A space of one’s own

The writing process is so unpredictable – sometimes the words and ideas just flow, and other times they just stutter and stall and the screen or page is left blank, or in my case, some words and phrases have been jotted down, only to be deleted.

Today’s Daily Post is so timely to working out my own process – it asks us to think about our writing space. Place can be so important to writing. In our current living conditions, I don’t have an ideal place in my home or city for writing, but at least I’ve identified some minimum requirements to make a space to call mine, even for a short period, to be able to grapple with ideas and words and get them out into some tangible, logical sense.

The minimum requirements for a writing space are:

  • room enough for my laptop, notebook, articles
  • room enough for a drink without worry of knocking it over
  • quiet – low music with no lyrics is ok, conversation is too distracting.

coffee, seattle, cafe

That’s it. Things I bring along to help with the environmental factors include:

  • headphones, to block out external sounds and sometimes listen to music (I love Klipsch in-ear headphones with inline mic for controlling volume and music, and for providing some barrier to external noise)
  • my laptop charger, though I prefer to leave it behind, since my recent MacBook more than lives up to its claim of 8+ hours of battery
  • fruit jelly candy, which tides me over when I’m a bit hungry, to finish that paragraph or section until I take a real meal break.

Places I’ve worked lately include: our dining room table, university library, public library, upstairs at an art studio, on the living room floor, my office desk on the weekend, a corner table at 3 different coffee shops, an airport waiting area during a 6 hours stopover, and a hotel room.

The best location was the hotel room, because I could spread out my research materials and supplies, without having to tidy them up or move them for the duration of 5 days straight, which helped with the visual organization which I’ve learned is a part of my thinking process.

Not my ideal set-up, but we make do the best that we can! Here’s to writing well.

 

Letting go of a blog

Since 2010, I’ve maintained a collection of interesting stuff gleaned from usually nighttime travels on the web, called “Parenthesis“. It was housed on Posterous, which recently announced it would be shutting down as of the end of April 2013.  Sadly, I uploaded the last post for that blog today but happily, everything is moving over here to WordPress.

Here is that last post below (which will most likely “die” or whatever defunct web posts do, after this month):

FOUND A NEW HOME…..

Ever since the announcement that Twitter purchased Posterous in March 2012, I felt marching orders were pending. Two months ago, the not-entirely unexpected news that Posterous would be shutting down on April 30, 2013 broke over the web, and sadly, I starting looking around for another platform to which I could transfer Parenthesis.

I considered self-hosting, but seriously, with a full-time job, a young child, a thesis-in-progress, along with the normal concerns of a family with a mortgage, mobile carrier plans, and a student loan, that isn’t the option for me at this time, time-wise or budget-wise. (Though I’ve learned that there are awesome WordPress camps offered in British Columbia that inspire me to attend and develop my self-hosting mojo that may one day translate into an awesome site that won’t depend on anyone else’s service.)

In the end, WordPress was the only familiar, no-fuss platform that was available for free and that inspired some confidence in longevity over, say, competing interests of the company (YES, Twitter, this means you).

The new blog is Things in Parenthesis (alas, just “Parenthesis” was not available) and fortunately, most everything from the current site transferred over to WordPress.com very smoothly.

It is with fondness that I part with Posterous, as it was one of my first forays into any kind of web blog (Theomama’s Blits was that first foray), and one that provided newbies with a very user-friendly platform along with support, tutorials and even a bit of HTML training.

So, thank you to Posterous and its developers.

For my few readers, I look forward to seeing and engaging with you about media studies, culture, remix and visual culture at the new site.

empty chair

Falling in love with mobile journalling

Thanks to this app, I’ve been so motivated to journal again

Day One iPhone client

Day One | A simple Journal.

But if was something that was only on my phone, I would have a lot LESS love for it. What pleasure is there in perusing the past on only one little pocket device (as lovely as that device is). There is something wonderful and appealing in seeing the photos, the memories, the notes, scrolling in full screen before one’s eyes.

Day one, sync capacity

I know that the visual element, the photo diary aspect, laid out in a pretty grid for scrollable perusal, also adds to the appeal for me. I hope to update more regularly.

In the valley with the rest of the grad students

I don’t know why I haven’t written more about being a grad student. I really wish I had documented and recorded some of the experiences of the first semester, because well…. they were some powerful experiences, probably shared by the great majority of first year master’s students. 

Today, this weekend, I am suffering from the ailment suffered the most by all graduate students, if #PhDchat is any indication, whether they are at the master’s, PhD, or post-doc level. Writer’s block. Kill me now.

How hard is it to put together a one-page proposal? 

I’ve had first semester to get somewhat familiar with an area (in my case, visual culture), just a toe dip, but that should be enough to flesh out a one page document, no? 

I am stuck stuck stuck. 

Fortified by strong tea and the advice of a friend who is a doctoral student in my program, I will endeavor to do my darnedest tonight. 

Library_day

This is where I spend 80% of my awake time. Good thing I like this library. They allow you to eat and drink here. Lots of printers. Scanners if you need them, even laptops on loan. And iMacs, beautiful things, if you can get on them. And lots of windows, hence LOTS of light. Did I mention I like it here? @TFDL

For the love of pen and paper

A neat irony has recently sprung up in my life. It is that just as my commitment to blogging more on hopefully one (of 3) internet blogging platforms has been revitalized, so has an obsession in analog tools been stirred up anew. (What I’ve written below is taken word-for-word from another post of mine.)

I don’t know if it’s because I’m in the “going back to school” mindset (it’s only been, what, 11 years…) but lately I’ve been fascinated by old-fashioned pen-and-paper notetaking. I was in Invermere, BC last week and stumbled into a store that had Rhodia notebooks, and Chapters recently restocked the Moleskine line of 18-month calendar agendas with their classic hardbound, gorgeous black covers and elastic – just the feel of these quality notebooks in my hands has revived an old feeling in me.

Although most of my journalling and notetaking over the past 2 years has been electronic (MacJournal, Evernote, and prior to that on a PC, in MS OneNote), a recent search for old university papers uncovered boxes, literally 3 boxes, of my collected journals/writings/scribbles/doodles.

I had forgotten how colourful journalling could be. The freedom of lined/unlined/graph paper, to doodle here or sketch something there, the power of freehand writing and a thousand other things I was able to do by hand that I haven’t really done on my laptop – these things I’ve missed over the past few years.

So I was pleased to stumble upon this post in the Telegraph from last year about a mini-revival of “analog” note-taking that has emerged recently. Angela Webb of the National Handwriting Association is quoted:

We’ve seen a reverse of the trend in the last two to three years, and people are much more keen to handwrite now. Research is coming though from skilled authors who use handwriting to get ideas flowing and then move to the keyboard to develop them.

This jibes with what readers and writers from a couple of my favorite websites, Lifehacker and GearFire Productivity, have mentioned over and over: brainstorm and jot by hand, shape and finalize by type.

Anyway, it’s been a neglected art in my house, and I think it’s something I look forward to bringing back over the next year.

Now: I’m going to go out and hunt out a fresh, pristine, empty notebook that will be my companion for the next few months.

(Yesterday, I think I found a potential candidate: this Japanese import, Maruman Mnemosyne notebook from Jetpens.com.)

Maruman Mnemosyne Special Memo Notepad - A5 (5.8" X 8.3") - 7 mm Rule + Divisions - 24 Lines X 80 Sheets - MARUMAN N195

Long time no post and blogging platforms

Well, I mean “no post” in that I haven’t posted something seriously, with intent and deliberateness, in a good while.

It’s just that juggling 2 photo blogs, one media studies site, one grad studies journal site, one random tumblog and one random posterous site takes a lot of work. A bit MUCH? Yah, I’d say so.

I’ve decided that come September I will cull, cut and merge these sites. It’s just NUTS and I’ve left off writing HERE on WordPress, to maintain the other ones. Mind you, the other ones are easier, in a way, because it’s one click to post a photo or link or quote and add commentary or write a response on Tumblr and Posterous. I find their ways of managing posting eaiser than the WordPress version of the “press” bookmarklet.

However, I do think WordPress is the more….. “serious” platform, among the three. That is, great writing and content is peppered throughout WordPress blogs, which have been around longer, and I’ve found that sharing something on Tumblr or Posterous takes a lot less creative output except in the curation part, and that doesn’t take THAT much creativity. (That’s not to say there aren’t great tumblogs and posterous sites out there – there are, for example The Political Notebook, an awesome news commentary blog, a new favorite of mine ).

If my goal is to keeping writing and to share WORDS, then is WordPress better for me? It’s a moot point, I think, for anyone: platform doesn’t matter as much as the ACT of writing.

But for me, the clutter and busy-ness of maintaining different sites is distracting me from the simple act and intention to just write more, rather than spending time re-posting and re-blogging.  It’s become an excuse NOT to keep writing. Thus, I want to narrow it down and CHOOSE (another act that is sometimes hard to follow up on).

And I don’t want to become one of the thousands (100s of thousands?) of people who have started a blog that fizzled out because they were not able to make time for it or to because it became one of those projects that fell on the wayside.

I’ve had people encourage me to keep up writing, because I actually do have a voice that can be clear and can share interesting things. I think the appropriate response to that is that then, 1) I need to keep up the practice and 2) I need to read and see and notice better, carefully, so that my voice will have worthwhile things to say.

Something to get me REALLY excited about writing, another app

As a newbie Apple fan, I eagerly look forward to all the new Apple product releases and spec sheets, as does the entire world of mac fans. (Not that I can afford the new products, but it still makes me feel good to LOOK.) But something else I’ve started to anticipate over the last year is the release of new application versions, especially if it’s an app I use a lot.

Just today, I saw on Twitter that one of my all time favourite apps has just released its new version, I guess its official release now, since it was in Beta (but a very very functional beta) for the longest time. It’s Ommwriter, which I’ve crushed on before.

The new version is called OmmWriter Dāna. What’s different in the new release?

From their website:

Very little. Fortunately. Most changes are too subtle to be noticed or to write home about. But they add to the overall ease of the OmmWriter experience. Some that you may notice are:

  • Monospace font support.
  • Larger text size option to improve accessibility and for visually-challenged users.
  • Access to Menu bar from within OmmWriter by scrolling to top of screen.
  • Ability to create a new file using the file menu or with command + N.
  • Compatible with spaces.
  • Dual screen support that blanks out the second screen when in use.
  • Ability to return to the original text box size (in view menu).
  • New file formats to save to: .pdf or .rtf.
  • Improved user experience with horizontal cursor

It also now comes in 2 versions: the free and the paid. The paid version will have a few more audio and visual scapes to work with, including this one:

New “Blur” background for Ommwriter Dana

The pricing model? The user can choose with the only condition being that the price should end with a 1 (i.e. $4.11 or $11) because the number 1 “is auspicious” in some cultures.

Aren’t the developers a hoot? I mean, how many developers name their application after “the practice of cultivating generosity”? I love their vision, their narrow focus and their no frills approach to their business.

I’m still waiting for the email with the download file so I haven’t had a chance to try it yet but I know it will be a totally cool experience.

Just notes, really

In my endless quest to simplify life, I’ve been increasingly drawn to simple looking software applications that do few things well, and look good.  The look good is aesthetics only, but I find that if the user interface is cleaner, then I am more motivated to perform next actions instead of getting distracted on a button or a function or a border that just seems to get in the way.

A recent discovery that fit that bill, and that I am finding extremely useful, is JustNotes. I had read about it from a Smoking Apples blurb a few months ago and just lately downloaded it. It does what its named after: it’s only for notes.

It’s a super small application, and runs in the menu bar and/or dock, as you wish and has hotkey triggers, always a plus in my books.

It also provides users with a choice of fonts, which is really nice in a free app.

I was initially using it for to-do lists, but I recently started a class, and for the first time in my life, wanted to try working with lecture notes/research/reading notes in a digital format rather than trusty old-fashioned ink and paper. So I starting recording all class related emails and notes in JustNotes. And I wanted to get into syncing. (Normally, I use Evernote and don’t worry about syncing, but I had recently read quite a few articles (i.e. here and here) mentioning SimpleNote and Notational Velocity and that got me thinking about testing syncing out.)

Syncing saved my life. I forgot my macbook one day but the room where we have our seminar is a computer lab and I was able to go online to simplenoteapp.com and get my readings and homework notes.

Other than the “Beta” heading in the frame of the app window, I think this great piece of software has gorgeous presentation as well as terrific functionality. And despite its beta moniker, it has yet to bug out on me.

Good job, developer. If and when JustNotes moves out of beta and becomes shareware, I’ll be happy to buy it AND recommend it to others.

Newfound love of late

Tumblr oh Tumblr, wherefore art thou?

What an AMAZING blog service: So many customizable options, some very very slick designs, you can add/change things, add services on some pages, one-click posting bookmarklets, use the free or purchase premium themes.

I was a novice, a blog virgin, when I joined Tumblr last February. But I picked it up very quickly and could find my way around it very easily without having to refer to documentation or the FAQ.  It’s one of the best services for people who want to blog or collect and share favorite posts/articles/pics/videos from their web surfing.  WordPress is good, too, but it takes way more saavy and figuring out to get things started, changed or modified in WP.

I love their weekly best tumblog. Did I mention that I love the variety of themes offered? I especially like: vintage scrapbook. Very very nice.

Great job, Tumblr folks. I think it’s one of the best inventions on the web today.

My main tumblog: rambling every day.

Tumblr and microblogging

What a FANTASTIC discovery, this world of microblogging.

After hanging out on the internet and reading blogs and following up on articles for about a year now, I thought I made a bit of headway into becoming familiar with “the web” and social media. When I discovered microblogging back in February, through an article on Mashable, I felt like a brand newbie all over again.

I’d never heard of Pownce, Jaiku, Tumblr, and I’d only heard of Twitter but never used it. Mind you, it’s hard to hear about these things if none of your close circle of colleagues or friends are using the tools either, and most of my local ones aren’t.

Well: wasn’t that an eye-opener.

Tumblr made it so easy to track, collect and share my web wanderings with just a few clicks and a handy bookmarklet. And, its themes are just gorgeous, even most of the free ones.

It isn’t really blogging, since it’s mostly “copying” or clipping what one has read or seen or watched from the net and just sharing it, redistributing it. Talk about remixing. This personal form of aggregation of stories is a new public discourse venue, and one that is wildly popular and utilized to the hilt already, as far as I can see.

It’s so easy to collect and share the pieces of interest, throw in one’s own thoughts, add a few of one’s own videos and photos – microblogging makes it easy to participate on the web as a voice and presence. (How relevant that presence is, is another story and a later post.)

It’s got my blood stirring.