Writing generally begets more writing

Today started off well enough. I finished a draft of a new post, “Substack Week 71: What are the best ML newsletters?” Assuming things go as planned I’ll work on a bit of editing tonight and tomorrow morning. That will take the post from editing to audio recording late tomorrow morning. I have been trying not to record right after waking up. Apparently sounding slightly sleepy when recording a podcast is frowned on by the listening public. I’m successfully staying 4 weeks ahead of my publication commitment for The Lindahl Letter. For the most part each Friday my backlog is deprecated by a single post and a new post is being created on the following Saturday and Sunday. That routine and pattern has been working. At some point, I’m sure the backlog will diminish a bit. This summer I’ll have a couple of weekends where writing is probably not going to happen. 

Overall I’m back on the writing bandwagon with a 5 day weblog publishing streak going. Getting to the point where the habit of writing is at the forefront of my daily routines is a good place to be. Writing generally begets more writing. I really do want to start my day with an hour of typing and working on writing. 

Several days have gone by without my social media applications being installed on my Google Pixel 5 smartphone. On a side note to that thought, I’m considering upgrading to the Pixel 7 when it comes out and just skipping the Pixel 6 edition altogether. That being said, I have found that not being able to look at Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram on my smartphone does cause me to use those platforms a lot less. A long time ago when phones were just for calling and texting I used websites on a desktop computer or my laptop. My efforts now are focused on just checking those websites at my main Dark Base Pro 900 housed computer. They will get checked at a specific time and place of my choosing. Notifications are not going to be allowed to drive my attention to something. Only my specific interest in a thing will drive my attention to focusing on it and that is a key distinction to consider. 

Focusing on accomplishing a deeper degree of work is an important part of the puzzle. I don’t want my focus and attention pulled away from the things I have deemed important. That is one of those things that helped me realize that focus on connections and effort has to be foundational to my planned actions. 

We have connections with people. A few of them last the test of time. They are with us even after we part ways. Sometimes a song, feeling, or just happenstance can trigger that connection to resurface. For me, hearing the lead singer of Harvey Danger always makes me think of one person. It happens every time and neither the context nor the occasion will shake that connection from coming to the forefront of my thoughts.

Creating more opportunities for creativity

Things seemed to start awfully slow this morning. Two shots of espresso from the Nespresso machine happened and a bit of St. Vincent’s music played on Pandora. It could have been a joyous May the 5th. Instead things just seemed a little bit dull. One of the things that I have been working on to help improve my focus has been removing the social media applications from my smartphone. At the moment, I cannot even check Twitter on my phone. That effort may be helping me avoid small bursts of what feel like focused attention, but are not examples of having spent quantifiable amounts of energy on solving actual problems. Really it is just an example of really digging into and enjoying a distraction. That is probably the worst potential outcome of expending time and focus without getting anything in return for it outside of the satisfaction of being distracted. Instead of allowing my focus to drift into those types of things I have removed the temptations. You can imagine this caused a shift to the only things left on my smartphone which happen to be email and the Google News feeds. Fortunately, my email filters keep that pretty well under control and the top 5 news articles Google thinks I should be reading don’t shift around all that often during the day. Effectively I’m increasing the amount of time where I need to be present with my surroundings and creating more opportunities for creativity. 

We will see if in practice this move to focus has a quantifiably good outcome. I can generally trend my written output over time and it is pretty easy to see spikes in productivity compared to breakdowns in the creative process. All of my focus on this effort is really about trying to create more opportunities for creativity. I’m looking to find those moments of focus and nurture them into more prolonged sessions that ignite that spark of creativity. Sometimes you are just going to know it’s time to make things happen. Those points in time where the door is open and all you have to do is walk through it and take advantage of endless possibilities. You have to protect those moments of pure creativity and really try to lean into making the most of them you possibly can given how fleeting the best moments are over time. Most of this rambling series of thoughts are about trying to recognize two things in practice. First and foremost, build a pattern of purpose driven efforts that result in a defined writing routine. Second, you need to have a realistic mechanism to capture the energy from those times outside of the normal routine when the spark of creativity shows up. 

My writing routine involves waking up between 0500 and 0530 hours and spending time in front of the keyboard without interruption or other obligation. On the weekends my ability to really dig in and spend a few hours practicing the habit of writing first thing in the morning is a known commodity at this point. In practice on that one I’m 70 weeks into The Lindahl Letter publication on Substack without disruption. That is a pretty example of a writing practice becoming a definable and repeatable writing routine. I’m still working on translating more of that output into academic articles. Sometimes it feels like I’m in a perpetual literature review within the machine learning and artificial intelligence space. At some point in that cycle I need to veer off the literature review path and begin a journey into some type of new frontline research on a topic worth examining. That is what I’ll take a look at exploring this weekend. 

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.