I trimmed my beard this morning. Not the exactly the pinnacle of human achievement, I grant you. Nothing added to our collective understanding, no great secrets of the cosmos unveiled - quite possibly an activity of such extreme insignificance as to rank alongside knowing how to open a cereal packet without tearing the cardboard top, recalling how hard you laughed when Margaret Thatcher resigned, or being able to name any of the contestants on Strictly-Come-X-Factor-Idol-So You Think You Can Pick Your Nose?...
It was, however, significant to me, because I was starting to resemble the mutant offspring of Brian Blessed & a border collie...
...and finally felt I could allow myself the time to do the job (the electric-clipping bit's fast enough - it's the cleaning-up afterwards that takes so long...the tough little hairs seem to fly off everywhere, then cling determinedly to the damn basin. And then there are all those tricky bloodstains...).
You see, this whole single parent/musician lark seems to be placing more & more pressure on my time management lately. Some days simply to consist of a litany of mundane and menial domestic chores, half-an-hour plonking around (quietly) on something stringed (but only after I've got the kids in bed & dealt with the washing), finished off by cramming in as many of the on-line social & self-promotional obligations that are concomitant with the modern music business model as possible. (But infinitely preferable to scratching a bare existence out of infertile soil, without the comforts of electricity or running water, certainly. This is not intended, I hope, to be an exercise in self-pity).
Which is why the shaving just wasn't happening. Inessential, takes too long, so it can wait. As can, for instance, television. Not to mention the vast heap of literature, films, music, philosophy, politics, sport, blogs, twits, etc that I might have some passing curiosity in, the accumulated cultural detritus of the 'every artefact can be preserved forever' digital age.
Heck, I probably shouldn't even be writing this blog entry - do I really need to be doing this? Does anybody out there really want to be reading it? (Think I know the answer to that one already, cheers).
Seriously, though, I originally wanted to write stuff that might prove worthwhile-yet-amusing, that sometimes involved proper research - magazine-feature style, rather than occasional drips of solipsistic snivelling.
So here's the crux of the matter. For musicians (especially the annoyingly young ones - without families, mortgages, hearing loss, colostomy bags, etc), the temptation to waste whole screeds of time is enormous - after all, rehearsing/recording/gigging/touring often involve a great deal of waiting around, so why shouldn't we spend more of the rest of our time on stuff we want to do, huh? No reason at all...except we never have as much time as we fool ourselves into thinking.
You genuinely want to take your music seriously? (rather than simply use it as an excuse for ingesting recreational chemicals and magnifying your putative sex appeal)
Turn off the TV, (still the world's greatest black hole of time wastage, in spite of the challenge from social networking sites and YouTube), accept that "going down the pub" instead of re-stringing your guitar won't help you achieve your goals, and concentrate your efforts on making the most of the opportunities that come your way. You'll catch up on all those books & films eventually, when that arthritic hip has crimped your gigging style a touch...
Finally, speaking as someone who suffers sporadic bouts of insomnia (and occasionally has it forced upon him), I can't recommend trying to make the day last longer as a solution. Agreed, it's an obvious route to go down in an effort to fit everything in, but sleep deprivation only makes us (more) stupid and fat. Ok, that's maybe a slight simplification of the medical evidence (see below for details), but insufficient sleep does us no favours, even if it's only short-term. And don't get me started on trying to combat the effects with caffeine and/or cigarettes...or anything else...
Oh, and don't become a single parent. Trust me, that doesn't work out so well with the music thing either.
More grumpy-old-man witterings coming soon. Ish. If I have the time.
A few brief slices of sleep research:
"Less effective executive functioning after one night's sleep deprivation"
(Journal of Sleep Research, full article)
"Sleep deprivation doubles risks of obesity in children & adults"
(Warwick Medical School, press release & podcast)
"Can You Catch Up On Sleep?"
(NHS inform, research & article on its misrepresentation in media)
"Neurocognitive Consequences of Sleep Deprivation"
(Semin Neurol, abstract)
Relative effects on performance of sleep deprivation & alcohol
(Occupational & Environmental Medicine, abstract)