Tag Archives: writing

Relief and broken routines

For the past few months, I have been diligently filtering through a variety of advice pages on routines, establishing priorities, and generally trying to get myself into some productive and (perceived) useful habits.

Now, after weeks and months spent getting some of these routines in place, forcing myself to be regular, marking crosses on the calendar, I find that I have a missed a day. I wasn’t being reluctant, I simply forgot: before I realised it, it was after midnight, and a day had passed without me doing what I’ve been trying to discipline myself to do all this time.

And the surprise is that it’s almost a relief. Why is that? Is it because I’m trying to establish a routine that isn’t worth much? Is it because I actually don’t want to be doing what I’m convincing myself to do, and perhaps have other things that are worth more?

Or is it perhaps simply that a change on occasion is a good thing, that it highlights the importance (or otherwise) of the task in question and makes it easier to prioritise amongst all the things that are a drain on already limited resources? Of course it would be best to have a routine that is unbreakable, something so intuitive and instinctive that I don’t even need to come up with a system to make myself adhere to.

In some ways, the task in question is already some of these things: after all, I realised that I had broken the chain, and the accompanying sense of something akin to guilt means that I do miss it emotionally when for some reason I don’t get around to it. In short, it puts the routine nicely into perspective, the relief coming from a realisation that routines are simply that, systems that are good to have but not forced upon one, rather a self-imposed task chosen out of want, not need.

Digging up the dead

Ironically, this is the third reference to anonymity in a row, although in an entirely different context: “rescuing these soldiers from anonymity.”

I refer to a BBC Radio 4 – Crossing Continents podcast on the volunteers making extraordinary efforts to find the bodies of Russian soldiers fallen during the second World War.

The story touched me both for the emotional aspect as well as the psychogeographical element: there is a strong psychological and historical element regarding where these men fell, how they were “incorporated” into the landscape (i.e., overgrown, intertwined with trees, planted over, lost [actively] in the forest), and how their simple historical reality is reflected in their physical presence in the landscape (literally).


Once again the crossing of several topics from different podcasts: always a good sign that a subject is somehow indicative of a general mood or trend. In this case, two separate BBC Radio 4 – Analysis podcasts (broadcast on 3 Feb and 17 Feb) covering aspects of the current wave of social movements and social voice falling under the broad labels “anonymous” or “anarcho-populism.”

In addition to the psychological facets of the desire or need for anonymity, and apart from the major trends of rebellion against establishment and blending of social media with a rather introspective desire to forcefully express oneself and ones wishes, the key topics covered touch on justice and certainty, as well as vulnerability and openness. In terms of justice, as one of the interviewees points out, the rule of law has always been based on the fact that a case is tried in the open, that there is no anonymity: exactly the opposite of what is done when documents are leaked or truths/conspiracies are aired in the media by unknown persons. One factor here is certainty, in the sense that a heightened degree of certainty often hardens people in their views and leads them to take matters into their own hands (something undoubtedly made easier by our modern connectedness).

In both cases, the arguments seem to revolve around the relative embededness within society of the two concepts. Overall, it appears to be a sign of degree. After all, a small number of anarchists or anonymous do-gooders is no bad thing: but what happens when more and more people fall into this category? Are these not movements which, paradoxically, are unsustainable once a larger fraction of the population claim to be adherents?

Victorian revival

From the following Start the Week podcast with its key theme being things related to a Victorian revival, there were a number of pointed notes related to stories, communication, and generally the fundamental differences between different times and ages of development.
Firstly, the topic of books whose narrative and colour is based on other literature from the era, as opposed to history. A certain style, mood, and perception begets itself, reinforces an image that is quickly popularised, and leaves aside some of the grimy and non-linear details inherent in the process of history itself. The story of history rarely proceeds in a straight, logical line, apart from when it is recounted in hindsight.
Secondly, the idea of authors wishing to “complete” the stories of characters from the Victorian era is one that struck me. It seems to have at its core the gaps and differences in how communication, diaries, self-description and -documentation are changing how our lives and our world are interpreted (and made interpretable). The reference to Erving Goffman cross-references nicely with a Thinking Allowed podcast of some time ago: all about how people are always putting on a show, how they present themselves, and which media they choose in which, and with which, to do so.


One of my favourite artists is the land artist and sculptor Andy Goldsworthy.

There are plenty of descriptions of his art, as well as images, to be found online: what always strikes me about his art can generally be put into two categories:

  1. How ephemeral the work is. It doesn’t hang in a gallery, or stand (with an accompanying sign) in a public park. It challenges the age-old cliche of whether something really exists if there is none there to see it. Well, for someone to have created it the answer must be yes, and even when the elements are back in the seeming randomness of their environment, a shadow remains.
  2. How precisely formed the work is. Out of all the stones in the field, or twigs in the hedge, what emerges is a well-ordered and shapely mass that has a meaning. It makes me think of writing, or painting: a honed, polished structure within a jumble of words or colours that has been given meaning, context.

The film produced about some of his creations and the creative process is also worth seeing: I watch it in quiet moments when I enjoy seeing the sculptures melt back into nature, having nevertheless left behind and imprint.

Hoarding words

Struck by a Start the Week podcast on writing and epic stories, the comment that left me most satisfied was the phrase during the discussion relating to how writers hoard words, how they keep lists of verbs, and (as I interpret it) how they use these as a treasure store and inspiration to seed the growth of longer collages and stories.

Single words often have powerful connotations, especially the verbs, and it is fascinating to see how they spawn actions of their own in writers and during the process of writing.

Big data (2)

In this Analysis podcast, several themes come up relating to media and big data, data, privacy, secrets, and who controls and distributes each of these (government, media, individuals).

The interesting comment is that in the 20th Century framework, ideas, philosophies, and causes were promoted by groups which nucleated around an idea (political parties, unions, etc.) and derived their main strength from “strength in numbers” and could thus influence policy or decision-making generally. Today, things appear to have become more granular: it is possible for an individual to make waves without the backing of a party, and ideology has thus reached a much higher level of granularity than before, highly dependent on the individual.

The government has reason to fear the individual, just as the individual has reason to fear the state.

First post

Until one night I found the Thread in my Labyrinth of Difficulties.
Peter Ackroyd; Hawksmoor, Chapter 1
(With a nod to Fred Wilson at AVC)
I have a two kids and a wonderful wife. I live in Germany, which was never my intention but has worked out well for both of us. Both parents working and keeping the family happy is not easy, but we manage: I love my family, the family, seeing family and spending time with them, and my life revolves around my family, emotionally and physically.
I work in the biotech / pharmaceutical industry: I love science, but I never intended to work in this field. There are moments I love my work, but most of the times I’m simply grateful to be doing something interesting and meaningful. This is especially true when working with interesting people: I love to coordinate and sort out problems in teams. My natural place is facilitating conversations and trying to steer a team towards a common conclusion. I love being at the interface: I’m not an expert, so I’m comfortable on the edge and knowing a little about a lot.
I love being creative; I try to read and write, and when I can, paint or draw. I love geography, typography, photography, and how these all fit together. I love to put stories and pictures together, and I love the idea of being able to engage more in photography, although I don’t find the time to go out enough. I love collecting, whether stories or images: somehow they form a continuing story, a timeline, and this keeps me grounded in the past, present, and future.
I’m fascinated generally by technology, especially the portable kind you can carry in a pocket, and how it is changing our lives, communication, and daily routines. Especially when it comes to information management: I have so little time I am continuously modifying my ways of consuming information in order to better process and structure everything. Usually I don’t succeed: but sometimes I see a spark that brings all the above together, and those are the evenings after which I get a good night’s sleep.