if the writing is to be even vaguely true to the period. So one of my tasks for October will be to develop the backbone of the story and set out a programme of research.

While all of this writing and answering of e-mail has been going on, I re-joined a class in Indonesian (language) that was cut short in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The previous class fell into a different busy period of the year, such that I wasn’t able to put as much time and effort into the class as I would have liked. This time I’ve been a little more diligent and I feel that I’m benefiting more because of it. But I’m now in a position to wonder: what next?

Finally, some time ago I wrote about looking into live coding. I have continued to tinker with Sonic Pi every second weekend or so, but a while ago I reached a point where I could make various sorts of curious noises without having any idea of how to turn them into a song. I found a book on music composition in the library and got through the first few exercises, but now I’ve bought my own copy of the book and intend to get through the rest. I don’t expect I’ll ever be a professional musician (or speaker of Indonesian, for that matter) but I do hope I’ll come out of it with a better understanding of what all those musicians I listen to actually do.

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