On patience

I’m writing this on a train somewhere between Oakland and Van Nuys on the Coast Starlight train line. It’s my first attempt at writing anything substantial in quite some time. I’m a little uncertain how this will go. But I don’t expect to finish today. That is, I don’t anticipate this writing exercise to reach some conclusive state, at least not right now. I plan on returning to this tomorrow, maybe later in the week. I’ll cut, paste and tinker with the wording until I’m happy. What’s the rush?

Projects are long-term

I don’t have internet access at the moment (although I do have an iPhone), so I’m writing this without my usual distractions. At least not counting the amazing scenery. I’m using WordPress, an open source blogging application. Because WordPress is free to download and run on your own computer I don’t need an internet connection. This is a very nice setup for offline writing.

It was a big decision for me to start using WordPress. I’ve been kicking around some code for a long (long) time, intending to build this site from scratch. That project has been revised, over-thought, reworked and started over more times than I’d like to admit. WordPress is just there already and really the point should be the product, not the tool. So here we go.

I’m not abandoning my website building project. On the contrary, I intend this site to migrate beyond WordPress at some point. Or maybe not, it doesn’t really matter. I’ll continue working on my own thing, tentatively named Grid Publish, until it gets boring for me. And I’ll probably keep using WordPress. I’m already using it for client work and, because the code is open, the threat of vendor lock-in is low.

The other project

Patience, in the context of creative work, sometimes takes on the guise of procrastination. I’ll often distract myself with a short project instead of the other thing I really ought to be working on. My style of procrastination is less about inactivity than it is a period of frenzied production. Strangely I procrastinate by working, but in pursuit of a short term emotional reward instead of some tangible incentive.

Completing one of these proxy projects gives me a temporary sense of accomplishment then it’s back to the main event. Sometimes this process doesn’t work out so well. I miss deadlines, I lose focus on my priorities. But the diversion also provides a mental break. I can return to my original task with newfound perspective. The overall effect leaves me feeling happier and more capable. It’s probably less efficient than keeping on the “one true path,” but the end result is better.

This blog is for later

This latest incarnation of phiffer.org is not the first attempt I’ve made at blogging. On a number of occasions I’ve felt this need to start documenting things. I’ll be going about my life, thinking thoughts, having discussions. And some nagging part of my brain will insist This Means Something. So I do what I always do: open up a text editor and start typing.

Eventually I end up with something that resembles a blog. But different. It’s like a blog, but I made it from scratch. After two months the novelty has worn thin and the whole thing feels like a burden. Suddenly this manual process of editing HTML files (I always launch with the bare minimum technology), then writing code that manages my creative output, all feels like work. My good intentions of improving the process – maybe cleaning it up and releasing it for others to use – evaporate in a poof of competing tasks.

And then I stop. I’ll leave it up or take it offline for a while, but my energies center on more practical things. What’s leftover, though, is golden. I love returning to my old writing, links and photos. I cringe at some of it, but those artifacts I’ve left for myself are always worth keeping.

So here’s what’s coming next: finishing projects I’ve already committed to (see: Wikipedia Offline), starting up some new things, bring back some old projects that went offline. Take pictures, make some field recordings. All in good time.