Collecting all of your thoughts

This week has featured a return to the daily stream of consciousness content creation at the very start of the day. Tomorrow I’ll pivot over to working on more academic content per my normal weekend writing strategy. I’m still working in a precarious position where I need to keep up with the publishing schedule in real time. I have drafted up week 110 and with a little bit of editing it will be reading for recording tomorrow morning. That will involve setting up the audio shield and microphone. Recording is not a big part of the process; it does not add that much time to the cycle. For the most part the research and review process takes care of itself. Searching, reading, and thinking about a topic drives the content creation part of the process. 

Sometimes the act of collecting all of your thoughts is enough to jump on the springboard of creativity. Other times it is just a good way to start the day. Focused and ready for the next adventure is a great place to be at as things start to move around. This missive will finish up a week where things have been published on the blog each day. That is exciting. It has been some time since that has happened. My ability to really utilize the first hour of my day on this type of writing has diminished in the last year. My finest and most productive hour is generally spent on whatever is the highest value. That unfortunately has not been this exercise, but I think that might have been a mistake on my part. 

It is very rare that people take time to really try to collect all their thoughts at one time. Trying to bring focus during mediation is usually about clearing all your thoughts aside. This would be the opposite of that intent. I’m trying to crash everything together to see what happens as I refine the multitude into a stream of consciousness. It’s a good thing to attempt. For me it helps focus my thoughts into a block of prose like the one you just read. Within that focus it is the things that jump out or grab my attention that are generally the most important. Things that are so important that they can leap to the forefront of the mind are generally the ones that need attention. That rule is not always true. I frequently will jump to considering my next meal or if I should make more shots of espresso. Those jumps are not the intellectually significant ones that help push things forward.

A few things that could be completed

Yesterday, I got back into the practice of daily writing. My overall December writing output for this weblog was a little slow with only 6 missives so far making it all the way to publication. At the start of the day I had a 30 minute window of extreme clarity which was a pleasant way to start the day. With a bit of hindsight on that one I should have sat down and started working on something, but instead of taking that path I just let my thoughts wander around to see where things would end up going. My desk is set up with a computer, keyboard, and monitor for the express purpose of generating prose. Each day I start my efforts by sitting down and working toward the creation of prose. During weekends on Saturday and Sunday all of that effort is generally focused on producing the weekly content for The Lindahl Letter. Weekdays on the other hand are more about stream of consciousness based writing. Certainly that will veer into the creation of a variety of things. Sometimes I end up producing academic content or other times it might be the seeds of a short story. 

Right now at this very moment I’m looking at the week ahead to try to figure out exactly how much time I have to spend on a few things that could be completed. It’s that time of year where all the loose ends that could be closed out before the end of the year get a bit of consideration. Certainly far more things require a bit of doing than could possibly be completed. The other core problem around that path forward is that sustaining effort to close out things that could be completed is actually harder than it sounds. Generally, if those things were going to be self powered to resolution they would have been compelling enough to be closed out in the first place. Giving a second round of effort to something might be enough to close things out or it could just be effort to force a false start death rattle. Either way things end up a few of them are going to get a bit of time devoted to them here in the next few days. It is that time of year where chasing down windmills with a titled lance and absolutely no horse happens. 


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A 24 hour burst of productivity

Without question the last 24 hours have included a burst of productivity. A lot of that was set up by building out quality drafts in revision and review mixed with following a good process and workflow. Within my Substack posting creation process I work on 5 weeks of posts in planning and review. That allows me to intellectually jump around from one piece of content to another. Having that little bit of writing freedom to focus on one thing and then another is the key element of increasing productivity. If for some reason my writing output slows down on one topic, then I can quickly shift gears to something that is better aligned with my mood or interests at that moment. Learning to shift gears and not try to overly focus on any one thing is a key element of increasing writing productivity. 

Previously, anybody who has been around the weblog over the years will know that I often just engage in the act of pure stream of consciousness writing. I sit down with no agenda and simply write to fill up the blank page. That as a process is an effort that can be repeated forever as every blank page provides an opportunity to write. The Substack or academic writing is a very different type of thing. That is writing to a schedule based on a defined backlog of content that needs to be created. In my case, I literally had a word processing document with 104 items that needed to be created to sprint toward my two year writing goal. My 2022 writing goal was written like this: “Finish writing a collected series of ML/AI essays on Substack and combine them into a manuscript, ‘The Lindahl Letter: On Machine Learning Year Two.’ This manuscript should include both years one and two.” As of right now after that 24 burst of productivity, I’m currently at 101 items complete on a plan of 104 for the year. 

Even right now I have drafts completed for the content that will be included in posts 102, 103, and 104. It would be possible to record those drafts and call it a day for the year, but that would be problematic as the content could be so much better with a bit more tinkering, review, and editing to take it to the next level. My big plans for 2023 include a lot more docs on producing academic papers and focusing my Substack and other writing efforts to chronicling that journey. At some point in the next couple of weeks, I need to sit down and revise my 5 year writing plan as well given that it is currently only spanned out 4 years into the future. A year of writing has passed and it is now time to reconsider the path forward.

The forefront of my considerations

During the course of Saturday mornings I’m investing in the production of, “The Lindahl Letter,” series of weekly newsletters over on the Substack platform. Generally, that has been going well enough. The first 20 weeks of posts have been written and content has been planned out for 37 issues. My big plan is to work on that endeavor for 52 weeks. I’m not even halfway to the end of that goal at this point and I’m already thinking about the conclusion. Part of the goal of this effort was to help sharpen my thoughts on the topics of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Maybe the more important part was to allow me to consider directionally where I wanted to take my efforts and focus. Writing a few paragraphs for a newsletter each week is not a huge commitment of my time and it should serve as an anchor to help me focus on what really comes to the forefront of my considerations. 

Spending some time wrestling with the trajectory of my future writings is probably worthwhile. It would be easy enough to get out a blank sheet of paper and start in the middle with a bubble of what I most want to write about and then just sort of fill up the paper with ideas until something is compelling enough to spark the commitment of words to the page. For the most part the main method of my prose creation is sitting in front of a word processing document prompt at the specified hour in the early hours of the morning and beginning to type. That is the opposite of planful and for the most part the writing it produces could go anywhere. My writing trajectory from stream of consciousness style writing does not necessarily move forward toward something. It really just builds from the moment into the next like waves hitting the shore. It’s reliable and it happens every day, but it is the same sort of routine unless a storm approaches. In my case I’m typically waiting for that writing storm to show up based on a spark of creativity.

This post will go out via my Twitter link automation that is deployed in WordPress. It did sort of entertain me when I used that automation to send out entire posts as Tweet storms. I’m not entirely sure why that was such an amusing event to create, but for some reason it really did bring some joy to the process. After this post is submitted and published out to the internet I’m going to capture an extra backup of the whole thing just for fun. A daily backup occurs, but for some reason I like to capture my own off cycle backups from time to time. It is probably akin to the same reason that I still buy Blu-ray movies in their physical form. Streaming from the cloud is probably more popular, but the act of collecting the Blu-ray movie discs and storing them in the living room still has some value to me and probably a few other people. The number of people who get volume from it is shrinking. That is obvious from the diminishing sales numbers.

Working along and some meditation

My renewed daily writing project seems to be going well enough. Each morning I’m sitting down in front of my main computer to create a page of prose. That computer was recently moved into a Be Quiet! Dark Base Pro 900 revision 2 case. It is way quieter than the previous one. My typing has been happening on this Corsair K65 mechanical keyboard. It is way louder than my previous one. It has been a long time since I spent a good amount of time with a mechanical keyboard. The only real sound in my office outside of music is the sound of this keyboard and it is a triumphant clickety clacking of productivity. Seriously typing on a mechanical keyboard is much louder than I remember. My office is really just me and some computer so the loudness of the keyboard is not a problem, but it is a new part of the process. It is interesting to get acclimated to working on the right side of a split screen 38 inch monitor. I have resisted moving the Google Doc window to the center of the screen so far, but that would be the more natural way to go about the process of writing at a desk with a keyboard. Having the content straight ahead would be reasonable and an easier way to work vs. always looking to the right. Maybe I’ll give that a shot this morning to see how it goes. My writing this morning has been very tactical and has not transitioned into a higher level of observation and reflection. 

Today might be one of those days where a higher level of observation and reflection is not going to happen. Things today started very slowly from the moment consciousness of the outside world occurred. Maybe this is one of those days where a bit of meditation and mindfulness might help refocus my energy and effort on more productive things. It is entirely possible that jamming along to a record on my guitar is about to happen. Getting deeply lost in the process of playing music can be just as calming as all out meditation for me these days. It is also a lot easier for me to relax into the mode of playing guitar without thinking vs. trying to relax to the point of zero space. This post is not really about the merits or practices of meditation. That could have been an interesting topic to tackle. Maybe later it will receive the attention it deserves. Part of that would be about getting to a head space where envisioning a path of stones running through a stream would be possible. Each stone in the stream reflects a step and a choice driving things forward to that perfect possible future. Moving from being like water and going with the flow to willfully making a choice to step from stone to stone in that grand flowing river of time would be at the heart of that meditation. 

Pure stream of consciousness writing can go wherever your thoughts take you. I find the best time to engage in that practice of writing to be right when I wake up at the start of the day. Sometimes at the very end of the day I can also deeply focus on that writing practice. This weblog has been full of stream of consciousness based writing for years. Most of that writing is now reserved into a private section, but new prose is now being generated daily and oddly enough being automatically shared as a Twitter thread. For the most part that Twitter thread feature appears not to really do anything besides place the content of the weblog post on Twitter where it occurs as a thing in the stream just long enough for something else to show up. Within the aggregate the Twitter feed is a never ending stream of the public square come to virtual life in a completely unmanageable sea of utterances. Nobody could sort it all out or review even a single day of the total Twitter stream at this point. Like most of the digital feeds these days the amount of content being generated greatly outpaces our ability to consume them or even acknowledge that they exist.