Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving 2017!

I've been on vacation this week and have spent the last two days cleaning out the attic at my father's house. There have been a lot of memories rediscovered - old toys from my childhood and many pictures, newspaper clippings, etc. 

This has been a good thing. It's like the whole family, many long gone, have been gathered back together one final time at Thanksgiving and that is a good thing. I'll be going through the totes of items I saved in the coming weeks and will be sharing some of them here and on Facebook and Instagram.

I hope you have a fantastic Thanksgiving. I am very thankful for those of you I first met through blogging so long ago and I am looking forward to what 2018 will bring for all of us.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

I'm not ignoring just you. I'm ignoring everyone!

I think I hit peak social media at about the middle of this last week. I had been doing well with my NOtification policy but kept missing stuff and felt like I had freed up more time than I really needed  so, like a forgetful fool suffering from a serious case of FOMO, I turned most everything back on at the start of the week and by Wednesday notifications were lighting up the screen like crazy and I was once again finding myself constantly distracted by bleeps and bloops.

As of yesterday, I went back to my previous settings, turning all of the notification sounds off except for my work emails (which I am paid to read), my iMessages (which is the main way my children pester me about things). I turned off lock screen pop ups from all social media apps on my phone since it sits on my desk while I work and just having the pop up catch my eye was a distraction. I left them on my iPad since I only look at it when I want to. These changes give me control over my notifications (again).

The only way I know I have a social media notification on my phone is to unlock it and look at the badge app icon. On my iPad, I have to open the cover and see the lock screen. Nothing buzzes. Nothing beeps. Nothing bloops. I work or read or sit staring at the wall oblivious of everything happening in the world unless I choose to look.

Of course, I instantly started missing things and fell behind on Twitter conversations (which sort of stinks because I don't want to exclude myself from having the chance to communicate with my far-flung friends) and missed news events (which is actually a blessing).

I've discovered that I can't have it both ways. Social media is either ON or OFF. Even with the limited notifications I get (For example, I have never been notified of every like on a Tweet or Facebook post), I still get a lot of notifications if I leave it all on. If I turn it off, I can somehow feel the pile piling up. Yesterday I looked at my iPad at lunch and the lock screen had at least 30 missed messages between just Twitter and Slack. It felt overwhelming but it's better than having my concentration broken thirty separate times when I am trying to work or not trying to think, both actions that I had forgotten are of equal importance.

I toyed with this Thursday, reducing my frustration a tad over Wednesday and went full in yesterday, starting this day of change ironically by posting a tweet explaining my intentions:
That graphic goes with this great post by Austin Kleon, explaining each step a bit further:
  • Log off (get out now)
  • Mute all (turn off notifications)
  • Carry on (without hope and without despair)
By yesterday afternoon, I could feel my time freeing up again. I was very productive at work and I again had a decision to make. I could enable a couple of notifications and stay caught up with the onlines or I could try to think of what I used to do with free time before I had social media and an endless internet to waste occupy my time.

The choice was clear. I opened a book and read for a bit. Then I started charging some batteries and pulled out my old Eton E5 shortwave radio. Instead of aimlessly surfing the internet all evening (I did a bit, I have to admit), I tuned up and down the bands and marveled at the distant voices coming through the static. It's been a long time since I did that.

I think NOtifications is going to stay for good this time, especially during my work days. I'm even adding this line to my Twitter profile: NOtifications off 7AM-5PM CST, M-F.

It's not me. It's not you. It's everyone!

So, if you tweet me or send me a Slack message or tag me in an Ello post, don't be discouraged if I don't get right back to you. I'm probably busy being busy or busy not being busy. Both are equally important, both actions that I also had forgotten are of equal importance.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The faux coffee community

A little earlier this afternoon, I started thinking about coffee and then I started thinking about Starbucks and how I thought back in August that regular Friday mornings at Starbucks might turn into a thing for me.

They didn't.

They didn't because I immediately questioned my motives behind wanting to go sit in Starbucks and work, read, write, etc. What is the advantage of going to Starbucks over just staying home? I am more comfortable at home. The chairs there are hard and the tables a tad wobbly. The coffee here is a lot cheaper and I don't have to worry about someone stealing my laptop if I need to go to the bathroom.

I considered some of the people I saw in Starbucks. Some tables were full of people, probably study groups or work colleagues. I get that. But the people I saw alone were either reading or feverishly typing into laptops. None of these people were talking to anyone else. Most tables of four had only one person seated.

We were all there alone, sitting at our own little tables, sipping expensive coffee and doing things we could be doing anywhere. Why choose that place? Is it the music? Is it the desperate need to escape for a bit from our cubicles or classrooms or dorm rooms? Or do we simply just want to be seen as the type of people who can afford to buy and sip expensive coffee while we work, read, write, etc.? Or do we simply wish to convince ourselves that we are the type of people who can afford to buy and sip expensive coffee while we work, read, write, etc.?

Regardless of our motives, for a few dollars spent on coffee that most likely originated in a place we'll never be able to afford to visit (and maybe also a pastry) as the price of admission, we can temporarily buy into another life, admitting ourselves for a half-hour or so (that's as long as I last since the seats are so uncomfortable) into this faux community of jazz-listening, espresso-drinking sophisticates and hipsters that doesn't really exist. It's all a facade that is being sold to us and we will happily sit there working, reading, writing, etc. and adding to the mirage of this faux community by our presence, another actor paying to play a part in the big show.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Knowing when to fold 'em!

Several podcasting pals and myself gathered around the glowing computer screens last night and tried to resurrect an old podcasting project that had been lingering in our minds for a few months. I think it was no more than ten minutes in before we realized why this podcast had gone away in the first place but we trudged on until the end so we could make a clear, final judgement.

That judgement was that it's a no go.

As a creator, the toughest and best decision you have to make from time to time is to NOT do something. Maybe it doesn't fit in with the overall trajectory of your creative life. Maybe it's just not fun. Regardless, it's best to invest the short time we have here doing the things we really love and sharing the creations that add something unique to the creative communities we find ourselves residing in.

The last thing I want to do is create something that ends up feeling like a "to-do" to me and to the consumer of whatever I create. I want to add a little levity to someone's tough day. I want people to not shake their head and feel apprehensive when they see a new post from me pop up in Twitter or a podcast I am a part of download to their app. I want to be a part of podcasts that I don't dread when I see the clock getting closer and closer to recording time.

Creators need to know their strengths. Having the courage to admit that our strength lies elsewhere is not giving up or a sign of some sort of failure. Spending more time doing what we love and less time doing what doesn't work is actually the opposite of failure. It's part of the pursuit of excellence that should dictate how we do everything we do, whether it's something we do to make money or something we do just because we love to create.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

We are not that busy so why are we so busy?

As I finished the fourth of four loads of clothes yesterday, I thought to myself, "Wow! We must have had a productive weekend!"

It makes me wonder what we would do if we were normal, normal meaning having our children in tons of extracurricular activities. I don't know how some people get anything done with their schedules and I get stressed out over my own from time to time although we have always purposely tried to limit what our children are involved in so they could have time to just be kids and rest and even waste some time now and then. My thought is that there will be plenty of time to have no time to waste later. No point in going full blast until you have to.

Yes, they are busier these days and we had band-related activities Saturday, Sunday and even Monday evening. And let's not forget their social schedules including seeing friends in plays, birthday parties, etc. etc.

I'm looking forward to a few weeks without much of anything on the evening schedule. Starting today, we have until December 3rd before our next out of the ordinary event (another day in the concession stand at the NFL game).

It's the first prolonged break/return to normal since July and as much as I look forward to the rest I don't look forward to being inactive and lazy and sluggish. I now have this need to do something, anything, other than just sit at home all the time and this will contribute to more dirty clothes that need to be washed but that's alright. I'm sure I'll preserve a few lazy days on the calendar to stay around the house so I can get them all done.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The holiday whirl

Today is the day I take a long look at my calendars, work and personal, and make sure everything is remembered, considered and scheduled for now until the end of the first week of January. After this week, the holiday season momentum will fire up into full swing and the rest of the year will be a blur of meetings, days off, band stuff, appointments and holidays. I even have some dentist and doctors appointments thrown in there to keep it as hectic as possible.

As of right now, I think (think) I have everything adequately planned out. I even printed out my calendar to examine more closely at the kitchen table. If I print something and take it to the kitchen table, you know I am investing full concentration.

In other news, it sure feels like Thanksgiving now. There is a definitely a chill in the air and today is another cloudy, dreary day. The sunshine returns tomorrow and a true sign of Thanksgiving will happen in the afternoon when I set out the inflatable turkey.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Another post that is all bread and no meat

Back on November 1, I declared that I would try to write one post a day here for the whole month and twice I have posted stuff so lazy that they fall under a new category I added called lazy post. This is not good. I don't want to post crap just so I can say I wrote something. So, the pledge to write each day of the month ends today. I'll be back when and only when I feel I have something worthwhile to share. That might be tomorrow. It might be next week. I'm just no longer going to force myself to sit down and write when I don't particularly feel like it.

Also, I had the whole @jasonwriteshere Twitter thing that I thought I would turn into a writing-centered deal. I've given up on that also and will just leave @jasonwriteshere as a place that all of the links to these posts go. I'm getting the inspiration/stealing the idea from Seth Godin's @ThisIsSethsBlog account. I also noticed that he never responds to anything on Twitter from that account. A list of links is all it is. I like it.

For now, @jasonwriteshere has been moved back to private. I had to clean out some spammy followers but will probably open it back up in a few weeks and just pretty much ignore it.

Why the Twitter change of heart? I got tired (fast) of swapping back and forth between accounts on my phone. I was following some people on one account and not on the other. I was accidentally tweeting on one account when I meant to use the other one. And none of this time-wasting or confusion was making me any money! It's all about the money, folks! I don't mind not making any writing here and recording on the podcast as long as I am not totally wasting my time and only wasting a little bit of yours.

Back to my no rules existence on the internet. I'll tweet, blog, record, etc. when I feel like it and only when I feel like it because I know that I enjoy tweeting, blogging and recording more when I'm not putting pressure on myself to do so.