This is a very interesting article about the influence of Facebook and Google has over society and the unbalanced discourse that has been growing over recent years. It’s been a recurring concern of mine about Micro.blog and the many calls I’ve seen on there for diversity. They have rarely, if ever, included calls for people who take a more conservative stance. Balance is something that is needed if the service is to avoid the pitfalls that created the echo chambers we find on Twitter and Facebook now.

Letter Play

When I was back home at my parents over Christmas I sorted through a couple of boxes of bits that were taking up some space in the room I sleep in when I’m there. During the process I came across some of my old sketchbooks from my Art Foundation course and had a flick through.

I was struck by how different they were compared to the notebooks I’ve been keeping for the last few years. They were full of creativity. Each page was different, whether it was exploring my own ideas on a project, or a contextual spread about a designer or artist that inspired me.

The last couple of days have been odd ones for me. After many months of not feeling much of the effects of my depression, yesterday when I woke up I could feel the heaviness and fog of it. I had the same thing this morning, so I’ve done what is the only thing I can do. I’ve tried to push on and not let it stop me doing my work.

This evening I put a film on, one of my favourites, Good Will Hunting and grabbed my sketch book, a scalpel, two magazines I get free from Waitrose, a pritt-stick, and my Bible. I flicked to one of my favourite verses and while I watched the film I sat on the floor cutting out words and letters.

It’s been a long time since I did anything like this and about ten minutes before the film finished I had finished. It might’ve taken me a lot longer than I remember it taking, but for those two hours there was no fog and I was just able to enjoy being absorbed in something a little more creative than my normal design work.

Establishing New Habits Without Apps ›

I’ve been trying to establish some new habits lately so this was a timely post from CJ Chilvers. I’ve been using the app Streaks like he mentions to keep focused on some of my habits, but there is a certain lack of accountability that goes with it. When a big streak gets broken it’s very hard to find the energy to start again.

One thing I’ve found a bit easier to face when starting—or restarting—a project is to break it down to months. Define the goal, decide to begin it at the start of the next month, and then make sure you’re ready to go in the time in between. The space allows you to process what you’re aiming to accomplish, and allows you the time you need to make sure you’re ready to get going.

In response to my post the other day, John Philpin responded with a quote from his Mum. I really liked it so wanted to share it here for more people to discover.

Mom: “Remember … don’t forget to write to me at least once a week – even better – every day.”

Me: “Every day! There wont be enough to say every day!”

Mom: “You will find that the more you write the more you will have to say, because then everything is important. If you only write once a month, there will be nothing important enough to write about.”

Don’t forget to write

Write More ›

Cameron Moll posted a thread on Twitter urging people to write. Here are the four tweets quoted:

I’ve found it incredibly difficult to make time for long-form writing the past few years. When I have, the catalyst has been reminding myself of the tremendous ROI as a designer, manager, business owner, and so on.

If you want to be a better designer, write more.
If you want to be a better manager, write more.
If you want to be a better biz owner, write more.
You can also substitute “speak more” for each of these.

The act of synthesizing what’s in your head for an audience of critics leads to increased analytical thinking, self-awareness, clarity, and much more.

Last but not least, you inspire others to write—or at the very least ‘write’ by joining the conversation you’ve started.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about lots the last couple of weeks. I’ve been wanting to post to my blog more because I think it will be beneficial for me in many ways, one of which to help me build discipline and self-control in other areas of my life.

The thing that really strikes me about this Twitter thread, the whole thing would make a good blog post. It probably would’ve been easier to post to a blog as well, likely have a longer life span, and consequently have more of an impact. Not all writing on a blog has to be long to have an impact, if it’s worth stringing four tweets together in a thread to make a point, it’s worthy of a blog post.

Thoughts On Just Turning Up

I’ve been thinking a little more about the link I posted to Austin Kleon’s blog the other day. I finished it with the line

Instead there should just be turning up to write down a thought and seeing where it takes you.
It’s a sentiment that you hear quite regularly around the Internet these days. Just keep turning up every day and do the thing—whatever your thing is.

The phrase turning up is just a less intimidating way of saying be disciplined. Turning up to write a blog post everyday is a discipline, just as reading your bible every day is or getting up without pressing the snooze button.

As I get older I’m understanding more and more that learning to be disciplined is one of the most important things you can do. It can effect every area of your life and it’s easy to assume that discipline is something that you have or you don’t. That you’re either able to be disciplined or you’re not, but that’s not the case. Discipline, I’m learning, is something you can develop. It’s like a muscle, the more you work it the stronger it gets.

The hard part, I believe, is not getting started but maintaining and developing. Everyone can start something, doing it for a couple of days before they get distracted or it begins to feel like work, and then stopping because it requires effort to continue. But that’s where you need to begin exercising that muscle of discipline, when things feel too hard keep going regardless, over time how hard it feels will disappear and instead it will become something you do each and every day.

So join me in learning to be disciplined. Starting tomorrow morning decide what time you’re going to get up, set your alarm and then get up when it goes off. No snoozing, no rolling over, just turn off that alarm and get up. Then do it the next day, and the next, until it becomes something you just do.

Thoughts as Nest Eggs ›

Today when you say “nest egg” many think of money saved and put away, but a literal “nest egg” is a real or fake egg that you put in a nest to encourage a bird or a hen to lay more eggs there. So what Thoreau is saying is that by simply writing down a thought, you encourage more thoughts to come. When you have enough thoughts pushed together in the same space — a collage of thoughts, juxtaposed — they often lead to something totally new.

This is the magic of writing.

Austin Kleon wrapped up a recent post with the quote above. The post on one level is about journaling and writing in general, but do you know what else that quote describes? A blog.

A blog is nothing more than a series of thoughts written down over a period of time. When you think about it that way it’s incredibly freeing. There should be no pressure. Instead there should just be turning up to write down a thought and seeing where it takes you.

Self Portraits ›

This is a really interesting post from Colin Walker about what we have effectively been doing on social media for the last 10 years. Painting a self portrait of ourselves over time.

I’ve never thought about it like that before, and when you add in you’re own blog or personal site, it makes for a rich and textured ongoing piece. His conclusions at the end of the post are challenging…

We can tell the stories we think other people want to hear. We can tell skewed stories as we are often not truly honest with ourselves. We tell other people’s stories rather than our own, without comment, without opinion.

What use are the wrong stories and are we doing ourselves a disservice by telling them?

I think, that without realising it, over the last few months of trying to revitalise my blog and using Micro.blog I and many others are trying to reclaim our stories and take hold of the paintbrush.

Posting to Twitter through your own site first changes the focus of the service entirely. We go from being a passive consumer, liking, retweeting, replying, with the occasional original post, to an original post being the focus. We are creating and adding to our own story rather than expanding and adding to someone else’s. Of course it’s not wrong to be involved in other people’s lives, we are created to be in community, but by creating first the involvement turns into a conversation rather than just turning the volume up for someone else. There’s a balance to be found.

A mid-year review

Last week I was away at the CMJ Conference, I had the pleasure of joining them to take photos of the event, post to social media throughout it on their accounts, and to hear some excellent bible teaching in the process. It lasted from Friday afternoon to late Sunday afternoon, and by the time I got home I was absolutely exhausted. I spent most of the week recovering whilst trying to work and, thankfully, have spent most of this weekend doing some serious introverting at home.

Last Saturday afternoon while I was sat on the sofa reading and watching Le Tour, it struck me that we are nearly at the end of July. We’re over halfway through the year and it seemed like a good time to review some of the goals I set out with at the start of the year.

For those who don’t know, I laid them out in my now page at the start of the year, which saw an update in April. Whilst I didn’t make a post here about those updates, a mid year review of those aims seems like a good thing to make note of.

Health & Personal

One of my aims at the start of the year was to take better care of myself than I’ve done in previous years. I bought a Fitbit and set out to hit the 10,000 steps per day goal. That aim is going reasonably well. I’m hitting an average of 9,219 steps per day, which isn’t quite the 10,000 I’m aiming for. However when you consider that I’ve spent a total of 2 weeks taken out by illness (thanks former housemates for sharing your bugs) or my wisdom tooth operation when I barely hit 1000 steps a day, I’ll take it.

In terms of exercise, I was playing football most weeks until it stopped for the summer, although I wasn’t enjoying it quite as much as I had done. The couch to 5K plan hasn’t really happened either, running is something I do not enjoy, I find it frustrating and boring so easily become demotivated to do it. I have however been doing a Fitstar work out most weeks since May, although I confess that June/July has not been great on this front I’ve started that up again this weekend.

Faith

I’m pleased to say that I am still working through the 5 Day Reading Plan. I’ve gotten behind a few times but never more than a week, and what’s more, I don’t find myself reading out of obligation but out of desire to keep reading The Word of The Lord.

My use of the Prayer Mate app has also continued although much more spottily. I go through phases of using it everyday and then phases of only using it here and there. That’s ok though, it’s a tool after all and not an obligation or the only way to pray. The times I’ve used it well it’s been beneficial, but so have the times when I have not used it as much.

When it comes to the memorisation of scripture, I’ve not been quite so good. The Verses app is still on my iPhone, but I haven’t used it as much as I hoped. I plan to be more intentional over the second half of the year to make use of this app.

Freelancing

I’m still continuing to do this, and in fact the last couple of months have been busy and very enjoyable. Please do recommend me or get in touch if you know anyone who might need some design work.

This Site

I am posting to this site more regularly, although the majority of the posts are small status type posts I have been able to post a few more considered posts. One thing I’ve noticed it that I am posting less links which means that more of the content here is original and not pointing to somewhere else. One thing I have decided to do is put less pressure on myself to post, it’s my site after all and so why should there be a pressure to put something here if I’m not feeling creative in that way.

I have also started another side project, and I can’t decide whether to dual post here as well as there. In the mean time it will remain where it is and on Medium as a publication.

Reading

My Goodreads Reading Challenge is on track. Of the 25 books I pledged to read I’ve read 13 so far and am a good chunk through 2 more. Once again the number of fiction books are outweighing the non-fiction ones, which is understandable as I read at the end of each day to help me relax, it is something I would like to be more even over the next half of the year.


On reflection it’s been a pretty good first half of the year, both in terms of the goals I set out to accomplish and in some of the things that happen in life. My prayer is that the second will continue in this vein, perhaps with a bit more progress on the healthier living side of things than I’ve had so far.

Walking

Back in January 2015 when I realised I was ill, and consequently started a course of antidepressants, many people encouraged me to exercise. I had been a keen cyclist and they encouraged me to keep at it and get out on my bike as much as I could. I was told, and in fact read many times, that exercise was a great way of countering some of the symptoms of depression. My issue was that the thought of going out on my bike caused me anxiety and stress, both things which I was trying to avoid and so I dismissed the notion as not for me. Nearly two and a half years later I’m starting to understand a little of what the mysterious they were talking about.

About a month ago I moved into a new flat, one which I’m living in on my own, it’s great to have my own space again. As a consequence of that move I’ve been doing a lot more walking. It’s located in such a place that I can walk to pretty much everywhere I need to go on a regular basis. I can walk to my shifts at the coffee house, my church, a couple of supermarkets, as well as the centre of town, and I’ve been doing that as much as is practically possible. It’s become a time that I enjoy, an opportunity to pop my headphones in and listen to some music or catch up on a few podcasts.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve begun to notice something, when I don’t get my daily walks in my mood suffers. The realisation has come home to roost this bank holiday weekend. On Saturday and Monday I didn’t really go out. I stayed home in my flat tinkering on my websites, making a few adjustments, watching some TV shows, what most people call relaxing. And it has been just that, but today I noticed the heaviness creeping in, it made me realise what effect going out for a walk has on me.

It’s not just the small amount of exercise that a brisk walk provides that I’ve missed today, it’s the intentionality of going for a walk. Instead of the day just passing by, the act of walking to work is intentional and provides an element of structure to my day. I need to schedule in the time for my walk to work otherwise I won’t get there on time letting people down. It helps that my walk to work is a pleasant one down an old railway line, that’s what’s in the photo at the top of this post, for a moment I can be lost in the wonder of looking at the trees and greenery as I walk. It provides a chance to look at God’s creation and see how the same place changes from day to day. It’s a chance to walk and listen to some new music or the latest podcasts, in my own little world that’s outside in the wider world. It’s a chance to pop the headphones out and walk listening to the birds and rustling of the trees. When the sun’s out it’s especially enjoyable, but even on a rainy day I look forward to my walk to work.

Almost by accident I’ve discovered that the act of walking to work provides me with a moment of calm. In that walk there is nothing I can do for my design business, nothing I need to do for my coffee house shift, no tweets or Instagram photos to catch up on (unless I want to walk into my fellow walkers or be run over by the many cyclists), I can just enjoy the simple act of walking.

Seth Godin Explains Why You Should Blog Daily ›

With the arrival of Micro.blog my interest in my blog has picked up considerably. It’s always been there bubbling at the back of my mind, but actively posting micro posts to it has me once again looking to post other content more regularly. CJChilvers linked to an article by Seth Godin that Explains Why You Should Blog Daily resonated deeply with me and the growing desire to post to this site more regularly. It’s both a creative outlet both and a mental outlet that I know will be good for me. I intend to mix the content I post between links, quotes and original articles/thoughts alongside the afore mentioned micro posts.

Deep Prayer > Deep Work ›

There’s been a lot of talk on the internet circles I follow about focus and deep work. They’re thought provoking and often resonate with me, but there’s one thing I’ve been struggling to reconcile in it all. The focus of all these discussions is usually aimed at putting your individual desires first, which doesn’t really jive with my Christian beliefs.

Chris Bowler, in his excellently considered article Deep Prayer > Deep Work, seems to demonstrate I’m not alone. In doing so he seems to capture exactly how this kind of thinking should be influencing my approach to my faith.

But over and over, I come back to the fact that while Newport’s concept of increasing our ability to focus is crucial to a successful career, it’s even more crucial to a successful Christian life. One that is lived attuned to the Spirit. One that is carefully watching to see where God is working, then ready and willing to join him in it.

My Movember Page

So tomorrow is the first day of November or Movember as it’s come to be known. It might not be as fashionable as it used to be but I’ve always been a fan of it, anything that raises the awareness of mens health. This year I noticed they also do work towards raising the awareness of mental health in men. As someone who has been affected by mental illness (depression specifically) I decided this year was the year I would take part.

If mental illness has affected you or someone you know please do consider sponsoring my moustache!

The Dedication Olympics

As I sit writing this the BBC are showing their roundup video of the Rio Olympics. Normally when it comes to the Olympics I’m pretty glued to it for the few weeks that it runs. This year, maybe due to the time difference, it took a week or so for me to get in to it.

It was only when the track cycling came on and Team GB started to win medals that I started to watch. The success of the British team on this field is mind-blowing, every four years the team hits form perfectly and brings home gold medal after gold medal. Similarly, the success of the Brownlee brothers in the Triathlon, so consistent year after year resulting this year in the first triathlete to retain the gold medal. Then there’s Andy Murray, only weeks after winning Wimbledon, retaining his gold medal. Not to mention the many other athletes who’ve won medals for Team GB, helping us as a nation to finish second in the medal table.

Most years by the end of the games I’m inspired. I want to try a new sport, or return to an old one I used to play. This year is a bit different. I’ve not been inspired to go and do sport, but instead by the dedication that unites these athletes. Each and every one of them has a level of dedication that blows me away. They are able to apply themselves for every single day between olympic cycles. For four years they are able to focus their energy on one thing so that they can give themselves the best possible shot to win that gold medal.

During one of the events one of the commentators picked up on this. I don’t think it was what he meant, but the way it came across as he spoke of it was that these athletes seem to have a gift none of the rest of the world does. Not in terms of their sporting prowess, but in their ability to apply themselves and dedicate themselves to their chosen discipline. It’s an easy mindset to fall into, but it’s also a dangerous one.

Discipline or dedication is not a thing that we just have, it’s something we can learn. Each and everyone of us can learn discipline and self control in order to focus on something. In order to grow and develop into a great writer it takes dedication and discipline to turn up and write each day. For the artist it takes hours of painting, the musician hours of playing their instrument. Dedication is something we can grow in and get better at. The more we dedicate ourselves to do something, the more likely we are to do it. For the olympic athlete, turning up to training on a wet Monday morning in November makes them more likely to turn up for training on a wet November Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Likewise, writing a post for this blog on a Sunday makes me more likely to want to write one for tomorrow. I don’t want to break the chain or waste the time I spent the day before.

As many people are want to say on the internet at the moment, the key to everything is showing up everyday. The key to winning a gold medal is showing up everyday with an unrelenting dedication to your sport. The key to growing in dedication to our chosen discipline is the same.

Finding Your Bliss Station ›

There’s so much stuff on the internet that it seems like an impossibility that you would read something at exactly the time you need to read it. Austin Kleon’s recent article about finding your bliss station has managed to achieve just that.

Around a year ago I was just finishing up a course of counselling aimed at helping me understand the depression I was diagnosed with in January 2015. One of the things I learnt about myself was my need to do creative things for myself and how over the year prior to my diagnosis I had stopped doing that. This evening as I read Austin’s article it hit home a little further, I might’ve lost my cave a little bit.

This week has been a tough one, the first tough week for a while which is something I know happens to everyone now and again. A giveaway sign, which I’ve realised as I write this, is the recurrence of the word introvert in a lot of my snippets/tweets. I’ve been craving time on my own, and that usually happens when I’m starting to feel a bit unbalanced in life. It’s a little clue that I might’ve lost my bliss station, or cave as I’ve referred to it in the past.

What’s clear is that it’s healthiest if we make a daily appointment to disconnect from the world so that we can connect with ourselves.

In counsellor speak this is called self care. We need to take time out to take care of ourselves, to stop ourselves being bombarded by the world around us. To find a place that frees us from the stresses of work, from running a business and working for someone else at the same time. From being around people all day, to having a few moments to our ourselves each and everyday. To take a little bit of time to do something we want to do just because we enjoy it and it helps us feel free.

By Sunday evening I plan to have reclaimed my cave from the dumping ground it’s become, and in the spirit of making better use of my calendar I plan to schedule in a time everyday for me to be in it just because I want to create some stuff for myself.

Sometimes a day hits you when things that are normally easy to do become the hardest things. I mean simple things like getting out of bed, going downstairs and making a coffee. That’s the nature of depression.

When it happens you have to find ways of getting through because giving in to it can be crippling. Giving in can be the start of a downward spiral, a spiral you don’t want to be in and that can take a long time to get out of. That’s a place you don’t want to go. Instead you have to find a way to push through, to stop the down from taking over. What that looks like is the tricky part, but for everyone there is way of doing it.

Permission

At the start of last week I set myself the challenge to blog everyday between then and the end of the year. Yesterday I didn’t manage to post to this site, in some people’s eyes I’ve failed the challenge already. Maybe I have, but it’s not going to stop me carrying on.

These types of challenges are great to do, they add an extra bit of impetus to get going on something you want to do. A little bit of healthy competition goes a long way. But yesterday life happened, two friends got married and the day was rightly taken up celebrating that. There simply wasn’t time in the day to sit down and write a post for this site, it was an exception to the norm and that’s ok. I realised this early on and gave myself permission to have a day off.

A few years ago had I set myself this challenge I would’ve let it defeat me. The chain would’ve been broken and I would’ve let the day off turn into two, three or four days, before giving it one last effort and then stopping it. Over the last year and a half I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s ok to give myself permission to say, it’s just not going to happen today. As long as it doesn’t turn into a regular occurrence that’s perfectly OK, I just pick up where I left off the next day.

It’s been an important lesson for me to learn, perfect is unattainable and being somewhat of a perfectionist it’s a difficult thing to accept. Now in the context of this challenge, had I realised earlier in the week when I started it, I’d have written an extra post in the week so I had one in the bag and didn’t break the chain. In the context of real everyday life, it’s a far more important lesson to learn. I’ve had to learn how to give myself permission to say this is ok, this is good enough and I’m ok with putting it out there.

Proven ›

A timely article by Patrick Rhone on his choice to use only things that are proven. Considering the changes which Twitter are considering to the timeline, maybe it’s time to search for a more proven method of micro posting…

Holocaust Rememberence Day

Today marks the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a place which is known world wide for the atrocities that our Jewish brothers and sisters faced during the Second World War. Atrocities that I didn’t know the depth of fully until I visited Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on my first visit to Israel a few years ago. Reading through the account of the holocaust in that place made me feel physically sick, I knew from my history lessons at school that it was a massive operation but I had no clue of the depth of it. No clue of how far it went in terms of the dehumanising treatment the Jews had to endure.

Sadly in today’s society we are again seeing the rise of anti-semitism. It takes different forms, whether it’s through the BDS movement or jihadi attacks in both Israel and Europe, this is what they are and to call them anything else forgets the beginnings of moments in history like the holocaust.

Today is a day we must remember, especially in the current cultural climate, and stand side by side with our Jewish brothers and sisters. As a child of Christ I have an even greater responsibility to stand with Israel and show them the love their Messiah has for them.

Archives

Back in October of 2014 I wiped this blog and started all over again in an attempt at a fresh start and the beginning of more regular posting. The lack of baggage was supposed to be the catalyst to help me post, to a degree it has worked and I’ve been posting here much more regularly since the turn of the year. The Week in Links has helped, and is approaching it’s six month anniversary.

On Monday evening I read a post by Paul Stamatiou about his years of blogging. I was struck by a particular sentence half way through:

The era of the personal website is over. It’s now just a personal landing page with a photo, bio and link to a Twitter profile.

I understand exactly where he is coming from, but I also disagree, to a certain extent. It’s true a lot of websites have disappeared over the last few years, but over the last few months I’ve seen a resurgence in the personal site/blog. Something that I want to be a part of. It got me thinking about my own personal site, and the changes it’s been through over the last decade. I’ve never binned it to replace it with a personal site, but I did recently delete all my posts and before that I had another blog that has gone the way of the Dodo.

It struck me how wrong that is. I put a lot of time and effort into writing those posts, and for them to be erased is just plain wrong. Fortunately I managed to locate a backup of this site from just before I wiped it, and I’ve now added all the posts back into the archive. There’s still a bit of tidying up to do but for the most part the archives now extend all the way back to January 2011. I’m also hoping to be able to locate an old backup of my very first blog, the one that existed prior to this one. I’ve been writing on the internet for nearly a decade now, it should be preserved and maintained in some form or another not consigned to oblivion.

All of this to say, I’ve added the archives back to this place. If you’re interested and have the time, why not have a dig through and see what you can find.