I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the course of the last week, some of which manifested itself as a post about a letter to my 23-year-old self which I published yesterday. A lot of the thinking has been about art, and writing, and how I’ve allowed the practice of my writing to lapse a little. Some of it was about the tools that I use, and considered what the right things are to inspire me.
I’ve been reading a book called Japonisme by Erin Niimi Longhurst over the past couple of weeks. It’s a book about Japanese culture and her relationship to it. Some of it is just about the cultural practices themselves, some about the attitudes which spawn them.
One thing apparent throughout is the Japanese understanding of the importance of tools, of choosing the right one for the job and of caring for them in the right way.
I have always unknowingly shared the late 20th Century Western attitude towards tools: disposability. And I’ve coupled this to the technologist’s approach to physical tools: there is always a better one coming out next year.
So much of how we approach technology is formed by the knowledge that whatever you use is outdated almost at the point you acquire it.
Because computers are so malleable they also invite constant change in how we work, too. The almost infinite flexibility that software provides means that we can change the process by which we create things almost at will. It also means there’s a temptation to fiddle with the way we create.
I wrote a review earlier this week of the Freewrite and I mentioned that the device is opinionated. Its lack of flexibility forces you into a particular way of working with words: first thinking, then drafting, then editing, with the role of the Freewrite sitting solely in the middle. You can’t edit on it, which means you have to adopt that draft to edit process. It forces you to codify the idea into a draft, then to use another tool to pare it back into something worth saying.
Compress fossilised trees for long enough, and you get coal. Compress coal for long enough, and you get diamonds. So much of what we write never gets beyond being coal: valuable, but not valuable enough.
The first couple of days of this week also saw me reestablish my practice of going for a walk in the morning before settling down to work. This is a very different lockdown to the last one. Last time there were almost no cars on the road. The parade of four-by fours taking children to the private school at the top of the road is back with a vengeance, leading to increased air pollution which, I have no doubt, leaves those middle-class parents wondering why their child has asthma. The cognitive dissonance which those kinds of parents manage to have never ceases to amaze me.
On Tuesday, I had the realisation that I’m 17 years away from retiring. That is exactly the distance between now and when I left MacUser magazine in 2003, and that feels like about five minutes ago. We live our lives on a logarithmic scale, inching forward like tortoises when we’re young and gradually learning to walk, then run, then sprint, until your later years start to pass by at an alarming pace. Life moves pretty fast…
Things I’ve been reading this week
Apple has some new Macs out, you might have noticed. This is a really sensible look at the new M1-equipped Macs and their implications.
A great piece of writing about the lovely new Raspberry Pi 400. Related: I am really glad the Chuck is doing actual proper blogging again. One of my favourite writers and he’s giving us more words!
A good strategic look at the M1 Macs from the fantastic team at TechPinions
It turns out that under-18s love books more than almost any other medium. How good is that?
Google has started charging for photo storage. Like Om, I think this is overblown, but also it should have been obvious that sooner or later Google would want more money. You don’t get owt for nowt, as my dad used to say.
Some really tips on how to write an article when you’re utterly bereft of inspiration. Which is about where I am now, so I’ll leave it at that.
Aww thanks so much for the mention, Ian. And I’m especially honoured that it’s from someone like you, who does content for a living. And here I am still thinking about that danged Freewrite!
I’m only just now seeing your extremely flattering comment, and I’m much appreciated! It’s come at a perfect time since I’ve been wondering if there’s any point at all to posting my rambling and often shallow observations onto the internet!
I’m only just noticing this mention, and I’m extremely flattered! Even though I’m a month late, it’s come at a perfect time, since I’ve been wondering if there were any point to continuing to broadcast my pointless rambling onto the internet. Getting a compliment from a writer that I like a lot has made my day.