Friends, colleagues, arch nemeses!
This is your friendly neighborhood newsletter from me, Robin Rendle, and you likely subscribed a short while ago from my website. This is the inaugural edition and I’m not entirely sure what this is, or what it will be just yet.
Oh and feel free to hit the reply button whenever you like; feedback, insults, and adoring compliments are always welcome.
Let’s get to it.
It’s 10am, the first day of stardate 2022, and it’s a beautiful morning here in San Francisco. The sky! The warmth! The blue-ish light! The whole gang is back from a long hiatus in December and today is as crisp and as pleasant as could be.
I’m sat in a little park, the one that Lucy and I made a podcast from a while ago, and I feel the same way this morning as I did back then: extremely online and ready to go. However, this is a recent change because 2021 did a real number on me. By the end of the year, writing had lost its luster, everything seemed futile, and web design was of no interest to me whatsoever. Heck, I didn’t want to see another font, or keyboard, or computer ever again.
This prolonged period of doing absolutely nothing has given me a good kick though and forced me to remember that ah, yes, reading books is wonderful! Have you heard of books? I highly recommend them. I even returned to my keyboard over the last couple of days and I’ve begun typing weird things for fun again. Click-clack, click-clack, fun!
And then—I got stuck.
Which is weird because the pattern with my writing career so far has been either 1. I don’t want to write at all today thank you very much, sir or 2. I have become the patron saint of writing itself and I will type all day until I pass out from dehydration.
But stuck? Nah, mate.
I guess this has something to do with the size of the pieces I’m writing—very short, newslettery things—so there’s not enough work to get snagged on. There’s no revision required with the stuff I do since I’m not connecting one unwieldy thought with another over a long period of time. But! With this new piece I’m working on, it is large and unwieldy and somewhat complex. And delicate as well. There’s a lot of disjointed stories that don’t fit together yet but (I hope) they will.
Or it will be an embarrassing disaster that ruins my career! Who knows.
But either way I’m stuck.
On the rare occasion that I hit a quagmire with a project I remember this one magic trick that’s always hidden up my sleeve (but one I tend to constantly forget and have to find again). It’s this: when stuck, change the medium. So if I’m certain that I’m writing a book, then I should change it into a presentation. Or if I’m making an essay then I ought to record myself saying it out loud. Simply changing the medium is enough to see something for what it really is with the important stuff highlighted right away, and most of the junk obvious enough to spot from a mile off.
Also, during this flip from one medium to another, I begin to get a sixth sense for how the piece should look visually (like what fonts and colors to play with).
I did this yesterday when I got really, truly stuck. Simply printing the piece out was enough to unblock me for the day, as I could then quickly see just how much repetition and half-baked thoughts had snuck their way in. But with a black pen, and a dramatic flourish, I quickly slashed those chunks out of it. Progress!
Will I publish this thing? Maybe not, as the delicate part of it might be...too delicate? But! It’s a great reminder that I need to change the medium when I get stuck or don’t feel like working on something at all. Printing something out and then holding the text in your hands gives a whole other perspective that’s otherwise impossible if you keep banging your head against the wall.
So: two lessons here, I guess. That one above, and another more important one that’s also a resolution for this year and all the following years left after it: just take frequent, long breaks from work. Please. The last few months I’ve felt a bit like an abandoned spaceship, drifting about in a big empty nothing. But now with some time on my hands I’ve found that the crew’s returned and I’m starting to get critical functions back online again.
This is why I’m starting this newsletter today. I want to take better care of myself in 2022 and there are so many books left to read! Games left to be played! Not to forget the awful, terrible, bad, unforgivable, measly, half-witted writing to strike through with a pen. And so I hope that this newsletter can give me a clearer picture of how I’m doing, where I’m going wrong, and then what to do next.
But for now? Lunch.