How to write yourself positive

What you write becomes the historic record of what happened, if that record is full of negativity, the memory becomes negative.

Apparently, when you remember something, you are actually recalling the last time you recalled it, not the memory itself!

So how do you help your future self out?

Write everything down sentence by sentence. read back the sentence and chop into small statements. more than one and gives you a dividing line. ‘but’, ‘then’, ‘so’ are also clues. Ask yourself do all the parts need to be there? if your record should be factual, without emotion, cut parts that are interpretation, hearsay or feelings. If you are challenging the negative, cut out anything grumpy, limiting or jealous. leave in achievements, benefits and lessons learned.

What you are left with can make you feel uncomfortable right now. This record can challenge how you see yourself and what happens in your life. That’s not a bad thing if you embrace if for the learning experience it presents.

Your edit might also seem terse or disjointed. On the plus side it will be more quickly read and understood by others. Your future self, friends and colleagues will thank you for the time saved. All the more effort available for your next positive experience!

Pausing for thought

Birthdays are always a good excuse for pausing, taking stock and checking life is still on the path you’ve chosen. For fun, and also because I am a curious soul that cares about what other people think and how they measure me, I did a Myers-Briggs test again today.

Apparently, according to my results my most likely careers are writing and counselling and the most important facet of a job for me is how meaningful it is. I find this very interesting in the light of two observations of my early life I had believed for a very long time: that I am a selfish person and that writers must have something to write about.

Times have changed since I first heard those comments, there is an influence on writing styles which has evolved, insisting that 800 words is enough for anyone in one sitting, one must assume that the reader has no attention span and that only one sentence should be used in a paragraph. In addition it seems anyone can write about anything so not having anything meaningful to write about is no longer a barrier. I’m not sure I agree with the turn writing is taking but in my selfish need for permission to write I’m going to take it and run!


Displaying html code listings your blog

I’ve long admired technical bloggers who spout seemingly reams of code listings to illustrate and support their blog articles, whatever the subject.

My recent forays into testing html5 and reporting the findings has lead me to want to produce my own listings. Really simple I thought, just dump the plain text from the source between two <code> tags and hey presto, one listing. Um… No, not quite that simple. It works fine for css – it’s considered plain text unless found in the <head> of a document between <style> tags. Html, however, is more tricky as the browser wants to render it <code> tags or no <code> tags.

Veteran code geeks may laugh and point at my obvious stupidity but I can honestly say it was only after several frustrating minutes of forum searches that the doh! moment struck and I remembered html entities.

So for anyone else out there bashing their head on this seemingly simple conundrum here’s the solution:

  1. type or paste your html code into your favourite blog software between <code> tags
  2. change every & to &amp;
  3. then change every < to &lt;

If you fancy showing the line numbers as well you can always mark up each line as a line item <li> within an ordered list <ol>.

Simple – now I know that is…

… happy code listing!

Welcoming in 2009

One of the resolutions this year was to post more on my blog and as it’s already 18th of January before the first post of 2009 I may be behind schedule…

One of the delays has been just not feeling comfortable with the look of my blog and the ever present Damocles sword of updating the blog software. I use wordpress and seem to be updating the software more often than updating the blog. Hopefully since I have taken the hour this morning to carefully backup the old site, check my config file changes and install a stable version of 2.7 this will no longer be an issue – at least until 2.8 comes out.

I’ve also treated myself to a new theme, I’m not sure about the blue but the basic style layout is ideal. As I hope to write on a number of varied subjects that interest me, I’m not going to be happy with an overtly geeky or typewriter or photography style – especially if I’m advocating the best use of chilli in parsnip soup at the time.

So the plan is – and I’m telling all of you so I don’t back out – to write more on my journey into php, my latest love hate relationship with html5, my favourite organic veg inspired recipe of the moment, the tai chi move I can’t get my head around and maybe my latest photography walk with highlights.

It’s a tall order perhaps and I may not succeed with everything all of the time but if I learnt only one thing in 2008 it was that if you don’t aim for the stars, you sure as hell ain’t gonna get there.

Saille 1

She tasted and smelt mud and then raised her head and spat. Why was it always like this she wondered? why could it never happen when it was dry or just as she was about to fall into her blankets at the end of a long day. “Grandfather, Grandfather! come quickly!” The sound of her young brother’s voice pierced the painful haze surrounding her head. She felt the steady rain soaking her back as the rest of her body awoke, twinging and leaden.

Between them the two men helped her rise and stagger into the nearby hut, her basket of eggs forgotten. They would be broken and wasted but it did not matter, this was more important.

“What did you see?” Clamoured young Llew. “Go outside, impatient boy! Fetch the others, we will all hear then,” ordered their Grandfather. They all came, no one questioned a summons from Derw; Saille’s visions were not rare but they were always important. Everyone remembered when she foresaw the flooding last spring and the whole village left just in time to avoid being destroyed by the new path of the river.

As the thumping in her head receded and her normal vision cleared, Saille saw the waiting anxious faces around her and began to speak:

“I sat on a darkened hilltop and heard voices speaking quietly in some strange harsh language. They were coming towards me up the hill so I hid and watched from behind a rock. Ten geese flew across the moon as I waited for them to appear. They were strangers dressed for battle but muffled so their swords would not strike against their belts. They were happy to see such an open land in front of them, quiet in the dark with no lookout. ‘And so shall the daughters of the sea be unprotected as we come upon them and though their fathers shall rise, they will be cast down’. Then the mists rose and fell and I stood above a battlefield and all the pennants of men were broken and torn and blood ran in streams down the cliffs into the sea. As the sun set, a wolf stood and howled above the Dragon’s Tail and the laughter of men and marching of feet rang in my ears. The moon was full and the night black with ravens that covered every path and stream and rock like a cloak.”

“What does it mean?”

“A darkness is coming and we must be vigilant,” Derw concluded. “The king should know of this.”

“But when is it coming and how?”

“We will have to watch and be ready, be it ten days or ten generations until they come.”

A note on confidence

I’ve always stuggled with confidence in my own voice whether singing, writing or taking photos. There is so much already ‘out there’ on the infinitely accessible web it seems as though my voice is too small to be heard. In all that volume there must be someone out there with more important things to say than me and if there is I shouldn’t be saying anything.

In defence of myself and others like me, I now think that’s nonsense, as I’ll explain.

I read an article (in The Countryman of all things) in which a professional photographer waxed lyrical about the sheer volume of photography on the internet which is a direct consequence of the ease of access of the internet and the rise in affordable digital photographic equipment. I’ve noticed this volume first hand on Flickr. There are groups for specific types of photography such as ‘flowers’ which are posted to by hundreds of people world wide every day. That is a lot of photographs and I must admit I find it very daunting. My one little picture of a primrose (of which I am very proud) has been lost a day later under the weight of new entries.

The gist of the article as I understand it is that to get noticed (and rise above the crowd of equally amazing macro shots of exotic petal edges or whatever) you have to take photographs with impact, relevance and purpose. In other words your pictures (singing or writing projects) have to tell a story that stops people in their tracks. I find this concept incredibly daunting. In order to have a voice that is heard (assuming you don’t write or photograph for your own amusment or simply to pass the time) you have to be better than everyone else at finding the right shot, subject, turn of phrase at the right time and then publish first.

Inside all of us is a wish, not to be better than everyone else, but to be valued and listened to. Perhaps we believe that maybe just one person will read what you’ve written or see what you photographed and regardless of what they took from it, it will change their life.

There will be many people out there who would read that article and not worry whether the internet is overloaded by confident people shouting their opinions and so perhaps they shouldn’t overload it any further. They won’t worry that there might not be any small arenas anymore where tiny lights can shine. Are they the ones overloading the internet in the first place? Why should we who care shy away from having our voice ‘out there’? Are we afraid that actually the internet is being overloaded by those people that seem to need their voice ‘out there’ as a boost to confidence?

Perhaps there are three types of people: 1] people with something to say who are confident in their forum choice, 2] people with something to say who feel daunted in their forum choice, and 3] people who want to be heard before they have something to say.

I feel an affinity with people of type 2 but as this journal is witness I no longer feel as daunted as I once did.

So I now present the opinion:

If you’re worried about it, you probably shouldn’t and if you’re not worried you possibly should be.

People who think long and hard about their views and whether or not they should voice their opinion may be more infomative, rational and full of sense than someone who hasn’t wondered whether there’s already a lot of ‘guff’ on the internet and if they should be adding to it.

There’s always the option of local gatherings, small clubs or writing groups and if you do find them full of ‘guff’ at least you’ve had the chance to get out and meet new people!

So much less and yet so much more

When there is so much more to be seen we record so much less, have you noticed? Even though I’ve decided to commit more to paper (or at least virtual paper) I’m so frightened I might miss something, I daren’t look at the keyboard. In the last couple of weeks the weather has got warmer, I’ve seen blackbirds fighting over territory and Hazel catkins have opened, glowed and gone brown.

All the crocuses I planted in the garden are out and I don’t know which day they first opened. I remember I noticed it the day the first daffodil opened but I didn’t write it in the diary so I can no longer tell you when it was. The wintry hedges have been revitalised with flashes of bright green hawthorn leaves and pale ghostly blackthorn flowers. Pussy willow catkins are showing their first silver fur and my neighbours ornamental plum has turned pink and frothy seemingly overnight.

Even though I work in an office in the country with a window overlooking paddocks, drive over the Malverns every morning and evening and apparently have more time than everyone else (I am employed part time) I miss things. I make it a habit to notice the world around me and yet sometimes it still spins away to appear reborn anew and different a couple of weeks later.

As I get older I find I’m not so afraid of missing seeing things; I carry a notebook and diary around with me. Now I’m just afraid of forgetting to write them down.

Little and often

Isn’t it amazing how you can lie in bed and compose paragraphs of coherent text and yet once the fingers are poised over the keys it fades to so much fluffy cotton wool.

These are rules just to remind me more than anything, but if they help others then so be it.

  • write little and often
  • don’t linger for hours if nothing happens, go do something else and come back if inspiration strikes
  • stick to one subject per post – it’s a lot easier to focus and to find a meaningful title!
  • shorter sentences reduce the dangers of rambling
  • don’t worry about quality before quantity to start with, review as a separate process
  • don’t be afraid to bin if need be – it is better to have written and binned than not written at all!

Sometimes it is not clear to me whether I pale at the blank white page because my head really is empty or because there are too many unfocused words and ideas in there tripping over themselves to get out and be expressed. The only way to test the theory is to start writing and find out.