The Scary Future of Technology

As a millenial, I am one of the last generation able to look at how the internet and smartphones have changed the world.

There are many benefits to both, but I am coming to the conclusion that the negatives may outweigh the positives. It is almost certainly mobile technology that has created the biggest negative. When the only way to get online was at a desktop computer the impact was minimal. This may just be nostalgia, however, it is possible that we will look on this era of smartphones with similar fondness in years to come.

Capitalism demands constant growth and, as the sales of smartphones plateau, the AR/MR/VR revolution seems inevitable. I see this as an apocalyptic scenario compared to what we have today.

People will no longer even have to take their phones out of their pockets to access the internet, it will be beamed straight into their eyeballs.

We are already being prepared for this world with smart watches, smart earphones and AR phone tools. It is only a matter of time before technology and business aligns. First there will be mainstream adoption of AR glasses, then contact lenses and one day we will no longer be able to tell what is real and what isn’t.

Part of me is excited about this because I’m an addict as well and the technology is undeniably cool. But I am struggling to retain enough perspective to be horrified by what the world will look like when all of this comes to pass.

Starting

After my post yesterday about resistance, I did start work on the first draft of my new book. As of now I am 1,326 words into the first chapter. My plan is to write the first act (which I already have a pretty concrete plan for) and then return to planning for the rest of the book.

I’m relieved to been working on it. A lot of the resistance I was feeling has been lifted and it seems like the right decision for this project.

That wasn’t what I wanted to write about today though.

Starting something new can be daunting. Quite often that manifests in the form of resistance, but there are more concrete challenges. With writing fiction, one thing that I come up against most often is awkwardness.

Writing fiction isn’t the same as planning fiction and it also isn’t the same as writing blog posts. It is unique. And when you haven’t done it for a little while, it can feel strange.

That’s how yesterday went. I found myself struggling to fit back into the tone of voice of fiction and the result is words that will almost certainly be completely rewritten. This happens a lot.

It’s one of the reasons why I try not to go too long between working on first drafts and, in the past when I had more time, I planned and edited separatly to writing so that I always had a first draft on the go. There are a lot of benefits to that approach and if I ever have more time again in the future then I will definitely go back to it.

There doesn’t seem to be any way to avoid this awkwardness. It’s not only due to leaving a gap between first drafts, it’s also because I’m writing about a new world with new characters and we aren’t familiar with one another yet. Over the next few days as I settle into the tone and get to know the characters, the awkwardness will fade away.

That’s not to say there won’t be other problems. As well as Resistance and Awkwardness, I have the Slump to look forward to. Usually that comes somewhere after the halfway point of the first draft when I will begin to doubt everything about the project.

For now though, I’m dealing with the awkwardness of starting something new. That’s what I have to focus getting past.

Resistance

This morning I found myself starting to doubt the story I’m working on. I began asking myself whether it was really the best thing I could be doing, whether I wanted to spend so much time writing it.

Resistance is part of any project worth taking on and I am used to coming up against it. Sometimes I win the battle and sometimes I lose. Quite often, the battles that I lose, end up being projects that I look back on and wish I had finished.

“Resistance in my experience always kicks in when you’re trying to move from a lower level to a higher level or to identify with a braver part of yourself or your higher nature. So it’s that negative repelling force. It’s kind of the dragon that we have to slay every day if we’re artists or entrepreneurs.”
– Steven Pressfield

Even now there are stories sitting half-finished that I think I might return to one day but that I wish I had never abandoned. They are stories that I think would have been really good. Perhaps they were stories which could have pushed my skill to a new level.

So the question becomes; how is it best to handle resistance?

“Don’t prepare. Begin. Our enemy is not lack of preparation. The enemy is resistance, our chattering brain producing excuses. Start before you are ready.”
– Steven Pressfield

Which is where I find myself now.

There is always the possibility that what I am working on isn’t worth persevering with, but I won’t know that until I have some perspective. The only thing I know for sure right now is that most of the projects I have abandoned would have been woth persevering with.

I don’t know if I’m ready to start yet, but maybe I should take the resistance I’m feeling as a sign that I should. There are reasons to wait, good one’s, but there might be better ones to start.

Untitled Fantasy Story Book 1

That’s how my current work in process looks.

At the moment I have a lot of stuff that I am 90% sure of, but it remains in flux. What I think is certain at the start may have to be changed by something I add at the end. Or things will need to be added here and there.

It will remain like this until I get to the final stages of editing.

This is an important part of the process for me. The longer I can keep a story fluid, the better.

However, there are exceptions to this.

I find that writing a story is a delicate balance between restrictions and freedom.

The world I am writing in has some fixed rules. For example, despite magic not featuring much in the first book, I already know how it works in the world. I also know how money works, the names of days and seasons. I have a pretty good idea about things like this.

As I work back and forth through the story I will focus more on the smaller things and those things can (and will change) but the bigger things will not.

Of course, once the first book is published, I won’t go back and change anything. At that point even the small things will be fixed. The second book in the series won’t be able to change any of those small things, but it will have its own small things which I will change repeatedly.

Everyday is a Fresh Start

We tend to only make resolutions at the end of the year. It seems strange to wait a full year in order to make a change in your life. Over the last six months I’ve made it a habit of doing it every month. But even that may be too much time.

Every time we wake up in the morning we have a clean canvas on which to paint our lives. It may not always be a smooth canvas but what we put on those bumps and rips is up to us. We who have woken up this morning are the fortunate ones. Many people didn’t wake up today and therefor no longer have the opportunity to make a difference.

Why wait until another year has passed before changing?

The same goes for failure as well. You had a bad day yesterday, it’s over. Today is a new day and you can make it whatever your want. There’s no need to dwell on the things that went wrong in the past because you aren’t in the past.

You are here and now and this is what matters. Make the best decision you can today, not in nine months time.

Reflections on a month of blogging

It has almost been a month since I took up blogging every weekday.

I will be the first to admit that not every post has been great, but some of them have been pretty good. And, more importantly, I have enjoyed the process.

So as of today the blog page public. Anyone who stumbles upon my website will now see it. I will continue to write here every weekday.

What I won’t be doing is posting to social media as I was considering. During March I deleted both my Facebook and Twitter accounts and have no intention of creating new ones. The only exception is micro.blog which I still like for all the ways that it is different to Facebook and Twitter.

Which begs the question: how are people ever going to find this place?

Hopefully many will come from the links in my books. Others will find there way here thanks to good SEO. The only links I am planning to put out are in the comments sections of other websites, if something I’ve written happens to be relevant to something that someone else has written.

Maybe it’s naive to think that I can reach anyone without using social media. Only time will tell.

Tracking

I have been keeping track of the amount of time I spend writing for more than a year now. Before that I was tracking the number of words I wrote each day. I switched because it’s relatively easy to type 2,000 words of crap (I’m a fast typist) and I was more interested in producing quality than quantity. Switching to time also means I can more easily track pre-production and editing.

I also track:

  • The number of books read: I keep a list in my logbook of which books I have finished and the date I finished them.
  • The amount of time I spend on various copywriting projects. Some of them are charged by the hour, but even when they aren’t I like to know how long I’m spending on them.
  • The amount of time I meditate is tracked in the app Oak. I don’t really use this for anything but it’s nice to have I suppose.

Over the years I have tried tracking other things as well. At one point I attempted to do full tracking. That lasted for a few weeks but I’m not sure what, if anything, I gained out of doing it. I have considered trying again, but that would mean I was tethered to my phone and I’m not happy with that.

The thing with tracking is that it can be very useful. Not necessarily for the data that you get out of it (it doesn’t mean anything to me whether I spent 20 hours writing last month or 25) but the very act of tracking itself. It elevates the importance of what you are doing and makes it easier to focus on. If I know that at the end of the day I am going to see how much time I spent writing then it gives me a little extra motivation to work harder at it.

Tracking, I think, is a valuable way to force focus. It gives us accountability to ourselves. And in this sense, perhaps it is better not to track everything. Once everything is being measured then everything is of equal importance. I want to save the power of tracking for the things that are most important to me.

Although I have only given a few examples of things I track above, I also use a form of tracking to build good habits. In my notebook I have a page for the month with the days going down the left side and a number of habits going across the top. When I complete the habit for the day I put a cross in the box. This works well for simple done/not done things.

Politics

In particular British Politics.

Last night Tamzin and I sat down to watch parliament vote on a few Brexit (I really hate that term) proposals and amendments. Even a day later I’m not sure what they were actually voting on, nor whether it is likely to make any difference in the days ahead. That’s not what I want to talk about though.

British politics is an embarassment. I’m not talking about the mess we’ve got ourselves into reguarding leaving Europe (whichever way you lean, I don’t think there’s anyone who thinks May and the rest are handling it well) but the way the whole system works.

It’s a bunch of grown men and women shouting at each other, as if they were school children.

Actually no, that’s not fair. School children wouldn’t be able to act like that. When school children debate they are taught to give each other a chance to speak and be heard. They don’t shout over each other and they don’t have petty squabbles. I’d say that our parliamentary debates are more like a bunch of animals tearing into the weakest member of the pack.

It wouldn’t be such a big deal if they were actually able to achieve anything, but the process doesn’t even serve a purpose. They shout at each other and nothing gets done. I’m not sure what the point of it all is.

Even the person who was supposed to be in charge of keeping order (John Bercow) couldn’t keep control of them and, more frequently, joined in with the banter and squabble. It looked a lot like what (I suspect) it was; a bunch of private school toffs arguing over an issue that isn’t likely to affect them much either way. There was little sense of the seriousness of what was being dealt with, little obvious sign that they were aware how many jobs and lives are hanging in the balance.

It seems about time that we had a modern parliament with a modern way of doing things. I don’t know what that would look like, but it couldn’t fail to be better than what we have now. This is the 21st century and the people in charge of the country should start behaving like it. Before it’s too late for all of us.

Naming Characters

When I’m writing I like to have a list of names that I can pick and choose from as I’m going. It saves me having to stop and think of them while I’m in the flow. It also means that I don’t have to type “XX” or whatever to remind myself to add it in later.

I already have the names of the main characters in my upcoming story, but I needed some extras to choose from for characters that I don’t know about yet. This morning I put together a couple of lists, one for surnames, the other for first names.

A couple of invaluable resources for this process are:

Behind the Name

Fantasy Name Generators

I am planning to add more “quick tips” like this. There are a lot of good resources out there and I am always interested to find out what other people use.

Not Quite Dumb Phone

I have been interested in the “dumb phone revolution” for a while now but I don’t quite have the conviction to go through with switching to one. It’s not, I think, because I would struggle. It’s because it would inconvenience other people in my life too much.

I like the idea of my phone returning to the same priority in my life as it was ten years ago. A time when I would have left the house without it and not given it a thought. Now, although I do frequently leave the house without my phone, it feels like a rebellious act.

As a compromise in the past I have switched my phone to grayscale and and made my smartphone “dumb” I even switched to a budget Android phone for a while.

There were advantages to all those things, but there was still something compelling about the phone. I wouldn’t say I was addicted (it has been years since I’ve used social media or played games on it) but phones hold a level of importance in my life that I’m not happy with.

I have been using a work phone for the last six months but as I start to take on more freelance work, I have been looking at getting a personal one again. I didn’t want to spend much money. So I ordered a second hand iPhone SE and received it yesterday.

I noticed the difference immediately. Not in the sense that the phone was slower or worse in any way (it will be years before the minimal number of things that I use a phone for are too much for the device). It is a well made phone and, considering it’s second hand, remarkably well maintained. No, the big difference I noticed was the size of the screen.

The iPhone 8 has a 4.7 inch screen and the iPhone SE has a 4 inch screen. It is amazing how much difference 0.7 inches makes.

The screen is more than big enough for me to do everything I need to use it for. Which is mainly sending iMessages and making phone calls, but also includes listening to audiobooks and sometimes music. But it’s just a little bit too small to browse the web. Or most of the other things that would have caused me a problem in the past. At a stretch I could use it to watch videos, but I almost never do that.

The SE is smaller than my work issued iPhone 8 so I barely notice when I’ve got it in my pocket. It is robust enough that I don’t feel the need to use a case and it has a headphone socket, which I was surprised to find I missed on the iPhone 8. Although I don’t expect to use it as often as I was using the 8, for many reasons, I prefer the SE.

Before I wrote this I did a quick Google search to see if there is any documented relationship between phone screen size and phone use, but nothing came up. I suspect it would be difficult to prove any causation because the size of phones increased alongside other things. Speaking from personal experience, however, it looks like there must be a connection.

I still have all the same restrictions on the SE: no web browser and no app store, no social media or news sites. It’s already a cut down experience, but it is the perfect balance for me between smartphone and dumbphone. I have access to the apps that I want and none of the distractions. My only niggling concern is that there might not be another phone this size produced and that one day my phone will break. If / when that day comes I guess I’ll have to look at dumbphones again.