The serendipity of it all

After setting aside lunchtime to write a blog post, I’ve spent the last half an hour doing anything and everything except write a blog post. This is pretty typical behaviour. I’m amazed the distraction only went on for half an hour to be honest – in recent months my hands haven’t filled the keyboard with thoughts much before 1am.

Urgh. Where to start?

Life just seems to be such a trudge at the moment. Each day starts with vague thoughts of “what crap’s going to happen today?”. I’ve started writing down even the most mundane tasks in my old bullet journal as part of the “working day” – purely because ticking something off feels like I’ve achieved something. Achieved anything, really.

I’ve stepped sideways from much of the “social internet” in recent months. I still look in now and again – but quickly grow tired of the typically toxic advertorial highlight reel that many post. Yes, I get it – you like eating out – do you really think that’s what people want to know about though? Or is it just me that finds a continual torrent of “look where we are”, “look what we bought”, or “look how fantastic our perfect life is” gets really, really tiring.

I often remind myself that the internet is not everybody. I’m also fully aware of my paradoxical relationship with it – given I am posting these forgettable thoughts into the torrents of idiocy.

It comes back to the Norah Ephron quote, doesn’t it – this blogging escapade – that a blog post doesn’t have to say anything. Hello. I’m here. And by the way. On the other hand. Never the less. Did you see?

She called blogging an exhale. I’ve always liked that thought. An exhale that somebody, somewhere might take notice of. Before they know it they’re reading your most recent few posts, reaching out, and a friendship happens. Then months on you know more about each other than most friends or family – and yet you’ve never met.

I think perhaps that’s what I like most about the internet – about blogging – is the serendipity of it all. You never know when you fire up the computer what words you might share, what words you might read, who you might cross paths with, or how important they might become in your life.


The one where Tumblr deactivated my account

For the last year or so I’ve been following the idea that it’s better to take your writing to potential readers, rather than try to bring them to your writing. With that in mind, I created mirrors of my personal blog at WordPress and Tumblr and cross posted entries into them.

I thought better of it a few days ago – and put up a message on both platforms that I was taking a step back for a while. I had been struggling with writing anyway, so it seemed like the right thing to do.

This morning I pulled the dust sheets back off both WordPress and Tumblr, and brought them both up to date – back-filling the last few days private posts.

And then suddenly the Tumblr blog wasn’t there any more. Or rather, I was suddenly logged out, and couldn’t log back in. After a little digging, I discovered the message “this blog has been terminated – contact support for further information”. I of course contacted support, but I don’t hold out much hope. Terminations tend to be very final.

I had been a member of Tumblr on-and-off since 2007. While not the place it once was, I had never quite summoned the courage to remove myself entirely – I had too many friends there. Too many memories. Back in the day – when David Karp was in charge – Tumblr had made a real difference to the world-wide-web community. It was always a bit scrappy, and a bit broken, but it was somehow better than the sum of it’s parts.

Of course I’ve lost the list of people that I used to follow. They vanished with the account. I’m going to miss them enormously. Strangers for the most part – but strangers sharing moments of their lives – much as I had. I *knew* so many of them – or at least felt like I did. And now they are gone.

I’m resisting the temptation to rail against walled gardens once again – and this time it would be valid. It will not surprise you to learn that I’ve spent the hours since it happened backing up every piece of writing I have shared. Having copies of everything you’ve posted since 2003 doesn’t sound quite so stupid when a place they were published suddenly vanishes, does it.

My concern now is that WordPress will go the same way. I have been publishing writing to WordPress for even longer – since the mid 2000s. WordPress and Tumblr are both owned by Automattic. The robot that undoubtedly pulled the rug from my Tumblr account could do the same to WordPress at any moment – and there will be no way of finding out why.

Substack has become a lifeboat of sorts. The list of email subscribers has become an escape route from the walled gardens that choose who, what, when, and where we can post excerpts of our lives.

I suppose if anything, this morning has re-affirmed that I am doing the right thing – trying to find a way outside of the walled gardens.

Back up your writing, folks. You never know what tomorrow may bring.


Walled Gardens and Bullet Journals

A message from a friend struck home today – encouraging me to stop trying so damn hard. To stop trying to spin so many plates all the time. To stop trying to be everywhere, doing everything, all the time. She was right of course – she invariably is. A whispered voice of reason, arriving at just the right time.

I guess this means retreating somewhat from the walled gardens of the internet, and just “being” for a while. Slowing down. Gathering my thoughts. Disconnecting.

Which leads me rather neatly on to the little paper book on the desk behind me. The bullet journal that I stopped using a couple of months ago – and which I started back-filling to bring it back up-to-date earlier today.

I’ve been playing with all manner of solutions that don’t really work over the last few months – clever software, apps, websites, and what-have-you – that promise a “second brain”. I suppose – if I’m honest with myself – I always knew the paper notebook was better. I wanted the clever doo-dads to be better than they are.

I think perhaps the failing of all the oh-so-very-clever productivity apps is that at some point you have to start using them – not just dick about with them – and that’s when they turn into work instead of fun.

Maybe it’s a character trait thing as well. Or a character failing?


For the next little while – maybe for the foreseeable future – I’m going to stop the cross-posting madness, and concentrate a little bit more on me. If you’re subscribed over at substack, or already able to whisper straight into my brain via Messenger, or Telegram – those are probably the best ways to reach me.

You never know – I might finally start writing that damn novel.


Taking a sanity break

I planned to write a blog post yesterday. I don’t know why I plan anything any more – suffice to say, the blog post didn’t happen.

I’m trying to juggle too many things at the moment. I think perhaps the word to take notice of is “trying”. I shouldn’t try to do as much. Invariably I end up chasing my own tail in pursuit of other people’s expectations – which nobody will ever thank you for.

It’s interesting how we judge ourselves based on the presumed expectations of others, isn’t it.

I worked from a café this morning – the one where my eldest daughter worked, and where my middle daughter now works. She threw in her job at the pub – fed up with being taken advantage of by everybody around her, and walked straight into the new job.

It took two attempts to leave for the café. The first attempt took three times longer than I thought, on account of the growing OCD within me that cannot leave the house in a ramshackle state. Then after walking perhaps 100 yards towards the cafe, I realised I had forgotten my wallet. Yes, my phone can do payments – but it’s sod’s law that the day I don’t have my wallet, my phone will stop cooperating. I’m pretty sure they’re designed that way.

I got there in the end.

You don’t realise how loud the ambient noise is in a café until you try to join a conference call. I need to get some noise cancelling headphones. Also – best not turn your laptop around to show the café to everyone on the call – everybody in the café then looks at the faces peering from your laptop, wondering what the hell you’re doing. You don’t need to know why I know that – it’s not important.

Given the effort required in transporting myself to somewhere else for a few hours, I’m not entirely sure it’s worth it unless meeting up with somebody. All I really achieved was adding more hassle to an already chaotic day.


The afternoon has been… non-stop. I’m stopping for a few minutes to empty these words into the keyboard to maintain some sort of sanity really. Everything seems to be non-stop at the moment, and yet I know it’s really not. A lot of the non-stop stuff is of my own doing. My own idiocy. My own attempts to be everybody, do everything, and be everywhere. I’m not good at it.

I need to slow down, and reach out to a few friends now and again.

I just need to get these bits and pieces done first though…


The Internet Sausage Machine

I cancelled my subscription to the Medium partner programme a few days ago. I suppose it says something about the power of suggestion, and my own suggestability that I re-joined in the first place. I’ve always loved writing, and after sharing some technical notes in recent months, thought “why not make some money from them on Medium?”.

I forgot about the true nature of Medium.

If you’ve not seen it, Medium is/was the third great act from Ev Williams – one of the founders of Blogger, and Twitter. A re-imagination of online publishing, Medium introduced a paywall where paying members could put their writing behind the wall, and paying members could both avoid advertising and respond to published words in the form of applause – which in turn shared their membership fee with article authors. A good idea, right?

There’s only one problem with the Medium partner programme – the vast majority of the paying members are fellow authors – so they’re not really there as consumers at all. Every interaction they make is an investment – a pre-payment towards attention, clicks, pageviews, and therefore monetary gain for themselves.

The nature of Medium causes a hugely incestuous race to the bottom of the internet – a sausage machine that eats it’s own output.

There’s probably a phrase that adequately describes learning a lesson the second time. Not so much “second time’s a charm” as “can’t believe I did that again”.


In other news, I woke up on Sunday with the thought flying around my head that I should try and get back in touch with people I’ve not said hello to for ages. After carving out an hour to myself on Sunday afternoon I sent a few emails out across the internet. It’s been interesting – reading the responses.

It feels so awkward, saying hello to somebody you used to know well, but have somehow not spoken to for a long time. And yet sometimes it’s easy. With some people, it’s like only a few moments have passed.

While talking to an old friend from the earliest days of the web recently, she suddenly paused in the middle of our conversation and remarked “how many years has it been?”.

Twenty three years.

We’ve never met in-person. We almost did once, in San Francisco. We found out afterwards that we crossed paths one day apart.

Whenever I talk to her, it’s like we’re carrying on the conversation we started six months or a year before. Like we just stepped away to make a coffee, or to grab a snack. It’s odd, and wonderful at the same time.

p.s. my youngest daughter’s first “friend who’s a boy” had dinner with us last night. I received strict instructions before she arrived home – “don’t act weird, and don’t ask questions”.


Watching for the Keymaster

Do you ever feel like you’re drowning in the various projects you’re involved in – but also realise that you started each project? I suppose you could say I’m terrible at saying no to myself.

I was supposed to go for a run this morning – to begin getting some miles under my belt ahead of a charity fun run in December. I woke up with the alarm clock at 7am, and then fell asleep for another twenty minutes (and had a weird dream – I seem to be having a lot of weird dreams recently).

It doesn’t help that I’ve been playing the “stay up late to avoid tomorrow” game – although the game seems to have transformed into “stay up late to do more things today”. I need to just stop. Slow down. Step back. An acquaintance who has been witness to one of the online projects I’ve been tinkering with asked “do you ever sleep?” – another friend chipped in with “he’s a robot”.


Today I’m going out for lunch. A group of us from work are gathering at a pub within walking distance of my house. It will be nice to see some of my co-workers – working from home is great, but it’s also a bit like a fish-bowl most days (a fish bowl that also contains laundry, washing up, and tidying up after the rest of the house guests).

Time is marching on. I should fire up my work laptop.

Did you see that Elon is going ahead with the acquisition of Twitter? Do you have a Twitter account? Are you now part of the angry mob with pitchforks? I will admit to not quite understanding what the big issue is – you know, apart from him wanting to open the gates of the underworld. If I see Rick Moranis stumbling around the internet in search of Sigourney Weaver, I’ll know exactly how it’s playing out.


Descending into the Twitterverse

This morning I have been dipping a toe into the Twitterverse. It’s a strange word, isn’t it – “Twitterverse”. The Twitter Universe. It really is a universe of sorts though – populated with subject driven worlds, related interests, and with no barriers between them. It’s loud, it’s cacophonous, it’s fast moving, and it somehow seems to embody Norah Ephron’s blogging mantra – that whatever you’re saying is true for about as long as you’re saying it.

Here’s the thing about “dipping a toe” – before long I know I’ll think “oh sod it”, hold my breath, and jump in – then find myself out of my depth, panic a bit, before realising that everything is fine. I’m fine. We’re all fine. Everybody is fine. Deep breaths.

Except everybody isn’t fine – certainly not in the twitterverse. Some people are really very angry indeed, and don’t need much of an opportunity to tell whoever will listen exactly why they are angry. Thankfully there is a “block” button that switches them off mid-rant, never to be seen again.

I wish a block button existed in the real world.

I’ve been reading the tweets posted by those in the #writingcommunity – and it’s been a revelation of sorts. While sitting on my own, tapping away on a keyboard in the dead of night, I often forget there’s an entire world out there of others doing exactly the same. It’s nice to have a window you can open to the passing torrent of happiness, sadness, anxiety, hope, laughter, and every other emotion – to find that the world is enormous, and that the invisible surrounding crowd face the same struggles, doubts, and challenges.


Enough pontification for the moment. I have an important mission to complete today – fussing, and feeding a good friend’s dog while they are out for the day. My family always had dogs when I was young – I kind of miss it. We have cats, but they’re not the same. The old saying about dogs having owners, and cats having staff is more accurate than most will admit.



A very short post this Friday afternoon that will mean very little to very few. My blog posts originate from an account at Substack, and are cross-posted automagically into Tumblr and WordPress by the cloud magicians at Zapier. Thus far the account name at Substack has been “jonathanwrotethis”, and it has always annoyed me a bit, because it’s not the same as my Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook account names.

No more!

I changed the substack domain name to match the others, before some other person wanders along with the same name. I know it isn’t really that important, but it satisfies the OCD scratch that was getting increasingly itchy.


It’s Friday afternoon, and work is winding down for the week. I’m looking forward to a weekend visiting friends, eating pizza, and drinking cider. I’m easily pleased.

Oh – I almost forgot – I had a dream about being haunted last night. And the night before that had a dream about a great white chasing me in a small boat with an outboard motor. I wonder what it all means?

Just before shutting up for the day, I want to thank all those that read my words. I know I don’t always write the most exciting words, but they’re my words, they’re (usually) the truth, and hopefully they don’t do any harm.

I’m not sure what I might do if I wasn’t allowed to have this little corner of the internet to broadcast nonsense from. Probably start talking to plants or something.


Stepping Back

I’ve decided to step back from the internet for a while. Slow down.

I STILL have a huge pile of books I’ve not read, a LOT of movies I’ve never seen, and a LOT of TV shows I’ve never seen a single episode of.

It’s time to climb out of the internet rabbit hole.

I’ll pop back in every few days of course – as I have been – and perhaps I’ll have stories to tell 🙂