Category Archives: Blogging

Coffee in April

If we were having coffee, I would apologize for not being around so much recently. Being polite, you would ask what I’ve been up to, and I would say well, nothing much. However, on a flip-through of my journal for the month of April, the following is revealed:

LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED

I was sorting books (yet again) and found:

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened‘ (Jenny Lawson)

“…she learns that life’s most absurd and humiliating moments, the ones we wish we could pretend had never happened, are the very same moments that make us who we are.”

Jenny Lawson is a blogger.

I often get cold feet about my own blog. I do value it, so could try again with a simple coffee post.

KEEPING WHAT’S MOST PRECIOUS

I want to keep the large padded footstool if possible, and had the sudden impulse to stick a blue Post-It note on it. That reminded me of Frasier telling his father and brother to put labels on the things they most wanted to inherit. The father thought it was a bad idea, and refused, but Niles had great fun sticking labels everywhere.

BLADE RUNNER

Looking around the internet, I find a lot of people fall asleep during Blade Runner. I was no exception. When I woke I was very confused… I thought it was morning, and wondered if Mum had got up yet. I couldn’t remember seeing her today at all, or anything else that might have happened. Slowly it came back to me that she had indeed got up, and had done things like set the robohoover to work.

OUT OF THE LOOP

I’m disoriented these days. It’s intensified because small plans are mooted, then suddenly change and I’m not informed, and I find myself working towards something that’s not going to happen, or isn’t going to happen the way I think, which changes everything…. It’s funny how people leave you out of the loop, then look at you as though you’re the bat with crazy ideas.

A SIMPLE MISUNDERSTANDING INVOLVING COFFEE

Mum’s just got up from her nap and is drinking caffeine-free instant coffee. She hasn’t drunk instant for years, so that took me by surprise. I didn’t even realize it was caffeine-free… I just thought it was good thinking on her part to buy a replacement when I was about to run out. I ran out today… so (feeling somewhat cheated) I said “we need more.”

I now have a silver tin, while Mum has the gold. Why does ‘caff free’ get to be gold??

*SPOILER* — ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (A.I.)

Part-way through watching the Artificial Intelligence AI DVD on Mum’s TV while she was napping, which I’m not encouraged to do, I got tired minutes before she reappeared. I turned it off and left the TV on, so all she saw was snooker, which she’s still watching.

Hehehe.

I love the teddy in AI… that’s why I bought it. The part of the story that’s painful is how the robo-boy has been imprinted on one human (his ‘mother’) and that’s an irreversible process, even though he’s likely to live a lot longer. If returned to Cybertronics after imprinting, they would have to destroy him. Rather than do that, they abandoned him in a wood with Teddy, and told him for his own safety not to go to Cybertronics or any large group of people.

But was that kind?

At the end of the film, it was easier for the boy to lose her forever while knowing he was loved, than to lose her heart and her mind… even knowing she was still alive somewhere. I didn’t understand that when I saw it before, but think now that I do.

EXPECTATIONS

Part of the problem with people now is that they expect perfection. All you need to do is check out one of those B&B TV reality shows… they knock marks off if there’s no TV or they have to share a bathroom, and they complain about dustbin men at 6 a.m.

Then there’s the perennial “there was a small spider in the corner.”

It makes you wonder.

EXPRESSING MYSELF… OR NOT!

I need to be consistent in myself, and that means doing what comes naturally to me. Saying what seems right to me. I’m confused enough without there being added confusion… an alien dynamic.

I run into fears I might overdo emails. After all, people are busy. Or they do all their communicating on diddly little iPod Shuffles. So I delay my responses, cut down a lot, and do so much self-editing that the authentic me isn’t coming though.

BRIEF FLASH OF ENLIGHTENMENT

From my horoscope for April 25:

“Nearly everyone seems on edge today…. Unfortunately, you could inadvertently kick a hornet’s nest if you are careless with your words. Author Pearl Cleage wrote, “Discomfort is always a necessary part of the process of enlightenment.””

Overnight I had a Eureka moment that I’ve since forgotten. I don’t know if it was real or dreamed…

TIDYING

I hoovered downstairs (and the stairs themselves) and polished the tables, and felt tired the whole time, as though doing it was little short of a nightmare! I hope that book about the art of Japanese tidying is right when it says that when you finally get your possessions down to a more manageable level and tidy them away into their designated spaces, keeping the whole house clean will be easier and more fun.

“Those items that bring you the most joy, such as your divorce certificate, should be kept in your power spot. Every house will have its own power spot. To find yours, close your eyes and joyously chant: “Where’s my power spot?” If the answer does not come to you then you aren’t chanting joyously enough.”

A little while ago my iMac failed… or rather, one small component in it failed, which means the whole 27″ 30.5 lb weight of it (and some of the software on it) is scrap. I used to paint in that corner; create and maintain databases, organize my photo collection, back up my iPad, listen to music…

I haven’t been there since the iMac failed, and have felt confused and disgruntled ever since. I got a new computer but haven’t turned it on. I don’t know if it will run the software I’m used to running, and the thought of installing it all over again makes me not want to go through the process at all. However, without that resource, I don’t feel ‘me’ any more.

It’s time I addressed that, and brought my ‘power spot’ back into play. Today.

HELPING THE GRASS GROW

The hill out the back gets manure put on it annually. You go out into the garden and it’s suddenly reeking. I have thought a few times the cats were overdoing it…

BOOKS AND HAPPINESS

A while ago when I suggested buying Sharpe books on Kindle for her birthday, Mum said no, she can’t concentrate enough on reading.

More recently, I took a pile of books downstairs to go to charity, and some time later thought “that’s funny, the pile looks smaller!” I peeked in Mum’s room, and she’d taken a book (The Vital Spark) and put it in her book rack.

That made me happy. 🙂

She’s also finished a slim library book by Ann Cleeves and bought herself a Kindle book.

It all makes me happy and I feel calmer. Also, today it was sunny. Rather cold, but the sun was gold on the trees and blossoms… just lovely.

I’ll miss it here.

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Mission Mind Map

In the iPad App Store on Monday, I downloaded this week’s free app — MindNode, a tool that helps set out the groundwork for projects. I love new apps, and it doesn’t hurt when they’re free, but I absolutely adore making plans… probably more than carrying them out. When it comes to organizing in general, my computer groans with deeply-nested files; defolderifying is required when my system proves more of a hindrance than a help. I should probably delete redundant files altogether — those awful old merged fractals from 2007, for instance… I can do a lot better nowadays.

An image bright, cluttered and rough.

Why did I think this was good?

It can be hard to let go, sadly. My middle name should be Squirrel.

As any squirrel knows, sorting resources into careful heaps and folders is calming. It’s an acceptable way of gloating over your hoard while allowing you to feel more in control… so I had hopes this mind-mapping thing would be a useful weapon against the encroaching world. In my experience, plans morph into action surprisingly quickly, leading to greater self-confidence and a lot less of the energy-sapping procrastination I’m prone to.

“Incredible — I sorted that out myself! No dithering for days on end wondering what to do!”

It astonishes you to discover you’re a rational adult and can take on many comers, regardless of their role in life. Usually that phenomenon is attributable to pencil, paper and copious notes, and it’s also why MindNode now lurks on my iPad.

So far, so good.

You can’t, however, be a rational adult without questioning yourself and others, so there are reasons for me to be sceptical as well as hopeful.

First of all, mind-mapping looks and sounds terribly technical and arcane, and you wonder if you’re doing it right, particularly when not learning anything from it. You suspect it’s an attention-seeking gimmick that does the job no better than merely writing lists. Mind maps don’t present with a neat appearance, so how could they be better? They start in the middle of the page and sprawl in different directions… what if you ran out of room and started writing on the table by accident? A mouse could make a nest in someone’s mind map and feel completely at home.

Secondly, I know myself too well! A helpful and instructive tool becomes a blunt instrument in my hands. I bludgeon myself with it remorselessly, then give up, disillusioned and bruised.

It’s one thing ‘actioning’ a highly-targeted plan when there’s a time limit and a specific outcome in mind. It’s another to ‘improve’ myself or my daily life with something like a Chart of Chores or a To Do List, because these tend to be grandiose, pernickety, perfectionist schemes, quickly tired of and forgotten.

Who wants all of their time earmarked in advance, even for pleasant pastimes like watching Blackadder’s schemes on TV? Years ago I created such a time chart in an effort to combat a bad spell of procrastination, but I never tried it out. It’s still in my nested folders somewhere. I could draw up a new one specifying “read blogs at 10 every Sunday morning”, but it’s unlikely to happen. This is real life: I read blogs at different times during the week and could be there for anything from two minutes to two hours. I’m not a robot, and there’s no point trying to programme myself as though I am one.

iNotRobot. Depressing but true.

There’s a To Do List app in my arsenal, but it wasn’t at all long before I deleted it. For the right kind of people it’s excellent, and they doubtless use it the right way. I, on the other hand, use it completely the wrong way, so for me it wasn’t working. There’s something about being told what to do that makes me dart like a spooked squirrel the other way — even if the person telling me to do it is me.

Before discovering the app, my usual organizational methods included (and still include):

  1. Lists — I love lists
  2. Databases
  3. Spreadsheets and charts
  4. Journaling
  5. Calendar

I don’t use the iPad’s Reminder app as it’s never worked for me… too limited, or so I thought when I tried it. I can’t remember much about it now, but a lingering impression is that there were only so many items I could add to a page. I would tell it to alert me to something, and either the alert wouldn’t arrive, or I’d be uninterested and ignore it when it did.

By ‘journaling’ I don’t mean bullet journals, which I haven’t yet tried — I mean ordinary ‘dear diary’ journaling. This has surprising strengths which I should probably go into another time. The gist is that you start with a problem and enter into a conversational spiral, one thought leading to another… ending up fairly consistently with an idea of what will work and what won’t. Sometimes when you re-read, you pick up on things you forgot, which is all to the good. It’s like an old-fashioned ‘text’ version of problem-solving mind-mapping, no neater than a pictorial mind-map, and though I’ve filled out most of my thoughts fairly satisfactorily, you are left with a mass of text you might never read again. Unless you type your diary on computer and remember the keywords you used, you’d find it difficult to search for a particular event or idea.

That said, I love journaling, and wouldn’t stop for all the tea in China (or anywhere else in this globalized world). Mind-mapping should be just my cuppa, shouldn’t it, even if I don’t have carte blanche to waffle on?

To get to grips with my use of the MindNode app…

This isn’t intended as a review or how-to page, and I’m not going to focus on the technicalities of how to use it, but I’ll just comment that it’s easy for beginners — you don’t need an instruction manual, other than a couple of starting tips. Fiddly to use at times, but it’s good to be able to move things around or delete them altogether — an aspect which must blow pen and paper mind-mapping out of the water.

My first experiment

When trying it out for the first time, I mind-mapped an established creative process in digital art. My aims were to (1) provide a reference to keep me working quickly without getting bogged down; (2) potentially to inspire. I hoped mind-mapping might live up to its reputation and work some mindspace voodoo. Who knew what it might do? I lived in hope.

In the process of creating my nebulous map of creativity, I ran up against a few problems.

  1. I got confused about what should come under certain tags. For instance, radiating away from the word ‘artwork’, a key word in the map is ‘organize’. I read somewhere that you should use one-word terms rather than pin yourself down with something more specific. OK, keep it loose. Should I then go on to list organizational methods like folders and databases — or platforms like the iMac — or the type of resources to be organized, such as Bryce master files, Photoshop brushes, tutorials and so on? These are long lists — how do I put everything in one place without making the mind map explode?
  2. This led to the possibility of repeating the terms like ‘organize’ elsewhere in the mind-map, but I feared that might be against the rules. Also, how do you tie in ‘platforms’ with ‘software’, specific creative processes and different types of resources in a neat and orderly fashion, seeing as the software all worked together in some cases but not others — while working from different platforms in different ways — so I couldn’t list everything neatly in one place, moving in a sedate direction therefrom?

Gah.

The results of this, my first experiment in mind-mapping:

  1. No benefit. I had no room for all the items I wanted, and it was as though I hadn’t got to grips with the problem — if there was one.
  2. The process I tried to clarify showed itself in its true colours. It’s a creative process that pulls in resources and inspiration from everywhere, and you can’t list these, slot them in one logical place or plan them robotically. This is something I should already have realized, and I didn’t need a mind-mapping session to tell me that.
  3. I found no inspiration or new ideas.
  4. If used as a reference to keep me on track, it would add an extra, unnecessary step. It wouldn’t improve matters, being more likely to throw me off.

Even so, I realized I’d used the process wrongly with a subject too big (or not properly broken down to something more rational), while having no clear and specific aim. It would be unfair to condemn it on such grounds. I’ve never before mind-mapped, and needed time to consider how best to use it. Some of my first attempts are bound to be duds.

Ploughing grimly on

If I was not to discard the baby with the bath water, it was clear I should do more research. It wasn’t looking at all good for my experiment, which I now viewed with a degree of irritation. I was hot all over, my heart raced, my brows beetled and I was starting to pout.

I recognize that soul-destroying feeling from other projects I’ve not been good at.

Baking is definitely one, when I start off with fond ambitions of delicate, beautifully decorated little cakes and wafting cinnamon smells, and end up feeling it’s all more hassle than it’s worth. After which I start chucking flour around in lumps and slamming badly-shaped objects in the oven. Another recent project was mindfulness — I was determined to give it a go because I might learn useful life skills, but every time it asked me to do something such as imagining a peaceful scene while repeating a senseless question over and over, dull rage surged up and I had to put the book down. So I’ve not yet read it.

That doesn’t mean I won’t read it… the real reason I’m irritated is it’s something I want to do but it turned out not to be that easy or pleasant. Also there’s still the worry it’s overhyped and I won’t get what I wanted: a better life and a better me. I’m not the perfect person I was fondly imagining.

Oooh. We have now reached the point in this narrative where I was getting these dangerous rumbles over mind-mapping. It was distinctly worrying but I grimly soldiered on. The only way to turn this around was to find out what other people use it for.

One site provided me with some real ‘ah ha!’ moments, and I gleaned the following:

  1. Mind-mapping is used for problem-solving. (I’d been thinking in terms of organizing and streamlining; not quite the same thing).
  2. Think of the keywords in terms of headers rather than processes. If I was planning a party, I would have lists for food, guests, games, music and ‘things to do’ before the big day. The chances are low that I would head one of my lists ‘Organize’!
  3. Leading on from this, I can see my worry about repeating keywords doesn’t matter… it’s flow and direction that matter. You are trying to get somewhere, and it’s not a crime if there are half a dozen information offices in your map, provided they are all well-located and useful.
  4. The biggest break-through for me was when it was pointed out you could use mind-mapping to plan blog posts.

A better attempt

All my pouts vanished, and in no time at all I was embarking on my second experiment: Mission Mind Map. If that term seems a little familiar, it’s because it is!

Shortly after starting, I knew I was onto a winner.

  1. I was now thinking in terms of headings and lists, and didn’t get stuck.
  2. Item order mattered. Things don’t just spring up in the middle of nowhere, and the map finally had a direction.

You see, I was finally getting the hang of it, but my pernickety nature ensured I aimed for at least two items per heading. You can’t have a list of one, can you? In a mind map it’s really about flow, like in my diary… one thought leading to another — but while thinking of thoughts as lists, I wanted two leading on from one, and would fish for another point just to make up numbers.

That’s the feng shui approach to mind-mapping, I guess — or plain OCD.

I enjoyed it; it was a lot of fun. I was able to go into detail without forgetting minor points or losing the shape of what I was writing about.

The next worry, however, was how to get the mind map into my document. The idea of swiping back and forth between it and my blog post didn’t appeal.

Of course, MIndNode wouldn’t have been a proper app if it didn’t have a solution! I was able to convert it into a column of text in my favourite writing app. First of all it arrived in a mad jumble, starting with my last point and ending with the introduction. So I went back and moved everything round the other way, reimported, and this time items appeared in the right order.

When I remembered things I’d forgotten, I made direct changes to the text column rather than edit the mind map itself. I was tempted to think of the map as a finished product, like a picture, but it’s only a stage. It had already done the main work and was not part of the equation any longer.

Some of my changes and additions in the text column arrived as long lines and paragraphs, which is how I’ve always written. I put ‘brief’ ideas in the right places, and these immediately start growing, forming the nucleus of the post itself. In contrast, placed in a mind map, they would remain short snippets of text to be fleshed out later rather than ‘now.’ The process of allowing your notes to expand immediately can take you in new directions, and these are sometimes worthwhile. On the other hand, it’s confusing if these weren’t directions you meant to go in, leaving your original point jostling for place.

Perhaps the mind map is not a hindrance to the evolution of your post — more a temporary postponement of narrative in favour of deeper structure. It still reminds me of my use of journals to ‘problem-solve’… one thought leading to another and ending in a plan. It’s certainly keeping me busy and I’ve not yet abandoned this mass of text! I’m polishing sections of this before I’ve even written the rest of it — it’s partly procrastination; partly because in some sense it’s been written already, and I can relax and not worry that I’ll forget things.

A few days ago, I was listening to a song that has stayed in my head all the time I’ve been writing this. Long Time Coming (David Sneddon).

And in a deeper part of me
A stronger soul is breaking free
And I want you to know
Can’t hold me down for any more
Pull myself from off the floor
And I want you to know

Final thoughts

Based on my short experience of it, pros and cons for mind-mapping as part of a writing process?

Pros:

  1. Cuts down the usual muddle, though not completely.
  2. Possibly you would axe redundant topics before spending much time writing them.
  3. Otherwise short and lazy posts would become longer and more detailed, though I don’t entirely know if that’s good!
  4. It becomes less intimidating to deal with your blog topic overall; you don’t need to put it off to a later time when your thoughts are less scattered.

Cons:

  1. Tendency to waste time tidying the map — trying to balance it out and make it beautiful.
  2. Mine was inside-out and back-to-front, but there’s a setting to adjust that.
  3. This way of laying out your thoughts seems difficult to read. I showed it to a friend who commented: “I couldn’t get my head round it! It’s too much like the kind of thing the office used to produce as one of their many flavour of the month initiatives!” I can sympathize because I dreamed about mice (the ones nesting in it) and have no love for the corporate environment myself.
  4. The map is transformed into a column of indented headers. Why not write them that way in the first place? This is one I find hard to explain away.
  5. There’s a risk it disrupts one’s usual thought process. My style is conversational, but what if the mind map keeps me so much on the straight and narrow that I fail to follow some enticing side-path? On the other hand, the map probably makes sure I see the side paths, shoehorning all of them in. Both aspects could be bad.
  6. I already write long posts which could now become three times as long. Maybe you waste time overwriting it initially and need to trim it down later. The length of the text column generated from the mind map was putting me off, so progress was quite slow. I would ‘flesh out’ a section then scroll hopefully down, thinking, “There, I wrote quite a lot, I must be near the end?” Unfortunately, the tail of the mind map trails forever into the distance…
  7. My initial structure is too rigid. When I know what I want to say and look for somewhere to add it, I see what’s already there and there’s no logical place. Reading all the previous stuff, I promptly lose track of my new idea. Normally I write down phrases in my head before they are gone, fitting them together later. Perhaps it’s not the mind-mapping itself that’s at fault, more my use of the technique — I need to start with a looser structure and not break things down too much in the first place. It would leave me more room to move. Though that begs the question — why change from your existing method?

In any case, here it is… my mind-mapped blog post.

I am glad I persevered and didn’t give in to my attack of the blue devils. In the future I can see myself using MindNode for jotting down blog ideas, perhaps in combination with a page of ‘fully-sprung’ paragraphs, ‘use or lose’.

I still don’t see mind-mapping as a problem-solver — my problems may never have been that complicated. For me it’s: ‘Do research, write email or make purchase. Done!’

In decision-making I write lists of pros and cons; I can’t imagine using a mind map for that normally, but it was more complicated when choosing a new camera recently. I set up a chart composed of what I wanted from the new camera, showing how different models fulfilled these points compared to each other. Using this, I wrote lists of cameras in each context from best to worst. Different cameras came out on top in different contexts, but some listed high more frequently than others. There was a clear winner and it wasn’t the most obvious, being an older model I’d initially dismissed. I only added it belatedly for the sake of comparison, but it did so well (and blew off the roof in a number of reviews) that it seemed the only real option.

The newer camera model I nearly bought, praised in several reviews, would have been a pleasing choice as it was nice in its way… but it was not as good a camera, or as appropriate for me.

The above was in part a visual decision-making process but was not mind-mapping!

The idea of a mind map as study aid is interesting. In history, for instance — you could put main events in order and break them down. It would certainly help you write essays.

I’m still not sure why a mind map would work better than a series of lists. It was a great relief to me when I saw mine laid out as an ordered column of text. The ‘visual’ aspect doesn’t work when it comes to writing, as my usual need is to establish direction, not relationship.

I lost the plot towards the end of writing this, but it’s probably my fault for including too much detail and moving away from the visual map to an unbroken text column!

Will I continue to use it? Yes, I want to, and can make it work for me. Time will tell in the end, though my horoscope yesterday offered the following:

Someone’s ‘good idea’ could have you captivated – even if it means shifting things round yet again. The prospect of advance both at work and in financial matters could bring a smile too. With encouragement from someone who’s good at focus and who knows exactly how to present things on paper, you could enjoy a day of ‘personal development planning’.

Lovely.

The mind map looks like a many-legged spider !

Mission MInd Map

Excuse the Mess

image

If we were having coffee, you would have a red cat on your knee and a notebook to write on, and we would be writing notes back and forth. Probably we would be fighting over the black cat pen — who had it last?? I thought you had your own pen!! Peeve.

There would be a fresh shower of rain streaming down the windows, as it’s pretty wet these days… windows to front and back, so you would see a quiet street out the front and a hedge at the back with a lot of big trees. The pigeons would sit in the trees and look at you. They are always there, and sometimes a grey squirrel too.

Presumably you would be writing something like, “Well, this is nice, isn’t it, but a bit puzzling. How did I come to be here?”

I would take the cat pen and reply, “I think it’s my fault. I decided to try this hashtag thing — weekendcoffeeshare — without having a clue how hashtags actually work. I thought it would bring bloggers to my page, not here to have coffee with me. Don’t get me wrong, it is nice to meet you, but I do hope you will excuse the mess…”

And you would write, “Oh, the mess is fine. Just don’t do it again, that’s all! I am not quite sure how I’m going to get back now. Thingy will be wondering where I disappeared to.”

I would say, “I don’t know. If you know how to work hashtags, it might be the way home for you?”

And you would say, “Sorry, I don’t know a thing about hashtags. Never use them.”

There would be an awkward silence, then the red cat (Delilah) would stretch happily and dig her claws in, as she does love having someone new to torture sit on.

You would say, in a relenting tone of scribble, “Since I am here, I’ve often wondered what you really look like behind that eskimo bear,” and I would say, “Well, as you see… there’s no eskimo bear! It’s upstairs, just sleeping.”

“Oh,” you would say, and “I guess you don’t look like an eskimo bear.”

And I would say, “You don’t look how I imagined, either.”

“What, doesn’t my picture look like me?”

“Noooooo…. you look…. more real.”

“Thank you.”

After another silence, you would say, “Don’t you think that eskimo bear photo is a bit outdated? You’ve had it since you first began blogging in 2005 or whenever. Now it looks kind of soft and old.”

I would start having a panic attack at the thought of just how old the bear is, the camera it was photographed with and the blog, and you hastily say, “Don’t worry! It’s all good.”

“OK,” I’d say. “Let me just get my iPad. Where did you say you lived again? I’ll look up the train times. Where?? OK… PLANE times. Oh, and take the bear with you, just as a souvenir. I feel the need for a brand new profile picture…”

Following the Blog Crowd

Today’s prompt by the Daily Post is fleeting, a tempting word to dangle in front of a writer! I could talk about fleeting thoughts, fleeting joys, fleeting beauty or the fleeting sands of time… all the clichés. We mostly try to avoid clichés and anything else bland, but still fall into the trap by following certain trends. Resonant writing, for instance, is something to admire, but there’s so much of it around I find myself recoiling. Do you feel manipulated sometimes? What if we ditched the resounding lines and dreamy philosophy and just said what we think?

It’s true that clear layout and good editing is part of good writing. If a word interrupts the flow of your reading, such as an unnecessary ‘I’ mid-sentence, delete it. If you make the same point repeatedly, cut the repetitions (unless they add something). If you’ve chosen an impressive word when a simple word would be less distancing, change it.

However, I liked Iridescence’s post about writing straight from the heart and deleting nothing — as opposed to constant editing, particularly when your memories are at stake. She is really referring to diaries but makes a good point — if we edit our thoughts and personal experiences too much, are we editing our own histories? Often when you look back you can’t understand why you said or did something, and it’s not till you come across an old email or diary entry that really says what you were thinking or feeling that it becomes clear. All the emotion comes back and you remember why… oh, I wasn’t such a baddie, then! Right.

Well, when writing a diary of any type, it’s important to keep that emotion in your language — don’t lose it in favour of ‘good writing’ or simplicity.

Real, true-to-ourselves writing isn’t just for ourselves, though. Sometimes I spend so much time editing and changing things to maximize flow or ‘sense’ that what I post bears no relation to my original thought. When I’m confused enough it’s not published at all, which I think might happen to this one. Well, plodding on…

The best kind of writing, I think, is smooth enough that the words don’t distract you. If you use long words or writing tricks to impress, bear in mind we all know what you’re doing — we’ve done it too!

There are so many beautifully-written posts that are not quite devoid of humour, character, personality or interest, but still fail to convince. Truly inspirational posts have something more to them than just elegance — some kind of meaning that you won’t get anywhere else, along with honesty, accuracy, and your own normal voice.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve learned anything from this post. I spent so much time changing it that I got lost, and don’t know what I’m saying any more. Nor do I know how to end it, so I’ll try a profound quotation I found on the internet.

Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.
– Napoleon Bonaparte

Hmm, I don’t know. Does it fit, do you think? 🙂

Don’t Worry

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Snippet from my Social Folder

If you notice comments and ‘likes’ from me appearing on progressively older and older blog posts you’ve written, I’m not prowling. It’s just that I discovered blog post notifications have been sneaking into a separate Gmail mail folder which I never realized I had. A few random blog posts still appear in my main in-box, which is why I never wondered why I wasn’t hearing much about the blogs I followed. Everybody goes quiet for a while, right?

Anyway, this ‘social’ mail folder (which I didn’t personally set up) has a huge number of notifications, going back months, and most likely years. Gah!

Still catching up. Anything you regret posting, better delete it now. I’ve got to about…ohh… 1st February 2016.

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

(I only posted three things in 2015? Wow…)

Put Coffee On, Read Blogs (and comments on introversion)

Coffee pot, mug, miniature rose and bear

A few mixed things running through my mind…

There are books I read recently which strike me as important because of the issues they raise… books such as Quiet by Susan Cain. I’ve often felt things are organized in a way that suits only some types — confident types with good hearing! There are no options, no flexibility. You’re considered flawed if you find a situation more overwhelming than others do, but if they were you, they’d be exactly the same for the same reasons!

Another book, Being Wrong by Kathryn Schultz, had a big impact on me, and I always think back to it when someone is deemed stupid for holding different opinions. We equate ‘wrong’ with ‘stupidity’, which is one reason why people have such a horror of being caught out. Yet there is more to it; mistakes are unavoidable but have their uses. Perhaps our thinking has to change.

A few days ago I was reading the Culture Monk’s post on conflict, and commented that a lot of conflict is unnecessary… too many people base their actions on what they think, not what they know. We accept our own imperfections (to a point) and that of people we love, but expect perfection from everyone else. We look at other people and think we know them, yet have barely scratched the surface. I reckon this is why we need real conversations, not just Facebook status updates and space-limited chats…

I have to say I identified with the bit in Quiet that says introverts love deep and meaningful conversations and find small talk frustrating! I have felt embarrassed on my own behalf, seeing myself as a social clodhopper, but if there are others out there like me, I don’t need to worry so much.

There’s presumably controversy about whether people should be classified as introverts and extroverts, and especially if we should say ‘introverts do this thing and that thing’ whereas maybe extroverts do as well. If we wear the terminology lightly and just pay attention to the message, we can see the book is important because it’s a voice that says “no, there’s nothing wrong with you! You’re one of many.”

I’ve become more of a reader than a writer. Though I’ve not visited many blogs lately, I get hold of a lot of books and search Google for articles. It’s likely I would read blogs on a regular basis if I figured out how to work them into my daily routine (and didn’t overwhelm myself with things like BuzzFeed).

My sister gave me a pink espresso pot for my birthday. I don’t hear it bubble when coffee is coming through, but I feel it rumble on the hob. I’m not much of a blogger now, but… put coffee on, read blogs? Sounds perfect to me.

Why Do We Write?

The Daily Post asked: “Who do you write for? Who do you think of when drafting a post?”

I’ve been having trouble recently with both journal and blog, so this question comes at the right time. It occurred to me just a few days ago that my life experiences are the same whether I blog about them or journal. It’s too complicated approaching the same life from a multitude of different angles and platforms, so I’ve stopped trying. However…

JOURNALS

In my personal journal I write what’s in my mind. My internal monologue finds expression! Minus all the “who left the milk out of the fridge?” bits, which are mostly too small to be on the radar.

It’s interesting to re-read old journal entries and I’m always surprised by how much I’ve forgotten. Old dreams could have been a stranger’s, as they’re so new to me. Snatches of conversation are funny, so I make a particular effort to include those. They are the first to go from your memory, so if they are not in your journal, they’re nowhere.

A recent example is a small victory I had over Mum. I like the Johnny Depp version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but not the old one from the 1970s. Mum is not keen on Johnny Depp and kept telling me the old film was better. Well, we saw the old one the other day (orange faces, bubbles, thin chocolate rivers and Tiswas foam), and eventually she said “you’re right…. Johnny Depp IS better!”

Of course he is. 🙂

I can be bored by my journals too, skipping over reams of stuff about computer blips / projects (e.g. how I reorganized my back-ups… that was a major process taking weeks). I still write about this stuff, partly because I need to vent (“the cloud is evil!”) and partly to clear my mind and work things out.

I used to think a journal was somewhere to write about your problems, but that doesn’t mean spilling vitriol about things and people. I get more of a buzz from re-reading light journal entries and so I don’t go down the agony aunt route often — not any more. Been there, done that, tore the T-shirt to bits…

I don’t enjoy writing about bad or unsettling experiences anyway, avoiding them altogether — though if I’m already upset, I might hint at how I was feeling. As a result, it’s more of a positive ‘thinking’ journal than a full record of my experiences.

It’s the little things that count, really. I don’t want to read about the big things, even more than ten years later.

BLOGS

Ah ha! My blog is trickier.

It’s supposed to be a place where people can glimpse a particular way of life, but my dreams and conversations won’t interest anyone else… so I don’t write much. I’m no teacher or guru so can’t turn it into a tutorial corner, though I’ve helped people occasionally. It’s more of an ‘experience’ corner where I’ll say what I had trouble with and how I solved it, and maybe someone else will find that useful. A recent example is my little ArtStudio disaster (The Mountain that Walked).

I’ve found my own links and tips useful! If I do something only rarely (such as make a home movie), and have a problem months or years after I first solved it, I won’t remember how to do it again. It’s better to have those tips on my blog than my journal, as they’re easier to find. I still feel shy about blogging such experiences, though, as it usually means writing about my own mistakes.

It’s a good time to face that, as I’m still reading ‘Being Wrong’ by Kathryn Schultz. People do make mistakes — like it or not, they’re a fact of life. She suggests errors can be valuable and creative, and it’s not as though we have a choice anyway.

It occurs to me that blogging and journal-writing offer ways of dealing with the process of being wrong! Otherwise, perhaps, there would be nothing to write about or discuss. If we never got a thing wrong and didn’t experience reality differently from others, what need of information or thought? How would life even go on?

That’s me, anyway… I write for myself while trying to be useful, but feel dubious about putting any of it in a blog post.

Talking of past mistakes, I managed NOT to lose half of my doodle today. If you stand back far enough (or too close perhaps), starting it may have been the real mistake! Or the true mistake was my beginning to take it too seriously in the middle, so that now I can’t draw a single tiny line without redrawing it a hundred times.

What about you… what mistakes have you made, corrected, re-corrected or avoided today — and did you write about it? 🙂

One Stupid Thing Less…

….I changed my ‘display name’ from Diddums to Delilah. So if you start getting comments from ‘Delilah’, don’t let it confuse you! It’s only my girl cat. If I’d realized it was so easy to change, I would have done it ages ago.

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After the demise of Google Reader, I was left without a way of receiving posts from non-WordPress blogs. Not to worry though; I put several RSS feeds on my Flipboard app…. it turns recent posts into something like a magazine.

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I’ve spent most of the night this way, catching up on Mary Beard’s blog A Don’s Life.

We enjoyed her programmes so much we bought three of her books a while back. In one of her blog posts I felt as though I’d found another answer to my dilemma over the past few days. She explains she can’t leave Twitter because there is more good than bad to be had from it… and anyway “we don’t tend to respond to playground bullies, by leaving the bullies in charge of the playground.”

That is true, and I’m sure my mother said something similar once. For now I’m just enjoying my blog ‘magazines’.

Sea of Darkness: a view of the Internet

It was exhilarating making my blog more accessible on my iPad — I’m getting push notifications! That makes it more likely I’ll keep blogging. I know none of you are impressed… ‘promises, promises’… you’ve heard them all before.

Had a look to see who was still here from my blogroll. I had a fear that everyone had given up and gone, but I only had to delete one or two links — it’s lovely and humbling that most are still here and still blogging.

One deleted blog is now a spam blog… I’ve heard that can happen. It’s a reminder that if I’m not going to blog for a while, all my blogroll links should be hidden.

I had problems leaving comments via my WordPress app. I would comment on a Blogger blog, and after I pressed ‘publish’ it would say “sign in to complete the process. There are no links, so use a bookmark or type in your URL.” I was already signed in, and as I wasn’t in a browser, there was no location bar or bookmarks. That really threw me, till I worked out how to complete the process. Going into Safari separately doesn’t work; you have to do it via the app.

Then I ran into other problems… one time Blogger said ‘oops!’ (probably a white lie for ‘I don’t trust you’), and another time it said ‘memcache value is null for FormRestoration’. It claimed if I cleared my cache and history and then refreshed, the gobbledegook might go away, but I didn’t see why that should be necessary! I guessed the problem was most likely with the word verification (maybe it wasn’t happy with my answer), so I did it all over again with a fresh form, filled in the new verification box, and this time it worked. It just requires a little patience, and making sure you copy your comment before pressing any buttons!

I had a bit of a confidence crash last night. I know, I’ve only just got back to my blog, yet was already questioning that decision! I was always happy with WordPress, but now it was part of the problem. I used their app to look at Reader, and all the pictures are blown up full-size. Some weren’t loading, so you’d get a full-sized blank screen for a couple of minutes. You’d scroll down and there would be grey area after grey area. Others weren’t meant to be blown up so big and were just a blurred mess. In between each full sized picture would be about three lines of text. It made it difficult to browse.

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In addition, most of the blogs I saw in the main categories were commercial or professional. I was looking for personal blogs, but they were hard to find.

I looked wistfully at someone else’s blog on Blogger, and considered moving!

While drifting disconsolately around, I read a statement that 80% of all comments and email are spam, and most of the internet is spam too. I suddenly felt as though I was sitting on a floating raft, surrounded by debris and targetted by Facebook ads. Began wondering if it was possible to cut the internet out of my life! Close down all my accounts, delete everything I can delete… just maintain basic email?

There are ex-users… not just people who won’t go online to start with, but people who have tried it and didn’t like it. That includes a lot of people in my age group. I also found this post which brightened me up a bit: Is it possible to quit the internet?

If I ever decide to take this step, I will give warning first! But I was in utter gloom by the time I retired for the night. I suppose it’s because you have hopes for the internet, and then you see all the spam, ads, fakes, bullying, intolerance and other stuff, and you come to realize the dark side will always be there, attempting to take over. Perhaps the internet is a failed experiment that we don’t want to let go of yet.

After looking through my blogroll today I felt better, remembering the light side is here too. Another thing that kept my sanity was discovering the final link in my blogroll… WordPress tags. I find all sorts of personal blogs that way.

When I was typing ‘how much of the internet is’…? in the Google search bar, I was expecting ‘spam’ to pop up, and instead it was ‘cats’. 🙂 Anyway, I was sitting thinking about my reluctance to be connected, when suddenly there was a notification. I followed it to this update from the Dalai Lama:

“Once we have a firm practice of compassion our state of mind becomes stronger which leads to inner peace, giving rise to self-confidence, which reduces fear. This makes for constructive members of the community. Self-centredness on the other hand leads to distance, suspicion, mistrust and loneliness, with unhappiness as the result.”

Spooky.

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