The Alien Sideb00b Bookclub.
I thought, “Fuck those guys. I’m not writing anything today.”
But then I had thoughts, and I had feelings, and I have nobody to share them with, so here we are.
These feelings? They’re the same feelings I have at this time every year. And I'll lay money on the barrelhead that some of you have them too. That feeling of newness and potential. And fuck me, why do we do this to ourselves? Every goddamned year.
The pointlessness of New Year's resolutions is such a well-established point by now that it has blown right through the internationally recognised standard for pointyness. It's meme-worthy.
I don't make resolutions, and you don't either because you are a grown-up who knows too well the sorrows of our all-too-human frailty. And yet, here we are, at the start of a new year, with the gyms full, the ciggies binned, the Pornhub subscription absolutely put on hold, and the promise of life itself stretching out before us with So Much Possibility.
I know it can't last. But do you think that this year, please God, just one year, we might be able to hold onto a small piece of that optimism?
But let's try.
We will make no resolutions, for resolutions are the crack pipe of the diffidently muntivated. But I did not have such a great 2022. And I know for a righteous certainty there are a couple of changes I could make that might, just might, give 2023 a chance to be just a little bit less shit.
With your help, I'd like to try.
I'm not fool-enough to attempt a full teardown and rebuild of my degenerate personality. I only have two habits, really, I would like to work on this year.
The first is a work thing, and honestly, this is one hundred per cent on me. Nonetheless, I'm going to share with you because, what the hell, it might help.
I’ve worked for myself for over 30 years. You would think I had that nailed by now. But did I mention what a garbage fire 2022 turned out to be? Maybe it was two or three years of dealing with the pandemic. Maybe I got lazy. It doesn't matter, really. What matters is not getting back on that bullshit again. And to that end, I have one small change to make at the start of my day.
I discovered at the end of last year that if I worked through a checklist of half a dozen steps at the start of each writing day, I was a non-zero chance to nail that fucker.
My checklist would not be the same as yours, were you to have one. But here it is, just for reference.
Clear my desk. (Seriously. It is weirdly difficult to work when you’re buried under yesterday's mountain of coffee cups and snack wrappers. And it's only the ask of a minute to dump that crap in the bin for a clean start. Do not, under any circumstances, extend the clean-up beyond the edge of your desk. We all know what happens then).
Close the socials. (Do I need even need to explain? Social media has turned us into pathetic dopamine junkies. I’ve already installed the Freedom app on my desktop to block access to all the Hell sites during work hours. And I've taken the apps off my phone. If, like me, you are a weak and worthless dopamine junkie, try the same hack).
List the tasks for the day. (Yeah, I'm one of those people. I need to know what I'm going to do before I do it; otherwise, there is no I will deliver. My advice to you: the most you can hope to achieve in one day is three things. And honestly, one or two is way better than three).
Email Jason. (Jason is my work buddy. He's like the guy from that Stephen King story about the dude who joined Quitters Inc to give up smoking. But not evil. When you work for yourself, it helps to have someone check in on you. But you can't have Jason. He's taken.)
Turn on the Forest app. (It's a time tracking app. You get a little tree for every half hour you spend at your desk. Over the course of a week, month and year, you can grow a really nice forest. Fuck you. It works for me.)
Start your first Pomodoro session. (No, I'm not explaining with the Pomodoro Technique is. Google it up).
Feel free to steal this checklist and try it out for yourself. I started using it back in December, and it had an immediate effect on the amount of work I got done during the day. Probably because it had an immediate effect on how much work I got done at the start of the day. It stopped me from faffing around and suddenly looking up at around 11:30 to realise I’d achieved nothing.
But even with that brief December success, I know there's a good chance that if I don't force myself to do this every day for the next thirty days, it will not become a habit. I'll simply fall back into my old routines of doom-scrolling and second breakfasts. (Thirty days is what it takes to turn a conscious behaviour into a habit.)
But even more than my weird checklist kink, the habit I’d really like to form this year is reading more books.
Wouldn’t we all?
To that end, I'm going to do something I wouldn't normally do. Take on more work for zero quids. I'm going to try and read 24 books this year. I know everyone resolves to read a book a week, and who knows, maybe some of them actually keep it up. But this is the golden age of streaming, people, and my unwatched stack of must-watch TV shows is even bigger than my unread stack of must-read books. So one book every fortnight it shall be.
How does that affect you?
It doesn't unless you want to read along with me. Not necessarily the book I'm reading. It’d be weird to think anybody would share my exact reading tastes. But I will tell you which book I'm reading each fortnight. And when I finish, I'll post a review here. Maybe on Wednesdays.
If you would like to start reading books again, feel free to tag along. You can read the same book as me or choose your own, and tell us all about it in the comments below my review. This is my idea of an excellent book club. One in which nobody has to read anything.
My first will be The Splendid and The Vile, Erik Larson’s history of Winston Churchill and the Battle of Britain.
That’s a couple of Amazon links up there, but if you hate the Beast of Bezos, you can grab it anywhere.
Or you can read what you want, or not, and two weeks from now, we’ll chat. Or not. It’s up to you.
And no, I'm not turning this into a book review blog. Honestly, I’d just like to read a few more books this year, and I think this might help.