Random Notes

The public notebook of writer and essayist Scott Nesbitt

Passion is transient.

Passion is ebbs and flows.

Passion is fickle.

Passion will get you started. It will keep you interested. But only to a point.

To keep your passion from waning, you need to put in the hard work (whether it's physical or mental). You need to keep pushing forward, challenging yourself, putting yourself into situations that are slightly out of your control.

That keeps you interested. That keeps you learning. That keeps the flame of your passion burning.

Whiners will always whine. Complainers will always complain. People like that will always find something, no matter how inconsequential, to moan about.

Let them.

Ignore the negative people. Instead of whining and complaining, focus your time and energy on living. Focus it on actually doing or creating something. That's a far better use of your time and energy. And you'll be a better person for it.

Even though I'm almost 53, I don't consider myself old. But in the last few years, I've become acutely aware of the passage of time. Of the speed at which time passes.

When spring rolls around, I joke that I'm still trying to figure out where August went. Sometimes, that's not too far from the truth.

I realize, and always have, that my days on this planet are numbered. I realize that there are any number of things that I'll never get to do, never get to read, never get to see. And I realize that I can't fill my every waking hour with tasks and events and appointments.

All I can do is live my life, enjoy what I have, enjoy what time I have, and enjoy those around me.

Not everything you do or create has to be awesome or brilliant or killer. Don't fall into the trap of believing that.

Believing that makes you afraid to fail. It makes you hesitant to publish or ship or to even create. It makes you agonize endlessly, over every little detail.

Most of the time, producing something that's just good is more than enough.

Looking isn't seeing.

Hearing isn't listening.

A knee-jerk reaction isn't thinking.

Unless you pay attention, you missithings. Important things. Subtle things. Little nuances. By paying attention, you understand more. You learn more. You feel more. You wind up not looking like an idiot when you open your mouth or put fingers to keyboard. Or, at least, not so much of one.

As you may or may not know, I write and publish the occasional ebook. It's been in the works for a while, but I'm happy to announce that the second edition of Learning Markdown has hit the virtual shelves.

What's new in this edition? Quite a bit, including:

  • The information about working with tables has moved to its own chapter.
  • I've expanded the sections on working with links and formatting code.
  • There's more information about creating lists, creating links, and working with footnotes.

Why this book? It quickly teaches you how to efficiently format your writing for the web using Markdown. Unlike the many cheatsheets available online, Learning Markdown explains the how and the why of using Markdown. Whether you're a journalist, a content strategist, a technical writer, a copywriter, a blogger, or even a software developer I'm sure you'll find Learning Markdown useful.

You can read a sample chapter if you're curious. And if you're ready to buy the book, you can find EPUB and PDF versions on Gumroad.

We live at a moment in time in which everything we do, everything put out in public must succeed the instant it appears. If not, it's an abject failure and not worth anyone's time. Far too many interesting and promising projects have been abandoned because they didn't succeed from moment one, because they weren't an instant hit.

Sadly, there's no room today for something that needs time to find an audience. There's no room for experimenting in public.

It shouldn't be that way.

Experiments are essential. And not just in science. No matter what you're doing, experiments give you the leeway to try something new. They offer an outlet to test an idea or a concept. They help you learn what works and what doesn't.

In many ways, Buckminster Fuller's philosophy have influenced not just my thinking but my approach to life. I view my life as an experiment — definitely not as grand as Fuller's drive to discover what a single individual could contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity but an experiment nonetheless.

Take, for example, this newsletter. In the grander scheme of the world, it's hardly a blip. But for me, it was (and is) a big step. Even though I've been writing professionally for the better part of 25 years, I still lack some confidence in my abilities. That lack of confidence makes me wary of putting some of my writing, especially my more personal work, out there. Over the last several months, I've lost a few subscribers (I expected that), but I gained more. More importantly, I know that what I've written has touched a few of the fives of people who read this newsletter. For me, that's more important than have a wider base of readers who might not be engaged.

I don't see why you can't perform your experiments in public. Doing that offers a lot of transparency into what you're doing. Admittedly, you'll have to endure a number of slings and arrows while experimenting. No matter what you say, those slings and arrows will sting. They will hurt. You need to find a way to go past all that.

What others say shouldn't stop you from experimenting. What you come up with might not change the world, but it could make your little portion of the world better. If nothing else, experimenting will help you grow. It will help make you a better person, even in just a small way.

Sometimes you read something that makes you shake your head. In my case, it was reading this post.

Go ahead, give it a once over. I'll be here waiting for you.

Done? Great. Let's continue.

The thrust of that post is simple: personal blogs have disappeared off the web, and they really need to make a comeback. OK ...

The personal blogosphere isn't dead. It's not dying. There are ... well, I don't know how many personal blogs out there. Some of them are linkstations. Some of them are personal notebooks and journals. Others are outlets for long form writing. Those blogs are as a diverse as the people who publish them.

It's not as if time and the evolution of blogging haven't changed things. You can argue, and quite rightly, that personal blogging got overshadowed by so-called professional blogging. You can argue, as I have, that blogging became something of an arms race and drove away some people who posted for fun. Some, but not all.

What I find hilariously uniformed about that post is the assertion that no one is blogging because there's no platform for them. Uh ... no. There are plenty of platforms. Write.as, Blogger (which Google hasn't killed, regardless of what the writer of that post says), Blot, WordPress.com (which hosts I don't know how many personal blogs), Ghost (ditto), Postachio. I'm sure you can name a bunch, too.

You might find it hard to discover personal blogs by doing a search, as the author of the post I pointed to a few paragraphs back did. It's not impossible. Just typing blog into your favourite search engine isn't going to get the job done.

I agree, though, that discovering blogs is a bit more difficult than it used to be. While Write.as makes it easy, many other platforms don't. That's not a failure of blogging, or proof that personal blogs don't exist or are dying. That points to a weakness those blogging platforms can, and should, address. It also points to the need to revive blogrolls and blogchains.

Personal blogging doesn't need to be brought back. It never left the web. While it might take you a bit more time to find those blogs, they're out there. It can be worth the time to track them down.

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

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