[supplied title]

one more try

reflection

If time is a social construct, scheduling is a construct on top of a construct. It may be arbitrary that a week has seven days, or that a week is a unit of time at all, but it's even more arbitrary to set yourself a goal to do something weekly. Last year I wanted to get back into the habit of writing and I started the year off writing one blog post per week. Somehow I managed to keep up that pace for nine weeks. Then I didn't post again until October, when I wrote four posts in one month. And then didn't post again in 2021.

By the arbitrary metric of one post per week, last year was not a success: I barely wrote more than one post per month, if you average out the whole year. But thirteen posts is more than I wrote during the years 2014-2020 combined, so I'm going to declare my vague goal of "writing more in 2021" to have been achieved.

This year, I'm going to try the weekly posting schedule again and I'm going to try to learn from what I think was my biggest mistake last year: thinking of each potential post as a sort of essay. What I had wanted to do was form a writing habit, even if what I wrote was boring, trivial, or diaristic, of interest only to myself. And I certainly wrote a few posts along those lines, when I just wanted to get something written down for the week. But I also found that unsatisfying, not much better than not posting at all.

The kinds of things I enjoyed writing were much harder to put together on a weekly basis, such as this surprising history of a viral email from the mid-1990s or this look into an obsolete audio format. Both of those posts took some research; I started writing the first one without even knowing where it would lead. I ended up leaving a few more posts in draft state when I realized they were eating away more of my weekends than I was willing to give up to sitting in front of a computer.

So why am I trying again this year? I felt like my weekly posting schedule, when I was keeping up with it, actually was making it easier for me to do more writing in general. And I was happy to see that some people actually read the posts I wrote last October, which were mostly about digital archives, and even found them useful. So I'd like to do more of that this year, plus possibly write some things formal enough for publication. And the hardest thing for me to do when it comes to writing is to start.

My approach to weekly posts this year is going to follow a template. I'm not going to call it a newsletter but I will admit it has a newsletter-ish resemblance. Each post will have four prompts:

  • reflection
  • observation
  • memory
  • links

I have no particular goals for the length of each section; the point of the prompts is simply to not make myself think up a new topic and structure every week. And maybe when I've gotten into the routine, I'll start doing more of the other kinds of writing again too.

That concludes this week's reflection, which doubles as an introduction.

observation

I'll have to come back to this when I have more time, but I've been thinking a lot about the difference between approaches to leadership that seek to take responsibility and approaches that seek to avoid blame. A lot of pandemic policy decisions in the U.S., especially in the past month, seem to be following the latter approach.

memory

I read earlier this week that California's rainy season is off to the wettest start since 1983. I was pretty young then, but I remember the winter of 1983 as the one time in my life I got to sled off a rooftop all the way down to the ground. We were staying somewhere in the Sierra Nevada mountains, I think near Bear Valley, and the snow had practically buried one side of the lodge.

That winter was followed by nearly a decade of drought, though I don't remember any of those years being as extreme as the drought years we've had since 2014.

links

A couple of articles I read recently about contemporary records:

  • An in-depth look at the infrastructure of death certificates in the US and why it's so hard to account for the death toll of the Covid-19 pandemic (USA Today)

  • A look at efforts to modernize and digitize California's system of tracking water rights (Los Angeles Times)

weekly