I’ve a feeling it might be time to move on from Fever to another RSS engine. Any recommendations for me?

I guess may blog challenge has kind of failed. Stupid depression.

The Dedication Olympics

As I sit writing this the BBC are showing their roundup video of the Rio Olympics. Normally when it comes to the Olympics I’m pretty glued to it for the few weeks that it runs. This year, maybe due to the time difference, it took a week or so for me to get in to it.

It was only when the track cycling came on and Team GB started to win medals that I started to watch. The success of the British team on this field is mind-blowing, every four years the team hits form perfectly and brings home gold medal after gold medal. Similarly, the success of the Brownlee brothers in the Triathlon, so consistent year after year resulting this year in the first triathlete to retain the gold medal. Then there’s Andy Murray, only weeks after winning Wimbledon, retaining his gold medal. Not to mention the many other athletes who’ve won medals for Team GB, helping us as a nation to finish second in the medal table.

Most years by the end of the games I’m inspired. I want to try a new sport, or return to an old one I used to play. This year is a bit different. I’ve not been inspired to go and do sport, but instead by the dedication that unites these athletes. Each and every one of them has a level of dedication that blows me away. They are able to apply themselves for every single day between olympic cycles. For four years they are able to focus their energy on one thing so that they can give themselves the best possible shot to win that gold medal.

During one of the events one of the commentators picked up on this. I don’t think it was what he meant, but the way it came across as he spoke of it was that these athletes seem to have a gift none of the rest of the world does. Not in terms of their sporting prowess, but in their ability to apply themselves and dedicate themselves to their chosen discipline. It’s an easy mindset to fall into, but it’s also a dangerous one.

Discipline or dedication is not a thing that we just have, it’s something we can learn. Each and everyone of us can learn discipline and self control in order to focus on something. In order to grow and develop into a great writer it takes dedication and discipline to turn up and write each day. For the artist it takes hours of painting, the musician hours of playing their instrument. Dedication is something we can grow in and get better at. The more we dedicate ourselves to do something, the more likely we are to do it. For the olympic athlete, turning up to training on a wet Monday morning in November makes them more likely to turn up for training on a wet November Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Likewise, writing a post for this blog on a Sunday makes me more likely to want to write one for tomorrow. I don’t want to break the chain or waste the time I spent the day before.

As many people are want to say on the internet at the moment, the key to everything is showing up everyday. The key to winning a gold medal is showing up everyday with an unrelenting dedication to your sport. The key to growing in dedication to our chosen discipline is the same.

Finding Your Bliss Station ➔

There’s so much stuff on the internet that it seems like an impossibility that you would read something at exactly the time you need to read it. Austin Kleon’s recent article about finding your bliss station has managed to achieve just that.

Around a year ago I was just finishing up a course of counselling aimed at helping me understand the depression I was diagnosed with in January 2015. One of the things I learnt about myself was my need to do creative things for myself and how over the year prior to my diagnosis I had stopped doing that. This evening as I read Austin’s article it hit home a little further, I might’ve lost my cave a little bit.

This week has been a tough one, the first tough week for a while which is something I know happens to everyone now and again. A giveaway sign, which I’ve realised as I write this, is the recurrence of the word introvert in a lot of my snippets/tweets. I’ve been craving time on my own, and that usually happens when I’m starting to feel a bit unbalanced in life. It’s a little clue that I might’ve lost my bliss station, or cave as I’ve referred to it in the past.

What’s clear is that it’s healthiest if we make a daily appointment to disconnect from the world so that we can connect with ourselves.

In counsellor speak this is called self care. We need to take time out to take care of ourselves, to stop ourselves being bombarded by the world around us. To find a place that frees us from the stresses of work, from running a business and working for someone else at the same time. From being around people all day, to having a few moments to our ourselves each and everyday. To take a little bit of time to do something we want to do just because we enjoy it and it helps us feel free.

By Sunday evening I plan to have reclaimed my cave from the dumping ground it’s become, and in the spirit of making better use of my calendar I plan to schedule in a time everyday for me to be in it just because I want to create some stuff for myself.

Depression Days

Sometimes a day hits you when things that are normally easy to do become the hardest things. I mean simple things like getting out of bed, going downstairs and making a coffee. That’s the nature of depression.

When it happens you have to find ways of getting through because giving in to it can be crippling. Giving in can be the start of a downward spiral, a spiral you don’t want to be in and that can take a long time to get out of. That’s a place you don’t want to go. Instead you have to find a way to push through, to stop the down from taking over. What that looks like is the tricky part, but for everyone there is way of doing it.

Absolute disaster. Brewed a coffee and then saw then time, might not be time to enjoy it. Tasting notes include pineapple and I could smell it as I ground the beans.

Tinker

The desire to tinker is strong in this one.

I have this problem when it comes to my blog. The more I start to post to it, the more I want to tinker. The more active I am on the site, the more I notice little things I don’t like and want to fix. The more I post to it, the more I want all my internet posting to originate on it. It’s like an illness.

It’s something I’ve always struggled with, and I confess it’s a side to blogging that I enjoy. The trouble is, the more I tinker the less I post. The more I craft the design, the less time I spend writing.

It’s a battle, although one I’m sure I do not face alone. It’s not just the battle of a blogger, it’s a battle of a designer. Most of the tinkering I do is design related, little details and quirks in my theme which I notice but very few others will. I also know from experience, that I will get to the point where I’ve caught the little tweaks I need to and they will be fixed. Then it’s just a case of resisting the bigger things I’d like to do. Or at least knocking off the major ones first, like finding a way to post photos here and on Instagram, displaying them in a way I’m happy with. The key though, is to keep the posts flowing. Keep to my challenge of posting everyday, and getting through the tinkering stage until I get to the point where I’m just posting each day and all my published content originates here.

Or is it just a pipe dream? Should I just keep posting and ignore the little bits that nag?

But I know I can’t just ignore the nagging. I’m a designer, I like details and its in my nature to keep refining bits until they’re gone. To keep crafting until they as close to perfect as can be, it’s just important to keep the perspective, to keep in mind that perfect doesn’t exist. It’s about getting things to good enough whilst keeping on posting each day and building momentum so that the writing takes over the tinkering and becomes a creative outlet in its own right.

Cinque Terre, Italy ➔

Joshua Ginter has been knocking it out the park with his recent photo posts from holidaying around Europe. This post about the Cinque Terre in Italy is the latest in the series and the most beautiful so far.

Italy is a country that I’ve always wanted to visit. I’ve only visited Venezia so far, and that was for the biennale during my art studies before university. It’s a place I would like to return to one day, but I would have to pair it with a couple of other places at the same time.

Prior to Josh’s post, I had never heard of the Cinque Terre, but it’s now firmly on the list alongside the likes of Florence, Rome and Sicily. My only hope is that I’ll be able to get to see it before the tourists spoil it too much. Although there is hope that the area will adapt, it’s culture seems to be finding a way to survive by the sound of things.

Even still, nestled inside Cinque Terre is one of the most pure forms of Italy one can find on any trip. Many shop owners don’t speak a word of English. Many businesses take cash only. Many locals still wander down to the market each day to get their bread. Despite the tourists, the Cinque Terre has found a way to stay within itself and close to its roots.

Blogroll

Back when I first started writing on the internet – ok it’s called blogging, ugh – I discovered a lot of blogs through the sidebars of those I was reading. The trend at the time, way back in 2006, was for each blog to feature a Blogroll. A collection of links to the blogs of other people that the author of each site either knew personally or who simply enjoyed those other sites. It was a great way of finding new blogs to follow and it’s sad that the practice seems to have pretty much disappeard.

It might be ten years since I started my first blog, and with it my first Blogroll, but I figured it was time to revive it. What follows, in no particular order, is a list of blogs which I read regularly on a wide range of topics. I hope there are some you haven’t come across and that you to will enjoy reading.

Permission

At the start of last week I set myself the challenge to blog everyday between then and the end of the year. Yesterday I didn’t manage to post to this site, in some people’s eyes I’ve failed the challenge already. Maybe I have, but it’s not going to stop me carrying on.

These types of challenges are great to do, they add an extra bit of impetus to get going on something you want to do. A little bit of healthy competition goes a long way. But yesterday life happened, two friends got married and the day was rightly taken up celebrating that. There simply wasn’t time in the day to sit down and write a post for this site, it was an exception to the norm and that’s ok. I realised this early on and gave myself permission to have a day off.

A few years ago had I set myself this challenge I would’ve let it defeat me. The chain would’ve been broken and I would’ve let the day off turn into two, three or four days, before giving it one last effort and then stopping it. Over the last year and a half I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s ok to give myself permission to say, it’s just not going to happen today. As long as it doesn’t turn into a regular occurrence that’s perfectly OK, I just pick up where I left off the next day.

It’s been an important lesson for me to learn, perfect is unattainable and being somewhat of a perfectionist it’s a difficult thing to accept. Now in the context of this challenge, had I realised earlier in the week when I started it, I’d have written an extra post in the week so I had one in the bag and didn’t break the chain. In the context of real everyday life, it’s a far more important lesson to learn. I’ve had to learn how to give myself permission to say this is ok, this is good enough and I’m ok with putting it out there.

After a good day celebrating the wedding of two friends yesterday, today calls for some serious introverting.

Kill Your to Do List ➔

Here’s what’s always bothered me about task management systems: it’s not what Presidents use.

I’ve never thought of this before. It’s never even crossed my mind about the methods of working for people in high powered positions, or national office. Yet it shouldn’t be a surprise when you think about.

After reading this excellent article from CJ Chilvers it struck me that in the last few months this is something I’ve started to do subconsciously.When I think back to how I’ve progressed some projects recently it’s all been down to clearly blocking out time on my calendar and then working during those times.

Of course I’ve not entirely scrapped my to do list, and I think it would be wrong to scrap it completely. It’s a useful tool for keeping track of the client projects I’m working on. The important thing, I think, is to not let your to do list dictate your time and instead to let your calendar dictate your to do list.

The calendar doesn’t lie. It’s brutal about how much time you actually have in a day to complete your projects. It’s honest. We need to stop wishing, determine what’s important enough to spend our very limited time on and get it scheduled.

Starting to gain some interest in the Rio Olympics, might be something to do with the track cycling finally starting. Nothing like the prospect of some British success to pique your interest!

Got so frustrated with my iPhone I spent the morning resetting and restoring it from backup. All of a sudden I have 5GB of space on it!

You’re Not Meant to Do What You Love. You’re Meant to Do What You’re Good At. ➔

Do what you love has been a bit of a mantra of late on the internet, at least on the blogs I seem to have been reading over the last couple of years. It’s something that I love the sentiment of, but at the same time something that has never quite sat properly with me. So when I saw the phrase You’re Not Meant To Do What You Love. You’re Meant To Do What You’re Good At in a tweet link to the matching article I instantly saved it to my Instapaper.

I agree entirely with this point:

We’re doing people an incredible disservice by telling them they should seek, and pursue, what they love. People usually can’t differentiate what they really love and what they love the idea of.

But more importantly, you are not meant to do what you love. You are meant to do what you’re skilled at.

The trouble comes when the people who are espousing the mantra of do what you love are the fortunate few who’s skill also happen to be what they love. It gives them a distorted view that everyone should be doing this and it creates a worldview that doing work is a bad thing unless it’s something you love.

The husband of an old colleague of mine had a period of unemployment not long after they got married. It really impacted him as a person and I remember talking to my colleague about how her husband felt worthless because of it. He wanted to work because not working made him feel worthless. When he did get a job, it was not in something he loved, but it gave him meaning again. He was contributing to society, not reliant on it. He was giving something of himself to do it and what he was doing had value because of it.

As a Christian I believe we are designed to work, God even designed and modelled the week around it six days of work and one day of rest (Sabbath). The theologian Tim Keller in his book Every Good Endeavour states

Work is as much a basic human need as food, beauty, rest, friendship, prayer, and sexuality; it is not simply medicine but food for our soul. Without meaningful work we sense significant inner loss and emptiness. People who are cut off from work because of physical or other reasons quickly discover how much they need work to thrive emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

This is exactly what my colleague’s husband experienced. Without work he struggled in exactly the way Tim suggests we will. When we fall into the trap of telling people to only do what they love, we do a disservice to work. For some people their work involves doing what they love, whilst for others it involves doing what they are skilled at. For some, maybe even the majority, it involves doing a job because it gives them value and helps them serve people around them.

The article finishes with this quote which I think sums up the value of work, of any kind, superbly.

The real joy of daily work is in what we have to give. We are not fulfilled by what we can seek to please us, but what we can build and offer. It is not fame, or money, or recognition that makes for a thoroughly meaningful life, it is how we put our gifts to use. It is how we give.

I’m three days into my new blogging challenge. Enjoying having the extra creative outlet so far.

The Rules of Combat

In the words of Tyler Durden

Do not talk about Fight Club.
Do not talk about Fight Club.
DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB.

Ok… maybe not. This isn’t Fight Club and that’s a fairly old cliché. These rules are the rules of my little challenge. This is where I’m defining what counts and what doesn’t.

This site has a few different types of post that can appear on it, for the purposes of clarity they are

  • status
  • photo
  • quote
  • video
  • aside
  • link
  • standard article

Each one is designed for a specific type of content and has a custom style to help differentiate them.

Status Posts

Status posts, or snippets, are micro posts. They automatically share to my Twitter as a post there, I don’t always use them but I plan to start more, especially with the pending arrival of Manton’s snippets.today.

Photos and Videos

Meant for any photos or videos I create and want to share through this blog. Photos are cross posted to Instagram and Flickr.

Quote

Any pertinent quotes that I come across and wish to share without commentary.

Asides

Any short posts that don’t warrant a full post but are longer than a snippet. This type might be retired.

Links

Links to articles that I think are of interest and have something I want to add or highlight. The title of these types of posts point people away from this site to the article I’m linking too.

Standard Article Posts

These are the normal blog posts, the original content. These are the ones that I want to be the majority of my posts to be.

What Counts?

The posts that count the most will be the standard blog posts, the original content. When I say the most, I mean that the aim is for the majority of my posts to be these ones. Creatively they have more value since they are my own thoughts and ideas and serve as an alternative creative outlet to my design work. These aren’t the only posts that will count though. Posts that are a link will also count. However, there’s a bit of a rule to go with these. They must include a piece of commentary that either adds my own thoughts, or that highlights a particularly pertinent part of whatever is being linked to.

Snippets or status posts will not count. Since they’re like Twitter posts in nature, I don’t want to take the easy way out and fall back on them as my daily post. Likewise with quotes and photos, the aim is for these types of posts to supplement the longer form and curated linked content.

Why add these rules to the challenge? My aim is to write more, and as a designer I’m all too aware that a few constraints to a project make things a bit easier. Constraints bring clarity, focus and freedom to a project, it’s only natural they will also bring it to this one.

What Do You Write About?

I know what you’re thinking. It’s only the second day of the challenge I set myself, to post to my blog everyday from now until the end of the year, and already I’m asking the question of what do I write about.

I would imagine it’s a familiar story to anyone who’s decided to undertake such a challenge. Going from barely writing or posting to your blog to posting everyday it’s only natural to find yourself wondering what to write about. If I hadn’t been here before it would be a big worry, it might even be so discouraging that I would just abandon ship straight away. Whilst this morning when I decided it was time to write today’s post I didn’t have anything in particular I wanted to write about I know that if I keep going and posting each day I will eventually end up with too many subjects to write about. It’s the nature of the beast, the more you do it, the more ideas you have.

There are a number of different tactics that I’ve come across over the years that are aimed at helping you come up with subjects to write about. Unsurprisingly none of them have ever worked for me, but there is one thing that does. I know it works because I’ve demonstrated it in other parts of my life, be it reading my bible or doing the work for my freelance business.

Showing up every day.

So here I am, showing up. A new sheet in Ulysses, my headphones in and I’m writing. In fact through the course of writing this post I’ve already come up with the topic for tomorrow’s post. There it is in action. Showing up today has triggered the process. The more you do something the more idea’s you have, the first step is showing up.

A Blogging Challenge

I’ve written 442 posts on this site. The first one was written on 17th January 2011, that’s five and half years ago. It equates to around 80 posts per year and about 1.5 posts per week. It’s not bad going, but it could be better.

During those times there’s been many spells of inactivity and many spells of multiple posts per day, this is what I would like to change most about my site, the inconsistent posting patterns. Last night I found myself browsing the web in a way that I’ve not done for a long time. I ended up on a rabbit trail of personal blogs, one that started with a site I subscribe to that I kicked off into safari on my iPad. It felt like rediscovering the internet again. This was what got me into the blogging scene way back in 2005 when I started my first blog. There was a line in one of the articles I read that resonated with me. It was feedback that the author received regularly,

stopping blogging regularly was one of people’s biggest regrets
I certainly wish I hadn’t stopped. Or I should say, I wish I hadn’t let the habit slip.

Since I started blogging way back in 2005 I’ve had two main sites. The first site, which sadly is no longer in existence, lasted from 2006 until this site started in 2011. It was my first proper foray into internet publishing and as a result I didn’t really think too much about what I would post. Topics were wide in range but naturally reflected my personal interests, something which I feel has been lost a bit on this site. Which is somewhat ironic given that this is the site which bears my full name in the url.

With that in mind it’s time to declare that this is the first post in a new challenge I’m setting myself. I want to recapture the joy that I had when I first started publishing on the web. It was something I enjoyed and did everyday, and so, that’s my new challenge. I want to post to this site everyday until the end of the year. Some will be links, some will be original writing, but all of it will reflect me and my interests. I’m going to try my utmost not to pick and choose too much of what I write, I will simply write and post each day from now until December 31st.

Drawing the Calendar ➔

I absolutely love the idea behind drawing your own calendar. It’s a fascinating way of processing your time planning and as a method of building new habits. The utility of a digital calendar is unparalleled, it’s always there no matter what device I’m suing or have with me, but the appeal of a diary planner is a constant pull for me.