A few thoughts on the ongoing grand writing experiment

Getting back to a bit of daily writing in a journaling style seems to be a good thing to accomplish. For some reason this style of writing has dropped off from my efforts. Every week I’m still producing pracademic style content and I’m gearing up to learn how to convert some of that into a LaTeX style editor for academic paper publication. Maybe that is the missing element in my progress as a writer. We will see if it really is the missing element or if something else might be a contributing factor. Within that framework I have a few thoughts on my ongoing grand writing experiment. For those of you who have been along for the ride you know that millions of words have been produced. A lot of them appear here on my trusty weblog, “Functional Journal.” It’s not my flagship production, but it is a central base that I come back to over and over again. Originally, I had considered just putting all content here as a sort of content hub. That is not a terrible idea, but it does discount contributions to other forms and how those avenues of communication work. 

Tomorrow the 75th post within “The Lindahl Letter” series on Substack will be distributed. All of that content gets packaged yearly into a book format. It gets distributed weekly as a Substack post which is functionally an essay on a topic built for the purpose of being informative and at times thought provoking. That type of writing is different from what gets shared generally on the weblog and that is one of the reasons why jumping on the Substack bandwagon made sense. It also has a very different publication mechanic. The weblog is something people have to elect to go visit. Substack as a platform has a mechanism to deliver the content by email. It follows that newsletter framework which is more of a push to disseminate content delivery vs. my traditional method of providing the content on a digital shelf without marketing or any push. I know that the weblog gets published out to WordPress that new content arrived, and I let it push a notification to Twitter. Based on the amount of traffic that comes in from WordPress or Twitter neither of those communication methods is particularly useful. 

As a communication platform, Substack has appeared to work out well enough. One of the main differences between my Substack writing and my normal writing paradigm is that all 75 posts for Substack were constructed in the same Google Doc. Each day for general writing I open a brand-new Google Doc and start writing from a blank page. I’m wondering if I should shift to working out of a single manuscript for my daily writing and just accept that it should end up as a publication at the end of the year like the Substack efforts are combined to produce a set of collective works. Maybe that is the right way to begin moving forward. I could easily take this essay and allow it to be the start of that project. I generally do not like working out of a Microsoft Word document using the online editor. That is one of the reasons that all of this work generally happens in Google Docs. I’m sure that is mostly preference based and either one could work as a word processing document management system.

A few changes occurred between the last two paragraphs. I went over to Microsoft Word and created a manuscript file based on the publishing template I normally utilize. That brand new file and the entire novel directory on OneDrive has now been synced over to Google Drive. I then opened the .DOCX file for editing in Google Docs which seems convoluted, but it works for me based on the efforts I’m about to undertake. Moving forward I’m going to keep working and writing for the weblog within this document. That is the plan and I’m going to stick with it until December 31, 2022. At that point the plan will be revisited and hopefully this document will be published as a manuscript.

Unproductive nonsense abounds

At the moment I’m considering cleaning up all the bookmarks from my Chrome browser. I have a folder with all the old bookmarks I have been accumulating over the years. It might be easier to simply delete the folder given that none of those bookmarks are probably necessary to keep. Well that happened. I was seriously sitting around looking at the bookmarks I had dragged to a folder on my Chrome browser. It was a true act of unproductive nonsense. 

Writing should have been a primary task yesterday. Instead cleaning things up took priority for some reason. I could have spent the whole day just typing away in my office, but instead of using that time wisely I cleaned out the main draw on my Alava credenza. It really did get cleaned out. Everything that had been shoved in the drawer was carefully taken out and set gently on the floor and things were sorted, thrown away, and a few cords were sent to the basement to reside in the cord box. Several other cleaning projects occurred throughout the and my grand plans for writing simply fell by the wayside. 

Today however will be different. I’m already beyond the paltry number of words produced yesterday. It is entirely possible that I’ll be able to really dig into a few things today and tomorrow making solid use of the time off. I did take a look at the folder called novels in my publication collection. It has roughly 20 false starts in the form of formatted and stored novels. Most of them are not very long and that is what stopped them from being shared with the world. They are previous works that are between short story or novella length. Most of them were started about ten years ago and getting back into the right headspace to complete them is going to be interesting. 

Instead of focusing on writing some of the academic articles that I have outlined for future publication my interests seem to be drifting from non-fiction in the realm of fiction. It has been some time since I would sit down and hammer out the better part of a novel in a few days or maybe even a night. That type of prolific writing was something that happened from time to time. I would simply lay down with a laptop or sit at a desk and do nothing but create prose. Getting back to that level of productivity is something that I spend a lot of time thinking about from time to time. It is something that I fondly remember and that spark does arrive sometimes. You have to respect the spark of creativity and seize the day when it shows up. 

I may end up releasing all the content from my weblog back into a public status. Back on February 19, 2021 I moved a ton of content to a private status. It looks like right now 253 posts are being held back in draft status and 2,130 are set to private. That means people who are members of the weblog would be able to see them, but given that the weblog does not have any members outside of the administrative accounts for posting that effectively renders the private content invisible. I’m now back up to 56 posts that are in a published status and it probably will make sense to take the content later today and just release it back into the wild. On GitHub it is possible for somebody to grab my writing corpus and train a GPT-2 model that literally writes in my style of prose creation. Given that synthetic prose creation will soon outpace actual prose creation, having the content as private seems unnecessary.  

I have spent a ton of time thinking about what happens to content over time and the nature of permanence within a weblog space. For the most part the internet does get some archiving, but for the most part most work is ephemeral. It has a place and time and fades either into the pile of content that is amassed over time or in very rare examples it ends up being curated as part of the collective academy of human thought. Only a very small sliver of the collective works of humanity reach that status. I’d have to really focus on writing something profound to hope to get a few missives into that pile of remembered history.

I used the export feature in WordPress to create an XMl file of all my content before releasing the private content back to the wild. Hitting the double chevron from the posts screen took me to the oldest posts contained in the 2,130 private collection. They were from back in 2004 it looks like the earlier content is not even loaded to this weblog anyway. Instead of releasing all the content I moved one of the 9 pages of the archive from private to public. That moved the total of published posts to 307 and effectively released all the posts back until the end of 2019.

That exercise turned out poorly. It looks like the Twitter integration got excited about the content moving to a published status and sent out hundreds of tweets in a matter of minutes. It took me a lot longer to delete all the duplicative tweets than it did to make the error in the first place.

All that posting

Yesterday it seemed like a good idea to add a few of the posts back to the public side of the weblog vs. being stored on the private side. Obviously, my salsa recipe has to be set back to be publicly visible. Many ways exist to make salsa and my recipe is one of them. That statement is wholesale true. It is rather hard to debate about the nature of that fact based statement. Somebody might very well do so, but it would be simply foolish or a terrible use of whimsy. I have been thinking about trying to target my focus on some specific things. Each week “The Lindahl Letter” Substack post is a part of that focusing on effort, but so much more is left to be said and that volume of things needs to be considered. So much is at the forefront of the public mind in part thanks to the massive proliferation of social media and micro streams that influence people.

A few thoughts…

Some days are just a little different than others. Yesterday I really thought deeply about the prospect of just taking down my weblog. It has been years since that happened. The last time was years ago when the domain was moved from the .net back to the primary .com domain. At one point, I head both of those domains up and running for reasons that now seem unnecessary. All of that was related to my thoughts on the lost art of communication by writing letters. This weblog for the most part is a series of poorly written and edited letters in the form of functional observations. I had started to really think about what it would mean to approach this effort in terms of writing open letters. That would involve a different type and style of writing on a daily basis.

Those stuck words

Waking up seems to be going very slowly today. In a few minutes the sun will come up and the day will start, but my efforts to write are not that predictable. At the moment my Warren Zevon Pandora station is playing a lot of Bruce Spingsteen. Sometimes that happens in major spurts. Algorithmically some similarity must exist I guess. Nobody really wrote music and lyrics like Warren did for decades. You can tell that the writing process has not kickstarted yet this morning. I’m writing about my surroundings and not reacting to anything that is kicking up a strong emotion or thought about anything particular. That is generally a bad sign for the start or sustainment of an early morning writing effort. This whole page is not going to auto populate. I’m going to need to start writing something more substantial. Maybe at this very moment the right thing to do would be to shift gears and start writing a short story or maybe just dig into some type of fiction related effort. It does not feel like that is going to happen either. At the moment all of the good words appear to be stuck and those stuck words are not making an appearance on the weblog this morning.

Thinking about publishing platforms

Yesterday, I sort of missed using the Movable Type blog publishing platform. Initially all my online content was made using Microsoft FrontPage. Oddly enough I was really good at doing things with Microsoft FrontPage. It was really easy to use and administer. Along the way it had seemed like a good idea to switch over to using the Movable Type system. That was probably around 17 or 18 years ago. Somewhere along the way probably around 2009 things were moved over to WordPress. That is pretty much how things went. They went from the platform I really liked to two that I could take or leave. A lot of different options exist for people to build and publish content online these days. Both Movable Type and WordPress helped people along the way get used to publishing content online and they were pretty straightforward to get installed and to manage. The long pole in the tent requirement for me was that the software had to be self hosted. That rules out a lot of the platforms straight away. I want to have the code sitting on my server and manage it myself. That might be an outdated thing to consider in this world of cloud enablement, but my words are my words and I host them myself. 

Apparently, I could go out and learn how to deploy my weblog software on GCP or Azure. That is probably something that I should learn to do just to keep current on cloud deployments. I could deploy my own instance and manage it on one of those cloud platforms. Maybe that is something to think about working on for this weekend. The real trick would be scripting the entire setup on GCP so it could be executed in one shot. That might be a valid use of my time to demonstrate the ability to do a small deployment. These days figuring out ways to expand my toolkit to have examples of doing things in the cloud is probably not a bad way to spend my time. I spent some time looking at the newer courses for GCP out on the Coursera website. That is where the Google Cloud team has elected to store training content and in the past those classes have been pretty good. I have enjoyed a ton of them in the past. That might be something that I want to invest more time in here shortly.

My whiteboard is clean

Today I took the day off. It is like a placeholder day of sorts. Things are going to happen today and I’m going to try to focus on creating some things. My whiteboard is clean and ready for some thoughts about the future. That bottle of whiteboard cleaner is almost empty now. I thought that bottle would last forever. At the moment, I’m ready to throw some ideas up on the whiteboard and try to figure out what’s next. That is where my head is at right now. My thoughts are confused on the future and that is probably where they will be all day. I’m probably going to grab my Google Pixelbook Go and spend some time writing and working in the living room today. I could probably just as easily go old school with a notebook and my Parker sonnet fountain pen, but I’m thinking typing might be the right way to go today. Today is a day of words. It is one of those placeholder days where words outpace actions. The planning and the thinking have to gain steam to build up to getting things done. It happens from time to time. All the things that need to be set up have to be built out and put together. Without building out the foundation the totality of what needs to be achieved will be limited by the freestanding pillars that happen to be standing around when the action starts.

A 93-day publishing streak…

I’m generally pretty good at accepting or denying LinkedIn requests in real time. Right now I have 59 of them to dig into and figure out what to do with today. That is something that I can probably do while sitting on the sofa pondering the nature of the universe. I’m going to start noting the length of my current publishing streak at the bottom of my posts for a while. I’m getting very close to hitting that 100 day consecutive publishing streak milestone and that is exciting. That means that my daily writing routine is working well enough to keep going. The goal of that endeavor is to just keep writing a little bit every day while striving forward toward that perfect possible future.