Yesterday was one of those days that I was super duper disappointed in Twitter. Generally I don’t deal with a whole lot of trolling on the internet. Maybe that is just the long tail of statistical averages catching up with me. That is entirely possible. Maybe somebody was just having a bad day and I ended up having the tweet that caught all that emotion. It did not really emotionally impact me as much as it did surprise me that so many other people engage in the drama. Maybe that is the essence of Twitter and I just don’t see it very often. Most of my engagement is with technology, machine learning, or academic Twitter communities. Not only was it a strange day on Twitter, but it was also my 14th year anniversary on the platform. Apparently, I have been sending out tweets for a really long time.
For the most part tweets are functionally ephemeral; they occur and then fade away from attention. Sure somebody could really dig to go and find an old one, but practically they just fade away from the feed and that is that. I’m not entirely sure that I get anything from the 10-20 daily minutes I spend on Twitter. Maybe that time should be noted as entertainment time and it should be managed as such. My take on Twitter overall is that it happens to be an ephemeral platform. People will crowd to it as a source of first news given the overall reach and opportunity for people to actively report news. The barrier to entry on being able to report news is very low. Given the current state of local news coverage nationwide it is not entirely surprising that crowdsourcing news is a staple of modern coverage. That aspect of things will probably keep crowds of people flocking to the application to tweet and check tweets. To that end, unless some other platform shows up for people to report and share current events I imagine that Twitter will continue on in this current form for a while.
It might be easier to just fip my Twitter profile over to private mode, but that would diminish engagement. Most of the time my engagements with others are positive. Overall I have been running my phone in the do not disturb mode for months now. People who are on my contacts list can call and break into my day. Otherwise it functionally shuts down all notifications, sounds, pings, or other indicators that some application wants my attention. In terms of getting deep work done and being more productive it has worked out really well. At one point, I had even considered getting one of those new flip type folding phones to really make it harder to activate the screen and engage. I might end up going an entirely different direction and getting one of the phones that sort of folds open and becomes a small tablet. That seems like a pretty decent use case for reading things. The price on those types of devices will probably be trending downward shortly as they have been on the market for a couple technology generations.
Overall my plan to put the smartphone down and not keep it with me all the time is working out pretty well. That vtech “Connect to Cell” system works well enough as an extended headset to my Google Pixel 5 smartphone that it is almost like a house phone. It is sort of weird to hear phone calls ringing throughout the entire house again like the days of yore when land lines were a common household feature.
The vast majority of the application alerts and notices that I spent all day clearing out are not necessary. A lot of unnecessary attention was going to that smartphone each day and that was easy enough to stop. For the next couple of days I have planned time off that could be spent writing and working on a few things.
Today I picked back up and worked a little bit on my week 30 Substack post. It needed a little bit of refinement and rework to be ready for Friday. Intellectually I know that I should spend a few minutes on the next few posts and get them into suitably completed drafts. Initially I was able to work ahead a little bit more than what is happening now, but for some reason that process broke down and I am just working on one week at a time. If the content being produced was real time, then that would make sense as an approach. The content is however planned out weeks in advance making it much easier to produce drafts in a queue instead of working in real time to be timely based on the news of the day. Maybe that is the key to unlocking a different type of content at some point in the future. I have considered turning the weekly Substack post into both a YouTube video and a weekly podcast. I’m actually curious what has stopped me from turning the first 30 weeks of content into multimedia formats. It is probably some type of weird nostalgia for the written newsletters of the past.
Getting really focused and locking in to write for a prolonged period of time seems to be illusive. I’m able to focus on topics and complete work, but I’m struggling with really spending hours working on the same thing. That is something that is going to need to be remedied before longer form prose and projects are going to get done. Part of that is just being able to sit and type for a sustained burst of 30 minutes without shifting around and working on different things. Even right now Rocky the dog is trying to distract me with growls at a reflection in the glass of the door. It is way before sunrise right now and nobody is stirring in the house. Right now is the time for me to write and for Rocky the dog to hang out in my office.
Earlier this week I set up a vtech “Connect to Cell” system at the house. It basically connects to my smartphone via Bluetooth pretending to be a headset that is always connected. With that simple connection it is ready to answer calls and it rings at three different base stations throughout the house when I’m home with my smartphone. Setting up this system was pretty simple. It allows me to treat my cell phone like a home phone and leave it on the charging stand in my office. Part of this endeavor is to try to avoid touching my smartphone for a longer period of time during the day. Checking the alerts and notifications on my phone dozens of times a day is not really a productive thing to do with my time and energy. It is something that I’m trying very hard to put on my stop doing list. The power of the stop doing list is in how it frees up your energy and effort to work on the to do part of the list.
Every morning I wake up before the sunrise and try to focus all of my attention and efforts at the start of the day to the act of writing. Being a writer demands some type of routine that actively directs your energy towards the production prose. That is how my daily routine works. I focus all of my energy without any distractions on the act of writing. Sometimes a little bit of research or other activities creep into the mix, but for the most part the simple act of dancing on the keyboard is what happens and it really is the essence of what should happen. Thoughts are converted from that present point of view into keystrokes. Ideally that would happen for several pages of prose creation at a time, but for some reason it seems to end up being something that happens in about a single page serving at a time. During the course of writing and focusing on the idea at hand something will inevitably pull me out of the typing and creation process and that shift will cause a breakdown in further prose creation. It’s amazing how powerful shifting your focus can be at any given time.
Generally in the background either YouTube or Pandora is playing something that occupies a little bit of my attention. Just enough of my attention to help keep me in the pocket of writing, but not enough to totally grab my attention away from the task at hand. Last week I pulled apart the Google Doc that houses all my Substack posts from “The Lindahl Letter” and started to convert it into a Microsoft Word document capable of being published as a book. This time around for that effort I landed on using a paper size of A5. That seemed like a good size to format the content into for this journey. Today I just finished work on the content that will go out on Friday titled, “Substack Week 30: Integrations and your ML layer.” I’m going to have to remove the links and Tweets sections of each post to make the content more inline with a traditional paper bound publication. Part of the joy of a newsletter format is that the content can include live links as the delivery mechanism goes to phones and computers where people can interact with the content and open links. A more traditional manuscript is not geared toward that level of interaction. It is something that will generally be read from start to finish without a bunch of outbound links to videos or other content.
Oh yeah — I need to circle back to the process of writing weekly missives in “The Lindahl Letter” newsletter and how that will end up being a book. I have 52 topics selected and queued up as part of the writing process. That means based on the previous shared information the project currently stands at 30 of 52 chapters being completed. Working with that content to edit, refine, and rework it to be a great start to finish read is going to require moving the content from the Google Doc each week into a more manuscript friendly format. During the course of that process I’m also going to need to really focus on reworking and expanding some of the content to be more academic instead of the purely conversational tone of the weekly newsletter. I’m not going to remove all the personal touches and invocations of personality as that would make the final product less appealing to a reader, but some rework is going to be necessary to make the final product more polished.
I’m not entirely sure at the moment where that manuscript is going to end up getting published. It is pretty easy to publish an eBook out in the market. I know how to do that without any assistance from a publisher or a literary agent.
My attention shifted to working on a novel called “Else” that was started back in 2018. Right now the novel was really the length of a short story and it stopped after a couple thousand words. It’s weird to read something that was written years ago and pick up the writing style and tone. You have to be in the right mood to make something like that work out. It will probably be easy enough for somebody to figure out exactly what chapter the previous effort ended on and what chapter I picked up writing today. This is one of those stories that is going to be written from start to finish and then edited.