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Life

Tea, Leftovers, and Future Plans

It’s my last day off work today – the end of an attempt to use up a few days holiday while the kids were on half-term. The weather has been despicable throughout, so we’ve gone nowhere and done nothing for the last week. My other half works in a school so she was home too – she almost became nocturnal. We wondered if it was her body’s way of resetting after a pretty stressful term through the second lockdown.

I just ate leftovers for lunch – we had sausage casserole for dinner last night. Best leftovers lunch ever. There is still a huge tub of leftover vegetarian bolognese in the fridge – that might make it as far as tomorrow lunchtime, but I wouldn’t put money on it.

In other news, an email arrived this morning from WordPress – informing me that my account is up for renewal towards the end of March. I’m pretty certain that I’m not going to renew it. I’m not going to stop writing – I’ll still post to substack – I just won’t be cross-posting to WordPress and Tumblr any more. I guess in some ways it’s a reaction to WordPress’ gradual change of course, but also that we are actively avoiding spending money, and that I need to stop distracting myself quite so much. Having a finger in every pie is fun, but you end up getting nothing done.

I killed my homepage on the internet last night, and redirected the domain to Medium. Again – simplifying, reducing, and hopefully helping me focus on one or two things instead of five or six. You never know – I might even start writing the novel I’ve been promising myself for the last decade.

I’ve had a few ideas for young adult novels up my sleeve for years. It’s about time I started doing something about them.

Categories
Life

Turning into a Cat

I think I’m turning into a cat. You know how cats have favourite places to curl up or “be” that last for a few days at a time, before they move on to somewhere else? I’m like that with writing. For a while I was writing at Evernote, then a text editor for a little while, then Notion, and now I’m back at Google Docs, where I’ve been writing on-and-off for years.

Google Docs is the easy option for me. It satisfies the paranoid part of my brain that says “what if the computer goes bang in the middle of your Pulitzer prize winning blog post?” – because it saves every word as I write it. Of course this is predicated on the idea that what I’m writing has literary value (I’m humble enough to realise that I’m only a legend in my own lunchtime).

It’s Sunday morning. The clock is just ticking past 10am. I’ve been up for the last hour – emptying the dishwasher, clearing the kitchen up – the usual chores around the house. I didn’t have a shower this morning, and now feel grubby. I usually have a shower every morning – it helps wake me up. I’m not going anywhere or doing anything today, so thought “what’s the point?” – it’s not like I smell or anything. I will admit to washing my face with soap and cold water after brushing my teeth though – to try and wake myself up. It sort of worked.

I need to head out to the corner shop soon – we’ve run out of bread. It’s kind of difficult to make toast without bread – almost as bad as the time our middle daughter made a cup of tea for her Mum after we ran out of teabags. She didn’t let the lack of tea stop her – proudly delivering a cup of hot watery milk. She was only about seven years old at the time.

Anyway.

Time to go find my shoes and socks. At least it’s not raining today (yet).

Categories
Life

Midnight

I started writing this at one minute past midnight on Friday night. I suppose it’s really Saturday, but I tend to count it as the day before until I wake up the next day.

I spent much of the evening reinstalling my middle daughter’s computer (the somewhat famous computer labelled “Trigger’s Broom”). It now has an SSD sitting quietly inside it. I had hoped to upgrade the memory too, but I need to do some research first.

It’s been a very, very quiet week here – helped by endless quantities of rain falling from the sky, and a somewhat enormous lack of enthusiasm throughout the house.

I’m still receiving endless follows on WordPress from business accounts. It kind of makes sense – WordPress has been heading towards the website hosting game for a very long time. Their page design tools lean heavily towards small businesses, and increasingly away from writers. I wonder if the Tumblr acquisition wasn’t quite so mad after all – if Automattic knew their plans for WordPress (obviously they did), they would have also known an exodus would happen when those writing journals or diaries became disenfranchised. Tumblr gives an obvious route away from the shop front.

I miss the way the web used to be – the way blogs were when they first appeared. All you needed was a small corner of your own, and support for RSS to help others follow a diverse spectrum of writers. Over time the various solutions turned into platforms, and then into silos. Slowly but surely they either pivoted towards the business world (WordPress), stagnated (Blogger), or died (LiveJournal). Granted, LiveJournal still exists, but it’s an empty shell of the mighty mindshare juggernaut it once was.

I know a lot of people hate email based journals, but I kind of love them. I wonder if the haters live quite happily within silos, and have learned to take advantage of their captive audience. It reminds me of Plato’s allegory of “The Cave”. Those that have only ever known the world of publishing platforms cannot easily appreciate the vast world that lives beyond their borders – that they might embrace it – that they might find kindred spirits out there. It’s hard work though – hiking through the paths less trodden. Existing within a platform is easy, safe, and comfortable.

Anyway.

I’m starting to sound judgemental. I don’t mean to be. I’m just emptying my head. Take no notice.

p.s. don’t even get me started about the race condition in the WordPress blog editor that has existed for at least two years now – where publishing fails, and can only be fixed by refreshing the page – losing your tags and photo selection in the process.

Categories
Life

Experimenting with Email

I breathed life back into my dormant substack account this morning. If you’ve not heard of Substack, it’s become the darling of the resurgent fashion to publish to the internet via email newsletters.

I wonder if e-mail newsletters are a reaction to “big data” – a rejection to being tracked, followed, funnelled, and traced across every corner of the internet. I suppose in some ways they are a more elegant tool for a more civilised age. Oh, hang on – that’s lightsabers, isn’t it.

A rather crafty trick up Substack’s sleeve is paid posts. You can choose to put particular posts behind a paywall, and require paid subscriptions if you so wish. Apparently lots of journalists are already doing it – leaving platforms such as Medium, and taking a little more control of their destiny.

Anyway – if you trek over to https://jonbeckett.substack.com you will discover a simulcra of the posts I have published elsewhere, with the added advantage of really quite wonderfully formatted emails that automagically take flight around the world whenever I choose to pollute the internet a little more.

If you’re already signed up to receive the emails, hopefully you now realise why you got this slightly random email from me.

I’m still experimenting with technical writing over at Medium. They have a revenue programme where you can make money from your writing. I cleared about $200 last month, which got halved after taxes and exchange rate conversions. While it was interesting to explore the “writing for money” world, it did seem like something of a race to the bottom in terms of creativity, honesty, and transparency. You quickly run out of insightful or interesting subjects to write about and find yourself manufacturing utter garbage in pursuit of a few pence here and there.

It seems I’ve written altogether too much about not much at all once again. It’s become a skill of sorts.

Go visit Substack and subcribe. Hell – go join substack, import your blog, and let me know – I’ll subscribe.

Categories
Life

Tuesday Lunchtime

I had been entertaining the idea of escaping at lunchtime, and going for a walk. A few miles out in the fresh air on my own with a podcast in my ears. The weather has other ideas – it has rained pretty consistently all morning. We are forecast snow next weekend.

I have half an hour of my lunch break left. Half an hour to fall down an internet rabbit hole and get nothing done. Spotify is busing playing “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” from a random playlist chosen to fill the silence.

I switched out the theme of my blog before work started this morning – simplifying it enormously. I’m not sure why. I have a suspicion that most people live in the WordPress or Tumblr interfaces, or email subsciptions anyway – they don’t venture to the web to look at much any more.

Writing over at Medium has kind of dried up for the moment. Probably a good thing, because writing when you have nothing to write about is death to creativity and inspiration. I have no doubt I could churn out cookie cutter articles like many citizen journalists seem to, and make a tidy living from it – I’m not sure I would be able to live with myself though. I would rather tell personal stories than parrot manufactured idiocy.

I’m drinking too much coffee at the moment. I imagine boredom has a lot to do with it. Perhaps I’ll get some ginger tea, and substitute out coffee for a few weeks. While thinking about health, I weighed myself this morning. I’m up three pounds from where I was a couple of months ago. I wonder how quickly I can drop it again? Watch this space.

Categories
Life

Hacking Anxiety and Loneliness

I’m not working today, so have spent much of the day juggling home school assistance with efforts to encourage my eldest daughter to step outside her self imposed seclusion. She arrived in the lounge late last night on something of a downer, so we spent an hour firing ideas at her like a machine gun.

Long story short – she has a blog again, and has been dipping a toe into online chat rooms (or rather, lurking in online chat rooms, petrified of taking herself off mute).

She’s currently sitting at her computer, trying to write a first blog post. It’s painful watching her – I had to walk away. It’s interesting how some people (read: me) can empty our head into the keyboard and magic a thousand words of nonsense almost at will – and some find the extraction of each and every word tortuous. Anxiety doesn’t help.

I think she’s planning on writing about her struggles with anxiety, lock down, and life in general. I helped get her setup with the blog, and write the about page – the first “real” post could take some time. If you have a minute today, go visit Daisiella, and click follow – getting some immediate feedback will hopefully help her see that there is a world out there, and get her over the start line.

Categories
Life

Falling off the Blogging Bike

It’s not so much a case of “falling off the blogging bike” any more – more a case of “has anybody seen the damn bike?”. Or maybe “can I even remember how to ride it?”. It’s not like I’m pushing away for any particular reason, or even that I’m “pushing away”. Life is just happening.

Was it John Lennon that said “life is what happens while you’re making other plans” ?

I’m a bit annoyed with myself, to be honest. I started to reach out to a few people online recently – following a few new voices. After an evening of “being brave”, I’ve hardly been back. I hope those I followed don’t think badly of me. Perhaps this afternoon I’ll carve out some time to go read and comment on their recent posts.

I’m sitting in the junk room, sipping coffee, and listening to Sara Bareilles. I should be working on some writing for the work website, but inspiration seems to have deserted me – hence writing this post instead.

Oh – random update – I hung a new door last week, armed only with a chisel, a screwdriver, a hammer, and a sanding machine. There’s a back-story here – once upon a time our eldest daughter had the room with the door that needed replacing. She once kicked it off it’s hinges in temper, and I patched it up. A few weeks ago one of our neighbours advertised a door to anybody that wanted it – of the same design as the broken bedroom door. My other half got the kids to go and fetch it, and it’s stood in our hallway until this week. Here’s the thing – door frames are very rarely square, and doors are often cut to fit the door frame they are in. I had to re-shape the frame, the door, re-position the (new) hinges, and re-position the locking plate in order to make it fit. I did mention all I had was a chisel and a sander, didn’t I?

I think we’re all beyond stir crazy now. We’ve been holed up in the house together since late autumn. Little annoyances have begun to pull at the loose ends of each other. The children often contribute nothing in terms of help around the house, and then expect everything in return. It’s not going to end well for them.

Categories
Life

Running and Writing

I’m supposed to get up at 8am tomorrow morning and run around town in a Santa suit, accompanied by my younger daughters. I’m not quite sure how they’re going to do it given that they have not taken part in any activities you might describe as helping their fitness for weeks.

I’m starting to wonder if this is what growing up is all about – getting up and doing things you don’t really want to do, because somebody asked you to. It’s a bloody stupid idea really – running around dressed as Santa. I imagine it will give a few people a laugh around town.

If I wasn’t running (read:walking) with my daughters I imagine I would be home within half an hour – I can’t see us getting home inside an hour.

I was going to have a night off from writing tonight, but then something clicked in my head, and I spent the last two hours churning out another post for the other blog. It’s been cross posted to Medium, where I’m slowly but surely making money now. Let’s hope I don’t run out of things to write about any time soon.

It turns out it’s quite difficult to write after two glasses of wine. I’m wondering how Hemingway did it – I’m beginning to suspect the stories of drunken excess are lies.

Categories
Life

Syndication

For the last few days I have been tidying up some old “think pieces”, and re-posting them to a shiny new blog at jonbeckett.com. I’m not posting them here, because I think of this more as a diary – a journal. The new place just has essays.

The reason behind all of this is because the company I work for has started investing a bit more effort in their web presence – they are playing the SEO game, and trying to attract a few more eyeballs into what we do, and who we are. Along the way it hasn’t gone unnoticed that I can string words together when I put my mind to it. I will freely admit that if this leads to writing becoming a regular part of my job, I might smile rather a lot.

So – while posting to my own site, it occurred to me that the best way of letting the world know my words exist would be to syndicate the posts to somewhere else – to take the words to the people – so I’ve been cross-posting to Medium. If you’re not familiar with Medium, it’s a social publishing platform founded by Ev Williams – one of the original founders of Twitter.

Anyway.

This evening something rather unexpected happened. The owner of a publication at Medium with three quarters of a million followers asked if they might syndicate a couple of my posts.

I of course said yes.

I’ll let you know what happens next.