Writing along the journey

A few different weblog posts have been abandoned throughout the last week. Earlier this week the eBook edition of, “The Lindahl Letter: On Machine Learning,” went live all over the internet. That was exciting. Two other eBooks are nearing the completion of their editing journey on my desktop. 

My projects folder has roughly 30 or so previously started or completed works. Some of them have been online for over a decade. Even if some of that content had been posted online years ago it feels like editing it before eBook publication is the right way to go about it. Sure it would be easier to just copy and paste it into a template and start the publishing process.

A busy Sunday writing day

Today was super productive in terms of writing. For some reason, I got up this morning and worked to take my Substucks and work toward getting them into a publishable format. That all started with a moment of introspection, “Right now I’m wondering if The Lindahl Letter newsletter currently published on Substack should be offloaded as a year one manuscript for publication. It would be pretty easy to just take the 52 posts and strip out the links/thoughts and Tweets sections.”[1] A few moments later a second thought occurred about the subject as well related to the possibility of switching up topics every year for a really deep research focus including 52 different inquiries. That one I’m not as sure about, but well over an hour was invested into formatting the The Lindahl Letter into a Microsoft Word document ready for publication via a book aggregation service that handles publishing across a multitude of platforms.

The advertising plan seemed a little bit sad after the first draft. It went a bit like this, “Sometimes when the internet is not working do you miss having a physical copy of The Lindahl Letter on your bookshelf?” Yeah, that did not seem compelling to me either. However, if that is something you were looking to have, then you can look forward to a publication of the one year manuscript. Right now the topic list is out to week 59 and I have a few more topics to transfer from my Google Keep files. That took the planned writing list out to week 65 which was a little bit better. I’m going to need to spend some time working on more topics to feed into the list. So far during the writing process the topics have sort of been generated in little spurts of creativity. 

Footnotes:

[1] At the moment, only 46 of the 52 posts are written and ready to go. Outside of that temporal problem the manuscript is mostly done.

Working into a bit of writing

I’m going to let this missive go out as a Tweet storm using the Twitter Thread feature today. Generally I have just allowed it to do a single Tweet which would allow people to get back to the weblog from Twitter via the link if they wanted to read that particular gem of intellectual audacity. Really they are mostly just my musings about the intersection of technology and modernity of the process of writing. 

Yesterday I constrained my writing session to blocks of 280 characters based on a Twitter limitation. A consequence of that constraining was that only 5 blocks of wonderful prose were created during the writing session. Some of them were pretty good, but a couple of them got stilted and otherwise sad. Trying to take an idea that was just written and then editing it down to the limit of 280 characters was really time consuming and just slowed down my entire writing process. My writing had no flow or effective path forward. Writing and them immediately editing that block of prose is not the way to go for my writing endeavors. For better or worse it is best to ride the winds of inspiration to produce prose and circle back when the winds calm down to edit after the point of inspiration. That is pretty much the best method for me to generate prose. Effectively that means opening a blank word processing document (Google Docs) and just typing until the need to type is done. A long time ago I used to really have to write before going to bed for the night. You could describe it as a bit of hypergraphia or the compulsion to write. 

All these ideas would show up and just sort of swirl around. At the time, I felt like they were all the most important things I could commit from inspiration to recorded prose. Being compelled to write really did end up taking a lot of sleep time and converting it to working time. Eventually over the course of writing millions of words my daily writing sort of morphed into something that happens in the morning instead of the evening. I wake up and in that foggy period of waking up and getting ready to go I work on writing until I do not want to write anymore. Maybe the mix of writing all day and working on academic things, Substack posts, and other projects has been the key to organizing my writing into a series of routines. I could end up with a better writing schedule beyond my reserved weekend morning writing blocks and sometimes a Friday evening block of time. Those times are usually enough to really dig in and do some academic work. To get that type of work done I need blocks of time that are uninterrupted and allow me to do deep work with a degree of focus that is beyond my other writing sessions. 

Given all of that previous argument above has been written and recorded, I have been working into a bit of writing for about thirty minutes now. A lot of my blogging content ends up being about the feeling and process of writing. I sit down and allow the stream of consciousness writing session to occur without any real control of it or reservations about it. To that end sometimes I end up with a bunch of process related content about writing and thinking about writing. You can find the other content being produced under separate cover based on academic articles and other types of content creation like Substack posts. At one point all of the content ended up floating around in the same stream and for me that worked out well enough as the whole process was to get things inflight for me out of intellectual curiosity.

Writing in Tweets

Maybe my weblog post today should be drafted in sections that are the length of a maximum Tweet at 280 characters. That will shrink my paragraphs by a lot for this post. I’m considering just composing a bunch of blocks and then posting them on Twitter as I write some prose today.

My writing plan to produce a Substack post each week has been working. Week 42 about time crystals has now been written and will go live in 6 days. In 10 weeks, I will have hit my goal to publish a weekly machine learning based post for an entire year. https://nelslindahl.substack.com/

Earlier this week I moved my office desk from my downstairs office. I did spend a majority of my time in that office sitting in my blue Scandinavian Design’s Wau desk chair. My desk and that chair are now upstairs for a few weeks. A majority of my time will now be spent upstairs.

My internet modem is now upstairs. I was worried that the gigabit speed would be diminished by the house wiring vs. a direct run to my office. Comparatively the speed loss was 20% from the top end. That is acceptable for now. My plan in a few weeks is to move back to my office.

Editing the idea I want to communicate from each paragraph down to 280 characters really slows down my writing output. Maybe it will help me be more word economic and succinct go forward. My writing is not really overly wordy to begin with so editing down requires real effort.

A bit of writing

Writing. It all started with opening a Google Doc from my browser shortcut. A date was set in the first line using the familiar year, month, and day format that will sort forever onward in series. The location of the work for the day came next in the string of words that were type. In this case it was my Dark Base Pro 900 based desktop computer. Finally, at the top of the document it was noted that this is a weblog post in search of a title. Later in the writing process a title will appear as if it spontaneously came out of a spark of imagination. That is pretty much literally where things come from as far as I can tell. No random title generator was used during these efforts. That point of intrigue would be more effort compared to the rich rewards of taking the time to actually write on a daily basis. 

Part of this daily writing process is about improving my craft as a writer. Practice helps build up the habit of writing. That is how we improve as writers. The other part of my effort is to focus and organize my thoughts. It is about taking whatever happens to be at the forefront of my mind and really bringing focus to that content. Sometimes it yields interesting prose and other times it just helps me begin the day with a heightened awareness of higher order thought, consideration, and a respect for the path toward a perfect possible future. Every day the effort is to improve and understand the chaotic world around us. Naturally, a part of that is thinking about the intersection of technology and modernity. Within that intersection are profound changes for civil society and our journey relating to each other.

Getting back to whiteboard days

A quick check of the old weblog will clearly show that the last post produced by me was on Friday, September 17, 2021. Something along the way ended up creating a scenario where writing was not working out on a daily basis. That something was a pinched nerve in my neck that just devastated my ability to concentrate. As it turned out the process really did take the longer side of the 4 to 6 week recovery time suggested by internet sources. Honestly, a lot of laying on the floor and thinking happened instead of sitting and writing. Initially in the first couple of weeks after the injured nerve occured I really could not sit and write for very long. A lot of emails were sent from a phone screen while laying on the floor. Things that needed to get done still got done, but it was not the easiest of times to manage for sure. Being able to really truly deeply focus on something was just out of reach. Principally that scenario was frustrating and hard to recover from on a daily basis. It was the first time in my memory that I could not sit down and produce prose at a time of my own choosing. 

Some of the content produced between now and that last publication back in September is just terrible. It is really not very good and it did not get published for a reason. It was kindling on the false start pile for sure or in this specific use case it is just a series of word processing documents destined to be forgotten. Today really has been the first day that with a bit of clarity and some time I was able to sit down and listen to the clickity clack of the mechanical keyboard. This missive is not really a targeted or focused draft of content directed at solving a specific problem or anything like that to be sure. I’m supposed to be writing about getting back to whiteboard days and what that means for the nature of content creation. To me it has a very specific meaning and it is about throwing ideas up on a space that is meant to be erased to work on them without permanence. Sometimes you need to work to refine something before you spend hours writing about it and investing in a proper written explanation. Some ideas are going to be great for consideration. A little bit of consideration alone does not mean that it is worthy of taking it to the next level and that is where a little bit of whiteboard work can help with things. 

Over the years I have written about the benefits of keeping an idea journal/notebook. Sitting behind me in the bottom drawer of a credenza are a stack of notebooks. They contain a varying degree of useful too incredibly unusable ideas and written missives. That is the nature of working and reworking the process for a specific purpose outside of creating a record. For me that purpose is very clear and it is about the nature of pushing things forward. It is an exploration toward a perfect possible future where things are lined up and work out for the very best both personally and in terms of society. That might seem lofty and unorganized, but in principle it sums up my daily routine and efforts. 

* This post was lightly edited for readability after it was written.

Writing about the comfort of writing

Well, we made it to Friday. That means a small respite in the cycle of working and working in favor of just the writing part of the equation. Back in March of this year I picked up a K65 RGB mini mechanical gaming keyboard directly from Corsair. It’s a 60% size keyboard with Cherry MX speed keys on it. Really the only thing that from time to time is awkward with the keyboard is the complete and total lack of arrow keys. You have to be more focused on what you are doing and writing as you cannot arrow around on the screen. Outside of that I ended up getting a Kensington Duo gel keyboard wrist rest to make typing on the keyboard comfortable for longer periods of time. I have the corresponding mouse pad as well, but the keyboard wrist rest was key to making the whole thing work. I did not find it comfortable to type for long periods of time on the mechanical keyboard without it. I just realized that this last paragraph was really an exercise in writing about the comfort of writing. 

I was not sure that a min keyboard was going to work for me or that the sounds of a mechanical keyboard would be acceptable in my office. My office is really only shared with the dogs and they do not seem to care about the clickity clack of the mechanical keyboard. For the most part I have come to find it soothing and a part of the writing process. My typing speed is solid enough that the keystrokes end up just being a long string of crashing instead of one off disruptions to the silence. Really for the most part based on my writing schedule the day starts and some music gets played. During the course of listening to that music a blank word processing document gets opened and the writing process is supposed to start. Sometimes I get pulled into a productive effort outside of writing in a stream of consciousness style. Most of the content that gets posted on the weblog is like this where whatever comes to mind is going to get posted shortly after it is written. That pretty much means things that are not a manuscript, academic article, or work of fiction. 

One of the things that I want to really refocus on moving forward is taking notes throughout the day. Right now I have both Google Keep and the Recorder application setup and ready to capture notes at a moment’s notice. That does not mean that notes are actually captured. Letting all those little seeds of thought disappear beyond the active reach of consciousness is problematic based on my writing schedule. Being productive and actively writing is an important part of my planned daily activities.

Productivity is strange

Productivity is strange. You can sit down with the best of intentions. Your writing plan can be top notch and the things you need to move forward are all lined up. Productivity might just end up being at a deficit and things can quickly fall apart within that writing plan. I ended up working on all sorts of things beyond my writing efforts for the last week. That happens from time to time that my attention will get pulled from one effort to another one. Managing to pull that attention back to the task at hand and saving productivity from failure is a useful skill. That really is an understatement. It is a very useful skill that this last week has eluded me on a daily basis. Part of it is just making the effort to sit down in front of the keyboard with a word processing document up and ready for input. After that it’s a strange mix of process, creativity, and certainly that illusive productivity that generate the words on the screen. 

Right now is a good example of that my words and thoughts have really focused on the moment and the process of writing. I’m not locked into the right headspace where I’m focused on what’s next and generating future focused prose. At the moment, I’m really locked in on looking at the process of writing at this moment and I’m certainly present in that effort. Getting my focus to switch to something more deeply philosophical will probably be a bit of a challenge. Certainly the two shots of espresso from my Nespresso Expert machine are kicking in and I should be ready to go for an hour or so of magical highly focused efforts. We are nearing the golden hours of my daily productivity. That is a good thing, but it’s very rarely spent on the grand effort of writing and producing high quality prose. My writing window is generally the first hour or so of the day when things come into focus and my thoughts are sharpening around the start of the day. Knowing that is how my process works is a good start to being able to master the time and be highly productive. 

Right now behind me on my credenza is an Lpbin Bin-e LP storage container that is supposed to hold about 75 vinyl records. It took me a made in America vinyl record container that could fit on top of the credenza. I wanted to move my record collection from the book shelf to a rack right next to the record player. This effort corresponded with a choice to move from episodic ordering to alphabetical and a culling of anything that did not make the space. From here on out it’s going to be a one in one out method of record collecting. In practice the storage container is currently holding 52 vinyl records. Based on the number of double records the space did not allow the storage of 75 vinyl records. That means I’m functionally limiting myself to about 50 records which should be plenty of space for a best of the best collection. I don’t need a complete anthology of every album that crosses my path. The collection really needs to be focused on albums that I play on a regular rotation and enjoy.

Right now the weblog posting process involves a few different elements:

  1. The content has to be cut and pasted from the word processing document to the weblog post page.
  2. A customized message has to be curated for a post on Twitter.
  3. Within the post settings a category for the post to be archived into has to be set. The list at this point of categories is pretty long. 
  4. Under the tags section 3 different tags have to be entered to help feed my tag cloud widget. I’m not sure this effort is mission critical, but I do enjoy it.

Just a few thoughts

Things are going well enough today on the writing front. I got up and had my two shots of espresso from my Nespresso Expert machine. They were resplendent. Working through the latest edition of “The Lindahl Letter” took about an hour of really focused creative effort. 

I’m considering adding a page to the old weblog with my writing schedule. At the moment, my writing schedule for the week looks like this:

  • Sunday: Morning writing session to review my Substack post and work on academic articles for 1-3 hours
  • Monday: AM or PM writing session for 30 minutes to create a weblog post. Publish a note on LinkedIn about the last Substack post
  • Tuesday: AM or PM writing session for 30 minutes to create a weblog post
  • Wednesday: AM or PM writing session for 30 minutes to create a weblog post
  • Thursday: AM or PM writing session for 30 minutes to create a weblog post
  • Friday: AM or PM writing session for 30 minutes to create a weblog post
  • Saturday: Morning writing session to write a Substack post and work on academic articles for 1-3 hours

You may have noticed that the time for consideration on that one is done. I went ahead and made a page for my writing schedule. It was exciting and now it is online.

Working things to a completed state

Today I started to think about returning to writing in a manuscript based document on a daily basis instead of booting up a new fresh word processing document every day. It might be time to start to pick up a big year writing challenge again and see where that takes me this time around. Generally, the only thing that ends up being written in a publishable format are academic papers. Those are sort of paint by numbers based on the required sections anyway and benefit from working with the end product in mind. Every now and again I do write a novel that ends up being worked that way. Over the last decade I have a bunch of false starts in a folder that need to be worked to resolution. It could be more fun to just really focus on working things to a completed state. I tried to write the title of this post eloquently as, “hustling things to done,” but that turned out differently in the end. 

Yesterday the whole process of writing just failed. It was one of those days where creativity sneezed and nothing happened. It was a false start of a day and that happens sometimes. Part of returning to a framework where I move from trying to write and work really hard for an hour at the start of the day to producing about 3,000 words per day involves a real change. To produce a steady stream of 3,000 words per day I’m going to have to carry around my Chromebook and pretty much take every opportunity to write. That generally involves trying to find 3 or so hours a day to spend in a productive writing posture. That is 13% of my total day spent writing, but if you only count usable time by removing 8 hours for work and 8 hours for sleep that quickly escalates to 38% of my usable day. 

I’m going to stop writing this post and move over to work on something more long form.