Conducting myself properly

    A vintage cartoon from Punch magazine, showing a conductor busking by conducting an orchestra of broken instruments with no musicians to play them.

    They made me the student leader of the school orchestra. One day the music teacher was sick and he asked me to conduct. I had no idea what to do, except what I’d seen him doing. So I waved my arms around.

    Today I’m fragmented, overwhelmed by what there is still to complete, and also by all there is to start. Somewhere in the middle, there I am, lost between starting and finishing. Flailing.

    Yet even no method is still a method. Says the poet Christian Wiman1:

    💬 “The truth is our only savior is failure.”

    And look at those stats! This is my 200th post here this year. Writing slowly? No, not me.

    1. Christian Wiman, “The Preacher Addresses the Seminarians” from Once in the West (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2014). ↩︎

    Updating a Wordpress site this weekend felt like a chore. I really wanted to enjoy it, but the writing interface, with its content blocks, seemed to block the flow. Why is it like this? Feels like the priority is machine convenience, not the human experience. Opinions, anyone?

    The only problem with 📷🎉 completing the September 2023 photoblog challenge - 30 days of posting photos - is that by the end I kind of felt like I needed a short rest. But with normal service now resuming, I’m writing slowly again!

    A cat lies curled up asleep

    📷 🏡A couple of weeks ago we visited CERES urban farm, with its community garden, cafe, bike workshop, nursery, bookstore, playground, market, chooks and, yes, a food forest. Worth a visit if you’re ever in Melbourne.

    #gardening #permaculture

    Vegetable beds at CERES community gardens, Melbourne.

    Feels like Summer here in Sydney, even though it’s the penultimate day of Winter. 26C by lunchtime, followed by an afternoon thunderstorm.

    Painting of Redfern Station in the rain, by Arthur Streeton, 1893. Public Domain. In the foreground, a wide, rain-drenched road reflects the cloudy sky.

    The early morning cloud was lifting over Spectacle Island 📷

    Spectacle Island with a band of cloud on its side.

    Yesterday I polished the look of the Writing Slowly website by switching to Matt Langford’s Tiny theme, and adding some font and colour-scheme customisation of my own. So long as you’re not alergic to CSS, makes this very easy to do. Anyway, dear reader, I hope you like it. #WebDesign #Indieweb #PersonalSites #Blog

    Finished reading Cold Enough for Snow

    Finished reading: Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au 📚 This was a quite mezmerising read. It reminded me of the writing of Yasunari Kawabata, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. He wrote a novel called Snow Country. Both these snowy books are set in an unnamed Japanese onsen resort in the winter, a train journey away from Tokyo. The Wikipedia entry for Kawabata’s work says:

    Through many of Kawabata’s works the sense of distance in his life is represented. He often gives the impression that his characters have built up a wall around them that moves them into isolation… Kawabata left many of his stories apparently unfinished, sometimes to the annoyance of readers and reviewers, but this goes hand to hand with his aesthetics of art for art’s sake, leaving outside any sentimentalism, or morality, that an ending would give to any book. This was done intentionally, as Kawabata felt that vignettes of incidents along the way were far more important than conclusions.

    All this qualities strongly apply to Jennifer Au’s book, too. But she writes about quite different themes, such as the relationship between mother and daughter, and the distance that accrues between second generation migrants and their parental place of origin.

    I found the prose to be so understated as to be almost tedious, but then I found the narrator’s ‘vignettes of incidents along the way’ strangely engaging.

    Why I'm writing slowly

    There’s an emerging movement in favour of ‘slow productivity’.

    And writing is one of the best examples of the many benefits of hurrying slowly.

    Successful writing doesn’t result from Herculean efforts to tally up mammoth word-counts, often at the last minute (although, if that’s your chosen path, good luck). The best and most sustainable writing takes place slowly and methodically. This is so despite the many voices telling you how you can ‘write a book in a month’, ‘write a book in a week’, or even ‘write a book in a day’. You can only do this if you write a lot, but without haste.

    What works is to write slowly and consistently, so that the writing accumulates over time into larger and ever more meaningful pieces.

    The English author of the Victorian age, Anthony Trollope, epitomised a slow but steady approach to writing. He produced a very significant output, including 47 novels, and is best known for a long series of novels centred upon the fictional county of Barsetshire. Yet he claimed never to write for more than three hours a day. In fact, while becoming one of the period’s most popular novelists, he maintained a full-time job with the Post Office. Because he had a workable method, he didn’t need more time.

    And without developing a writing method that works, no amount of extra time will ever be enough.

    Big changes at

    New year, new website (backend)

    It’s a new year, so it must be time for new web connections! Well, I finally decided to shift from a hosted Wordpress site to go all in on

    It was fairly easy to migrate, just following the instructions. Things already feel easier and less complicated.

    Why did I decide to make this change?

    1. I need a simpler system for online writing. It’s been clear for some time that Wordpress was holding me back. I know: “poor workers blame their tools”, and obviously there’s something wrong with me if I can’t just log in to Wordpress and write a line or two from time to time. But really, it felt as though the user interface was presenting a psychological barrier. Every time I logged in it seemed the WordPress UX had got more complex. Anyway, that’s my excuse. I’m hoping that a switch entirely to hosting will help the writing to flow a bit better.
    2. I like the IndieWeb. Although I had some Indieweb plug-ins set up on my Wordpress site, it didn’t feel as though they were getting much use. The Musky shenanigans at Twitter have made it even clearer that independence on the web is essential and that the true social network is the web itself. Switching to will hopefully connect me better, and if I ever change my mind, there’s no lock-in.
    3. Updating the app feels like a chore. When I checked my hosting dashboard it was clear that there were several insecurities caused by a lack of updating. I just hadn’t gotten around to it for ages. But really, I don’t have much interest in which version of PHP I’m supposed to be using, or what version the plug-ins are - so I’d rather not think about this side of things. If can do this for me, I’m not complaining.
    4. I also quite like Mastodon. has a certain amount of compatability with Mastodon, through the activitypub protocol. So I plan to try that out.
    5. Writing in Markdown syntax has become more and more intuitive to me, despite its limitations, and I like the relative simplicity of static sites. uses Hugo as its site generator, so now I’m now using Markdown to create static pages.

    Look, I’m not really complaining about WordPress. I like it, and Automattic isn’t Apple/Facebook/Google/Twitter/Amazon, so there’s that. If I had to choose a dictator to rule the world, Matt Mullenweg would be on my shortlist. It’s not Wordpress, it’s me. I’m ready for a change.

    Writing about reading

    Also, I’m making a commitment to writing about my reading in 2023.

    I love reading. Each year I read about 30-40 books and this year I’ll be writing about it here. There’ll soon be a ‘reading’ category at the top of the webpage. Why am I doing this?

    • for motivation, and
    • to leave a record, sharing what I know and
    • to encourage you, dear reader, to stop scrolling and go read a good book. has a series of companion apps, one of which is Epilogue. You can set an annual reading goal and every time you blog about a title you’ve finished, your goal moves one step closer to completion. also has some other great book-related features, including a handly bookshelf, and this is one of the things that made me want to switch.

    I keep a private TiddlyWiki Zettelkasten in which I already reflect on my reading, so the only real change is in making it public.

    Don’t panic

    So that’s what’s new. But don’t worry, whatever happens I’ll still be writing slowly.

    The past is as urgent as ever

    Finished reading: The War of the Poor by Eric Vuillard 📚

    This incendiary novella - only 66 pages long - burns so fiercely it felt like a bomb was about to go off in my hand. With amazing economy the author, Eric Vuillard, brings to life the brief, violent career of Thomas Müntzer. He makes the past as vivid as an execution, and renders the urgency of the past fully present. The Peasants' War, so distant in time, is now.

    “Müntzer is thirsty, hungry and thirsty, terribly hungry and thirsty, and nothing can sate him, nothing can slake his thirst. He’ll devour old bones, branches, stones, mud, milk, blood, fire. Everything.”


    My piano is a forest

    Currently reading: The Forest of Wool and Steel by Natsu Miyashita 📚

    I love the metaphor of the piano as a living forest, and I’m enjoying the journey of the diffident main character, Tomura, in his apprenticeship as a piano tuner. It’s certainly making me see my own piano in a new light.

    I'm now - yes I joined Mastodon. There's an original idea. As though there aren't enough half neglected social media accounts in my life. Pretty sure my account federates semi-automatically anyway, but haven't worked it out yet. Can someone please point me to a simple how-to article, I wonder?

    Not thinking of writing a novel in November

    Well, I didn't sign up to NaNoWriMo, where you undertake to write 50,000 words in a month. Partly, it's just not my way of doing things. I have recently completed a novel manuscript, which took longer than a month. But then again I also wrote a lot of other stuff while I was doing it. As previously mentioned, you can get a lot done while writing slowly.

    Thinking of writing a novel

    Manton mentioned NaNoWriMo and that has got me thinking.

    When I publish a post with no title, where does it go and who gets to see it?

    Thanks to Tom Critchlow, I now know a simple JS trick for including the feed into a website:

    <script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>

    I had forgotten that posts to my wordpress site only show up on if there’s no title.

    Let’s see whether this post, written on my new iPad, makes an appearance…

    Finally the iPad

    Having finally got hold of an iPad, I’m expecting more posts here soon - and by extension on


    I'm imagining writing a handful of  'zines and setting up stall at one of those 'zine fairs. I would like that. I just looked it up and found a pop-up 'zine fair just down the road this Sunday. I will go to seek inspiration.

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