Category Archives: Writing

It was 20 years ago today…

I started this blog on December 23, 2003 with this post about automating software processes. I had just decided to leave my job in the new year and start consulting, so I thought it would be a good idea to have a website with a blog, so I made a simple one. I don’t even remember what software I used. Soon after, I ported it to Fogcreek’s CityDesk.

At some point I decided to use a Mac full-time, so I ported the site to RapidWeaver. And then like many others, I ended up on WordPress, which I still use. I have a giant redirect file that keeps the URLs from CityDesk and RapidWeaver working.

I’ve written about the impact that this blog has had on my life and career before, so I’ll just leave some links and not repeat myself

2024 Page-o-Mat Journal

Last year, I released Page-o-Mat, a YAML-based language for defining journal PDFs so that I could make my own Recurring Journal. I used this journal all throughout 2023 and gave some updates along the way: The First 13 Weeks, The Second 13 Weeks, and The Third 13 Weeks. I split the year into 13 week quarters because I do all of my planning by weeks and months and quarters aren’t regular enough.

I just finished making the 2024 version and got a nice surprise. Because January 1st is a Monday, and 2024 is a leap year, the first three quarters line up on 13-week boundaries. Jan 1, April 1, and July 1 are all 13-weeks apart and on Mondays. It’s unnecessary for the way I like to journal, but I do appreciate this. It won’t happen again until 2052.

I pushed the new yaml to the Page-o-Mat repo. There are instructions for building the PDF in the README. I will also be putting a book based on this PDF on LuLu.

TL;DR Yourself

If you write long-form text, people are going to paste it into ChatGPT to get a summary. Do it yourself and put a well-written summary near the beginning.

If that summary is sufficient, delete the rest of the text.

Shut Up & Write

I went to a Shut Up & Write meetup today at a café here in Sarasota. It’s a simple idea. You get there, you say hi, some chit-chat, then you shut up and write for an hour. I decided to spend it doing stream-of-consciousness writing and just keep the pen moving across the page for an hour.

You’d think I could salvage something from it for this post today, but I had some weird dreams last night I wanted to work out.

Anyway, Shut Up & Write was fun. There are events everywhere if you want to try it out.

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.