I'm a Christian, a designer, and a gadget fan who lives in Cheltenham, UK.

This is my blog, a creative outlet to mess around and play with as well as a place that logs my thoughts and inspirations.

Roaming around

Since the end of August I’ve been using Roam Research as my notes applic­a­tion. Hav­ing tried and played around with Notion but find­ing it to be too much work to man­age any­thing, I decided to give Roam and it’s free­form notes a try.

I’ve found it to be one of the most intu­it­ive note tak­ing apps I’ve ever come across and have since begun using it for more and more things. It’s not just replaced the notes apps I was try­ing to use before, it’s become my journ­al and task man­ager as well. In fact it’s even start­ing to grow into my per­son­al CRM as well and I believe it is behind the desire for me to start blog­ging more because I’m enjoy­ing writ­ing in it so much.

What I like is that is seems to fit the way I think. Des­pite being a visu­al per­son I often find myself tak­ing notes in the form of bul­let points. When I’m think­ing and work­ing through some­thing on paper I will often write a point and then riff off it with a series of bul­let points below.

The two way link­ing has also been a rev­el­a­tion. One of the things I was try­ing to use Notion for was a one stop shop for my notes and tasks that related to vari­ous pro­jects I’m work­ing on. The data­bases that make Notion so power­ful seemed like a good fit for this, but I found it to be a lot of extra work to main­tain. In con­trast Roam’s Daily Notes, which I use heav­ily, helps to give me both con­text in the form of when some­thing happened as well as an easy way to auto­mat­ic­ally link to a project.

What has been sur­pris­ing for me has been how I’ve found it to help me on a deep­er level. The fact that I have a daily note open on my screen all day as I work means that when I find myself hav­ing to deal with some strong emo­tions I am able to write them down to help me pro­cess them. One thing I am hav­ing to learn is to not let my thought pat­terns spir­al. I find it all too easy to get stuck in a par­tic­u­lar thought pat­tern that turns itself over and over in my mind. Hav­ing some­thing open all the time lets me pro­cess what I’m feel­ing when I become aware of it helps me to tackle that spir­al in a way I’ve not been able to before.

One of my favour­ite books this year comes from an artist called Charlie Mack­esy. I dis­covered it by acci­dent when I was look­ing for a Christ­mas present last Decem­ber. I bought it and gave that book as a gift for J and she loved it so much she bought me my own copy and I’ve since bought it for my Mum as well. For my birth­day this year I got giv­en a print of one the pages from the book. It con­tains a quote which is some­thing both a couple of friends and my coun­sel­lor keep remind­ing me of:

“Being kind to your­self is one of the greatest kind­nesses,” said the mole.

It struck me as I was writ­ing this that hav­ing the space to pro­cess my feel­ings and let myself feel them is being kind to myself and that per­haps we all need to be a bit kinder to ourselves.

An acknowledgement

I’ve had this blog in one form or anoth­er since I was 21, earli­er posts have been lost in the many trans­itions it has made but it’s always been there. A hobby that taught me how to design and build web­sites that has since become my career.

At the moment I think I am in one of the longest streaks of not post­ing to the site that I’ve ever been on. For the last few weeks I’ve wanted to start post­ing again, I’m seek­ing to revive a hobby that was once very enjoy­able to me. The trouble is I don’t know where to start or what to write. So, I’m writ­ing this post as an acknow­ledge­ment of some very dif­fi­cult events.

The last two years have been two of the hard­est of my life. This time two years ago I was work­ing part-time in a spe­ci­al­ity cof­fee shop, doing some freel­ance design work, and con­tract­ing in to a loc­al stu­dio. There was a prom­ise that my con­tract pos­i­tion would become full time in the next six months. At the begin­ning of April last year, a con­ver­sa­tion that I thought would be about going full time was a con­ver­sa­tion about the stu­dio chan­ging their mind. A month later I was no longer work­ing there. A month after that the final cli­ent for my freel­ance busi­ness, which I was wind­ing down due to the afore­men­tioned prom­ise, under­stand­ably told me they had made oth­er arrange­ments for their website.

Along­side the work situ­ation I was deal­ing with some things in my per­son­al life. The cul­min­a­tion of all these events, along­side an unsuc­cess­ful gruelling sev­en week inter­view pro­cess, res­ul­ted in a men­tal break­down and the return of my depres­sion in August last year.

One pos­it­ive is that some­how, in the middle of that break­down I man­aged to think clearly enough for an hour-long inter­view that res­ul­ted in the job I have now been in for over a year. I can only thank God for that.

Then 2020 happened. A glob­al pan­dem­ic has thrown the world into chaos as Cov­id-19 has swept across the world. Nor­mal life has been taken away which for every­one has been a dif­fi­cult adjust­ment. In the midst of this my Mum has been under­go­ing treat­ment for can­cer and my Dad has had and recovered from a stroke.

I’m hop­ing that by writ­ing this post it will help to remove the block I have been strug­gling with when it comes to post­ing to this site. Through coun­selling I have come to real­ise the import­ance of tak­ing care of your­self prop­erly. I have real­ised that I need hob­bies in my life and I would like to start blog­ging here again as a first tent­at­ive step to build­ing some healthy habits. I didn’t feel I could get that going again without acknow­ledging recent events, so here I am tak­ing a scary step and dar­ing to put into words some of the hard­est exper­i­ences I have had to go through.

My Year in Books, 2018

For the past few years I’ve taken part in the Goodreads Read­ing Chal­lenge set­ting myself the tar­get of read­ing at least 25 books over the course of the year. This year I haven’t quite hit my goal, but I’ve still enjoyed a good year of read­ing. The books have mostly been fic­tion this year, with a couple of non-fic­tion books find­ing their way in. This is the first year I’ve man­aged to make some kind of a log of the books I’ve read on this blog which I wanted to round up in a single post for easy ref­er­ence in the future.

Two States of Perfection

For as long as I can remem­ber I’ve had a sketch­book on the go. I think I estab­lished the habit when I star­ted seni­or school, but I remem­ber hav­ing them back in juni­or school as well. They’ve been a com­pan­ion beside me all that time, wheth­er I’ve been draw­ing, writ­ing, brain­storm­ing, plan­ning, or some­thing else, they’ve helped me to be cre­at­ive in some form or another.

When a new sketch­book arrives, it always brings a moment of joy. The moment the wrap­pings come off is one of the two moments that a sketch­book is per­fect. There are no creases on the spine, no scuffs on the cov­er, no page corners curl­ing up or fol­ded in, everything sits square and com­pact, full of poten­tial. I always enjoy that moment. When a sketch­book is first opened it’s excit­ing, there’s poten­tial on those pages, but with it comes a hes­it­ancy, it’s some­thing that I don’t want to ruin.

It’s the fear of the blank page.

Over the last few years when I’ve star­ted a new sketch­book I’ve developed a habit. I open it to the first page, grab a pen and I write the same sentence.

I give myself per­mis­sion to mess this sketch­book up. 

From then on I use it how I want and it doesn’t mat­ter what goes in it.

It might seem a bit silly to write that sen­tence on the first page, but without it it would take a lot longer for my sketch­books to get to their second point of per­fec­tion. The moment they are fin­ished, either because they are com­pletely full, or the year has ended. At that point it’s done it’s job and deserves it’s spot on my shelf along­side all it’s older sib­lings, it’s per­fect because it’s been used and not wasted. It’s helped me think, helped me cre­ate, helped me pro­cess events that have passed, it’s poten­tial has been met.

Without that first page sen­tence and my nat­ur­al state of being a per­fec­tion­ist, there’s a chance those sketch­books would remain on the shelf in their first state of per­fec­tion. And in that state they would be a waste. What would be the point in own­ing them, if they remained forever in their first state of per­fec­tion and nev­er made the jour­ney to the second state of perfection?

It’s not just a sketch­book that has these two states of per­fec­tion. A blog has them, a can­vas has them, a book has them, a roll of film or an SD card in a cam­era has them. The unused per­fec­tion, and the fin­ished, full, com­plete per­fec­tion of a job well done.

The Blogging Habit

When I first star­ted writ­ing a blog I was 20. It was my first year of uni­ver­sity, and I’d some­how stumbled across a couple of ran­dom blogs, I’m not entirely sure how, but I know one thing. As soon as I saw them, I wanted one.

I dabbled with a free blog­ger account, and then in my second year at uni­ver­sity I bought my first domain and installed Word­Press. That was the begin­ning of hav­ing my own per­son­al web­site, a place where I pos­ted to almost every day, where I taught myself how to build web­sites. I looked at oth­er peoples blogs, I copied what they were doing and began adding my own twist on to things. It was fun, a hobby, a thing I did to stretch my cre­at­ive muscles, a thing to learn on. A thing to think on.

In the four­teen years since I first began to blog, I’ve pos­ted to my site at least a few times a year, often sev­er­al times a month, and in a few bursts every­day for a couple of weeks. This year has been one of my most act­ive on years for a long time, but most of that activ­ity has been short posts or pho­tos. There has been very little in the way of full blog posts, everything has been ver­ging on the micro end of the scale. Whilst that’s fine, and has coin­cided with me using Twit­ter and Ins­tagram less, over the last few months I’ve been fight­ing an itch to try and start writ­ing a longer blog post a day (in the work­ing week at least) but for whatever reas­on I’ve res­isted it.

Over the week­end I spot­ted a tweet from Aus­tin Kle­on in my timeline. He was link­ing back to a post he wrote just over a year ago after he had kick­star­ted his daily blog­ging habit. A couple of sen­tences in that post jumped out at me.

I had no idea how badly my writ­ing muscles had atrophied. After a couple of weeks, I could feel the sen­tences com­ing easier. 

It began to sink in, that rather than think­ing about try­ing to write a post a day, I should just get on and do it. It doesn’t mat­ter really how good they are, the thing is to just get on and do it. But, I still man­aged to put the thought to the back of mind. Then I read the final point of his post.

Maybe I’m weird, but it just feels good. It feels good to reclaim my turf. It feels good to have a spot to think out loud in pub­lic where people aren’t spit­ting and shit­ting all over the place. 

I iden­ti­fied with that. The whole reas­on I star­ted a blog four­teen years ago was because I wanted to. I enjoyed it. It felt good to have a place on the Inter­net that was mine, it was fun to have a hobby. So here I am, post­ing again. In a slightly longer format than I have been doing for most of the year. We’ll see how long it lasts, but the main focus, is to have fun and devel­op my hobby again.

Unsplash ›

I love Unsplash. Whenev­er I need an image that I don’t have in my own lib­rary this is my first port of call. It has been for quite a while, but recently I’ve noticed that it’s lib­rary has grown so much I can reg­u­larly find images for spe­cif­ic loc­a­tions in the UK.

The Bulletin Board ›

I’ve been read­ing Aus­tin Kleon’s blog since Janu­ary, I find the way that he speaks about his note­books and how he uses them very inspir­ing. Today’s post is about his bul­let­in board and how he pins images, clip­pings, index cards, and vari­ous oth­er bits to it for inspir­a­tion while he is writ­ing a book.

The ana­log nature of lots of things that Aus­tin does has really caught my atten­tion. I love tech­no­logy, but as a design­er I also love objects and paper. When I was a stu­dent I covered the wall of my room in halls with bits of graph­ics that I liked. The whole thing turned into one giant col­lage of inspir­a­tion. That’s some­thing I would like to get back into my cre­at­ive life, some­thing tact­ile and away from a glow­ing rectangle.

Establishing New Habits Without Apps ›

I’ve been try­ing to estab­lish some new habits lately so this was a timely post from CJ Chil­vers. I’ve been using the app Streaks like he men­tions to keep focused on some of my habits, but there is a cer­tain lack of account­ab­il­ity that goes with it. When a big streak gets broken it’s very hard to find the energy to start again.

One thing I’ve found a bit easi­er to face when starting—or restarting—a pro­ject is to break it down to months. Define the goal, decide to begin it at the start of the next month, and then make sure you’re ready to go in the time in between. The space allows you to pro­cess what you’re aim­ing to accom­plish, and allows you the time you need to make sure you’re ready to get going.

My Secret Battle – a Grief Shared ›

This week I can across the blog is Simon Thomas. He’s a Sky Sports presenter and a Chris­ti­an, known by many in the U.K. He lost his wife to can­cer in Septem­ber last year and has been blog­ging about his grief. This week he shared a post about his Secret Battle with depres­sion and anxiety.

It’s a very hon­est and open account of the battle he has, and still is, facing. I have a great admir­a­tion for any­one who is able to post so pub­licly about their battle with men­tal health. I have attemp­ted to write many times about my own struggle with depres­sion, it is not an easy thing to do. I’m thank­ful that Simon has a strong faith in God that is help­ing him through this time. My own faith helped me in my darkest time, and I have wit­nessed the faith of oth­ers close to me help them. I am forever thank­ful for this.

Book Budget

I just added a new cat­egory in my YNAB Budget under Qual­ity of Life Goals, it’s name? Books.

Since I star­ted using Goodreads in 2013 I’ve read 104 books. That’s an aver­age of just under 21 books a year with a low of 17 in 2013 and a high of 34 books in 2016.

Clearly I like to read, so it made sense to actu­ally budget for these books fin­an­cially since I’m already mak­ing time in my life to read them. There’s some­thing very dif­fer­ent about sit­ting down and relax­ing with a good book com­pared to a film or box­set that I enjoy a great deal. Most of these books are fic­tion, I find they provide me with a good way of shut­ting my mind off at the end of the day by for­cing me to use my ima­gin­a­tion. I have to let my mind cre­ate the images that go with the words, con­vert­ing the writers descrip­tions into visu­als in my mind. The words on the page act­ing as the brush and my mind as the paint to cre­ate the large land­scapes and city­scapes as well as the detail of the char­ac­ters faces and the expres­sions they pull.

Until a few years ago I had gone a few years without read­ing a lot, I always had a nov­el on the go but the num­ber I would read in a year was much less. Gradu­ally as I got older and remembered how much I like read­ing the num­ber would increase, but the intens­ity at which I devoured books became great­er after I became ill with depres­sion a few years ago. Through­out my recov­ery, and when I find my mood dip­ping again, nov­els become a great source of escape. Usu­ally I find con­cen­tra­tion hard when I’m bat­tling a low peri­od, but a good nov­el (often a famil­i­ar one that I’ve read many times) is able to provide me with some escape. Read­ing the prose of a good fantasy or sci-fi book allows me to find free­dom from the cir­cu­lar thoughts and spir­als of whatever I find myself fix­at­ing on. As a visu­al thinker let­ting my ima­gin­a­tion build the worlds cen­tur­ies away from today (in either dir­ec­tion) is a great way of exer­cising my cre­at­ive muscles and pre­vent­ing those unhelp­ful thought pat­terns take hold.

Whenev­er I’ve spoken to friends who have been strug­gling with sim­il­ar men­tal health issues, I always recom­mend they read. It takes a bit of effort to start, but I’ve found it much more help­ful than watch­ing a film. The act of watch­ing images devel­op on a screen is far less dis­tract­ing than hav­ing to engage your mind with the words and story of a book. Read­ing, I find, is a form of act­ive rest. I can let my body rest and recharge, while using my mind in a way that’s dif­fer­ent from the work of my two jobs, and in so doing let­ting it refresh and recharge.

So here’s to books, to my new book budget, and to the many more hours of rest that they will provide.