Month: November 2013

Writing about writing on writing

I’m always one for the latest thing, particularly when it comes to social media. So when I heard the @Ev (the man behind Blogger and Twitter) had started up something new, I was quick to check it out.

His latest venture is called Medium. It’s an online writing space.

At least that’s part of what it is.

It’s a wonderful hybrid; an excellent online writing tool (which already makes writing this blog post in WordPress seem clunky), and a shared repository of posts and articles created using Medium.

It’s a lovely tool to use and speaks to the fact that, for many people, the act of writing needs a focus and space to be allowed to flourish. There are many applications that offer this, I use Byword heavily for this exact reason, but Medium is the best online writing tool I’ve come across yet.

It does leave me with a quandary. I write here, I am (heavily) invested in this blog, but I’ve also written something there – Writing on writing – which was a much nicer user experience. Can I merge the two?

Not yet, it seems, so I doubt I’ll use Medium much more until I can find a way to archive things here as well (there is an export option on Medium but I’d prefer it to be done automatically). I’d urge you to check it out though, it’s a lovely place to play.

Start here: What we’re trying to do with Medium.

Focus, focus, focus

File this under ‘so obvious it hurts’.

I recently signed up for Yelp, prompted by both the rise of people in my Twitter timeline using it and the number of local businesses on Twitter starting to smartly engage with customers. I’ve been following some of these businesses and it’s great that they ‘get’ how the interactions work, bringing a real sense of the people behind the business, as well as insights into how they are working, where they get their produce from and so on.

Top tip: If you have a recognisable profile photo on Twitter, you may find you walk into a restaurant and one of the owners walks up to introduce himself because he recognises you.

Since then I’ve found Yelp to be very useful as a tool to discover new places, restaurants, cafes and bars to visit in Glasgow. Despite it being my home city, there are parts of it I don’t know well and, given that I tend to stick to what I know, it’s a great way to break that habit.

Of course the reviews are where the value is and, being the sort of guy who likes to give back I started writing up short reviews of the cafes, restaurants and pubs I’ve visited. Not only has this allowed me to see how often I eat out (too often!) it’s also brought to light the simple fact that, when it comes to writing, if I have a specific topic to write about I can be very efficient.

Since joining Yelp I’ve written 23 reviews, the bulk of those in the past few months. They don’t take me long, but I enjoy the process.

The question is, why the hell don’t I apply that thinking here?

I frequently struggle with what to write about, so much so that I end up not writing anything (or, more likely, starting several things but losing my way and giving up). So I’m going to do some thinking and find some topics to cover here. Suggestions are welcomed.

My Overcommitment Cycle

I’ve written about this type of thing before but I recently read the phrase “overcommitment cycle” the other day and it reminded me of a realisation I had about such cycles.

Turns out, and I know this will not be a shock to anyone, I am very much a product of my parents upbringing and environment. I know, what a revelation!

My Mum and Dad have many similiarities, one of which I have inherited/learned is the drive to be involved and contributing to things, be it projects, clubs, events and such like. I have mostly definitely inherited their ‘get things done’ mindset and added in my own level of focus and drive.

What I realised the other day was that I’ve also inherited a few things from each parent that kick in specifically during such overcommitment cycles.

From my Dad I’ve inherited a sense of what I hesitate to describe as ‘easy boredom’ as it’s more of a ‘I should be doing something’-ness that can end up having me whirling through my flat tackling several concurrent chores at once, or multi-tasking (well) like a man possessed. Yes, men can multi-task (when we want to).

From Mum, I’ve definitely inherited a slower side, the part of me that recognises that somethings just aren’t important and that I need to slow down. Purely as an example (sorry Mum!) I’ve inherited her disdain of chores, like dusting, so they are always last on my list of things to do.

Mash those two sets of characteristics together and, when I hit an overcommitment cycle, I’m suddenly tackling all those things at once, instead of keeping on top of them as I go along. A manic period at work becomes a manic period at home, so at the end of the cycle whilst I’ve achieved everything I needed to, I’ve usually also managed to rearrange my spare room, or clean out my wardrobe or some other ‘might do it someday’ kind of task.

Which quite clearly makes no sense whatsoever! Surely during times of high stress and pressure I should be avoiding doing things I don’t need to do? Well apparently I’m not wired that way. I blame my parents 😉

Ultimately, when I’m busy I like to make sure I’m VERY busy, doing everything I can all at once and can end up over stretching myself. But when I stop, I stop dead.

So when pressures inside and outside of work collapse into the same timescale, I find myself reaching for one or other trait, fluctuating between operating at 1000 miles per hour (with a fair bit of collateral damage generated by my behaviours) or completely switching off and retreating to my cave (AKA sofa and movies).

Most of the time life continues at a manageable pace and one day I might learn a better way to cope when the next overcommitment cycle hits but if I’m being honest, part of me likes them. The energy and drive, the hint of chaos and ‘teetering on the brink of disaster’ allows me to look back with a small sense of achievement, ideally from my sofa with a cold beverage in my hand and the latest blockbuster movie flashing across my eyes.

Why I blog

I’ve always enjoyed words, reading and writing.

At school English was my favourite subject, with Physics a close second (if there had been a computing O Grade I would probably have taken that instead). My parents are both teachers and much of my inquisitive nature was fuelled by books; I still have, and treasure, a set of Readers Digest encyclopedias gifted to me by my late grandparents.

My Dad was always interested in computers, so from the days of having a BBC Micro, and then an Apple Macintosh Plus in the house it’s no surprise that I got interested in those too.

Put computers and words together and writing seems to be the obvious next step. From the initial wonder at watch words form on a screen, to a job as a technical writer, it’s far to say that technology and writing have always been a big part of my life.

My first blog post was hand crafted and uploaded to my own website, which had been in existence for a couple of years, on the 2nd of June, 1999. It was an odd moment, realising that something I’d created could be seen on the internet.

Fast forward a year or so to July 2000 and a new service called Blogger was launched and made that process all the simpler! From there it’s safe to say that blogging, as the first stage of social media, become very popular. Since then it’s been through a few dips but it’s definitely back on the map now.

Being a blogger in Scotland was a little bit odd back then, there were so few of us but that did mean that, over time as we all found one another online, it did setup some friendships that became much more than just ‘people I know who blog’.

For my part, I guess I should own up to having run a website called Scottish Blogs.

The year was 2002, and webrings were ‘the thing’. If you weren’t part of a webring, or five, you weren’t one of the cool kids.

Blogging Brits was one of the first I joined and soon I realised that Scotland needed one too and so in late November 2002 the Scottish Blogs webring was born.

By December 2003 there were 100 other members and a year later I created a directory website and moved away from the (by then quickly losing popularity) webrings. It was running that website, and organising the first few blogmeets that allowed me to meet some wonderful people, going on to attending (and doing a reading at) one of their weddings and visiting them in Hungary.

Since then I’ve had three separate blogs, now merged into this single website, written more words than I care to remember, been mentioned in newspapers, been on the radio, and through it all been lucky enough to get to know and meet some amazingly generous, lovely, smart and funny people from all over the UK, many of whom I’ve known for years and, over time, have managed to meet.

I still blog today for the same reasons that I started writing:

  1. I blog for me, I know others may read what I publish and I welcome the conversations it can spark, but this is my space.
  2. I write to process the thoughts in my head, that is a constant theme throughout the last 14 years.
  3. Because I enjoy it.

I write all this as, it seems, blogging is back on the rise. What goes around comes around I guess?

Remember yourself

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at polymeansmany.com

Let me start with a simple premise: Relationships are a compromise, and those compromises are made to find balance to make sure everyone is as happy as they can be. Compromises are made on all sides and over time they even out.

Of course, in poly relationships there is more than one person to consider when it comes to compromise and that can mean there is a risk that you, with the best intentions, start over-compromising in favour of your partners. Whilst this may be driven by the simple motivation of how much you care about them and want them to be happy, it can mean you are in danger of forgetting about your own needs.

Calling out when you think your own needs aren’t being met isn’t easy though. Fears that there could be the perception that you are being selfish or, at worst, thoughtless for the needs of others are likely to be in your mind, but with the right comms (and loving partners who trust that you are being honest) there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to tackle these moments.

For me the biggest struggle I have in this area is that, whilst I know there are times when I need to be alone, I really don’t like the fact that it means that one or other of my partners may be alone of an evening. Hey, I didn’t say any of this was rational!

Wanting to spend time with the ones you love is natural, after all why wouldn’t you want to spend time with people who make you happy just by being around them, but there are times when I need to be able to step away for a moment to catch breath and let my brain process my thoughts and emotions.

I don’t think that’s unique to me though, I think this is important for anyone in a relationship, but especially so for those in polyamorous circumstances. The additional layer of complexity that having multiple loving partners brings does require that you are all taking time to think things over, and taking care of yourselves.

Of course it’s not easy to call out that you need some ‘me’ time when you are already time challenged to see the ones you love as often as you’d like but, as my Mother says, “Sometimes needs must”.