The year just past -- especially the second half of it -- was not my finest hour. I was trying to do two (or was it three?) jobs at once, not to mention my "personal" work, and not doing any of it well. I got into all sorts of bad habits and spent far too much time lamenting my inability to move things forward when the truth of the matter, it now seems, was that I was trying to move too many things. Dissipation was my middle name.
I don't do resolutions of the all-encompassing kind. I have, however, thought hard about the new habits I need to instill and some of the new kinds of support I want in order to do so. Here are those thoughts.
The web is where I publish the words I write for fun. And judging by my output, I haven't been doing too much of that lately. There are a couple of reasons. One, I honestly believe, is that writing for work and writing for fun at the same machine in the same space is much more tiring than expending the same amount of energy in two different spaces. During the winter there really isn't a whole lot I can do about that, although I have not fully explored the option of establishing me and my laptop in a corner of the local bar for an hour a day. I can, however, try to just ignore how I feel and get on with it.
That's part and parcel of a more diffuse problem with boundaries. Working at home, it is too easy to keep the machine on for work, extend hours by a little, skive off for a bit. Two tools help me to avoid that, but recently not so well. My bullet journal has degenerated into a todo list, and at the same time, I am using the Pomodoro technique as a glorified timesheet rather than to predict and manage the time I need to spend on things. This is my own doing. I've become lazy. So I can undo it. My hope is that by adding some rigour back to these planning and recording aspects of my day, I will stop allowing tasks to dribble on endlessly. And my further hope is that if I can stop things when they are done, I can start more things.
The final part of the writing thing is to lubricate the bearings on the publishing machine. Back in May 2013 I moved over to Octopress as my blogging engine, and back to a static, baked site. I was super happy with the result in terms of uptime and speed of rendering; no more tearing my hair out over WordPress and the hosting service. But the actual process of writing something to put here had become that much more troublesome. Too many steps, too many things to go wrong, too fiddly. Write in MarsEdit, drag and drop images, push the whole thing to WP; that's the way it ought to be. I've looked at a couple of other options, most notably Known, but the truth is I have very little desire to shift again. I just want to make the publishing part of writing easier. I've been delaying doing anything about it because I know that there is another great option waiting in the wings, and as soon as it is ready I will jump in with both feet. Till then, though, I need to use a bit more automation and just get on with it. Today seemed as good a time to start that as any.
Though I say so as shouldn't, Eat This Podcast has been one area in which "could do better" has not really applied. The stats seem to bear this out, with a steady upward trend underneath the spikes every two weeks for each new episode.1 I do, however, sometimes feel that, having cast my bread upon the waters,2 I am still waiting for a return. I don't want to nag the people who are kind enough to listen , but wouldn't it be dandy if they did subscribe, recommend it to friends and, best of all, rate it in iTunes so that others might stand a chance of finding it?
What do I want from podcasting then? Better stats would be nice. I'm OK for kit, although I have been eying some short shotgun microphones that would be handy for more naturalistic sound gathering on location. Crowdfund, people have said. Nah. I've always believed that a craftsman should bear the cost of the tools of his trade. I've felt that ever since the National Union of Journalists negotiated a teeny pay increase for journalists who typed their own copy into digital type-setting terminals. In my worldview, you buy the tools yourself because they enable you to produce whatever it is that you make. Alas, it is tricky making money from the things I make, which means I work for money in order to allow me to work for love.
To that end, I joined Flattr earlier in 2014, and I'm happy to say that although I am down on the deal, so far, I get a warm glow from helping to spread the idea that good stuff on the internet doesn't have to be free. Indeed, ought not to be. I am considering joining Patreon to allow people to "support and engage with creators [they] love," -- i.e. me -- but first I have to figure out what I can offer in the way of extras to subscribers. Right now, I'm coming up empty. Undying gratitude and love doesn't seem like such a great bargain. Ideally, of course, I'd like the financial security to spend most of my time making audio stories. That's not going to happen any time soon.
There are some other things I've been thinking a bit about, but my conclusions are still too inchoate to be worth sharing. Soon, though, if I can maintain my momentum. All in all, I am resolved to:
- Just do it
- Stop allowing things to dribble on
- Investigate making the machine work for me, with automation and that kind of thing.
Digression: podcast stats are a nightmare. It is really hard to find out how many subscribers there are, as opposed to how many downloads or page visits. If I were smarter, perhaps I could even find out which apps people are listening with. As it is, I'd happily pay for better stats, but not to the tune of $5 a month. Ignorance is not bliss, but I truly have better things to spend that kind of money on ... Like Flattr. ↩
Speaking of which, I checked the bliblical quote, and found this in the next verse but one: "If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be." Which is pretty deep, right? ↩