2016: Balancing act

Last year was quite chaotic and between the massive amount of work for the Crossing Dartmoor performances, my parents’ 10-week UK visit and our 10-week Australian visit, the year felt quite fragmented. Because of this, I don’t feel like I made much progress, even though when I think of specific things, I realise that there were a few significant leaps made.

2016 doesn’t include any scheduled significant disturbances yet (unless I start a PhD in September) and I want the overall focus of this year to be achieving a better balance in my life – balance between work and recreation, between healthy behaviours and treats, etc. Part of this is to progress my creative work to be actually that – work. To treat it like it’s my primary occupation, whether or not it’s bringing in any money. I feel like I still have a switch in my head which separates ‘work’ from ‘music/art/etc.’ and that when I’m working on creative projects I feel like I’m treading water because I don’t have a job. To this end, for this year’s goals I’ve just made a ‘Work’ category rather than splitting out ‘Music & Art’ goals from ‘Business’ goals. It’s all work. It’s all valid.


Write some notated music. This was one of the few fails from last year’s list and I think it’s important I do something with this. It might combine conventional notation with electronics or projections or something, but I need to get back to it. It’s been a year (if I ignore the Crossing Dartmoor guitar arrangement). It’s time. Underway 8-May: Scheduled to be performed in June! Yep – completed!

As last year, I want to write more for my performer-friends. Most of the pieces I’ve worked on this year have been for me to perform, which is great, but I need to write for friends too. As with the previous item, this is underway. 8-May. Likewise, this definitely progressed and not only did I write for my performer-friends but I have a few things lined up for 2017 now too!

I’ve been talking to a composer I really want to study with about having some independent lessons with her this year, so I need to follow up on that when I return to the UK and work out with her how to achieve this. Initial meeting happened in late April, just need to plan the first session now! Several lessons down! This is an irregular thing, but very helpful and enjoyable.

In conjunction with these lessons, I want to work on how to combine the various aspects of my practice – music, art, text – and develop them as aspects of a single mental world. I need to be braver about progressing pieces which combine these things (Fortune Favours The Brave, I’m looking at you!) so I’m actively experimenting with this, not just thinking about experimenting. See above re: notated music. Seems a bit of a cheat that this piece ticks three boxes, but that’s just “economical”, isn’t it? 😀 Well, this is kind of what the PhD is about, but I think it’s also developed quite a bit over the course of 2016. Ongoing, though, for sure.

I need to go to more live performances. I still want to keep up my high rate of art viewing, but I need to work on live music. That means things by friends, things by people I don’t know and possibly have never heard of, and things by people who are dead too 🙂 So-so success rate on this one. Definitely have got to more things than in the past, but there’s still work to do. I’ve recognised that if I haven’t bought a ticket in advance, I don’t get there, so am trying to be aware that I really need to buy a ticket if I want to be sure I’ll get to something!

I want to stop procrastinating on the book I’ve been wanting to write for a couple of years now. To that end, today I’ve started Project 365 because if I don’t do that this year, I put off the whole book by another year. Even if I don’t do P365 fully, I need to give it a solid go. Didn’t manage every day, but I think I did manage most days. Definitely has been a worthwhile experience – half-photo challenge; half diary.

Sort out that wretched Satie-collage article and send it off to a journal. Uh… no. Didn’t even pull it out to look at it. Whoops!

Research and apply for PhD funding. That’s the big funding goal for the year. Research has happened and come up with very very little I can actually apply for. Fingers are crossed that a funding miracle occurs to cover the fees at least :-/ Still, made a good start on this (8-May).

Online shop – I need to start trying to sell things at least. And maybe if the scores don’t sell, the artwork might? Nup. This didn’t happen either, although it probably still should.


British passports! This IS the year! Almost there! Forms are signed, just need to finish filling them in and make an appointment!

For the house, all our Australian stuff we’re currently sorting through should turn up sometime in April, so I need to review storage options for what we know is coming before then. I also need to convince Djelibeybi to sell our UK couch and sort out the lounge room floor before our marvellous Australian couch turns up and we find we have nowhere to put it. Other things I need to take ownership of are:

  • Paint kitchen plinths & uprights – Djeli actually did this
  • Paint front door – Nup
  • Scrape and paint the front-of-house bits that weren’t painted with the rest of the house – entryway, wall, gateposts – Nup
  • Sew cushion covers for the (Australian) couch – Nup
  • Finish fabric drop for loungeroom – Nup
  • Frame at least some of the artwork we have lying around/coming from Australia and work with Djeli to actually put it on the walls – Nup
  • Finalise garden design and talk to Djeli about implementing it this summer. Working on this one (8-May) and gradually refining layout plans and coming up with a list of potential plants. It can’t be implemented this summer – not practical – but planning to be building beds in autumn/winter, ready to plant for next spring. Garden is definitely improved, but there’s a lot still to be done.

I’d like to work in a trip to Glasgow and one to the continent – maybe somewhere we haven’t been before? If the PhD seems likely then a good-length summer holiday is a must, I think, on the grounds that it’s unlikely to happen again before 2020. Uh… nup and nup. Haven’t really been anywhere this year since coming back from Australia. Oh, except Bath…


I feel I’ve made some progress on this in recent months, thanks to a bit of a scare when I got sick and it felt like diabetes was imminent if not actually finally in residence (not paranoia – I’m insulin-resistant so ‘at risk’). I’ve definitely felt happier and healthier with less refined sugar in my diet so I want to keep this up and continue to reduce it even more. Doing really well with the low-carb diet. Much more satisfying than what we were eating before and I feel we’ve managed to work a real change here (also, we’re shrinking!). Definitely doing better on the low-carb way of life. Happier, more comfortable, smaller, but also not being insane and avoiding all bread and sweets, so still enjoying things, just rarity making them more special

Over the past couple of years I almost totally lost my interest in cooking. I’m feeling slightly more interest lately so hoping to build on this by trying new healthy recipes and also sharing the cooking with Djelibeybi (now his contract has ended & he’s back living at home) so I don’t get too worn down by it. Gradually getting back into the swing of this. Having new cookbooks and a new approach to food is helping. Now regularly trying new recipes. This dropped off towards the end of the year, but still overall much better than last year.

I need to exercise more and probably need a strategy/plan for this or at least some way to regularly motivate me to move something. This needs to be a priority – for insulin reasons and general health both physical and mental. Using the FitBit has helped with this – I’m a lot more aware of exactly how sedentary my lifestyle is. Was doing really well at a daily walk when we first got back from Aus, but illness and unseasonably cold weather stopped that. Need to restart. I’m definitely a lot more aware of when I do or don’t do exercise than I was at the beginning of the year, and yes the FitBit definitely helped with that. I’m managing to get out for at least a short walk most days. I try for every day, but it’s probably about 5-6 days a week. I’m pretty happy with that!

I want to start growing my own veg again this year. Don’t care if it’s in the ground or in pots. Don’t care if it’s only lettuce or radishes. Just need to start. Radish seeds planted 5-May 🙂 Grew quite a lot of stuff!! The radishes went well, amazing blueberries, the rosemary bush is still alive, there were a couple of spring onions, I have leeks growing at the moment. Unfortunately the baby squash were overcome by aphids and disease and never got to a point of being edible. We also raided our own elder bush to make elderflower cordial and foraged for sloes for sloe gin. And I grew flowers too!!

Work/life balance. I feel like I lurch between 70-hour super-productive weeks and 0-hour pits-of-depression weeks. I need to find a better balance. Exercise will help; Pomodoro Technique when things aren’t madly busy will help; Making time for relaxation activities like knitting, games, reading-for-fun and touristy outings will help. I might also need to investigate computer tools for focus so I don’t spend so much time procrastinating on social media. Should probably re-read Getting Things Done too. Re-read Getting Things Done before the PhD started, along with a lot of blog posts and a couple of books on doing a PhD and seem to be managing to strike a semi-reasonable balance, although there are little points of panic and it all feels rather tentatively balanced on a knife-edge. I’m trying hard to keep Sundays work-free. Doesn’t always work, but it’s a good thing to aim for, I think. The GTD re-read was helpful and I rejigged my Remember The Milk lists so they’re now working much much better. In short: could still do with improvement, but it’s better than it was.

Earlier to bed, earlier to get up. Mostly this seems to be working – Djeli has started heading to bed at 10 which is encouraging me to go off earlier too. Still feels a little unstructured, but it’s helping. No more 11am wake-ups, even on weekends, and I’m usually waking before my alarm. Not waking up quite so early since we put in the blackout blind to block the streetlight that’s outside our window, but I’m sleeping much better now that it’s darker. So long as I head to bed at a reasonable time, I’m not sleeping in too much, which is good, but it’s so easy to get distracted in the evening…

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