Today was my wedding anniversary – we walked over to Watt’s Gallery along the North Down’s Way and had lunch. I was glad to see my friend Debbie Davies’s artwork “Belonging” is still hanging in one of the oak trees outside. It looked great today against the blue of the sky and the green trees, summer came back from the dead today and it should be sticking around for a while.
So this was the week that I made a film, a podcast (even if I wouldn’t share it), chopped up some candles and learned a lot of programming.
There are two main improvements in this week’s review – one is to keep focusing on the sharing rather than on reporting the making. The making is going on, but it isn’t driven by the need to write about it.
The other is that I’m being a bit more systematic about my non-medication ADHD treatments. I’m keeping an eye on my daily practice of: meditation; exercise; diet and dietary supplements; art; reducing physical clutter; sleep, rest and other self-care activities. The last three days, for example I’ve started the morning with meditation and exercise before breakfast and made sure I got to bed at a reasonable time.
I went for a nice long walk this morning, about 5 miles, before breakfast. It was warmer than it has been lately but still cloudy. It’s supposed to get warmer this week.
It was a good space to think about things – especially my desire to make some very simple automation for my blogging. Everything is so complicated and dominated by the various silos. I really ache for the kind of #indieweb vision of a server, under my control, running software that I understand fully and which only does the things that I want it to do, so that it serves me, rather than me having to bend my style of writing and capturing into someone else’s way of thinking.
I walked for 45 minutes and then turned round (took a photo to remind me of how far I’d gone – above) and walked back, talking into my phone about the things that I’d been thinking about. It works so much better for me to record like that. I haven’t listened back to it. It’s likely to be atrocious quality, but it gives me the chance of getting something done before breakfast that I haven’t done for a while. I’ll see if I can get better at doing that – and better at grabbing bits of audio as I go, to avoid the gross feeling that comes when I think about making a podcast. In the meantime, I think I’ll feed it to otter.ai and see what kind of transcription it can make of it.
I spent the rest of the day reading up and making notes on node.js and how it works. Patiently just plodding through the Hello World examples and seeing where I could break them or find ways that they didn’t work as I expected so that I could see how they do work. Standard.
That gave me a bit more confidence reading some other people’s code on GitHub and I realised that I have looked at similar things before, just given up when my brain started hurting and run away screaming. Much better these days. I got a couple of examples running on my Mac here and then spun up a cloud server to prove to myself that it really would work over the net 🙂
Still very early days and baby steps, but I’m much more confident that I can make something work. And that I can strip away pointless stuff in other people’s software to just provide the functions I want – really old school, but also using the computers to do the hard work that they’re suited to and not being dominated by some silo providers business model.
I went for a run this morning, because I was reminded, by a slight deterioration in my mental health, that I need to do physical and manual work as much as thinking and making digital artefacts.
So I just gave myself to whittling down some of these candles, chipping a bit here and a bit there, not making anything special, just playing with a knife and something to cut with it. A simple process repeated over and over as I did when I was a child.
I remember one time my parents brought home a big box of old candles that they’d been given by the pub landlord where they’d been for a drink. I mean I guess he was throwing them out and they’d said, wait, no we’ll take them home. My sister and I had hours of fun melting them, remelting them, chopping them up, burning each other with hot wax, pouring hot wax into water to make bizarre shapes.
So I’ve been revisiting that a bit and I’ll probably do some more.
This also marks a shift in these blog posts to “Share Something” rather than “Make Something” since I got a bit obsessed with only making things that I could then share, in a day and a little *sharing* of process and progress and playfulness is really what this is about.
Today, I was more gentle with myself. I pulled “coding”. Now I definitely don’t have any coding projects all set up and ready to go. But I am interested in how to automate my workflow for blogging on Hive. The process for wordpress is straightforward and handled by lots of different clients. I currently post straight to a draft post on my wordpress.com having given draftsapp my credentials a long time ago. I’d like to be able to compose in one place and then click one button to send it to wordpress and another to send it to hive. I don’t want to be copying and pasting or doing something so automatic that it reduces my flexibility.
Anyway, long story short, because yesterday what I really learned was that I don’t have to present something here for approval or be thinking of the audience at all, I’m writing for myself… long story short, I posted a little test post on the tuttleclub blog which I haven’t really used since I used it as an experiment in setting up a second account.
Notes on yesterday…
It wasn’t really a fail, because I did make something. I think I need to spend some time, not only reviewing what I’ve done, but also planning what I might do next. I’ve got lots of ideas in my head, but if I’m going to continue with this approach, they really need to be committed somewhere so that I can pick them up when I need them. So that I’d have something to start with yesterday morning (or today for that matter) without having to think almost from first principles.
In the case of podcasting, what’s notable is that I don’t have lots of audio clips stashed away, in the way that I have bits of writing, film or photography all ready to pick apart and put back together in a new form. Or if I do have a stash, it feels old and stale and a lot of work to breathe new life into it. I also feel like I’ve done the mumbling, bumbling improvised ramble character to death. It was so 2005 for me and, man, that was sixteen years ago – a different world and definitely a different me. And I’m not really interested in two-hander interviews either. There’s a new form of podcast out there that will excite me but I don’t quite know what it is yet. And making it will take more than a day’s sprint.
My heart kind of sank when I saw that I’d drawn “podcast” today. I haven’t made a podcast for quite a while and the reason for that doesn’t seem to be that I haven’t given myself time to do it. Because today, I gave myself the whole day to do it and I couldn’t do it.
Or to be more precise, I couldn’t do anything that I wanted to publish. So in that sense it’s not so much of a fail – it’s just like those other days when I made something, and I wrote about it here, but I didn’t show it here, because it wasn’t finished or interesting enough or whatever. Except those other days I felt quite good about the doing, whereas today I didn’t even enjoy the process.
I started podcasting a long time ago. There are teenagers making podcasts today to whom I could legitimately say “I was podcasting before you were born, kid!” And when I started it was a very exciting way of getting my voice out there. And saying things in a natural way, as they came to me, rather than crafting something written. But today everything was bleh, my heart wasn’t in it and I kept thinking of other things I’d rather be spending my time on.
I started off making a little intro and pulling in bits of audio from the scrap pile, a bit like yesterday’s film piece. And I made a little list of the things I might want to say but when I started actually making some stuff, I was way too self-conscious and blabbery.
So I went for a walk and a think and a coffee and got some groceries and thought perhaps I was just taking it too seriously. So when I got back i invented a little game – take 10 flickr pictures at random and then talk about each one. I use this tool and set it up so that I couldn’t actually see the pictures but was able to copy the URLs and then open them while I was talking. It still doesn’t sound like such a bad idea now that I write about it, and I gave it a good shot, but once it was finished and I’d put on a little outro, I knew that I wasn’t going to share it, it just needs much more work to whittle it down to something listenable.
Now long-term listeners of mine may be thinking “when did this worry you in the past? We’ve heard some atrociously unlistenable tosh from you and we still love you.” but for some reason this is just not as easy to publish and forget about as either the old old stuff or the other things I’ve been making in the last few days. There’s something more intimate about putting my voice out there and this just feels like bad impro.
Dunno. It may pass, but for today, I’m not sharing it and can’t really see anything in the medium that interests me – and this is me, who in every other area so far has thought “forget the established forms, just do what you want to do with this thing”. I don’t know whether I want to keep “podcast” on the list.
Eh. We’re allowed to have such days.
For completeness, here are the photos I talked about. It’s quite weird seeing what came up.
I pulled “Film”. That’s tricky – make a film, on a Bank Holiday Monday… starting….. now! My first reaction was to cheat it, by applying it to all of the actual bits of film that I have lying around in various states of processing.
One way of looking at this way of working (I hesitate to call it a project) is to say “OK, if you were going to work on your most important and interesting XYZ project today, what would that project be and what next right steps would you take?” To which my creative inner says “Fuck off, you’re trying to get me to project manage again.”
I do think that part of this work is to allow the bumbling and improvisation to come through in the structure. The prompt isn’t a kind of trick to make me make a film or write a book or whatever, it’s a way to safeguard today from all the other things that could come invading in, if it weren’t there and allow the bumbling to stay roughly on one path instead of going into the long grass because I can’t remember why I started this sentence in the first place.
So although there are films I’d like to make and bits of film (moving picture) that I was thinking of when I wrote “Film” on the card, it’s OK if I spend some time with old (or new!) negatives or gels or filters or plastic bags, I suppose. It’s up to me how far is too far to stretch. I don’t think Film is ever likely to be “I watched Netflix all day” but it’s not always going to be tiny sober progress towards a magnum opus.
A little while ago I made a kind of soundscape thing called Grunt & Shuffle made out of sounds I recorded within a few steps of my front door. The idea came to me today to add some visual layers to that, perhaps put some shots from down by the river together with cars speeding past on the main road and that made me think of a kind of double-exposure thing, perhaps swapping the focus from greenery to road and back again in some way related to the sounds. I popped out and shot a minute or so of cars passing (it’s quiet on a Bank Holiday) and decided not to get fresh stuff from the river but to delve into my archive.
I thought I knew how to use a cutaway in iMovie to do a double-exposure effect, but I didn’t so I had to look it up. Even then, I had to poke around a few times and then restart my computer before I got it to work properly.
I chopped the cars going past up a bit to get the rhythm that I wanted. And I took off the audio. Then I slowed it down by 50% this sets the time at about 1 minute.
I took a very short clip of my feet walking up St Catherine’s Footpath from a couple of years ago and copied it several times so that it loops over the car track. Then I saved this as it’s own file so that I could put more overlays on. I remembered to start writing some notes (you’re reading them now, isn’t that neat?!) while the cogs grind in the software machine.
Now the question is, when you’re building up layers, do you start a new iMovie project (yes, I’m still using iMovie, stop judging me) so that you’ve got something to rewind to, or do you get rid of it, knowing that it was so simple and made out of things that you have saved, and you’ve written notes to remind you of what you did anyway, so you could just redo it if you needed to but you probably wouldn’t need to. That all feels complicated, so I just cleared the workspace and started again with the new one.
I like the way that the changing light levels in the walking clip shift the double exposure effect, so my eye switches between which layer I’m focusing on.
And then I needed some greenery – I chose a shot from the bottom of Ferry Lane across the river, a bit shaky and I think the camera was a bit overwhelmed by the green and made it a bit yellow, but I tried adjusting it and messing around generally and none of it worked, so I rendered that over the top of layer one as layer two.
To complete the video bit, I added some clips of a buttercup blowing in the wind. I chopped it up and copied a few bits to fill out the one minute clip. Then I popped a fade to black on the end before going hunting for the audio.
The only copy I could find was on soundcloud and I had to fiddle to download it onto this machine. I started with the very beginning, but that was overwhelming so I picked a piece that fitted the roughly one minute of video and which was a bit more calm. And I totally obsessed about how I could get the audio footsteps and my feet on the film to be better synchronised before remembering that really what was important was the realisation of an idea. And that was complete, if not perfect.
Here you go.
I lost an hour (at least) yesterday looking for my old developing tank and thermometer, the final bits in the developing kit. Laura knew exactly where they were when I finally gave in and asked her – they were in the box that she puts her laptop on when it’s plugged into a monitor, so she sees it pretty much every day. She really can’t understand why I can’t remember that we put them in there together a few months ago when she was helping me organise. Nor can she understand why I would go through every other box in the bedroom, under the bed, in cupboards before asking her (partly because she knows that she knows where everything is)
On Sundays I’m going to review the week past. I’ve done 9 days of making something every day. Woohoo! The formatting of this post is wonky and shoddy because it’s 8.30pm on Sunday and I haven’t made the dinner yet and I’m going to get yelled at.
what i set out to do (having written it, I realise this is a post hoc set of justifications – see below…)
practice making something every day
not losing my whole day to duties and chores
feel less stressed about doing the work
do more work and less sitting around
still do my day job well
process some of the stuff
rediscover collaborators and fans
practice writing in public every day
revive my blogging practice
record what I’ve actually been doing
understand my adhd better
find strategies for working with my adhd better
be more productive and happier
have things to give away as gifts
have things to sell
do some new things and learn some new skills
probably loads more vague aspirations.
“Shit, that’s a lot” – if I’d shared all this with someone beforehand, they might have said something like “you seem to have a lot riding on this, don’t you want to make it a bit more simple and manageable?” and my answer is still, “No, these are all the things I want to do and that’s why I’m doing this exercise. I don’t see it that my happiness is ‘riding’ on the work, simply that these are the benefits I can see accruing from doing the work and doing it every day. If I had to narrow down what I actually set out to do, it was to practice making something and writing about the process every day in order to learn more about my adhd in the context of creative work. This is why I never could stand project managers.
what happened this week?
I made something and posted a blog post about it every day
The first day I was a bit late writing about it, I think.
I refined my blogging processes
I researched blogging software
I made: * a timelapse video * a hand-drawn animated gif * a collection of 35mm scans from 1981 * a very short (2 or 3 bars) snippet of music * some candle wax ready for re-use * 320 words on “What were the eighties really like?” * a twitter thread about this process * a twitter thread describing a weird dream I had * a collection of photos of my day * a set of eight (rough) sheets of origami paper * a collection of reminiscence materials to send to my uncle * a new plan for a piece about the 1980s * a fire * six small twigs of charcoal
I realised how much I blame myself for not having been disciplined enough to do this is in the past.
I realised how many different things I want to do. The desire to give up any day job is about having time to do these things.
I’m learning about my capacity to actually do them. I don’t have to give them all up, but I also can live better with them not happening soon or ever.
I also saw more creativity coming into everyday life. eg. I made some vegetable stock to make a dinner a bit more exciting.
what is worth persevering with?
It’s great to write and publish every day, no matter what.
Having a prompt and some idea that I will stick to it, is working for me – I don’t always make something exactly as I expected, but I’m also not getting distracted by the other things, I can just go “no, that’s not wastecraft” or whatever “that will have to wait for another day”
I will continue at least until I’ve done one of everything on the list. I’m still not revealing the list until I’ve done one of everything.
I’m drafting in workflowy and draftsapp and now pulling everything together in draftsapp which can auto post to my wordpress blog. I then copy and paste to hiveblog – it works so that’s something.
I’m not sharing to Facebook. This is a conscious choice and part of a general desire to keep most of my creative work away from there. It helps me that there are far fewer people reading and commenting here, it feels manageable.
what might I change?
I’ve amended the weekend routine to be “freestyle” on Saturday and a review (like this… only better?) on Sunday. I think it works (unless I find tomorrow that I’m still trying to bend the rules).
I’d like to have a smoother process for hive, something that mirrors the wordpress action in drafts.
I’d also like to be able to blog straight from the outliner – at the moment I’m doing microblog or note posting via twitter. It might be that I have to PESOS this for now, but I’d like my blog to be more than just these making posts.
I’d like to be doing more writing as I go, rather than reporting at the end of the day on work done. Feels like homework. The blogging should be more integral to the work.
OK I’m totally bored with reviewing now. There are bound to be more things under every heading, but I think having expressed anything.
Here’s where we went for a day out today, it was lovely.
Today I rebelled. Slightly. Or perhaps I just tweaked the rules based on learning what works. I’ve been thinking for a couple of days that Sunday needs to be a review day rather than a full “production” day.
And then I pulled “Writing” again. The first repeat. And while I have done some writing and thinking about writing today (and I’m writing this) I gave myself permission to do some of the things I’ve been wanting to do, remembering that the important thing here is that I make something everyday and don’t get pulled into chores and duty all day long.
I think what I learned from the other day’s Writing assignment is that I need a longer term project. It might only be a short essay, but I need a goal for a series of writing sessions, rather than starting from scratch each time. What do I want to write? Well, the things that came out onto the page last time were the tweet storm about what I’m doing and the beginnings of a “What were the eighties like?” piece. Also the tweet storm about my dream the other day (though that was the day after – I am drawn to this form for writing short stories with a twist).
Perhaps another way of coming at the 80s would be to write some short stories and then try to tie them together, rather than starting top down to express the feeling of being there for me without explaining what I was doing.
I’ve been meaning to make a fire in the back garden for a while. It’s good for me to build it properly and see it burn well. I have plenty of earth and water and air in my life, I miss fire. So I put it together from the dried grass and weeds pile and some of the weedier rosemary twigs for kindling and then built it up with bits of a pallet that was broken and I’d chopped up into reasonable chunks.
I had a go at making drawing charcoal from some of the larger rosemary twigs in a little tin. I punched a tiny hole in the lid of an old vaseline tin (like a shoe polish tin only more like an inch and a half in diameter). The lid goes on very tightly, which isn’t ideal for this, it turns out, because heat and metal. I’ll look out for other more suitable vessels.
Then just as the fire was nice and hot and settling down to embers and I’d popped the tin on the top to cook, it started to rain. Of course, it’s the Bank Holiday weekend, obviously it’s going to rain as soon as you start burning anything.
Anyway, I left it, the rain went off quite quickly and the embers were still hot enough. When I couldn’t see any gas or smoke coming out of the hole in the tin, I lifted it out to cool.
When I opened it, I was pleased to see that it had cooked – I’d been worried that the rain would have spoiled it. It wasn’t perfect – I’m not sure that rosemary is the best material for drawing with, but it’s what I had immediately to hand and it was dry. I might go down to the river tomorrow and see what I can find in terms of hazel and willow. Anyway I made some carbonised wood, I tried a new process and it worked – and it’s pretty in it’s own way.
I should have taken photographs throughout the process, but all I got was the final result.
The other distraction is that I now have all the bits I need to process black and white film, so I can’t see me resisting the impulse to use that tomorrow as well as reviewing the progress to date.
“Family History” day kicked off with a memory shared from Facebook. Last year, I saw this photo shared on a South Birmingham Past/Present type group and was pretty sure I’d spotted my aunt, Saffron, so shared it with her and I was right. We think it was 1956. She and Sue gave me some more background.
“I remember the day so well, feeling nervous and embarrassed and scared, and my friend Christine Smith as the other ‘maid of honour’. Jeez 🙄”
“it was an annual event. It was the May Queen who then ‘reined’ over the West Heath carnival. I remember Saffron’s dress was green flock with velvet ribbon trim!”
“I’m sure Mom made Saffron’s [dress]”
“I wonder if mom made Christine’s dress as well. Yes, remember the green velvet ribbon especially 😉”
I moved on to looking for some reminiscence materials for my Uncle Lloyd. When I saw him a couple of weeks ago, we talked about when he lived on Main Street, just off the Stratford Road in the early 1960s.
I found him in the electoral roll for 1962 in Flat 2, 48 Main Street, the house isn’t there any more, but I did find a 1938 25-inch OS map that includes that area on the National Library of Scotland site (lots of old maps there, with Creative Commons licences).
He struggles with following online stuff, so I’m printing it all out and sending him a letter, but I’ll also share it by email with his remaining two sisters and one brother.
I also had a scout around for things to do with Eaton’s, the Canadian department store. He lived in Toronto and worked as a delivery driver for them in the mid-1950s (he went out there in 1955 and returned in 1958, I have shown him the passenger lists he was on).
I really ought to have a dig for his military record (National Service) and Police Service record next.
With this stuff, it’s really hard to stay focused, because there are so many rabbit holes to go down. The best solution I’ve found is to give myself a fairly narrow goal, keep bringing myself back to take notes of what I have found and pointers to interesting things that need to be followed up, and forgiving myself for spending more time on it than I intended!
THERE ARE DAYS WHEN I SEE THE TASK AND GO “YUK, I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M GOING TO DO” AND THEN SPEND HOURS THINKING ABOUT IT AND OTHERS, LIKE TODAY, WHERE I KNOW IMMEDIATELY WHAT I WAS GOING TO DO.
Today was “WasteCraft” – which is inspired by Ian Willey‘s workshops of the same name. Ian’s great at seeing the potential for applying old and new making skills to working out how to deal with stuff that we at best recycle and at worst, throw away.
In particular today, I knew that I wanted to do more on my “Origami Paper from Take-Away Bags” project.
Previously I’d taken a Caffe Nero paper bag (my wife got lots delivered during lockdown) and chopped it up because the weight and finish of it reminded me of origami paper. And then I turned it quickly into a simple little box. It’s the kind of box that you might put paper clips or other small things in. I usually have at least one on my desk to catch pencil sharpenings.
But I needed to do a bit of research before going into full production and turning the whole pile into folding fodder.
So I carefully unpicked one of the bags. OK I got impatient and wasn’t as careful as I could have been. The main enemy is the glue. The schoolboy stamp-collector in me wanted to try to melt it with steam, but then I’d probably have had to do a risk assessment or been in contravention of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. I’ll have another go at home where my employer is less worried about such things. I also need to try perhaps seeing if the glue melts under a warm (or hot!) iron because sooner or later this paper’s probably going to get iron pressed flat anyway.
But for now I just let it tear and leave some bits stuck together. It’s a case of undoing some of the seams and removing the bag’s handles (which are also paper, more in a moment) to get to a single, rectangular piece of paper.
I don’t seem to have taken a picture of a finished rectangle, so here’s one just unfolded with the handles still attached.
I measured the unfolded bag and found it to be 670mm x 340mm which means 8 square sheets of not quite 170mm each. I can accept the “not quite” in the name of minimising waste.
So my squares will have 17cm sides.
The handles are just folded paper and rather than pull them apart I’m quite attracted to them as square straws (300mm long) even if I don’t have an immediate idea of what to do with them.
So then I took the guillotine to it and produced 8 x 17cm squares – some of them torn, they all have at least one perforated edge that’s presumably from the machine they’re made on – I might trim it off, I might keep it, there’s not many origami folds where you end up seeing the actual edge of the paper.
And then I realised that I’d been assuming (silly me!) that the Pret A Manger bags that I had (there are fewer, but still enough to work with and introduce some variety) would be of exactly the same dimensions.
No, no! turns out the long side of them is about 11cm longer than the Nero bags, so there’s going to be some left over, one way or another.
Sadly although I learned a lot, and have written more about today than ever before, I didn’t quite get round to actually making something out of the paper squares yet, but there’ll be another day for that soon.
I'm the founder of the Tuttle Club and fascinated by organisation. I enjoy making social art and building communities, if you'd like some help from me feel free to e-mail me: Lloyd dot Davis at Gmail dot Com or call +44 (0)79191 82825