Month: June 2019

Writing space

Since moving, I’ve struggled to get back into my writing habit. I’m managing to keep my blog going although dropping the schedule I followed in 2018 has also had an impact – looking back it’s clear that some of the posts are not great – but I now have two rough ideas for a novel/novella which are currently stalled in draft purgatory with no signs of moving anywhere fast.

I am blocked and uninspired.

Now, I could blame many things for this; that I no longer have a separate desk and a nice adjustable chair, that I don’t have a separate space for when I’m writing, or that I’m just too busy with other things. But these are all excuses.

Ultimately I’m being crippled by my own fear of failure.

A couple of years ago I used NaNoWriMo as a way to push myself, a way to be held (somewhat) publically accountable, and to provide a focus. I met the word count but didn’t have a novel, more the structure of a story and some under developed characters, but it was a start. And I kept it going for a while but then I started to get blocked, stuck wondering where the story should go next, and my character notes kept chopping and changing (to the point I was wondering if I should rewrite and change the focus to be on a secondary character instead).

A while ago I had another vague idea for a story and, on the premise that NOT thinking about Novel 1 whilst I started Novel 2 would actually help me progress Novel 1 at some point, I leapt straight in, only to get blocked on Novel 2 because it wasn’t that great an idea in the first place (or maybe it is, I don’t even know anymore as I’m second and third guessing my second and third guesses).

So I stepped away from writing all together (interestingly I don’t consider writing blog posts the same way I think about writing ‘creatively’), and then life got busy (in a good way) and well loads of other reasons/excuses can be offered to justify why I’ve barely even thought about Novel 1 for over a year or so. All excuses, I know, if I was really passionate about this I would find a way, right?

Now, you may be asking (presuming anyone is still reading) why the hell am I writing a blog post about this? Well because it’s:

  1. A public acknowledgement of my ‘failure’
  2. A way to give myself a kick and hopefully regather some focus on this rather than continue to ignore it
  3. Yet another example of ‘I’ll write any old shite as long as I’m writing’…

The big question is; How do I get my writing mojo back?

Well I’m taking a small steps approach, hoping that each little thing will reduce the friction (aka the excuses) that are holding me back. The good thing is that, over the last few weeks as I’ve started to read back my early draft, a few new ideas have popped up to solidify parts of the novel I’d been struggling with, so I’m hoping to build on that momentum.

Step 1. Hack the physical space
I don’t currently have a comfortable space to write. We have a breakfast bar and stools but it’s not the best. So it’s time to clear up one of the spare rooms, get the table cleared and get a chair. Bonus of finally sorting out one of the spare rooms which have barely changed since we moved in.

2. Hack my mental space
Ohhh the articles I’ve read on this; How to overcome writer’s block, How to get your writing mojo back, Just write!, Finding your way back, and other such titles all spring to mind (I may have made some of these up but you get the gist). That said, I’m prone to procrastination (why do you think I have a blog?) and I know that if I really want to get back to Novel 1 I need to dedicate some time and make it a priority. Even if I’m just sitting down and going through my notes, or rewriting a chapter, it all counts.

3. Or just give up?
But here’s the thing, and I think this is the root of all of this prevaricating and pontificating, shouldn’t I just WANT to sit down and write? Why am I having to ‘hack’ my way back to it? If I don’t have the passion to do it and follow it through to completion then maybe it’s just not for me?

And there we have it. If that is the case, if my attempt at writing a novel has to go down as a noble effort that is ultimately doomed to remain incomplete, well a large part of me doesn’t want to admit that, doesn’t want to say I’ve failed. Logically I know I’m not the first person, and I certainly won’t be the last, to fail to write a book. I should take pride that I tried it at all, acknowledge that as an achievement in itself and move on.

Except I’m not quite ready to do that. Part of me still thinks I can do this, part of me wants to continue to explore the process of writing and finding my own voice and style, and part of me wants to prove that I can, at the very least, finish the damn thing. If for no other reason than to show that all of the words I’ve written about it in this blog post so far (973) aren’t just yet another scream into the void.

Even if that’s exactly what this is.

(994 words, done).

lots of app icons

App Trends

It started with Evernote. When I first started using it I was delighted with such a simple, fast loading, feature rich note app but over time it ended up a slow, bloated product focused on ‘teams’ and ‘work’ (neither of which I needed).

The email app I use, Spark, appears to be headed the same way, adding ‘teams’ and ’email delegation’ to the list of features which is of no use to me for my personal email account.

And recently it seems Dropbox is headed that way too. When it was first launched it was a godsend, a very simple file/folder storage app that sync’d and integrated with many different applications. It did what it did brilliantly well and became very popular. Yet it too is now looking bloated and looking to focus on business use first and foremost.

I get it. All these apps start by solving a simple problem and then get stuck trying to evolve further and further. As their companies and revenues grow they look around for what else they can add, which is natural as they have to keep earning, they have employees to pay after all. Each of the above examples (there are more) all look to be headed the same way, adding more and more features and starting to alienate the users who got them there in the first place.

I’m an early adopter, I try lots of apps and if one sticks, great. If not I move on. But time and again I find myself using an app for a while only for it to evolve away from the core offering they started with and, given there are a few million apps around, there is always a competitor to take up the slack.

I ditched Evernote ages ago and after several other trials have landed back with the default Apple Notes app – I also have the secure S.Notes app but that’s primarily as a conduit for web entry at work.

I’ve tried to move away from Spark but until the Snooze features of other apps catch up I’m staying (but the time is coming… as it’s getting more and more bloated.

And now I’m looking at Dropbox versus iCloud. I use Dropbox purely for storing files that I want to access anywhere. I rarely share folders and as that functionality is coming to iCloud later this year anyway, it might be time to ditch Dropbox as well.

I’m sure this cycle will repeat. Apple are notoriously slow at updating their own apps which gives third parties time to innovate and leap ahead, but it looks like there could be a time when I’m back using Mail, Notes, and iCloud folders instead of third party apps. Which is exactly what Apple want, of course, but makes me sad that there doesn’t seem to be much room for small, simple apps, that do one or two things very well.

Such is the nature of the beast, and no doubt there will be another cycle soon. Already apps like Bear (note taking) are gaining ground by offering a superior, simple, notes application (alas these all seem to be headed into Markdown usage which I just don’t need/want), and with the last change from Dropbox, it too will like see other competitors (Box?) step up.

I guess this is the joy of being an early adopter, being at the start of these cycles is always a little exciting but man oh man do the ends suck.

Map of east coast USA

That was America

Back home after two weeks of travelling around parts of the East Coast of the USA, which went a bit like this…

We flew in to Stewart International Airport (courtesy of Norwegian Airlines who we recommend) we picked up our hire car and headed up to Framingham, just outside Boston.

The following day we spent wandering round the gorgeous city of Boston, doing nothing much except enjoying the sights and sounds of a new city. It really is a lovely place to stroll around, with a nice mix of old and new buildings and areas. Thankfully it was a little overcast, perfect for a day of walking around being a tourist. My second visit to Boston and I think it warrants a third, longer, visit in the future.

The next day we headed to Six Flags for some rollercoaster fun and WOW they didn’t half deliver! From the 77mph Superman, to the looping forwards then backwards beast that was Goliath, to the absolutely wonderfully terrifying Cyclone. I have no idea how much adrenaline was generated that day but every time I came off one of the rides my legs were shaking, AWESOME!!

The next day was a bit more relaxed, a wander round Springfield (no, not that one) visiting the enchanting Dr.Seuss museum, and the NBA Museum and Hall of Fame before we headed up to Provincetown in Cape Cod.

We were in Provincetown for one reason, to go kayaking and what a glorious day it was. We booked with Cape Kayaking and I’d highly recommend you do the same if you are ever in the area. A few hours spent pootling around the bay, looking at the horseshoe crabs, navigating channels through the reeds, with an informative, friendly, relaxed guide, it was wonderful and we will definitely be back.

Provincetown itself was delightful, in the throes of a post-Pride weekend it was all rainbow flags and banners, but with plenty of little restaurants and a nice beach location I can see why it’s so popular. Alas we only had a morning before we headed down the coast to Manhattan, New York.

Having never been to New York the entire time was magical. We visited the Empire State Building, Central Park, the Flatiron, Times Square, Madison Square Garden, the Guggenhiem, the Met, Bryant Park and more. We walked the Highline, stepped inside the Vessel, and drank in dive bars (hat tip the amazing Trailer Park, and the welcoming Nancy Whiskey). I loved every minute of busy madness, wandering street after street for block after block, never once feeling uncomfortable despite the sheer volume of people and noise.

We will be back, so it was nice to have a relaxed pace to a city break, rather than the usual mad dash of ‘must see places’ we just wandered around in various areas and saw whatever we saw.

And then it was on to Staten Island. A ferry trip past a big statue of a lady, and on to a family wedding. Then, all too soon, it was time to come home.

What a wonderful holiday, full of great food, plenty of booze, not to mention laughter and wonderful memories. I can’t WAIT to go back! Until then… where next?!

20 Years

In 1996 I attend a day long training course to learn how to use a new technical language to publish text on the internet. I was working for a small firm in Helensburgh at the time, the internet was still new, we’d only just upgraded to Windows 95, and I was put in charge of creating their website.

That technical language was called HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and still powers the bulk of the internet today. The default browser of the day was Netscape Navigator, and webpages looked very basic consisting of little more than black text on a grey background with some oddly placed images. In the last hour of the training course we were taken through some new developments in HTML which added the ability to make the background a different colour and then how to create clickable imagemaps. Exciting times!

Eager to experiment with this new knowledge I created my own little website, all hand coded in HTML. It was only a few hyperlinked pages kept locally to begin with, and mostly just lists of my favourite websites. As it turns out that is pretty much what many other people were doing at the time,but only a handful were publishing these on the internet for others to see but I was soon to join them quite simply because I could (ahhh memories of angelfire).

I had no grand plan, no burning desire to do much with this knowledge, it was (and still is) a curiosity and a level playing field. I had a website, just like the BBC had a website, just like Microsoft had a website. Were they my peers now? Of course not, my own little website was little more than a handful of pages of not much else of note.

Zip forward to 1997; I’ve built the company website (Crossaig) and I’ve started using the internet more and more, mostly exploring various strands of the Yahoo Directory or following webrings to discover new websites. Some of these had started offering more content, unique content, content written by the person behind the blog. Some were curated list of interesting websites, some were almost like diaries, I was fascinated.

Needless to say you can guess what happened next, I followed suit and in June 1999 I purchased a domain name – www.snowgoon.co.uk – and some webspace and uploaded my own random little website and started writing content. I was mimicking what I’d seen other do (I’m an early adopter, not a culture maker) and having fun doing it.

That website is long gone but the posts still exist here in the archives. I didn’t know what a blog was back then (no-one did) but soon enough an online tool called Blogger came along and made it much much easier to publish content online and the rest, as they say, is history.

It was 20 years ago today that I published a piece of nonsense about Sunglasses to my own little website. Who’d have thunk I’d still be posting nonsense here 20 years later. I may have been going in and out of style, but I hope I’ve at least managed to raise a smile.