Musings, in all sizes

I knowingly broke a streak today — I didn't upload a photo as part of a monthly challenge because I didn't connect with the prompt. I was contributing anyway just for the sake of contributing — photos are not something I enjoy. I love taking photos, but I am not a master photographer. So why even try doing something daily that I don't enjoy?

So neither didn't I click a snap nor upload it.

I am also extremely tired today to spend any time writing significant nightly updates. So today, a quick observation will have to do.

I do not enjoy maintaining streaks. I do not enjoy taking photos without purpose. When tired, I cannot write anything profound. Or I cannot write. Period.

I have too many hobbies or interests that I want to undertake, much more than my schedule allows. I enjoy reading articles from the feeds/newsletters I subscribe to, reading/listening to books, interacting with social media posts, writing and coding on small projects. Even if I club the first three above as reading, it leaves me with many options. I am not even counting the unplanned movie show or wish to doodle. Today I decided I want to address this.

As I scoured the internet (mainly Reddit and YouTube) to find the solution to this not-so-uncommon problem, one suggestion I kept hitting against was to reduce the list. As Cal Newport suggests, I should have a primary and a secondary hobby. Anything more than that and “the overhead counterbalances the value the activity brings.

So what do I want to get rid of?

I do not think reading is something I can stop doing. I enjoy reading this, that and everything. After many trials, I have finally arrived at an effective setup for my reading process. Someday I will go into the details of this setup. But overall, I do not want to eliminate any of that.

Is writing even a hobby anymore? I do this as part of my daily routine and a winding down activity. I need not find time for this. I already have. And hence even this ain't a problem.

So how do I juggle everything I want but haven't got time to pick? The search for a solution continues.

Someone reading my yesterday's post might think I hate interacting with folks online. Or don't want people commenting on my blog posts. That's not the case. Rather, through these interactions, I have clarified my thoughts.

Whenever I publish posts online, it is with an acknowledgement that I will receive reactions from people who follow me. I welcome that. But I want to control where and what form of remarks to entertain.

I want to learn from others' experiences. Or sometimes, I specifically ask for people's input. The notes (“micro-posts”) are often doing exactly that. These are the posts that I want to make reach as many forums as possible. I am a strong proponent of including ways for people to respond to you right below your posts. Here's my suggestion from not so long ago.

If you write a blog and are interested in conversing with your readers, do include a link for the reader to do so right below your every post. I would love it if every blog post had a way for me to respond.

But then there are those words that don't deserve hot takes or quick thoughts when I share something extremely personal. Or when I write something pretty close to my heart. When I am the most vulnerable.

These posts are open to me. And to those few who make an effort to follow and read them with patience. I don't want to make it easy for people to respond to the trivial aspects of the post. I want to interact with people on such posts, not garner reactions.

There's a thin line between the two, reaction and interactions. The former is fleeting and individual. The latter is enduring and mutual.

Email best enables the latter, so I love receiving responses through email. The person sending it doesn't expect an instant reply and tends to collate all their thoughts before hitting send. The conversation can go on for days. Not be ephemeral; die down because there's new stuff to react to.

Today, I began reading Writing Is My Drink by Theo Pauline Nestor. I don't remember the last time when a sample of a book attracted me so much that I purchased it right away. I connected deeply with the experience and struggles that Theo was sharing about her writing journey. Or specifically how she found her writing voice. Of course, her struggles were far more severe than mine, given her profession as a storyteller, working for many publications.

This specific passage had me nodding all along.

The main problem was that on most topics I had no opinion whatsoever, and if I did have an opinion, I was so worried what others might think of that opinion I could barely remember what my opinion was in the presence of another human.

I strongly resonate with Theo's struggle. I read from many people who confidently opine on anything and everything they read or hear. But they don't just stop there; they also sound confident and unambiguous. They know what they want to say. They have found their voice to say that.

I, on the other hand, vacillate between being too assertive and too feeble. “What others might think” is the biggest hurdle in writing for introverts and overthinkers like me. While I write, I am already thinking about the comments or feedback I will receive. Or worse, am I worried I wouldn't receive any?

In that regard, this space is safe. I know I won't receive instant feedback on anything I write here because none of these posts reaches a place where responding is easy—a timeline with some way to reply. I haven't enabled the option to comment, either. I write only the stuff I am not expecting any interaction on. Because when I do that, I always think about the reader first, which is ineffective. Here's what I observed about this behaviour around a year ago.

You are reined back by the voice — you write for someone else. The response you expect from your readers provides you the lead. You write not what you like, you write what you think your reader likes.

A year since, and I still struggle with this. Does that mean I don't like interactions or don't want any feedback from the readers? That is not the case. But I want to find my writing voice first without the added pressure of anticipating the reader's reaction.

I am going to use this space to achieve that.

To you, that one reader who has stumbled across this space and wants to respond or connect – you are welcome to do so. As much as I dread responding to quick comments, I love to take time and respond to people via email.

Caring for a kid and a puppy while home alone is not easy. With my wife out to the office, today was the day when I had to do exactly that for the first time. It has left me completely drained. It isn't easy to write freely in such a state.

I try to focus on my thoughts, but my mind is half-sleep, waiting for me to slide down the bed. I know it won't take much time for me to go into a deep slumber. Everybody around me already is. My mind asks me why can't I.

Today also lent me a period of loneliness in the afternoon while my daughter and Snoopy were fast asleep. I worked and read in peace, which has left me with a lot of budding ideas to chew on. I thought I would meditate on one throughout the day and put my thoughts in words, but the current state of my mind won't allow that. Ex-yawwwwnnn-hausted!

Though weary down to my core, I still love such a day. Any lone “me time” I can steal from my routine is worth its weight in gold. But alas, such moments have become rare.

I have written spontaneously in this space for the last few days. Sure, there's a schedule to it, but no structure. I show up at a fixed time and type away all the thoughts at the top of my mind. Most often, it's a single thought that's clouding my mind. But there are also days when I write about a few thoughts strung together. Then, as I begin writing on a particular day, I have no clue what I will write about, just like today.

I looked at the blinking cursor, and no thought jumped to the fore. Everything was mundane. Not something that I felt strongly enough to put into words.

It made me realize how difficult it is to be spontaneous while #writing. I had once noted in my diary that spontaneity in writing is priceless. It is. But it is not natural to me. The train of thought that passes by as I try to stitch the words together makes the job tad more complicated. Before I am through with an idea, my mind is already wandering to the other, more alluring one. I, then, write about neither.

Over the years, I have turned into a planned writer. I usually have a skeleton clear in my mind about what and how I want to say. The planning at times makes me numb.

That wasn't the case when I began writing and publishing on my blog. I was an instinctive writer then — when an instinct hit me, I got rolling. I wrote till the time permitted, and the thoughts flew everywhere. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to comment on. Precisely what and how were determined as I typed along.

The posts I wrote then sure weren't the best of my works.

Yet I want to find that writer within me again. He was fun. Next, lend him my experience from writing over these years. He will bring the ideas, and I will bring in the sanity. My anticipation for this space is to be that playground.

I hence append the note I had made. Spontaneity in writing is priceless. Just be prepared.

After three weeks of bearing the beard, I shaved it off today. That act felt nothing short of tearing it apart from my face. These three weeks have elevated my respect for those who regularly sport a beard. Maintaining this beast ain't easy. It grows willy-nilly. And twists and twirls. And bites the face. And scratches the lips. And pokes the nose.

I was done enduring all of that.

Even that wasn't easy to do at home, either. The beard struggled with the face. The razor struggled with the beard. And I struggled with the razor. Cleaning the mess the mayhem left behind was no less than cleaning up a crime scene. It took a toll on my morale. I needed a nice warm shower to get back to my #life.

I am past my fascination for a beard.

Surprisingly, the clean-shaven me felt much less burdened, as if the beard weighed kilos. With the weight of the beard off my face, I walked more throughout the day. A nice morning walk. And a long evening stroll around the neighbourhood. I paused at a coffee lounge and sipped my coffee slowly. It felt good not to share it with my facial hair.

For a Monday, today was also unexpectedly productive. I could focus on work better. I do need to improve my way of closing tasks at hand. I like to be particular. I have my way of building a list and ticking the tasks off the list. Though it works for me, I have stopped doing it. It is time to bring out the notepad & the pen and place it on the table again.

There's also an update on the meta concern from yesterday. Matt responded to my support request and has generously extended the trial by a week while he finds a fix for my payment issue. What that means is blog is up and running as before.

I am happy I didn't have to give up on this beautiful writing interface. Sure, the issue isn't resolved yet. But I hope Matt finds a solution before this trial period runs out. After all, the problem isn't unique, and I assume it has a standard, tried-and-tested solution.

I had almost decided that I would not publish anything today. My blog got unpublished as the trial ran out, and I felt frustrated that I couldn't get help from anyone from the platform. I still am. Can I trust a platform if it can't guarantee support and get the working of basic functionality right?

But I am not letting this #meta concern break my streak of publishing the thoughts. Life updates have to wait as I publish another meta update.

I have undone most of the configurations and have set up the redirects. Setting things up with a trial account as if it were a fully working project was a mistake. But then, I didn't expect basic functionality like payment to fail for a paid service. International payments are hard; I am surprised the platform didn't hit this problem earlier.

I wonder if I even want this update on my blog as I write this. When I started regularly publishing at this place, I thought the posts would be more personal. A slice of my life. But then, I had also said this space has no structure. No throughline. It contains what is at the top of my mind.

Venting my frustration about the platform is that today. So that's what I publish. I hope things sort out before I sit down for tomorrow's session. Another chance to set things right.

We had guests at our home today early in the morning. Usually, I would get a lot flustered when there's an unplanned visit. Not today, as these are the guests that I generally look forward to meeting in real #life. And the meeting we had. It started with lots of chitchats about nothing in particular. Chitchats are usually that, aren't they?

We followed it up with a brunch, all delicacies of our choice and liking. Home delivered. A movie screening with popcorn at home. Winding the fun down with fresh mango ice cream. Everything was sprinkled throughout with lots of chatter and laughter.

I love such pleasant mornings when you meet folks you enjoy spending time with.

On the other hand, this messed up my routine thoroughly. I didn't do anything that I had planned to do. A couple of projects have been pushed to tomorrow. Some planned study time with my daughter got delayed. I hardly spent time alone with myself as there was none left. I didn't exercise; I screwed up my diet. I hardly read anything — the streak, alas, is broken.

Fortunately, a streak that isn't broken yet is spending the time before bed staring at the cursor blinking in this space. That I enjoy doing, and I am glad I didn't miss it even on a day like today of messed up routine.

There is a sudden rise in minimal blogging engines that claim to have simple, no-nonsense writing interfaces. I guess many developers realise there is no point in fighting the big platforms like WordPress and Ghost on the features they are pros at. Strip out everything bloggers do not want and call that a simple system. But it is difficult to be simple and still attract users — you can't roll out the same features WordPress has, just in black and white.

As I have noted in a couple of #meta posts till now, write.as does it well. It has got a brilliant writing interface and a wonderful default reading experience. It is not minimal. It is just pleasant enough. And it is in this restrained form that it achieves simplicity and yet looks and behaves aesthetically to appeal to users.

In quest of going minimal, many systems strip out the polish off the features they provide. They look ugly. To me, it matters how the systems look. If where I write doesn't give me a pleasant vibe, I may not visit the place that often. I am picky about the fonts in the places I read stuff at. Flaunting system default fonts is not my definition of simplicity.

A simple system is not one that makes and gives no choices. Instead, it makes bold, opinionated choices.

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