Regarding Writing

No More Obligatory Daily Blogging

Recorded on February 1st, 2017


I’m done for now, stepping off the hamster wheel. If you ignore the random day or two that I skipped, I’ve been posting at least once a day since 1/31/2016. I’ve written a few thoughtful posts that still make some sense and might stand on their own in the future, and I’ve written a whole lot of short, crappy posts when it got too late at night and it was more important to sleep than set the world on fire with my prose. In the process, I got a pretty slick iOS-based publishing system going, which allows me to create and edit from anywhere entirely on the iPhone.

I also learned what it’s like to have a daily creative obligation (not always great!). The most energized I felt was early in the process, when I was still ironing out workflows and sharing info about process and tools, and I was doing the majority of the writing in the wee hours before work. It’s a good feeling knowing that you’ve created something and put it out into the world before you even leave the house in the morning. But as the obligations of the year weighed me down and the U.S. election started to come into depressing focus, my energy dipped and then crashed. A whole lot of evenings ended up with me literally falling asleep on the couch, typing into Drafts or Editorial until I couldn’t hold the iPhone up anymore. Doing anything creative every day kind of sucks when you’re doing it just to be doing it.

I don’t know if I’ve gotten any better at writing, but I think I’ve gotten faster at it. I now think much less about the structure of posts and can just dive in and see where an idea takes me. Sometimes those turn out to be the best pieces. They say the best way to find out what you think is by writing about it.

I’ll keep the blog online for the foreseeable future. I look forward to posting with far less frequency and hopefully more length and quality. What a luxury to only write when I feel compelled to, and use some of that extra energy for other creative pursuits. Thanks for following along. And now…



Phoning It In

Recorded on January 28th, 2017

Sometimes when it’s time to do our nightly art/writing/posting, we whine to each other, saying, “I don’t wanna do art. Art sucks. I’m tired. Bleah.” And then we tell each other to phone it in. This can have a double meaning, because we’re both good at using our literal phones to create whatever we’re going to post that night.

On top of that is the nagging feeling that none of this art matters, really. It’s something that could sneak up on us anytime, not just when the executive branch is run by buffoons.

But now, whoa. Now, I just feel like eating pizza every night, drinking one extra beer with dinner, getting a dog, buying whatever toys we want, and taking a nap on the couch, all because the endless parade of news tidbits arrives via wifi, each one more depressing and rage-inspiring than the last.

Is everyone with me? Does anyone have a creative spark left? My resistance flame surely hasn’t gone out, but that pilot light is about all I have in me these days. And it’s only been the first full week. Holy shit.

Today I heard Ari Shapiro ask David Brooks on All Things Considered what he thought Trump’s first-week executive actions told us about him. His response was:

“My expectations are never low enough… No matter how low you start, he exceeds them.”

That’s where everybody is right now, and it’s easy to get tired.

Why You Should Follow Julia Evans on Twitter

Recorded on August 24th, 2016

If you’re at all interested in programming, you should follow Julia Evans (@b0rk) on Twitter. I don’t know if I got lucky and hit her feed at just the right moment, or if she’s just delightful like this all the time. I believe it’s the latter, because no matter how far back I scroll, there’s fun, creative, nerdy stuff. Her enthusiasm for learning and sharing is contagious and makes me want to be a part of it. I’m bound to get smarter the more I read and try the stuff she advises.

If you also like zines or any kind of handwritten art, you’ll especially love her recent posts where she’s effectively live-blogging her programmer’s notebook in zine format:

So her tweets are pretty great. And then you dive into her blog and read stuff like this: “How Do You Decide What to Work On?

^^^^^This is what I like to call “secret-decoder-key” goodness.

George Orwell Predicted Trump

Recorded on August 12th, 2016

This passage from George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language reminds me of Donald Trump every time he opens his goddamned mouth. Beware of him, and of any proposed leader who won’t speak or write clearly, because it means they won’t think clearly.

When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases — bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder — one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.

Why We Still Run Our Own Blogs

Recorded on April 4th, 2016

Eddie Smith just moved Practically Efficient to Jekyll + GitHub:

Even though indie blogging has been relegated to third-, fourth-, maybe fifth-class citizen status on the internet in the last few years, I’m still grateful it lives on through the people who won’t let it go. I’ve seen so many talented, passionate bloggers move on to other mediums like podcasting or get sucked into aggregator-ish, socially-charged platforms like Facebook and Medium to chase the high of extra-instant attention, only to find that individual thoughts quickly wash away in a relentless social tsunami that leaves no trace of individual identity or permanence.

I tried to say that a while back in Why to Host Your Own Stuff, but I didn’t crystallize it nearly as well as Eddie did. He moved from Squarespace to Jekyll primarily because of Markdown editing frustrations, and in the process, he gained a huge amount of control over his content and the way it’s delivered. He also learned a bunch of new stuff to get it all working the way he liked. And since Jekyll pre-builds everything as pure HTML, his site got really fast, too.

More reasons to roll your own and go the nerdy route!