10 Things I’ve Learnt This Month

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Image: A Writer’s Best Friend ~ © CJ Levinson 2011

Been busy writing the last few weeks, so haven’t had much time for an update until now. The novel’s coming along quite well; I’ve had to rethink how to approach it a bit as some of it wasn’t working but on the whole I’m happy with how it’s progressing. Looking at having the first draft finished around late-June with a little luck.

The main development is that I’ve settled on a working title at last. At the moment I’m calling it The Forgotten Kingdom. Not sure if that will be the final title yet but it suits the story quite well. I’ll be posting a new video about the novel in a few days – the title will probably make more sense then.

Unfortunately I’ve been struggling with writer’s block and staying focused as well, so that’s made the writing go a bit more slowly than I had wanted. I was expecting to run into a few problems though as I haven’t written anything this long before, so I’m not too worried about it overall. Actually one of the good things is that it’s let me try out a new writing exercise that’s helped a lot and I’m very happy with.

The idea’s quite simple really: every time I find myself stuck, I stop and try to think of something new I’ve learnt that day. It can be anything – an interesting fact, a funny or personal observation, a joke, a unique thought – as long as it’s something I learnt or realised that day. Then I write about it; sometimes just a short description, other times a short story or a poem inspired by it. The length isn’t really important; it’s that it distracts me but still allows me to keep writing so I don’t lose the flow and when I come back, I feel much more focused and the writing seems easier.

I’m not sure how well it would work for other people but it’s worked very well for me so far. And as a bonus it’s given me a list of all the new things I’ve learnt each day as well, everything I’d normally just end up forgetting.

So as I haven’t posted in a while I thought it’d be fun to share some of them. I won’t post any of the writing samples as they’re too long but these are are some of the more random things I’ve learnt and thought about during the past month. Some are obvious, some are just fun or silly observations, some are things I’ve learnt about myself, and others are just interesting facts I’d never heard before.

I hope you enjoy the list. I might even turn this into a monthly feature. So what have you learnt this month? 😉

  • 1) I’m terrible with deadlines

This came as a bit of a shock really but I realised recently that I am terrible with deadlines. Absolutely abysmal. It’s strange; I’ve always thought I work quite well under pressure. But looking back on some of the goals I’ve set for myself over the last few years, I’ve failed most of them miserably.

It’s mostly true of my writing; whenever I start a new story I try to finish it in a certain timeframe but looking back, I’ve achieved very few of my targets. Look at Sleepless; a story I’m still very excited about but which, more than a year later, is still languishing unfinished. My novel’s the same way; while it’s progressing well, I still thought I’d be a lot further along with it than I am by now. Even my emails I often find quite difficult to keep up with.

I’m not sure why; I’m usually very punctual and focused in other parts of my life. I know I’m something of a perfectionist, so maybe it’s that. Or maybe I set unrealistic expectations for myself. Either way I guess I’d rather be a little late with something and have it be perfect than finish something on time and not be completely happy with it.

Still, it bugs me. Maybe I should make improving on my deadlines a half-year resolution. 

  • 2) Chewing gum helps to stop onion tears

I didn’t know this but apparently if you chew gum while chopping onions, it helps to stop you from crying. I thought it sounded like an old furphy at first but apparently there is some truth to it. Chewing gum forces you to keep your mouth open and to breathe through your mouth, which helps to disperse the chemicals that cause irritation. Makes sense if you think about it.

I’m not sure how well it would work if you were cutting onions for a long time but I think I’ll try it at some stage. Curious to see how well it works.

  • 3) Old favourites

I was going through my music collection the other day and one of the interesting things I noticed was that my most played album by far is Tina Arena’s Don’t Ask. Don’t Ask was actually one of the very first albums I ever bought almost seventeen years ago now; it’s one of my favourite albums but I didn’t realise I had played it as much as that.

I checked the others and all my top albums were similar – Don’t Ask, Born to Run, Rumours, Dark Side of the Moon, Achtung Baby, Forgiven Not Forgotten, SavageGarden, all albums I’ve owned for the longest out of my collection. I didn’t expect that at all – I thought there’d be at least a couple of more recent albums.

I thought that was interesting; despite having discovered many artists since (many of whom I love and play all the time, like Sarah Blasko and Feist), these are still the albums I come back to the most, the first ones I ever bought. I guess you never forget your first musical loves.

  • 4) The 8 glasses myth

I’ve always wondered where the idea of drinking eight glasses of water a day came from. I’ve never really bought into it; it’s always sounded like too round of a figure, particularly given the differences between men and women, different body types and how different climates should affect hydration. But I was never sure where it came from.

I was reading Scientific American recently and interestingly, it covered it. It looks like the idea actually came from a misunderstanding; in 1945 the Food and Nutrition Board in the US suggested that an average person should consume one millilitre of water for every calorie of food they ingested, which would equal about eight glasses of water a day. From there it seems to have been adopted across the US and in many other parts of the world.

What’s interesting is that the suggested guideline didn’t take into account the water content found in food, so the required amount was actually much less – more like six glasses. Most nutritionists don’t recommend a guideline at all anymore but simply to drink when you feel thirsty. Your body should tell you how much water you need.

  • 5) I’m so over superheroes

I saw Thor earlier this month and it confirmed something I’d suspected: I am so over superhero films. Thor actually wasn’t that bad but it just didn’t really do anything spectacular for me. I think there are just so many comic book films being released these days that I’m getting fed up with them, which considering I loved comics as a kid feels a little sad. Or maybe I’ve just grown up.

After watching Thor I actually went online to look for a list of all the superhero films coming out soon; I couldn’t believe there’d be that many more characters left. But there’s at least twenty films coming out over the next twelve months. Twenty! Talk about overkill. And don’t even get me started on 3D.

I did notice one interesting thing though: the director of the new Spider-Man film’s name is Mark Webb. Seriously. Did they hire him as soon as they saw his name?

  • 6) The Zombies are coming

Unfortunately Harold Camping’s still not done predicting the end of the world: he’s now saying it was a “spiritual” judgement and that the end will really happen on October 21st. Right. So what’s this, his fourth prediction?

If the end of the world really does happen though, I thought this was good to know: the CDC is prepared. They’ve just published an article on their website showing how people should prepare for a Zombie Apocalypse. The CDC sounds like it would actually treat it like any other viral outbreak, which is interesting. Except, you know, an outbreak that wants to eat your brain.

The article’s definitely worth reading – it’s funny but it’s a good way of stressing the preparations everyone should make in case of real emergencies as well. I admit I didn’t know half of the things I was supposed to do. Learnt a lot.

  • 7) Ancient burials

I came across this doing research into different funeral rites for my novel and thought it was interesting: apparently the practice of burying the dead dates back well-beyond human times. Archaeologists exploring a pit in Atapuerca, Spain, uncovered fossils of an early human ancestor, Homo Heidelbergensis, that date back 350,000 years and they appear to be the earliest examples of burial. Homo Heidelbergensis is also believed to have been one of the first hominids to have acquired a primitive form of language.

It’s also believed that approximately 106 billion people have been born since the dawn of modern humans (around 50,000 BC). That means that roughly 6% of all the humans who have ever lived are alive today.

  • 8) A group of hippos

Found this interesting too: apparently the correct name for a group of hippos is a “bloat” of hippos. It was in my dictionary; I’d never heard of it before. Think all I’d ever heard of was a pod or a herd.

Apparently it’s also an “ambush” of tigers, a “shrewdness” of apes, a “crash” of rhinos, a “mob” of emus, a “congregation” of alligators and an “intrusion” of cockroaches.

There are some more here if you’re interested. I like the “mob” of emus myself. Sounds very Australian.

  • 9) Yummy mummies freak me out

I’m single at the moment but I always feel uncomfortable when someone gives me “the Look”. I’m sure you know the one I’m talking about: the up, down, undressing you with their eyes Look. I hate it. My feeling is, if you like someone, go up and talk to them, rather than standing there, imagining them naked from 10 metres away.

Worse though as I’ve recently learnt is when the Look comes from attractive mothers my age. This has happened to me several times now this month and it’s freaked me out every time. Not that they’re mothers; I like kids and it’s not that I’m not interested. It’s that you can’t tell what that Look really means and it messes with your head.

I mean that Look can mean anything; from they’re single and think you’re cute, to “maybe if I wasn’t married” to “ew, why’s anyone let him out of the house”, to finally, “oh God help, save me from these awful kids”! It makes you feel like your head’s going to explode and you don’t know whether to start a conversation or not because at best you’re going to look like an idiot, at worst you’ll get beaten into a bloody pulp by their husband.

Maybe I just don’t read signals well but to any yummy mummies out there, don’t give me that Look. Please. I’ve learnt to ignore it now. Try talking instead.

  • 10) Beer in space

Finally possibly the most important thing I’ve learnt this month: two Australian brewers have created the world’s first space beer. It’s designed especially for space and they’re particularly looking at targeting space tourism as flights become less expensive.

Apparently the brew is a little stronger than normal beer as the tongue swells and taste diminishes in space. They’ve tested it in zero-gravity and the flavour works but they still need to design a new kind of glass to make drinking easier in zero-gravity. Apparently carbonation is also still an issue.

Sounds promising though. Somehow I’m not surprised they’re Australian either. 🙂

2 thoughts on “10 Things I’ve Learnt This Month

  1. Love it absolutely every bit of it. I’ve learnt so much including the intrusion of cockroaches, the ambush of tigers and the crash of rhinos. Thanks man. U’re genius.

    1. Hi Siena, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! I’m always amazed by all the little things we learn every day – glad you enjoyed these! Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. 😉

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