Categories
Blogging Life Writing

Finding A Place

Picture: unrelated. | Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As of late I’ve struggled a bit with this blog. Since last summer I’ve been concentrating mostly on Creative Splurges, which isn’t doing all that badly (it has over 300 followers). This blog, intended for the most part to contain personal rants, anecdotes and the odd amusing discovery, has slipped into the background quite significantly over the last few months.

This is partly because Creative Splurges is taking up a fair chunk of my spare time, in terms of processing images and writing posts, partly because the inspiration is lacking (this time last year almost anything turned into a blog post in my head; as of late this hasn’t been happening), and partly because some of what used to constitute content on this blog has become tweets and been left at that. Currently most of my stray observations end up expressed in 140 characters or less.

It’s not just rob-howard.com that has suffered. Outdated by Lunchtime, my fledgling technology blog, hasn’t had a post since January. It’s not like I haven’t been keeping track of technology news, far from it, but for some reason the urge to write about it has been lacking.

Something happened last October. I don’t know what that was, but most of my blogs fell largely silent around that time as I became distracted or unmotivated on the whole blogging front. It was late November before I managed to kick myself back into rhythm on Creative Splurges, but none of my other blogs really followed suit. Since the start of 2012 Creative Splurges has published 45 posts; here has posted six, and Outdated by Lunchtime only two. This should give an indication of where my priorities lie.

I want this to change. That said, I still see Creative Splurges as my priority. In many ways I have to, since it has approximately infinity more followers than this blog (this blog, technically, having none, and Splurges having over 300). I’ve managed to keep a post a month on this blog (which, I admit, is a big reason why this post exists), and I have over two dozen drafts in various stages of completion, of which some could still conceivably see the light of day. I’ve made a couple of half-hearted attempts at working on some of these over the last month or so, but these haven’t really gotten anywhere. I have some time off coming up; maybe I’ll be able to find the time to have another look.

Outdated by Lunchtime is a touch trickier. I could just return to what the blog was doing from time to time, and parrot breaking technology news, but that’s not particularly satisfying, even if it does drive hits to the site. What I would far rather do is comment more objectively on the technology rumours and stories. I’d done it from time to time – and contributed some to apparently-now-defunct tech blog GrindGadget – but if I get Lunchtime going again it will contain predominantly if not solely this sort of commentary. It won’t be quite as simple to revive the blog compared to rob-howard.com simply because the content on ObL is far more topical and the few drafts that I had been gradually working on are now mostly obsolete.

I’m not making any promises. Life is pretty busy at the minute, and I’m still enjoying working on Creative Splurges too much to consider dialling it back just yet. But never fear; its siblings are still on my radar.

Anyway, I’d better go. I took 360 photos yesterday and I want to try to get them processed, edited and posted on Creative Splurges before the week is out.

Ta ta
Rob

Categories
Life Writing

Douglas

It is sad to note that today is the tenth anniversary of the death of Douglas Adams.

In two weeks it will be marked, as it is every year, by Towel Day. Towel Day follows two weeks after Adams’ death simply because the first one was observed just two weeks after he died, and the date stuck.

On Towel Day, people are encouraged to bring their towels with them due to their fundamental usefulness as noted in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)

I try to observe Towel Day every year (I am, on the whole, largely unsuccessful on that front). Partly because Douglas Adams is my favourite author and the Hitchhiker’s Guide my favourite book, but also because I am constantly inspired by the Guide and Adams’ writing style.

I have also before now decreed Douglas Adams’ passing as a pivotal point in my life. This is in part because I am often quite aware of the chain of cause and effect in my life.

The chain in this instance runs thus:

Douglas Adams died in May 2001. At the time I had no experience of Douglas Adams or the Hitchhiker’s Guide. A few months later, the BBC reran the TV series, which I caught by accident one evening, and was instantly hooked. I bought the book a few days later, and found it a massive inspiration which got me back into writing, leading me ultimately to study creative writing at university – where I met my wife (although obviously she wasn’t my wife at the time, would have been weird). And from there springs everything else.

Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is, we miss you Douglas, and I always find it so sad that it took your death for me to find you.

Categories
Life Writing

Things

My stupid self
Yes, I do actually look like this on a Sunday morning.

One of the reasons for the existence of this blog and its siblings is to encourage me to write more. So far it has worked, I am updating things quite regularly. What I have noticed in trying to write so much, however, is how cripplingly small my vocabulary actually is.

It turns out, I don’t actually know enough words to join everything together. It’s always also this and also that, however here and additionally there.

I don’t seem to have enough nouns either. The worst bit (bit?) of this is the word thing. Thing. What a useless word when you’re trying to get things across. It seems to be the word that slips in more often than any other, such as “One other thing I did…” or “The thing that bugs me the most…” or “I played with my thing too much and now I can’t see properly.” Wait, scratch that last one.

This weekend I attempted, amongst numerous other things (gah!), to write the all-important introduction to the Whimpering Pen, in the hope of actually getting it off the ground instead of being nothing more than an idea (and these days the only blog of mine that doesn’t get a new post at least once every few days – wait, I just repeated days, didn’t I? Damn, bugger and blast). I managed to get a lot if it done, but a lack of quality words and phrases let it down. There was far too many attempts at repeating clichéd phrases like ‘pull you in’ and ‘attract your attention’, and not enough conjunctions other than ‘also’. I also (oh, for the love of…) constantly reuse the phrase ‘of course’ despite the fact that what I’m about to say might not be as obvious as the phrase ‘of course’ would suggest.

I vaguely recall I used to be better than this. It’s not just a shortage of phrases and words, it’s a lack of ability to create new ones. Everything I’m writing seems to be put together from the same short selection of words and, um, phrases (crap), like a Lego set with only four types of brick, one of which is one of those cheap Lego knockoffs your mum found at a car boot sale and thought was a good find (I can’t be the only one to have had that experience. What I don’t understand is, I never threw them away, despite the fact they never fit with anything else).

When I look back over some of the writing I did up to and including my time at university, I only occasionally seemed to have this sort of problem (have? I’m sure there’s a much better word to use there). Of course (I give up), that was creative writing, with a narrative, rather than what I find myself trying to write here, and although the two should ultimately amount to the same thing they don’t seem to in my head. There were a few occasions where entire stories would fail because I couldn’t think of the right word to describe what was going on – not that I used much description in my stories, I used to rely heavily on dialogue, which might be another part of my problem here.

I think the main cause of this problem is a lack of reading. Not in general – I follow over two dozen RSS feeds daily from a variety of sources which between them have hundreds of posts a day. Since some of these are blogs, you’d think I’d learn from them, but I don’t seem to. I don’t think that’s the problem, though. No, the problem is not reading enough books. ‘Real’ creative pieces which usually flow better and have been slaved over for longer.

I know what I need to do. Reading the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy always helps me out in these situations. I have an iBooks version, but find trying to read it on an iPhone screen, no matter how sharp the text is, is pretty ineffective. No, what I need next is an iPad 2 to read it on…