Curate To Create

If you are like me, hoarding content for future use, it can give off a false sense of knowledge. In my experience, the best way to understand something is to create or produce my content in my style and then share it with the world. I’ve accomplished this throughout the years here and through my photography. I’m still working up the nerve to share my creative writing, however.

To close the loop from curator to creator I go from collecting my notes, snippets from the web and personal thoughts to connecting ideas and application of these ideas. Only then do I find I am ready to create and share.

It’s Time To Write

Every November for the past few years there comes inspiration from an organization called NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words that month in hopes of cranking out a novel. I’m good for about two days out of the month. Last year I switched gears and penned an article a day for this website instead.

A few of the reasons why I haven’t progressed past a second day is because there was a lack of a plan or focus to build this writing habit that I want to see changed this year.

Place- This year I have a dedicated writing space. Since adapting to a quarantined work from home environment I now have two desks, one for work and one dedicated to personal production. For work, my environment is organized, streamlined and ready to do the work for maximum productivity. For personal use, I tend to be more relaxed and dis-organized. But not this year. This year is set up for the potential of maximum creativity. This dedicated desk is both my photo studio and writing space.

Time- In the past, I would decide to get around to doing whenever I had the time or energy. This year I plan on getting back to a consistent schedule, which has been lacking, again, due to quarantine. The 30-step commute makes it easier to roll out of bed later than I would if I had to travel to the office.

Dedicating a minimum of 15 minutes to writing in the morning before I start my 7am work day will be beneficial I think. Also, a minimum of one hour a night to crank out some words will help too. I don’t use the dedicated calendar journal or apps to block out these times, but I will.

Plan- At work, I am a planner. For creativity, I seem to rely on being a pantser, meaning, “fly by the seat of my pants.” Not this time around. Plot developments, character development, story arcs etc are all scheduled for dedicated focus, research and yes, eventually writing.

In addition, a dedicated morning routine such as clean up, exercise, good food and some hot green tea with the same ambient music playing in the background will tell my unfocused brain that hey, this is your current focus, do the work.

I don’t like the concept of accountability but it may help, I don’t know. My personality has a difficult time with this concept. If I can’t hold myself accountable, why should I report or check-in with someone else? How many people would I disappoint including myself? I struggle with this but do plan on updating this site with progress notes.

All of this is to say that by doing one or more of these things is going to help me progress in ways I have not been able to do in the past- to help achieve my writing goals and deliver a better writing habit.

Second Brain

Graph View of my Second Brain
Graph View of my Second Brain

A few months ago I stumbled upon the terms “bi-directional links”, “back links”, and “networked thought.” All designed to enhance research and note-taking.

Since then I’ve installed two new productivity apps to help with my research. More later as I do a deep dive into these.

[[productivity]]

Migration Update

Eight days ago I began the process of switching from a self-hosted WordPress setup for my website to becoming hosted on WordPress’ own servers. The process was understandably delayed due to the chrisdenbow.com domain name switching over. That process has been completed and just about everything has been smooth.

My only concern has been my personal email records (MX) still being available. They were and still are going through my old server but will they still be available when I choose to renew it next month? As of now, I am still able to send/receive emails through the hello@chrisdenbow.com email account.

Readers and users should not see anything different except a new coat of paint when viewing the website. I’ve also added a comments section on each post as well as an RSS feed so you can subscribe and get these posts through your favorite RSS client. I personally recommend NetNewsWire. If anything looks off or is broken, please let me know in the comments.

The whole point of this migration was, as a friend is fond of saying, was “to de-bullshit my life.” With this switch to a hosted version of the WordPress platform was to take advantage of both their desktop and mobile apps. These integrate well with my writing software, Ulysses, and iA Writer (which I am writing this draft in now.)

With all of this behind me, I can focus on creating more content efficiently.

The Web Log

The site ChrisDenbow.com has been published in several iterations over the past twenty years. The domain name has been changed a few times in failed attempts to “rebrand” briefly but the heart and soul has remained true.

Twenty years.

Social media (web 2.0), in its infancy was new, exciting and we were teased by the next best website or service. What made these services valuable were the users. Contribute meaningful ideas, engage in eloquent discussions. Ignore the rest. Share. Share. Share.

One of the original opportunities that sprung out of all that was the personal weblog (web log). A weblog or blog is a listing of text, images, or other objects that are arranged in a chronological order that first started appearing in the late nineties. Blogs contain personal remarks about a topic, a personal ramble, or an update on the person’s life. Weblogs are also a personal journal.

My personal experience goes back to 1999. Back then I posted in plain text format through an FTP to a URL provided by my first ISP. I have missed all those acronyms. We were so technical and cool back then. Then converted to the new WordPress platform back in 2003.

Side note: I personally dislike the term “blog” preferring “web site” because of the negative connotations of others. “Oh, you’re a blogger then?”

Nowadays, like-minded people agree that the personal website is even more crucial than ever. Social media has morphed into corporate agendas, marketing, no personal control and privacy concerns.

We’ve rediscovered the old ways are the best ways if we want to avoid all those corporate agendas, marketing, privacy concerns and to take back control. Your own website, your own web address, your own email address, RSS, newsletters, text messaging. These tools are yours to use, not to be used against you. I’ve been doing that through this website. Fine, call it a web log if you want.

Self-publishing is what the World Wide Web used to be and the world wide web is worse without it. Can you appreciate the power and responsibilities we have to take advantage of these opportunities?

For most of its existence, chrisdenbow.com has been a public journal of experiences and insights for an audience of one. For myself. Then in the mid-2000’s it branched off and became moderately successful with local and regional audiences. And this was extremely beneficial in that I would post something and receive immediate feedback from peers. We talked, networked, shared and grew together as a result. But now, most have neglected this thanks to social media. First Twitter, then Facebook. No thanks. The internet has become worse once blogging declined and social media platforms increased their numbers.

This is a great time to rebuild the web in our image and to it’s maximized potential. It is time to embrace the idea again that everyone with access can share their ideas with the world.

Khmer Empire Hypothesis

Since my research on the Khmer empire of Cambodia seems to be in a bit of a lull right now and have been unable to articulate it into text properly, I want to go ahead and put my hypothesis out in public. I have yet to read any archeologist’s research or conjecture about this and I think it could be enlightening for the ancient history of this empire.

High up in the Kulen Hills, northeast of the Angkor province there is a river flowing through it with a unique archeological feature called the Valley of the 1000 Lingas. The stream bed has carvings representing Hindu deities along with thousands of phallic-shaped stones. Along with the are a few yonis, representing females and wombs.

The thinking here is this valley is an underwater temple and that the water flowing through this temple would bless or fertilize the fascinating water features of the Angkor temple complex below. The water would also flow into the lake called Tonle Sap and the surrounding rice fields. Here, the Khmer civilization itself would thrive and grow into an empire of at least one million around Angkor Was alone.

My theory is that the original kingdom started in these hills and then migrated down into the plains below. The Angkor Was temple site was built around this idea of a blessed kingdom.

A yoni, representing a womb with eggs and a birth canal bears an amazing resemblance to the Angkor Was temple site itself.


The five tower spires representing the five eggs inside a yoni above Angkor Wat

It is a hypothesis to be sure and I would love to prove it on-site in the near future.

You’ll Never Forget Your First Time

I have yet to write a novel or publish a short story but I did submit an article online and received payment for it. The more eyeballs that read it, the more revenue will come in.

Now, it isn’t a lot of money, in fact, it is almost insulting but that won’t change the fact that I am a paid writer now.

That was not the purpose of the submission but then again, it is still rewarding.

Just Do It

Most people aren’t prepared to start a career in writing. Writing may be a gift in some of us but not all of us. Forming words into sentences and arranging those sentences in such a way as to not be boring can be a real challenge.

At first, I didn’t know what I wanted to write. I just knew I had to do it. I’ve maintained a blog/website for the past twenty years. I just started by sharing my thoughts and feelings. And then moved on to sharing news and ideas with other similarly minded people. In the back of my mind I have always felt like an imposter, or a poser. Self-doubt takes over at the worst moments and the page stays blank. The cursor blinks, waiting on me. Other times the support wasn’t there or you’ve been mocked for your lofty ambitions.

There can be a lot of noise and not enough signal when we finally make the time to sit down and do this thing we want to do. You have finally made time to do it…but the mood wasn’t right and neither was your headspace.

I have had an epic, but incomplete novel in my head for twenty-eight years. With little progress, frustration is real. Someone I loved suggested I start small, a short story perhaps. You can challenge yourself as I have to micro fiction: 100 word stories are challenging!

Maybe we can start with non-fiction. With research and facts already out there, it should be easier to formulate thoughts and opinions around that.

Either way, it is time to start writing. The words you put down today is better than the words you didn’t write yesterday.

When I first acquire a new camera, I don’t bother with the instruction manual. I don’t want to follow the rules of composition in photography so why would I wait to follow the rules of composing a piece of writing?

Nike had it exactly right- just do it

Keep Calm And Carry On

With all the distractions going on during these current events (Wuhan virus) it can be difficult to focus on anything else.

However, I believe doing what we do best can be very beneficial. By creating and doing the things we enjoy, it will help us stay positive, and to stay focused.

By creating and doing, it may be positive for others as a pleasant distraction from those same current events. What we create and if we choose to share could be helpful to those around us. We need more pleasant and meaningful distractions. We need more ideas, art, stories as uplifting and inspirational input instead of the depressing and sensational news out there.

Situations like these make us realize how small the world can be and how connected we are to each other.

Instead of avoiding creativity, embrace it. Share it. I’ll be sharing more of my thoughts and more of my photography. I choose not to get caught up by world crisis.

Keep calm and share on.

Enjoying The Process

Long before my beautiful daughter was born I was heavily interested in photography. I used a compact point and shoot Fuji to bring in the new millennium. Then upgraded to a more robust featured Olympus with optical zoom. All of this was used as a hobby, to document life events, etc. The images were okay but they weren’t the best quality. I used this life changing event of her arriving in our home as a way to justify my first DSLR, a Nikon D50. I wanted more quality images to capture just how beautiful she is. The next step of course was to advance my photography into portraits of other beautiful people. I learned by doing and evolved.

Twenty years later and my excitement and love for photography has grown. I find myself always looking for photographic opportunities. I’ve enjoyed learning the post-processing and organizing. The photo creativity has overshadowed my writing creativity. Now I am at the point where I want these images off the hard drive where no one can see them and printed up for full view. All the while keep learning and practicing for more.

I’ve documented people, events, concerts, travel, landscape and street photography. I’ve recently gone back to film photography and am remembering the joy of making each image count. Taking the time to think and enjoy the process. After all this I realized something:

My best photograph is the one I haven’t taken yet.

My best work is still ahead of me and this is what keeps me going.