Joining the Litterati (sort of)

A few months ago I first tried out an app called Litterati, which encourages people to not only clean up litter, but to photograph it, tag it, and place it on a map as citizen science, so that those who are trying to combat litter at its source have information on what kind of garbage is showing up where.

The app also tracks your total count of what you've cleaned up so you can compare yourself to others and even create your own club for a little friendly competition and added motivation.

I love the idea of the app, but it and my tablet are not getting along when it comes to mapping. That's part of why I stopped using it when I initially downloaded it in the summer. I decided recently to give it another go, but the problem persists. For example, this pair of balloons was tumbling around behind the Humber College residence buildings, but when I uploaded the photo it placed them on the other side of campus beside a major intersection (and it's a big campus).

I assume the problem is with my tablet (which qualifies as old in the world of tech) and I can't find a way to edit the placement of the litter on the map. For now, I've discovered that if I leave my GPS off, the litter gets added to my tally without appearing on the map at all. That means I can still keep track of how much litter I've picked up with my personal counter, but I won't be able to contribute to the citizen science portion of the project.

It's far from ideal, as adding to our local knowledge of litter sources is what drew me to the app in the first place, but for now I'll settle for challenging myself to help to clean it up. If I ever join the 2000s and get a smartphone, I assume the mapping will go a lot smoother.

Outside of my technological failings, I do hope that someday Litterati has the resources to take a page from iNaturalist and add a more robust web presence where you can log into your account on the site, add notes about your adventures, connect with other local Litterati, plan public clean-ups, etc. I've sent them an email - we'll see what the future brings.

Want to get in on the action? Litterati is available in both the Apple App store and on Google Play.

- Thursday December 6, 2018

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Why I (Should) Still Write - A Note to Self

I haven’t been writing much lately. Nothing creative, at least. I have been writing more tweets than usual, and posting more in Facebook groups. Plus there was that one out-of-character Facebook rant for friends and family to enjoy. There have been extensive comments on proposed government policies, and corresponding emails to politicians. And I have some business and media types still on my to-email list. So I guess there have been a lot of words, just not a lot of stories.

It’s hard to focus on making things up when so much real life is disappearing.

My recent words have been about caribou, coyotes, and cormorants. November, once reserved for the dug-in flurry of fiction writing that is Nanowrimo, has instead been filled with public meetings and private missives sent to friends who I both hope and fear are feeling the same way I am.

How do you take time to make art when the world is in ecological crisis?
How do you live your normal life?
And should you even try?

I’m lucky, at least, that my day job at a public garden/conservation area/nature education centre feels like it matters more than ever. So that part’s easy...ish. But I find it hard to motivate myself to write anything outside the scope of my new personal ABC’s - Animals, Biodiversity, Climate. And even getting those words out is hard, because the storm of bad news is relentless, and it’s so easy to lose hours and days and weekends just reading and worrying and wondering how best to help and then reading some more, letting time we don’t have slip away.

A graphic of lined paper with a pencil writing the words Animals, Biodiversity, Climate

My favourite writing quote of all time is from E.B. White:

“All that I ever hope to say in books is that I love the world.”

So I will keep writing - the policy comments and the plays, the pamphlets and the poems. Because we need to fight, but we also need more people to love the world.

I think that might be our only hope.


Hello, welcome (back), thanks for reading. As the title suggests, this post is mainly to keep myself on track. If it connects with something you’ve been thinking or feeling of late, that’s great. But it is not meant to be a statement on how anyone else spends their time. If you are prolifically creating wild, wacky, wonderful things? Amazing. If you have walked away from your regular life to strike on the steps of your nation’s parliament? You are my hero. I suspect my most useful place is between those two, but then, it's a rather baffling time.

~ Monday November 26, 2018

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Camp NaNoWriMo - Wrap Up

Monday April 30, 2018

Well, with this round of Camp Nanowrimo heading into the final 17 hours I can safely say I will NOT be "winning" this time around, seeing as I would need to do 16 more hours of writing to meet my goal and I do have a job to go to shortly. I did, however, succeed in writing three new short plays this month, made great progress on two longer plays, and started two picture books. So it was still a pretty good run.

I actually made the decision not to finish yesterday, and was leaning towards that decision on Saturday. As soon as I looked at all the things I wanted to do with the past weekend and realized it was either do those things and write for a few hours or forget having a weekend at all and just write, I chose the more balanced approach.

When I was younger I surely would have surrendered my whole weekend to an online writing challenge, but as I stated in my project listing on the Camp Nanowrimo website:
The real goal is not the final tally though; if I get far behind and have to catch up at the end of the month I'll have missed the point. Rebuilding a daily writing habit is the goal.
Of course I got ahead of myself and chose a goal based on writing every day AND writing for another few hours on every day out of the month that I wasn't at work. So I set a target of 46 hours of writing in April. My count currently sits at 30, but will go up by an hour or two before the end of the day. I didn't write every day, but I did write more days than not. More importantly, I figured out a few things I will try out in the coming month to keep the train rolling:

Writing in the Mornings

This whole month I was trying to put aside an hour to write when I got home from work in the evenings, but sometimes when I got home I was worn out, or frustrated, or distracted by the excitement of a work project. Also, I got home at different times and had different evening commitments, making it hard to feel like a habit was forming.

And yet I have a daily habit that I formed much by accident - morning Sodoku. After getting into doing the puzzles in the paper last year, I was given a Page a Day Sodoku calendar and a Sodoku book for Christmas and have done one every morning for all of 2018. The original idea was to do them on the bus during my commute, but that backed up to during my morning coffee, whether or not I was going to work.

So as of this morning, I'm switching to morning writing. One hour in the Sodoku slot, and the puzzle can come after. Of course I may choose to write longer on days that I'm home or write again in the evenings, but I'm going to try starting my day with writing, before other things can crowd in and get on my mind.

Taking Seinfeld Digital

I mentioned in my Camp Nano Halfway Point blog post that I was interested in Jerry Seinfeld's idea of putting a big red X through the calendar on every day that you wrote (in his case, new jokes) so that you would get a nice visual chain going that you didn't want to break. The problem I ran into is that our only wall calendar is "The Little World of Liz Climo" and I like the look of it so much that I actually didn't like putting big red Xs on it, so the satisfaction I was supposed to get from seeing them was marred.

My next thought was to go by another calendar just for that purpose, but just last night it occurred to me that perhaps digital is the way to go. I threw together a red X writing tally page for myself in Google Docs, and set it to open up every time I launch chrome:

I've also gone with Deep Work author Cal Newport's suggestion to tally how much time you spend focused on your most important task, so instead of just one X for writing at all it's an X for every hour. I'll see this every time I want to go online, so if I've somehow missed my morning writing hour I'll have a big reminder of that pop-up in my face before I can get to my email or social media or anywhere else on the web.

Back to Camp?

So with those tweaks, a plan to rearrange our creative space, and new on-the-go projects to get finished, I'm heading into May with the continuing goal to write every day, and more. Camp Nanowrimo takes place again in July; I'll decide closer to the date if I want to do it again. If all goes well that would be with a project-based goal, since I'll hopefully have this regular-writing habit locked in by then.

Did you go to Camp Nanowrimo? If so, how'd it go? Or what writing habits work for you?

Camp NaNoWriMo - The Halfway Point

Sunday April 15, 2018

Today marks the halfway point for this month's Camp NaNoWriMo, the set-your-own-goal online writing challenge tied to National Novel Writing Month in November. Rather than choosing a word count goal, I wanted to use this month to build a regular, daily writing habit.

My current tally is at 18 hours, which would have me more than halfway there if I'd gone with a simple hour-per-day goal. But I had a different plan, as explained on my Camp NaNoWriMo Project Page:
The goal is at least one hour a day (30 hours), plus one additional hour on the days I know I'll have off during the month (+12), plus at least two mini-binge days with two additional hours (+4), for at least 46 hours spent writing in April. 
So with that in mind, I technically should have been at 23 hours today to really be on track. But since my ultimate goal is to build up better habits, I went into this hoping that the month would get progressively better, not planning to have it all come together on day one.

Unlike the every-spare-moment-spent-writing word count crunch of NaNoWriMo, more time for reading was an unofficial part of my April goal. One of the books I read this month was Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.

Not actually about birds.
I'd read good things about it and thought it would be a great fit for Camp. Although there ended up being some helpful stuff in it, I must admit I almost stopped reading. I'm not familiar with any of Lamott's other writing, but I quickly got the feeling that she and I simply have a different view of life, which made getting on board with her anecdotes and asides tough.

I'm glad I stuck it out though, as there's a really wonderful section near the end about reasons to write. It includes ideas about writing something as a present for someone in your life, writing something to return the favour to the author of a book you love (even if they're unlikely to ever read yours), thinking of writing as being a host to your readers, or seeing writing as a way of giving readers a feeling of connection and communion. These aren't the practical "instructions" someone reading Lamott might be looking for, but for me they were a refreshing bit of motivation.

On the other hand, I found a very practical suggestion for the rest of Camp in an unexpected place. I've started reading Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, which I also saw someone recommend online. I'm only partway in, but its already included a story about Jerry Seinfeld's dedication to writing new jokes every day which I think I had heard before, but clearly forgotten:
"Seinfeld continued by describing a specific technique he used to help maintain this discipline. He keeps a calendar on his wall. Every day that he writes jokes he crosses out the date on the calendar with a big red X. 'After a few days you'll have a chain,' Seinfeld said. 'Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.'"
So now a red pen is at the ready by our kitchen calendar, to see if I can get a nice chain going by the end of the month.

Are you taking part in Camp? If so, how's your month going?