Creative outlets

This blog often reads like a diary, so one might ask why I bother to publish it at all. It’s not like I’m famous, have a track record of writing interesting articles, or breaking news, so why do I do it?

Writing is a creative outlet

I think everyone benefits from having creative outlets. Some people play a musical instrument or sing, some paint and some build big Lego models. 1 I like to write and I think writing concise, clear, elegant statements is a noble, valuable and satisfying pursuit. I spend many hours each week writing email yet I rarely have the luxury of crafting and polishing, so I choose to write and re-write the few words that appear here - it gives me a chance to perfect the text. The degree of polish given to the words is completely disproportionate to the number of readers or the topic, but hobbies are rarely rational undertakings, are they?

As long as it’s satisfying and I have a little spare time, I’ll keep writing, and if I have extra time, I’ll even write a little less.

If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” - Cicero

An interesting technical workflow

The process of publishing is often as enjoyable as the creation of the material. The process of creating and serving this page is technical enough to provide space for tinkering and streamlining, but simple enough that returning to a working (manual) process is always an option if there’s a real need to publish. I think I’ve spent more time playing with the process than actually writing articles - the source code to the publishing engine, Nikola, is easy to understand and modify and maintaining my own host and deployment workflow has introduced me to several great tools and platforms.

Publishing this blog gives me an excuse to write and experiment with software; it gives me a small but well defined project where I’m in control of the scope and get to do all the fun bits. My most engaging software projects generally begin out my own need, yet because I’m the client I can stop when I want. As someone who enjoys starting projects more than finishing them, this helps keep it a fun activity.

Real-world optimisation

I find the quest for efficiency to be very satisfying. Efficiency might mean running a site on one host instead of two without a degradation of performance, reducing the build time of a product from 30 to 23 seconds or reducing the time to render a web page from 800ms to 600ms. I find something to optimise whenever I look about, yet I don’t optimise because I have a problem with scalability, I do it because I like the discipline of optimising.

Optimisation activities expose me to tools, platforms and techniques just like my workflow improvements - I love to learn why placing particular elements at the top of a page allows the page to render more quickly, or how moving my site closer to my location improves responsiveness over cellular connections during my daily commute, and I think it’s very cool that I can reliably rebuild my hosting and publishing environment on a new server within a few minutes. A site gives me avenues for optimisation, and I think that’s great.

So while many would be disappointed to spend time writing without the knowledge that people are reading, you can probably see why having readers isn’t the driving force for this little site.

… that said, it’s really cool that you’re reading it!

  1. I’m happy to accept gifts