Joe Maller.com

Stoppers, change and transition plans

How many blog posts have started with some variation of “It’s been too quiet around here”, followed by an apology? Too many. This might be one of those, but I learned a long time ago not to apologize for creative lulls. The process is inherently too fickle and just can’t be counted upon.

Truth is, I’ve been writing a lot, I just haven’t posted anything. The reasons are kind of dumb, but mostly there are several “big” pieces getting in the way. I’ve somehow convinced myself that those pieces are foundational to putting other pieces in context. It sounds ridiculous, but there it is. Essentially, I’m creatively constipated, there’s lots in the pipe, but nothing’s getting out.

Nice metaphor there.

In my own head I’ve been calling these things “stoppers”. Until said whatever-it-is is completed, I can’t move onto the next one. I have a piece mostly written about this, but, of course, that too is stuck behind a few other pieces. Curiosity doesn’t schedule, and I find myself drifting off and starting numerous new projects before the old ones are completed.

This site is going to change soon, and somewhat radically. I’ve got a piece half-written about that too. I want to strip things down, remove the barrriers (this is a theme) and get back the joy of making for the web– it’s not just about writing.

Welcome to the stopgap.

This is my near-term plan going forward, I’m not setting any time frames or due dates because there are just too many unknowns and outside interruptions. Right now, this is my intent, but things might always change.

I’ve been tired of WordPress for years, but felt stuck and was never quite sure what to do about it. The current plan is to switch to either Octopress or Jekyll. These should allow me the freedom to write when I feel like writing, hack when I feel like hacking, and create whatever crazy half-breed functional post I want– a current near-impossibility without substantially gutting WordPress.

Technically there’s nothing wrong with WordPress, it’s unarguably better than it’s ever been. But, as a full-fledged platform, it brings it’s own innate complexity. I don’t want to have to deal with that extra level of middleware, I just want to make stuff.

But there’s one big stopper: Both Octopress and Jekyll are Ruby projects. A few years back, feeling burnt out and very tired of PHP, I sat down to learn either Ruby or Python. I chose Python.

I do know about the Hyde project, which started as a Python port of Jekyll, but I didn’t have much luck experimenting with it and the Octopress/Jekyll communities are much more active. Sure I could potentially jump in and contribute to Hyde, but I don’t have the personal bandwidth and would rather start out with a mostly-working framework instead of trying to hack around and fix another which doesn’t quite meet my needs.

As a way of tip-toeing into the Ruby garden, I’m rebuilding a friend’s site using Jekyll. It involves some backend hacking and is letting me get my hands dirty with a small data set.

In the meantime, I’ve started writing everything using Markdown. I first tried Markdown a very, very long time ago–2006-ish–but gave it up because I wasn’t sure it would stick. It stuck.

For implementation during the transition, I’m using the Markdown on Save plugin. This was written by one of the lead WordPress devs, so I trust it’ll work without screwing everything up. Also, since I’m dealing with a somewhat large dataset, the conditional formatting checkbox is a smart solution.

Finally, I’m trying to approach all my writing with an exit strategy. Once I’ve got something down, I immediately start thinking about how to finish it and get out. Editing is no longer just about clarity and polish, it’s a means of escaping from a death spiral.

There’s plenty more I’ve been doing which I’ve been remiss in sharing. Lots of research into health, nutrition, movement, anthropology, running, feet and a bunch of other stuff I’m forgetting. I’m looking forward to having my voice back.

Existential note: Just as I clicked publish, Safari decided to crash.