I've been watching Seinfeld's reruns recently, and one device has always puzzled me. The phone machine. It is a critical element in almost every episode and plays a central part in a few. And yet I have never owned such a device.
A landline was itself a luxury while I was growing up. Very few homes in the neighbourhood had them. Even we got it pretty late. I remember when we eventually did, our house became a switchboard, and we were the telephone operators—connecting folks all over to ones in our neighbourhood.
We received calls at home and took the messages. Sometimes, my parents held the line while I, being the only kid in the house, ran to the neighbour's home to invite them to receive the phone call.
It was all fun, to be frank. It felt good to hear the stories after the phone call. No one left away without sharing what the call was all about. A few wanted to add more context to what we unintentionally heard on one heard by narrating what was said on the other. It all felt customary.
We never had an answering machine. There was no way to leave a message for us while we were away. So instead, I was the answering machine for others while they were away.
Also, I am not sure I would be comfortable using such machines. I could never convey the message on the spot in short. All I would say is, “Call me back”. What else can one say without rambling on and on?
So when I see these machines screw up the main characters' lives in the shows like Seinfeld and Friends, I only chuckle. You know, I have been an answering machine, and we tend to screw up.
Writing should not be boring. If that happens to me, it means that I am doing it forcefully or that I do it out of habit. Yet, in either case, I won't stop writing.
I don't write because I have to. I write because I have something to say. That's why I cannot write on a schedule. Sure, I can sit in front of the screen and wait for the words to turn up. They generally do, which is why I have been a blogger for around 15 years. But I cannot force them to.
There are times when I write every day, multiple times a day. And then weeks go by, and I hardly publish anything.
This reminds me of a curious thought from James Clear. While talking about achieving mastery, he says.
Mastery requires practice. But the more you practice something, the more boring and routine it becomes.
It makes me wonder – can creativity be routine and boring? I hope not. Maybe that's the reason one can never master an art form. They are always learning. The same applies to writing.
I don't intend to master writing. All I want is to share my thoughts through words.
I have a fascinating relationship with Mondays. There's some charm to the first day of the week as if it dawns with a responsibility to set things right. With a new zeal not to carry the mistakes from the week gone by.
To follow the routine. To focus on the work. To get back to life.
With responsibility comes pressure. The pressure of all the things undone in the last week and pushed to the next. Pushed out with the hope that the first day of the following week would be different. Better. It never is.
I usually want to get back to all the right habits on Mondays. Why do so on any other day? In the middle of a week? Right? I remember we, friends, once had a running joke where we would answer any suggestion of starting something healthy with “let's start on Monday”.
Gym? Let's start on Monday. Stop eating junk food? Let's start on Monday. Read more? “Let's start ...”
This habit of waiting for Monday to start something different, something good, has stuck with me. Funny how bad habits die hard.
I generally find it easy to write about meta topics around my writing process. Or platforms. Among the people I read online, the behaviour is common. At the same time, I'm not too fond of these meta posts. All I am doing is convincing myself why the choice of a platform is the right one. No one cares about them.
Will I ever run out of places where I can write at? I won't. Can I ever have enough of them? Never. Should I write about all of them? Absolutely not.
Holding oneself back from writing about a particular topic is antithetical to the spirit of blogging, where no topic is beyond the bounds.
But writing about every experiment lends me a false sense of achievement. I write because I want to think better. I write because I want to improve my writing skill. Writing mindlessly about my experiments doesn't help me with either of those. Hence I don't write meta posts any longer.
Or so I think. Ironically, this itself is a meta post.
I came across this brilliant quote from Leslie Lamport — “If you're thinking without writing, you only think you're thinking”. It's simple yet so meaningful.
Writing reinforces my thoughts. It won't be a stretch to say that I understand my thoughts only through #writing. Distil them. Before that, they are just fuzzy noises in my head.
While in school, my teachers would force me to write down what I learned to remember it better. We, students, were made to write chapters multiple times to learn them. But at that time, learning meant remembering things. Not grasping them. I wish someone had told us that writing helped us understand things better. I would have fallen in love with writing a lot earlier.
There's another analogy to Lamport's earlier quote: “If you're thinking about writing, you only think you're writing.”
Though I haven't written much for the past few days, I thought a lot about writing. Every day, I had a new idea to write about. Every day, I gave myself multiple reasons why I shouldn't write about it. Many ended up in drafts. Many had a painful death in my head. It's a terrible place to die for an idea. So I must let them out more often, in whatever ugly shape or form.
I often have such phases when for every inspiration on why I should write, my mind comes up with a hundred distractions about why I shouldn't. The only way I have known not to fall for the lure of distractions is through the routine of fixed time and place for me to write.
If I present myself, the words find a way out. Thinking doesn't do that. Writing does.
It is the phase when I reevaluate my use of all the services I am subscribed to. Of course, my email client is one of the key ones on the list. I was an early Gmail account holder and have been an ardent user since then. But when Gmail got old, I never loved email. It got boring and tiring.
Recently, I realised that I love sending and receiving emails. But I wouldn't say I like Gmail.
iCloud was handling my custom email domain. But as I am not all in on the Apple ecosystem — with my Android and Linux — the experience with iCloud Mail is terrible. In short, I had to find a new solution for my personal and custom email domains.
I started with a trial of Fastmail, and I was unimpressed. No doubt, the email service is brilliant. It's no-nonsense and has everything that an email power user would want. Nothing more and just the way an email service should work. I, however, am not a power user. Nor do I love the experience that the typical email services provide. I needed something different to rekindle my love for email.
That's when I was reminded of HEY. The last time I tried it, I loved the service but didn't need it. Here's what I wrote while ending the trial.
All in all, HEY is a brilliant service with a fresh perspective towards the way we use our emails. It can potentially enliven the email offerings from all the players, just the away Gmail did back in 2004. But I don't face the problem it is trying to solve; I have no use for all its groundbreaking features.
Why do I think I need it now? Well, to be frank. I still don't. But I am falling in love with email again, and HEY's unique take on how email should be done should help me stay en route. So, here's to a new start for emails.
I enjoy my evening walks with Snoopy. This guy continues to get all the attention from folks I have never met. I often hear someone call out his name, run to him, play with him and walk away with a smile. Completely ignoring my presence. As if I don't exist. Such is the charm of cuteness, I believe.
He has also made new friends. He knows where he will find them. He walks to the place and waits for them to come to him. These are the regulars.
There's a corner towards the end of our walk that both of us adore. It's usually quiet. A cold breeze always flows through. It's neither too light to expose us nor too dark to hide us. I make sure we halt there and sit next to each other. Nothing in my hand. Nothing on my mind. Nothingness. A bare moment of a void. Amidst the bustling #life.
And I like to believe Snoopy feels the same. Unperturbed. Many people walk by, but no one disturbs us. Maybe they acknowledge the tranquillity we feel.
Today's walk was no different. And yet was slightly different. After sitting through the quiet moments, I realized it was a full moon in the sky. Pink moon. It looked big, majestic. My hand went to my pocket to pull my smartphone out as it often does. I wanted to take a picture of the magnificence I was looking at. I wanted to capture the moment.
How futile was the thought? The day there exists a technology that can capture such moments of calmness, their significance will dwindle. Such moments are rare; they need to be lived and felt. And in that feeling, in that rarity, lies their essence.
Sometimes, all that matters is to hit that publish button. Do not worry about whether the subject makes sense. Or whether the way it is written does.
Whether there are too many adverbs. Or whether there is too little to say.
When words not published burden my mind, it is worthwhile to make way for them. To make them public. To not let them sit idle as a draft. I won't return to them anyway. After all, writer's block boldens itself in the drafts section.
So to unshackle my mind, I pick some draft and publish it in its form. What's the worse that can happen? It would just be another terrible post in the ocean of terrible posts on the internet.
The good? It would be one post that I publish on the internet. For at least myself to read.
Am I writing enough? Am I writing too much? I cared a lot about these two questions in my early blogging days some 15 years ago. At that time, blog pundits filled the internet with suggestions on the posting schedule or the posts' length. With Twitter and Facebook dominating soon, all those suggestions became futile.
As online presence became a popularity contest, a burst of short meaningless quips became the norm.
Throw more at the wall, and something will stick.
I could never play the social media game. It needed the zeal to always stay connected. I instead felt burdened by the pressure of participating non-stop. No surprise, then, that I kept writing on my blog. A lot less frequently, but I did.
With Twitter and Facebook dropping in popularity, I expect blogging to attract a few new users as an outlet for their voice. And I also expect the pundits to pollute the internet again with their suggestions on the best ways to blog.
Let me spill the beans. There isn't one.
Write anything. Write anytime. Write anywhere.
Don't worry about followers. Don't worry about likes and reposts. There aren't any. Some see this as a limitation — I find it liberating.
I need not fight to make my words stand out because only I write on my blog. Everything I write is always visible.