Working to end some subscriptions

Today should be a good day to really focus on things. I have been on a kick to remove subscription services recently. Certainly some household services have to remain and they bill monthly. Somehow for an ineffable reason Netflix survived the recent culling. We have been paying for Netflix since they used to send me Farscape DVDs back when we resided in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It has been a long time. We have had Disney Plus since the start of that streaming service and it has all the Marvel movies I like to watch at the end of the day. Initially I thought a limit existed to how many times I would watch the Iron Man franchise, but that apparently does not appear to be the case at all. Recently I even found the listing in Disney Plus with the entire Marvel film universe in order based on the movie chronology. Armed with that information I started watching again from the start and moving my way from left to right on that list slowly one film at a time. That started after I finished watching the entire Frasier (1993 to 2004) series again on a different streaming service. Outside of that content sometimes I get on a Top Chef watching kick and that lasts until the content runs out. It’s really the window right after dinner where I want to watch something for a bit before moving on to other things.

All of that was prompted by my recent relentless focus on removing subscription services. Speaking of being prompted for output, my writing enterprise of starting to type in the morning is about what happens when the prompt is empty. At the moment of zerospace, where will an empty prompt go from the spark of imagination. That is really what I’m after trying to understand and trying to figure out each and every day. I sit down with no agenda or defined path forward. Within the parlance of large language models I don’t have a prompt. Instead I sit for a moment in the resplendent pleasure of reaching that zerospace before beginning to move toward a newly created spark of something. A lot of times that something is not anything spectacular or even the right path to be taken at that point in the journey. Frequently, I end up writing about the process of writing. That trajectory is not intentional. However, I do allow it to happen. Even the very process of stringing a few words together begets more writing. That is where I’m trying to get to during each writing session. I’m trying to get to the point where I have walked down the path from zerospace to productivity. Opening the door to creativity and productivity is essential for the writing project to begin in earnest. 

Today might just be one of those super productive days where I wake up and produce two pages of weblog quality prose before jumping right into the next thing on the list to accomplish. That is one of those things you just have to appreciate. I have been considering spending some of my evening time writing a fiction series, but I’m not sure if that will end up happening. Generally speaking my academic writing backlog is so full and overwhelming that I need to just focus on that effort. Knowing that I often end up running down other tracks of effort as sometimes that just seems more fun than working within the proper work breakdown structure. 

Working that backlog management process

On Friday my Substack backlog was 5 posts ahead. At that level of backlog a personal best was achieved in terms of working ahead. However, that is probably too far ahead. Part of getting to that point was making sure I was ready for a summer break where some vacationing was going to happen. That backlog will allow for continuity of publishing and for a bit of vacation. Right now the backlog is at 4 Substack posts and the last one will publish on July 8, 2022. Generally, I think the backlog should be 2-3 weeks, but it is possible that at some point it will move back to a more real time writing to publication cadence. Part of my writing focus is to build quality content that is not time specific or breaking news powered coverage. I want to examine topics within the artificial intelligence and machine learning space based on the merits of the inquiry and not based on a news reporting type of urgency. I try to begin with the final product in mind. Given that the final product of the Lindahl Letter is that it moves from a weekly Friday Substack email based delivery to a yearly volume of published prose. That focus on building something that can be packaged up for perpetuity remains an important consideration.

Watching that writing topic backlog grow

I turned on my Pandora internet radio this morning and listened to some music. Next week I should be able to listen to records again. Setting up my record player again will just require a piece of furniture to be moved from the garage back to my office. Most of my records are stored in alphabetical order. It would be pretty easy to listen to them one and a time and discard any that do not make the cut. Generally speaking my record collection ballooned in the last few years. Some of the records in the collections I bought to see if that band would make the rotation. A few of them were just not something that I enjoyed listening to very much. Sometimes a band goes in a different direction between albums. 

A pretty decent 7 day streak or so occurred where my writing was on point. Prose was produced on a daily basis with a certain degree of quality. You cannot take for granted those productive writing streaks. Part of stoking the daily habit of writing is sitting down at the keyboard and engaging in the practice of putting thoughts to paper. You have to sit down and put in the work to make things happen. I do feel that writing is something that the more you practice and refine your style the easier it becomes to produce. Yesterday was an example of running into a wall of slowly grinding progress that stunned even me after all these years. It was like a wall descended and surrounded every ounce of productivity I had. Sure it would have been the right plan to just fight through the wall and produce a page of prose. That just did not happen. Time faded away and sure enough the next day arrived. 

That very next day was today and within that arrival was an opportunity. Today I woke up with a degree of awareness that could be really good to focus on a problem or task. Part of that will require me to focus on what article from my 5 year writing plan will be up first and should be getting consideration throughout the week when I’m not tinkering with posts from The Lindahl Letter. During the course of one of my more productive writing streaks last year I did produce a 14 paper list of upcoming research papers. To help ensure those topics get some attention I’m going to add all 14 of them to the backlog for The Lindahl Letter. Right now that publication is outlined and planned until the 2 year anniversary with 104 topics. The addition was made and now that list is up to 118 topics. Making that addition really did mark the phase 2 expansion of The Lindahl Letter to focus on academic topics that I’m interested in spending time considering. 

Not only is keeping a solid writing topic backlog about making sure that I stay on track in terms of productivity, but it also helps keep to a research trajectory. One of the things that I have realized along this journey is that the cycle and routine of academic life helps keep things on track. You have conference due dates and other writing commitments that help keep things moving along. For me I do all of my writing on a daily basis for the explicit purpose of moving forward toward that perfect possible future. My efforts are really driven from a degree of personal motivation. I write because the act of writing is fulfilling.

Working out that writing plan

Right now I’m working to figure out what is next on my writing plan. Obviously, the future content for the Substack is well planned out. My backlog goes out to post 104 and I’m currently publishing week 58 this Friday. For the most part that gives me a pretty solid cut and what will be included in the first two years of The Lindahl Letter. Eventually that will get put into a manuscript and published. It will be an expansion of the year one publication that is already out in the wild. Getting into the habit of producing machine learning or artificial intelligence related content every week was easy enough. Figuring out a solid list of academic papers to work on each week has been a little harder. Several false starts and sketches of papers exist, but none of that has really translated into the production of conference or journal papers. Throughout the rest of 2022 that is where I’m going to put a lot of my energy.

That list of 104 topics gets stored here for posterity:
https://www.nelslindahl.com/the-lindahl-letter/