I’ve mentioned 750 Words before. It’s a pretty neat service that allows you to write privately online. It’s not public like blogging is, so if you’d like to develop a daily writing habit but don’t want things to be available to the world, it’s a pretty good option. You can of course, just write on paper or on local files and just not upload anything to the cloud at all. But there’s some benefits to an online service like this one too - the most obvious one is that you can write anywhere, with any internet connected device, but they also have a few other nifty features like tracking streaks (which can be great for building habits), and 750words even allows you to attach daily metadata to your posts (such as a number indicating your mood for the day or how many hours you slept) and it can later show you a chart of how that metadata changes over time.
Sometime in the last week, I broke past four hundred thousand words total on this blog, as noted on the archive page. Four hundred thousand words! That number sounds insane for some reason. Over 17 years of blogging, that’s an average of 23,500+ words a year. I could have written like 17 short stories or 8ish novelettes or 3-4 decently sized novels. This post is just me navel-gazing over that number.
I thought I had a post scheduled yesterday, but I didn’t. That broke a continuous streak of 124 days of daily blogging. I thought about writing a post and publishing it retroactively, but that seems like the kind of BS Type A behavior I kind of want to avoid these days. At least I did a lot better than the last time I tried daily blogging in October 2006, when I only managed 23 posts for the month.
I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s difficult to keep up a blog. Blogs feel a bit like they have to be long-form, highly profound, useful or informative pieces or prose that a wide audience can appreciate. We don’t have this same pressure when posting to other social media like Twitter or Facebook. I like to think of a blog (or this blog at least, at this moment) as a living, evolving thing, with each post capturing a single moment in a timeline, building upon previous thoughts, helping us see how the author’s thinking changes with time.
Two things I’ve learned over the past couple of months of daily blog posting: I have a lot to write about I might have too much to write about Since I use this space to help myself think through some things, I found that I sometimes have a tendency to write about things that maybe I shouldn’t write about publicly, either for personal privacy reasons, or for professional courtesy reasons.
This might surprise you, but I tried my hand at writing fanfiction back in the day. Most of it was Final Fantasy-related (as that was what I was really into back then) and the odd Ranma ½ one (mainly because I was a member of an anime-focused fanfic collective, called the “Nikholas F Toledo Zu” for inside joke reasons, writing under the name “Vector”). Anyway, I’m not exceptionally proud of the writings, but I like having all my work available on this blog/website/whatever, so I’ve added them at this link: Fanfiction.
Looking at my archives, I was blogging regularly from 2005-2009, mostly because I was really active in competitive MTG during that time. Starting 2010, my blogging activity started to taper off, with less than 60 posts until 2015. I tried to revive the habit around mid-2016, posting at least once a week, but the writing slowed down again around April this year (coinciding with one of the more busy periods for me work-wise).
(Somehow I now have a series of posts about blogging in 2018. Here’s the first one. Two is a series, right?) Great comment the other day on reddit (found via r/bestof), in response to Twitter’s inaction vs Alex Jones. Quoting part of the comment: How can the OG generation of web users possibly hope to maintain the Internet as a free and decentralized medium when a growing majority of the current userbase accept centralization of content and audience, as not only the status quo but as the way things should be?
I haven’t been blogging too much recently. I got busy for a while and had to skip a few weeks, and then general laziness prevented me from resuming a regular posting schedule. (Hopefully that ends now.) Most of the time my ranting was on social media, which got me thinking: Is writing on your own blog still useful in this day and age of social media? I’ve been blogging for a long time – my archives say 2002 – waaay before Facebook or even Twitter came around.
There’s this well-known idea that it takes ten thousand hours of practice to become an expert in something. But of course, it has to be ten thousand meaningful hours of practice. Meaningful here means that you are actually learning something from your practice. If you are repeating the same hour ten thousand times, that’s not worth very much. Instead, we should be actively learning while we practice. This means identifying our weak points and learning how we can improve.
Often I have these days where I’m supposed to be writing something or drawing something or coding something and I just can’t get to it. Some kind of mental block makes it difficult. And you try to focus your mind and clear your thoughts, but it just doesn’t help. Here are some ideas for how to get past mental blocks. Toss out ideas that weren’t working and start over.
As I recall, today was at least my fifth Nanowrimo attempt; the first one was sometime before 2003 (I would guess it was in 2000 or 2001 before I graduated from college), the second one was in 2003, then 2006, then 2011, then finally the fifth one this year. My best prior attempt was back in 2011, when I made it up to 22,000+ words. At just around 1am on the early morning of November 30th this year, I beat that record and have won Nanowrimo for the first time.
Writing regularly is something I’ve always wanted to be able to do but like most things I have trouble with, it’s the lack of discipline that gets me. Take this blog for instance. I randomly think of things to write about while I’m idling or commuting or waiting in line or any of the dozen or so other opportunities during the day when my mind wanders, but because of laziness and/or lack of discipline, these ideas never get very far.
So the other day I was watching a video of Scott Berkun‘s talk about the future of WordPress: (Go ahead, watch it first if you like, this blog post will still be here when you get back) I loved how he delved into the history of writing itself, not just of WordPress – harking back to the days of the printing press, etc. We live in such a world of privilege where anyone with an internet connection can easily publish his thoughts and words unto a worldwide audience, and yet for many people writing is a lost art that they don’t partake in on a regular basis.
In my line of work, which is to say “large-scale database systems”, there’s always the idea of “journalling” or the “audit trail.” Basically, it means that for every transaction of significance, a record is kept of that transaction, stored in a log somewhere, so that should something malefic happen, the logs can be parsed and the trail can be followed, blame can be assigned and countermeasures can be taken. Okay, that’s not really limited to large-scale database systems.