Category Archives: Writing

When Someone is Wrong on the Internet

I have a policy never to write a negative reply to an opinion on the Internet. But I still sometimes have negative reactions. At first, I try to let it go. That works a lot, but not always.

If I find myself thinking about it the next day, then I need to do something just to get it out of my head. In Reframing Anxiety, I wrote about how I’ve come to see anxiety as as asset. I see my anxiety as the flip-side to conscientiousness, which I need to be successful. There’s another way anxiety is working for me now.

Part of what’s happening when you read social media and see an opinion you disagree with is that you imagine that you are in a live debate with that person and that you are losing. You imagine that everyone can see this, so (if you are prone to anxiety) your brain will keep it in your head. You think you can solve it with the perfect remark. The problem is that both sides of the argument think this, so it quickly escalates.

What I am doing instead is using that energy to write my own post here that expresses my opinion on the subject. I write it in a positive tone. I don’t refer to the original post. I don’t post it on social media. It’s just here on my site outside of the conversation.

My inability to let it go helps me fulfill my personal commitment to write every day and I’m grateful for that.

Generating Podcast Episode Ideas

Tomorrow, I will record and publish episode 36 of Write While True. I have not given a lot of thought about the content yet except that I have the topic.

For each episode, all I want to do is end with a takeaway that I have learned about writing better, It feels like there should be a limitless number of topics, so I’m not worried about running out, but I still need to think of them.

To make it more focused, I have been using “seasons” to set a theme. At some point in the week, something that fits in the theme comes to me. Sometimes it’s from something I’m reading, or maybe another podcast, or it just pops into my head from some past bit of writing advice I saw somewhere.

Sometimes I get an idea that is not on theme. For that, I just make a card on my podcast Trello board. Eventually, there will be enough cards in some other theme that I can use to start a new season.

In a way it’s a lot like James Webb Young’s Technique for Producing Ideas. He recommends exposing yourself to both random things and the problem you are trying to solve. At some point, a new idea will pop into your head, since new ideas are just novel combinations of old ideas.

Then, you refine it, because the idea alone is only a seed, and not good enough on its own.

Announcing: Morning Pages Journal with Prompts

I’ve been experimenting with creating books for Amazon KDP using Page-o-Mat. My first book is a journal for writing prompted morning pages.

Cover for the Morning Pages Journal with Prompts book

There are 4 volumes of the journal, each offering a different 30 prompts.

If you don’t know what morning pages are, I covered them in two episodes of my podcast:

I have written about them in these posts:

The journal has two pages per prompt. At 8.5 x 11, it takes me 20-30 minutes to fill them, which is about the right length of time for morning pages. I set them up so that they are the front and back of the same page, so you could remove the page if you wanted.

I also encourage you to read and highlight past pages. At the back of the book is an index where you can harvest your favorite parts.

Page-o-Mat Minor Update

I made a minor update to Page-o-Mat to add a few features I need for a journal I want to make.

New keys

  • subtitle: for adding a subtitle to a page. There are also the font, color, and alignment variants
  • show-title: a boolean that controls whether or not to show the title. You can use a string expression based on the page/section/variant indexes. This allows you to have a title that might only be on the first page of a section. (there is also show-subtitle)
  • footer-space: For lined journals, this allows you to have some blank space at the bottom. I also renamed heading to header-space, but support both for backwards compatibility (I believe that New Versions Should be Substitutable)

My plan is to use this to make a writing practice / morning pages journal with prompts (see my podcast episode Write While True Episode 19: Prompt Your Morning Pages for the rationale behind this).

Oblique Strategies

I just ordered a copy of Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies (wikipedia)—a box of cards with single sentences meant to resolve dilemmas:

These cards evolved from separate observations of the principles underlying what we were doing. Sometimes they were recognised in retrospect (intellect catching up with intuition), sometimes they were identified as they were happening, sometimes they were formulated. They can be used as a pack, or by drawing a single card from the shuffled pack when a dilemma occurs in a working situation. In this case the card is trusted even if its appropriateness is quite unclear.

I’m interested in the idea of decks of cards with suggestions, so I ordered this one for my collection. Others include Writer Emergency Pack and The Daily Project Deck.

Make Art, not Content

The word “content” has become a catch-all for things that creators create. You hear it most on YouTube, which is weird to me because almost everything the “creators” there do is make videos, so I don’t know why they call it content or why they even call themselves creators. If they needed a catchall, we already had “Art”, which is what I use.

I know “Art” is a stretch, especially for the code, so, even though I use it, I don’t call myself an “Artist”. I usually call myself a “maker” to encompass programmer, writer, podcaster, sketcher, and graphic designer—but there isn’t a good equivalent word for the collection of output. Maybe “Works” or “Work” would be better, but it’s hard to use that word without explaining it. Art is also misleading, but I want to have that discussion.

I’m not always consistent. I call App-o-Mat a “content site”, because that’s what other people would call it. If there’s one thing good about “content”, it’s that people generally know what it means. But I don’t call this site ( a content site. In both my podcast and this blog, I refer to what this is as “art”.

Make Art with Friends is about my search for collaborators, but I think it was also the first time I realized this.

Soundtracks for Life

Maybe it’s my age, but the Rocky Theme pumps me up. I always run harder when it comes up in my playlist. The music from Rocky makes me think of the training montage, and then I want to exercise.

When I read (especially on an airplane), I listen to ocean waves. Music would be a distraction, but hearing waves won’t make me think about them.

I do sometimes listen to music when I program. I once read a study that it can help when doing mundane, rote tasks. Uptempo music helps me—I like to use dance music. Sometimes I’ll just put a single song on repeat.

Right now, I am writing this blog post while listening to “Going the Distance” from Rocky and Rocky II. It’s what plays right after Adrian tells Rocky to win. It’s a little more low-key than the main fanfare and for me, it means that it’s time to get down to business. I think it’s fine when I am trying to get out the words for the first draft, but I’ll probably have to shut it off when I edit.

In all of these cases, I am trying to use sound in the way that movie soundtracks work—to enhance the foreground activity. It’s working in tandem, manipulating my emotions while I am engaged in something else.

Minimum Viable Journal Entry

Most mornings, I get up and have a bowl of oatmeal. Then, while eating it, I open my journal and write down “Oatmeal” in the right margin of my daily journal entry. This is my minimum viable journal entry.

The idea comes from BJ Fogg and the Fogg Behavior Model (and described in Tiny Habits). To change your behavior, he recommends that you follow a formula that is patterned like this: “After I do [thing I do automatically], I will [do a very tiny version of the new thing I want to do]”. I use “After I eat oatmeal, I will write the word oatmeal in my journal” as a way to get myself journaling every day. After I write down “oatmeal”, I rarely stop.

I write down as much as I can from this list:

  • My appointments
  • My exercise plan
  • Three things I want to accomplish that day
  • What I will have for lunch and dinner

But, I’m ok with my journal entry for the day being “oatmeal”.

Journaling into an Empty Space

I stumbled upon an environment hack that helps me journal every day. Before this year, I just kept a running journal—each day just followed the last at whatever part of the page where the last one ended. If I skipped a day, then the journal just jumped in time. If I skipped a month (or two), then there was a bigger time jump. It’s annoying when I look over the journal, but there’s not much I can do about it.

Now I use a journal where there’s a space for each day. If I skip a day, I can reconstruct it from memory later. But, because there’s an empty space, I don’t often skip it.

Writing While Writing

A few years ago, I wrote a post, Writing While Reading, about how I write notes in Obsidian while I read.

I also write while I write.

While I am writing a blog post, I often will write whole paragraphs that don’t fit. If I’m doing a good job of editing, I will remove that paragraph, but I don’t delete it. I select and cut the paragraph, but then I go to Obsidian and paste it into a new note. I try to find at least one other note to link it to.

At some point in the future, that paragraph might find itself in a post where it makes sense. Or, more likely, I will add more notes around its core idea and develop something around it.