Friday, 24 September 2010

Friday, 10 September 2010

Difficult business, writing (bloody satisfying though)

At the end of August, I publicly committed to write and publish three times a week, on the varied subjects of user experience, pragmatic environmentalism, and cycling.

It's been eye-opening. It's been hard work. It's been delightful.

Hard work

It's been exhausting.  The Muse has been erratic in her visits. Whilst I have no shortage of ideas, sometimes I can't quite get traction on the topic; I'll start to write without really seeing where it's going, without knowing the point.

There are articles that want to be written when I'm cycling to work, but which vanish when I sit down at my keyboard. There are articles that start off heading in one direction and end in quite another. There are clear-cut articles that flounder at their first point. There are obvious, simple articles that require further research.

There are articles, in other words, and there are articles.

And then there's the time.

Making the space - the head space, the time - to sit down and write three times a week has been challenge. I've got a full time job and a young baby, and I want to spend time with my wife and friends. Writing has had to fit in around that. And, pretty much, it's managed to do so rather well.

Writing to the standard that I want has been a challenge; I know that the perfect is the enemy of the good, but sometimes I'm not convinced that what I've written is even approaching good, never mind perfect. I'm writing these things with my name at the end, my real name; it's public now, there's no hiding here. And I like that, too. I'm proud to stand up and put my name to my work.
Sidenote: The thing is, I've written articles for scientific conferences, research papers, that have been received, reviewed, read and even presented to large communities. Why is this writing any different? I'm not sure. But it is.


Writing is a wonderful thing. Being able to write; committing to do it, making the time to do it, doing it - I delight in it.

The simple fact of meeting my schedules has been glorious. And realising that meeting my commitments is more important than slouching in front of the television, watching some programme I don't care about. Not as important as my son's needs, nor as my wife's feelings. But on the scale. Important.

On a good day, an elusive point will emerge as I work; this result really is satisfying but does take some time.  If it happens at all.  This wednesday's article on UX, for example, was a long time coming; I couldn't get started on the two or three topics I had in mind, so I ended up writing something else anyway (better to be writing than not).  But nothing was gelling. It just wasn't happening.

Then something magical happened.  After a nice sea bream supper, and a couple of glasses of wine, an idea emerged.  I went immediately to write it down, and it just flowed; within ten minutes I'd got the core bits together. After another ten it was done but for a few URLs.  Not on any of the subjects I'd planned to write, but on something else that just emerged whilst I was looking elsewhere.

Clever thing the brain.

Monday, 6 September 2010


(Yorkshire dialect)
"Website where folk rattle on about thasen"

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Will the Real Jaffle McSnaffle Please Stand Up?

There's a lot of talk recently about being a doer rather than a talker or about being scared to do something but doing it anyway. Perhaps it's the change of the seasons and weather, as September takes us into the cooler months. Or perhaps I've just noticed it because I'm sensitive to it at the moment.

Writing has been a big part of my semi-private life for a long time now, and I've been putting off the important and scary (and necessary) step of making it public. On August 25th I made and acted on a decision; I publicly announced (well, tweeted) the location of my "serious" / professional blog, and made a public commitment to write at least three times a week.

And I've been doing just that.

It's been hard work, unsurprisingly, finding the time to write - I'm not short of inspiration, and the temptation has been to charge off in a hundred different directions. I have a lot of notes. But making time and space to sit down and organise my thoughts into the semblance of something I'm happy with, something I'm prepared to release into the wild - it's been a challenge.

It's also been enormously exciting and uplifting and I'm very pleased to have done it thus far.

The added spice is that I'm doing it all under my real name - no hiding behind a thin pseudonym any more. So what I'm putting Out There had better be super good; it's got my name on it.

At the moment I'm writing on three topics that probably all deserve their own separate blog. And I've not settled on a title for the endeavour yet - but as Chris Guillebeau says"dreams first, details later".

The title can always come later. Besides, Blogger is already starting to annoy me, thinking it knows better than me what I meant by particular HTML markup, and binning what it doesn't like. So I might need to think about registering domains and getting back into WordPress.

The happy fact is that I am writing, and telling people about it. There's no hiding here.

I've also been delving into the statistics and details of this blog, and the most popular post rather surprised me - generally found via google, it seems. So I've tweaked a couple of the archive pages to bring out some of the other content, which I'm particularly proud of, and I will be continuing to write here, almost weekly.