I didn’t know that Bill Gates shares notes on some of the books he reads, but today I came across Gates Notes. I like his selection of titles and can see how many match some of my own interests, including health, education, and technology. I purchased one of his current reads for my new Kindle Voyage, which I’m loving by the way. I have way too many physical books, and never seem to have the book I want to read with me. So I invested in an eReader.
As a Mac user I can’t claim to have been much of a Microsoft customer, but I do find Bill Gates interesting and his philanthropy inspiring. Some of the books he recommends look inspiring too. Happy reading!
A commonplace book is a place to store thoughts, ideas, quotes, and other ephemera. They have been used for centuries, and are still popular today. Although traditionally a pen on paper technology, a digital commonplace book works just as well online. There’s a nice write up of the common practices for keeping a commonplace book along with lots of examples over at the Toasted Cheese blog courtesy of Theryn Flemming.
Over the years I’ve maintained a number of blogs using a variety of platforms, most of which are now defunct (the blogs and the platforms). I was a huge fan of Userland’s scripting tools so my early blogs were managed using Frontier, Manila and Radio Userland. As time and technology moved on I eventually gave up those blogs and settled on self-hosted WordPress. As a consequence there is no single repository of all my blog posts, instead they are scattered across a handful of archived sites. Thankfully most are still preserved, either as read-only archives or via the Internet Archive. So for posterity I wanted to make this post a record of places I used to write, at least that I can remember. Most of these contained work-related content as most of the time I was blogging about stuff I was working on. There are also one or two other personal blogs out there with other content but they can stay personal. Since 2004 pretty much everything has been on my own domain, daviddavies.name, and I finally moved to WordPress on 15 October 2005. I also maintain this wordpress.com blog for non-work stuff.
Edgar Froese, pioneer of electronic music and founding member of Tangerine Dream has died. When I was in my early teens I developed a love of electronic music. Growing up in the 70’s many of my friends were into punk but I was a big fan of disco, and in particular I liked the electronic sounds on tracks like Donna Summer’s I Feel Love. From there I quickly discovered Kraftwerk and thereafter my musical world was open up to German electronic music. I spent many a late night with my big chunky Philips headphones on listening to LPs by Klaus Schulze, Robert Schroeder, and of course Tangerine Dream. In those days I used to rely on my local library to borrow vinyl records as it was almost impossible to buy records from these bands in the local shops. I expect it was because of the pioneering nature of Tangerine Dream that I was most easily able to find their records, and so I soon built up a collection on C90 cassette tape. Happy days.
The Tangerine Dream track that I probably played more than any other is Thru Metamorphic Rocks from the album Force Majeure. I love the intro with the beautiful guitar break early on, then the mesmerising repetitive sequence that I used to close my eyes to and imagine travelling to the centre of the Earth.
I’ve not yet decide the best tool with which to write my blog posts. Over the years I’ve tried Radio Userland, Manila, MarsEdit, PixelPumper, Blogo, and of course directly via the browser-based WordPress editor. The latter is how I’m writing now. Each of these has their plus points and their downsides. One thing I was never able to get over with most of the them was the lack of a WYSIWYG editor. MarsEdit was good and had a WYSIWYG preview but you had to write in code view. I had the most fun with Radio Userland and Manila as they had loads more functionality, and were really scripting tools as well as blog editors. I never really got to grips with PixelPumper as it didn’t have the functionality of MarsEdit. Blogo has the most potential as writing was WYSIWYG, but it has annoying minor commissions which detract from the writing experience. For instance yesterday I wanted to add a numbered list but Blogo only supports bullet list. It’s still a fairly new top so I’m sure it will get better.
For now then I’m happy to use WordPress’ own browser-based admin interface. It gives access to the full functionality of WordPress and is a good all round writing experience.
There are certainly other clients that I haven’t tied, such as MacJournal for example, which looks like a powerful journalling tool as well as a blogging tool, but the price puts me off.
I have somehow lost the writing habit. I used to have it, but now it’s gone. Once upon a time I could write at least one blog post a day. Back then it felt like there was a lot to write about. The topics were often work related, but I would also write about other things of interest to me. In recent years however I have not been able to recapture that discipline, or level of interest.
Can it be regained? I hope so.
From what I’ve read, writing is a practice. You do not have to wait for the muse to come. You just write. The best way to practice writing is simply to write. I guess that’s obvious to most people. I think however that I started getting into difficulties by worrying too much what I was writing. I’d worry that I wasn’t being interesting, or that others knew more than me so why should I write. I started too to worry that I didn’t quote every single source, reference, or link. That got to be exhausting after a while, and that made it increasingly difficult to start. I also fell into the trap that I expect many fall into, that whatever I was writing wouldn’t be perfect. All were just excuses really. So gradually my practice stopped.
In order to get back into the writing seat I thought I’d see what advice other writers could offer. I almost bought one or two books on the subject from Amazon, but the reviews convinced me otherwise. Basically, they said, any guide on how to write centre around some simple instructions.
Write often, ideally every day.
Establish a writing routine, ideally the same time of each day.
If needed, start small. Write for just a few minutes, maybe 20, every day. Or if so inclined or when writing to a deadline, set a word limit and write until the word limit is reached.
Write first. Edit later. Or I like Ernest Hemingway’s advice, “write drunk, edit sober”. Perhaps not the best advice if you plan to write early morning every day, but each to their own. Cheers!
Optional extras include setting up a place to write, and making a writing commitment to others to keep motivated. For me, I’d like to feel able to write in different places at different times, so I don’t want to restart my writing habit by feeling that I have to be sitting in a certain place. I have to write at work as part of my job, although I’ve found that very difficult too. And I’d like to write at home for pleasure. And as for sharing, I’m happy to do that after the writing is done by posting to one of my blogs. Perhaps if I need to or if my motivation fails I will involve others in my commitment to writing. But for now I’ll try to motivate myself.
Anyway, that wasn’t too difficult a start after all. 500 words in 10 minutes.