If I had to pick out two of the most exciting moments in my life, when I felt completely alive, when I’d truly found my happy place it would be easy. The first was in 1993 in Gainesville, Florida – for no reason in particular a firework war had broken out between the punk house I was staying at (and would later move into) and a rival punk house half a block away. This was not the “throw a pack of firecrackers at someone’s feet and run away” firework warfare I was used to growing up in Florida and Texas, this was an all out assault. People were chasing each other down the street with roman candles, bottle rockets were flying in every direction, m80’s being chucked blindly in any open window and home made gunpowder pressure bombs sending shockwaves a block over. The smoke in the street was so thick you’d choke and if you could see 5 feet in front of you you were lucky. That might have been the moment when I decided I had to live in that house. A few years later, living in Chicago, I somehow ended up downtown when the Chicago Bull’s won yet another championship and the streets were full of people celebrating. Of course by celebrating I mean lighting trash cans on fire and throwing them into the streets, flipping cars, glass bottle exploding into walls left and right. All the friends I was with at the time took off but I hung back and just walked around for hours surrounded by the chaos. I couldn’t soak in enough of it, and I knew it would be gone the next day. The streets of Berlin just past midnight on New Years is a very close third.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I like fireworks.
After many efforts and attempts I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m terrible at reading minds and equally bad at projecting my unspoken thoughts out into other people’s heads. It appears that, for now at least, actually speaking these thoughts and intentions is still the best way to convey them from one person to another. Initially I was frustrated by this but I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I’m not the only one in this predicament. So there’s that.
I’m amassing quite the collection of noise makers and while that could be an analogy for any number of things in this case I’m talking about actual noise makers. Weird electronic devices that spit out bleeps and boops and static. Each one on it’s own is mildly amusing for a few minutes, but I’ve got this weird idea that I can somehow run them all together in some chaotic daisy chain and make something interesting. I keep running into cabling problems. One device will only work with a mono cable, another only with stereo. Half of them are 1/4 plugs, the other 1/8. Only 2 of them have inputs, the rest are all out only. I bought a 4 channel mixer to try and handle some of that but that only has 1/4 plug inputs. What I’m left with at the moment is a bunch of random noise, which isn’t surprising given what I’m starting with. I keep hoping to pull something else out of it, though I’m not sure how I’d recreate that if I did. It’s for the band I keep telling myself, though I might be the only one in the band that feels that way.
See what I mean that this could be an analogy for anything.
Just about everytime I send out one of my email newsletters I lose a few subscribers. I don’t know if that’s a result of repeated failed delivery attempts that some automated system finally caps out on and boots them or someone who got the email and thought “oh this guy’s worthless crap again why did I ever subscribe to this, I need to get off this list” or maybe even someone having such a negative reaction to something I write that they unsubscribe immediately. Or maybe it’s none of those, but the fact remains as soon as I hit send I know some people on the list are going to disappear. Over the next 24-48 hours I typically add several more subscribers probably from people telling their friends or something so at the end of the day, by the time I get ready to send out the next letter a few days later the list is larger than it was before the previous people took off. I mentioned some of this on twitter yesterday in a bit of a joke and some people commented that I was better off without the folks who left – which may be true, but is honestly not something I tend to care about. When I first started generating lots of content online and putting it out for people – late 90’s or so – I ran headlong into the “making content for readers” problem. I was constantly stressing about what the audience wanted and what would help up my numbers and traffic and how to make more people happy. Which is impossible and a huge waste of time, and also results in being stressed and miserable. And I gave up on that rather quickly, I much prefer to put out things I’m happy with and that are interesting to me and see who that attracts, and if that happens to be 10s of people, or 100s of people or in some cases 1000s of people that’s great, but since I’m not really a content generator for a living this isn’t something I really worry about much. I’d rather have 100 people who genuinely dig my approach than 1000 people who are potentially annoyed and disengaged because they want me to be doing something else, or worse 10000 people who into things that I’m not into but I talked about just to try and get more people to pay attention and agree with me.
I’ll probably expand on this is a later and longer post but wanted to get a little of it down while it was on my mind.
I was listening to Ann’s podcast last night and she was talking about cultural literacy and particularly about Ta-Nehisi’s epic article about reparations and she mentioned an amusing WNYC piece about how to tell if someone had read this article or not, based in what they were talking about in regards to it. It seems, perhaps unsurprisingly that given the length of the piece and the politically charged issue it’s tacking, that a lot of people read the title and a few lines of the intro then walked away but this didn’t prevent them from spouting off in public with all kinds of opinions about the piece and critiquing the conclusions it came to – though often these people are critiquing the wrong conclusions because they didn’t actually read it. This lead to a further discussion about how often, in their race to be first, many journalists and commentators around the web will send out links to articles they haven’t read past the headline. And in many cases they never go back and read them, but will reference them later as if they had. So it’s a good thing that headlines are never misleading.
This got me thinking about a story in which some of the major players communicate through hidden messages buried late in long drawn our pieces published with incredibly boring titles. The secret messages not even being coded or disguised in anyway, just tacked on so late in an eye bleedingly boring story that no one other than the intended recipient would ever bother reading that far.
I was killing some time in a nearby record store yesterday when the conversation the owner was having with another customer made it’s way to a fairly common rumor about a friend of a friend. More than just a friend of a friend, the outright best friend of a close friend of mine for over 15 years – so I have some perspective on this. I’m friendly enough with the owner that I didn’t feel too bad about jumping in to point out that I was quite certain that this rumor wasn’t true. There was some is to/is not for a while while each of us casually suggested to the other that we had fist hand knowledge to back up our statements. No names were dropped by anyone but I shifted the discussion “so what?” because honestly this rumor is nothing about this person’s character, in this might be the most untarnished and widely recognized as a honest and stand up guy in an entire scene. Someone who across the board everyone agrees this guy has tried to do the right thing from day one, and been fairly successful at it. There are no stories about deals gone bad, no stories about backs being stabbed. So it’s interesting to me that absent anything negative to say about him personally it’s almost as if the world can’t handle it – how can there be a guy with no dirt at all – and generates orbiting crap that can be linked to him. This is intentionally vague of course, but it made me think about balance and reputations and how these things all fit together.
Last month was possible the worst in a long time for productivity for me at least in my interpretation. I feel like I got nothing done, though I’m sure I did, my mental todo list always seemed longer at the end of the day than it was in the beginning and even though I felt swamped and like I was working all day long I didn’t feel the accomplishment of crossing much off that list. I decided that for July I’m going to take a close look at that and see what I can do about how I’m running my day, what order and sequence I’m doing things and where I’m putting priority in order to help me feel like I’m getting more of what I want to do done. A few tricks I plan to use:
- Making a todo list the night before, so when a day starts I already know what I want to do rather than waiting for others to distract me.
- No phone at home. My phone is a major distraction and so I’m shelving it when I get home – if I’m doing work then I’m in front of my laptop or iPad, I don’t need my phone to me ever present as well.
- Notes. I’ve been working hard to take better notes, but now I have notes spread through several different notebooks. I picked up a Livescribe 3 pen to try to keep my notes better sorted and archived.
- Tracking. I have clear goals of how often I want to do X a month and I’m using an app to keep a better eye on my progress.
We’ll see how this goes. Now for coffee.
From time to time my friend Warren has good ideas and recently he set up a secretish blog that isn’t linked from all his other stuff with the purpose of giving him some place to write a little something every day and just help keep things flowing. A while back when I was doing the 750 words thing I found that the motivation to check that off the list every day was powerful and I was much more creative after writing it but then I missed a day and blew the streak and it was depressing and I never went back. I tried a few other times to get a habit going to various degrees of success so I thought I’d follow Warren’s lead here and set this up, don’t tell anyone and then just write some shit. Since I’m not linking to it from anywhere I don’t know who will find it or if I’ll cave and just tell people at some point but in the meantime I’m just going to use it to write a little stream of consciousness every day and hope it helps. Fingers crossed.