Random Notes

The public notebook of writer and essayist Scott Nesbitt

That's how I do my best thinking. In fact, most of my thinking and most of the planning that I do mentally is in the form of bullet points. At least, that's how I conceptualize my thinking and planning.

Everything gets broken down into individual thoughts. Concise little packages that come in a recognizable sequence. All of that takes a very rough shape of a list in my mind's eye, and I'm able to mentally shuffle those points around as they coalesce and as my brain finds links between them.

When I'm ready to really work on those ideas, to mold them into a whole, I transfer the bullet points in my head into an outliner. That sounds kind of strange, going from bullet points to bullet points. Instead, why not write everything out, even in a very rough or a draft form?

This process doesn't work like that with me. I need to see the list of thoughts in front of me. They need to be in a form in which I can manipulate, edit, connect, and bolster all those points ever further.

Once that's done, I can decide what to do next, what I need to do next. From there, I can (I hope) create something that resembles a cohesive whole. Something, maybe, that's worth reading or pondering in more detail.

I did. This morning. And only noticed it now.

The lesson? When you have multiple blogs on Write.as and plan on publishing something early in the morning, make sure you're posting to the right blog before you click Publish.

(And that post you might have read, it's moved here.)

(This is an excerpt from an edition of my weekly letter, which appears here via a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.)

Email, to put it bluntly, is my social media.

It's how I keep in touch with people. I send them a message, not a DM or a post on whatever social media wall they maintain.

Email is how, at least in part, I share ideas with a wider audience. That audience is a small group of people, many of whom I don't know and who don't know me.

I get more out of email than I did when I was actively posting on Twitter and Mastodon.

The people with whom correspond don't bog my email down with the excruciating minutiae of their daily lives — that artisan soda or beer they just drank, photos of a dessert that they're about to tuck into, what they're watching at this very moment on their streaming service of choice, cute photos of their pets. Alla that kind of stuff. (OK, I do like the pet photos, but don't tell them!)

Best of all, my inbox isn't clogged with misinformation or disinformation. My correspondents only share links to items that they know might pique my interest. Or, sometimes, things which might raise my ire or my gorge — bless 'em! They share important news about themselves or about mutual friends. Our digital correspondence can be light and breezy, but also can be serious and have some depth. We can delve into discussion, debate, and sometimes argument.

When I tell certain people that email is my social media, they're surprised. Some are even shocked. A few mock me for giving up the potential for the reach and influence that social media can provide. As if I've ever been interested in any of that ...

Looking isn't seeing.

Hearing isn't listening.

A knee-jerk reaction isn't thinking.

Unless you pay attention, you're missing things. Important things. Subtle things. Little nuances. Gateways that lead to ideas.

By paying attention, you understand more. You learn more. You feel more.

We all have at least one. And we can never really escape them.

Our chains aren't necessarily physical. They might be emotional. More often than not, they're psychological. The chains that keep us bound to habits and ways of thinking that hold us back.

Those chains, in whatever form they take, will always be with us. We can continue to be constricted by them. We can try to break them. Or, we can try to loosen them so we're a bit more comfortable, a bit less restrained.

Sometimes, the third option is all we can hope to do.

When I lived in Canada, I owned a modest bungalow on a small patch of land in a neighbourhood in east Toronto. That bungalow was more than a house. It was my family's home. And it taught me a few things about the joys of small and of simple

In the spring of 2003, my father found an old reel mower at the dump near his home. The mower was still in good shape, so he took it home, cleaned it up, and gave it to me. Unlike my neighbours, who seemed to be enamoured with their electric and gasoline-powered mowers, I happily used that reel mower for almost eight years.

Early one Saturday morning, I was mowing my front lawn when someone passing by stopped and asked me Why are you using that instead of an electric or gas mower? Since it didn't sound like one of those Oh, you're a dinosaur! questions, I gave him my reasons: 1) the carbon footprint is minimal (just my exhaling), 2) it's quieter than an electric or gas mower, and 3) this mower is perfect for my small lawn. But my fourth answer really surprised him. And me.

I added that using the reel mower gives me a little time to think and to reflect on things. After he walked away, I (surprise, surprise) began to seriously think about what I'd just said. I don't think that many of us have enough time just sit back and casually reflect on ... well, on anything.

Even though I now live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world and enjoy a slower pace of life than I did in Canada, I know that I don't have enough time to reflect.

I've got all the usual stresses, and a couple of more. Most of my day is spent working and writing, with some time devoted to my wife and daughter. I don't think that I've had a relaxing weekend in several years — there are always piles of things to work through.

But the 15 or 20 minutes that I used to spend mowing my lawn gave me time to relax my mental muscles. There was nothing Zen about it, but I found that after mowing the lawn the old school way, my mind was a bit clearer.

I sometimes yearn for those moments ...

A couple or so months ago, I decided to shake up my exercise routine by working more with parallettes. A couple of the exercises I've been focusing on help to develop straight arm strength.

The problem was that those exercises weren't as challenging as I'd been led to believe they were. It's not that my straight arm strength developed that quickly and dramatically; it definitely hadn't. So, to figure out what wasn't working I again watched a video that demonstrates how to do the exercise. It turns out that I wasn't doing the exercises quite properly. A small adjustment, and those exercises started having the desired effect.

There's a saying in sport that states something is a game of inches — indicating that the gap between winning and losing, between success and failure is small. But, as I discovered with my parallette exercises, success and failure is more a game of millimeters.

In my case, all I needed to do was reposition my arms a couple of millimeters to get for the exercises I was working on to do what they're supposed to do.

Improvements, whether mental or physical or emotional, can come from small shifts. From incremental adjustments rather than large scale changes or radical pivots.

If something isn't working for you, you don't need to make drastic changes. You don't (always) have to try something new. You can make minor adjustments. You can tweak, rather than hack. Doing that is a small amount of work, but it can result in big gains.

(Inspired by something Matt Baer wrote.)

If you've been popping into this space for any length of time, you can probably tell I'm not (always) a spontaneous blogger. I tend to think a bit about what I write before I write and publish it. Which is one of the reasons I post so sporadically in this space.

That approach influences how I write posts for all of my blogs. And have since I started blogging in the early 2000s.

I don't tap out drafts in the Write.as editor. Why? Mainly because I prefer to work offline when writing. Working offline provides me with a bit more flexibility. There's less chance of losing a draft or accidentally publishing a work in progress.

I keep drafts of various posts in folders in my instance of Nextcloud. That enables me to pick up where I left off, regardless of which computer or device I'm using.

When I'm ready to publish, I log into Write.as, copy and paste the post into the editor, and click Publish. Simple, but effective.

That's one way to blog. A way that works very well for me. As always, your mileage (or whatever unit you use to measure distance) may vary.

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