Tag Archives: writing

The Value of Work

Do you ever simply put real life ‘on hold’ while you think about the meaning of a word? I do it frequently. This time it was “work”.

I haven’t been going ‘to work’ for the last couple of years. You might argue that when I am writing, I am “Working At Home” and that if I ever have a book published, I’ll be paid for that work. What if I don’t? Does it stop having been work then? Obviously not, because people volunteer to do ‘voluntary work’, just as I am writing this blog post with no realistic hope of financial reward. I’m doing it because there is an idea in my head that I want to put in other people’s heads. They might like it.

I thought I wanted to write. I was surprised to discover that I wanted to think. I’ve been paid to think for years – but to think about what They told me to. It had become increasingly difficult to be interested in some of their boring, self-inflicted problems. I wanted to explore my own ideas.

Perhaps work is when you do something you hope someone else will value, even if you aren’t sure?


Slack(er) in the system

Someone told me recently that there is no point in ‘knowing’, as other people only value you for what you ‘do’. While I’ve been writing, the two have been intimately linked.  I’ve experimented to confirm my hypothesis that the less focused I am, the more conceptual connections I make and creative ideas I have, suggesting that in any period of time, productivity and creativity lie in opposite directions. I grow ever more certain that creative ideas are what allows humans to make our great leaps forward, so that things we thought needed to be done efficiently become irrelevant.

Society should be more tolerant of us slackers, dreamers, artists, pure researchers, collectors of tales; those who are interested in odd things to an unhealthy degree. Productivity kills innovation. Efficiency drives stifle improvement and increase entropy.

WARNING: Too much ‘management’ may be harmful.

The Economics of Free Culture

I’ve spent the last 18 months in a period of self-development: learning, thinking and writing. There has been a vague idea of something ‘book-like’ at the end of the process that might generate an income but, to date, I have earned nothing. I am a kept man. In Mrs. Woos words recently, “It’s lucky you can occasionally make me laugh or you’d be dead”.

Last night I gave a 10 (11) minute talk in the form of a book review of a series of blog posts. I did all the preparation between 2pm and 5pm, without too many distractions and it was more structured than my normal on-the-fly blog posts. Ignoring the ideas that I slipped in from the previous research, this is the best data I have from which I can measure my writing productivity.

If we assume a rather optimistic income of £50,000 a year for a writer and an optimistic 2 weeks per year holiday (due to the constand flow of work, at steady rate which I can satisfy), we get a nice round target of £1,000 per week to aim for, or £100 per half day. So, to have a comfortable life as a writer, I would need to find someone willing to pay me £100 for a page of writing that I hadn’t even had to research, or at least double that if if they wanted me to go somewhere to present it, plus expenses. So, £250 per 10 minute speaking engagement or they could just read it here for nothing and I could get a bar job like most artists and musicians I know. As everything becomes free, our creative economy is imploding. I need a new commercial model.

Let’s imagine there was a micro-payment system for this blog. How cheap does information have to be, to compete with free, when people are drowning in an information flood? The Free culture of the Information Revolution is doing for new writers what karaoke did for pub singers.

For the first time in my life, I’m asking myself, “What would Simon Cowell do?” and the implications of that are too horrible to contemplate. When my childhood in the Sixties promised a future of 50% leisure time to weave a new kaftan or write poetry, I imagined the wealth and the leisure would be distributed evenly. I should have considered the broken promises of the industrial revolution to save us all from toil.

The concepts hiding behind the content.

During my recent ‘book writing phase’, due both to the subjects I’m considering and the activity of writing, I’ve become painfully aware of the inadequacy of the widely accepted concept of ‘content’. We have abstracted our ideas about ‘written’ information backwards from a linear script, via the paginated representation of books to the hierarchical structures of content management systems, without arriving home at the dynamic conceptual networks in which I believe we think.

There is a void in our set of tools, waiting to be filled by something that can bridge the canyon between deep thought and the shallow messages we use to communicate, as we try to nudge others towards believing what our culture(s) believe(s).

[ This entry is a modified copy of something I posted on LinkedIn.
It is conceptually identical. “Only the content has changed”,
apart from this bit inside the brackets, which has extended the conceptual map by ‘Give an example’ and a new idea based on unpublished work about how our ideas and reactions to information are shaped by our personal value system

… also the “(s)”s.

Agile, Lean and Failing Early

About a year ago I started to write ‘a book’ with a working title of ‘Information Metaphysics’, about the essential nature of this thing called ‘information’ that we all think we understand, until we think about it more. That is still a work in progress.

I deliberately allowed myself to be distracted, to explore my notion of creativity and to write another book about the role of co-incidence in life while exploring a painting and a poem of the same name. At some point I ran aground in shallow water and started to worry that I was failing to demonstrate any progress towards ever earning any income from writing.

In the corner, I had a stack of  ideas that didn’t fit in with my evolving concepts for either book. I came up with the idea of writing up each of these ideas, as you might a blog post, and Lean publishing them, regularly in an online portfolio. People would be able to download a sample, then if they liked it, effectively subscribe, at a low price point (US $5,) for all further instalments ever. This would partially fund my extravagant life-style of black coffee and cheese sandwiches, while I completed my main book. [ If you are a regular reader of this blog , at this point please think of yourself as EMI rejecting the Beatles, or perhaps sacking The Sex Pistols. ]

One of the main advantages of Agile and Lean development (I had planned to explain what the differences are) is that something that is bound to fail, fails quickly, with minimal damage. This morning I accepted that my experiment has not worked and ‘unpublished’ my book “Finds & Thinks”. There is apparently no market for my kind of cheap, concept-culture, when people can see as much free stuff as they have time to read, watch or listen to without having to think at all. You might wish to Pinterest this post so you can forget about what you’ve done.

Of course, I may just be rubbish at thinking and writing but I prefer to think it is an early warning sign that Free culture isn’t working for those who come up with new ideas. Which, I think, is about what Iggy Pop said in his BBC John Peel Lecture.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04lcj6z (only available for 14 days)

I might even get a job. The Man pays better. If you see him, tell him I’m waiting.  But if he’s late, I may have completed my solution to intertwingularity. If you don’t know what it is, look it up. It was going to be in the $5 book.

This idea of yours Mr. Heisenberg – are you certain?

This morning I have been engaged in the activity of ‘writing’ my ‘book’ about information metaphysics. In reality, it feels like having an idea avalanche fall on me. I have heard authors of fiction describe this sensation in terms of character and narrative but I don’t have either of those to deal with yet, so I didn’t expect it of non-fiction.

I’ve gradually realised that my recent experience with Agile software development has damaged my brain to such an extent that I’ve subconsciously been trying to develop a method of ‘Agile Writing’. Consequently, I have decided to embrace scope-creep as a friend. My ‘book’ is actually a tree that’s turning into a network with colour tagging for the third dimension. I may soon need touch and smell – hopefully not at the same time. Please don’t ask me what it’s “about” again, for a while.

I have invented a brand new dilemma: Are ideas particles or waves? As a partial-physicist, I am alarmed that my current answer is “yes”. Particle-wave duality is the last thing I need right now. Have you seen how many dandelions there are, growing in the lawn? They must wait, unstrum, until I have The Answer or I decide to blame it all on Heisenberg (who was simply not a ‘can-do’ kind of guy.)

“Well is it, or isn’t it?”
“I can’t be sure”

Retired due to quality issues

I have retired hurt from the National Blog Post Month competition after pulling a muscle in my brain.

I was using the competition to put pressure on me to write something every day but I’ve found the need to have something in a state other people could understand, by the end of each day, was actually distracting me from my longer term aims.

I’m not sorry for having tried. I learned something (which I already knew, really) about the way I write. My ideas tend to come in bursts. I need to capture them from the ether before each disappears then move on to the next.  I can refine things when the flood abates. #NaBloPoMo caused me to push ideas away because I had a deadline to meet. That’s what normal, target-focussed people do. I believe that for me, following my Way (Tao) is more productive in the long-term, in both quantity and  quality.

I’ll be writing but not rushing to post. I’ll post when I think I have something worthy of your attention. Thanks for reading anything you have so far.