Just go

It is always better to go than not. If you’re invited somewhere, if something is happening and you can get to it, get to it. The worst that can happen is that you have a bad time and a good story to tell about it.

Okay. The worst thing that can happen is that you have a bad time when you could be at your desk writing. But you still get the story, it just happens to you instead of your having to make it all up.

So go.

I’m minded of this because I went to a poetry event last night and though I did fancy it, I knew it was going to be a long day and I knew I was behind on various things. It would unquestionably have been better for me to stay at my office working instead of spending the day chatting with people and the evening watching a poetry performance.


But it was undoubtedly better for me to go because it fuelled me. I met with people I like very much – I hadn’t realised they would be there, it was a hugely unexpected delightful bonus – and I enjoyed the poetry. It was fuel. It was leaded.

It didn’t have to be. It is not the job of poetry to inspire a writer to write. I don’t think poetry has a job, it just as purpose and a role and a position and a power. Let it do what it may and trust that what it may do is alive.

But it does also fuel me. And the thought of this evening is with me still tonight. Whereas, if I’d worked on into the evening, by now I wouldn’t be able to tell you with any certainty which text I’d written then. Which text was the day before. I might be able to make a stab at it but you’re a writer, you know this: you revise and replace all of your writing all the time. If I wrote something last night, it might not survive the day. And that’s fine, that’s necessary, but choosing to step away and do something that isn’t work, that wasn’t work, that actually took work.

And it’s always worth it.

Relax, you’re not that busy

Stop thinking of relaxing as a ticket to laziness and build free time into your day. Relaxation relieves stress, lets you enjoy the moment and improves your problem-solving skills. So take naps. Breathe. Meditate. If you’re always rushing, develop a morning routine to set a calmer tone for the rest of the day. Don’t be so busy you’re not enjoying the precious little time you have on this earth.

How to Stop Being Busy – Sasha Graffagna, SuperheroYou (2 June 2014)

Read the full piece for more interesting and sobering, even correctly chastising thoughts.

Refresh app: just when you get used to it feeling creepy…

It’s still not out in the UK so you’ll just have to trust me here, but there is this iPhone app called Refresh which parses your calendar and prompts you with conversation starters for people you’re about to meet.

Refresh is very clever and it seems supernatural how it combs sources like LinkedIn to present its information. But as well as the fact that I will never use its suggested conversation openers – I prefer “Hello” to “Say, weren’t you on holiday in Marakesh from 16 July to 18 August?” – there are oddities. And these oddities keep reminding you of how Refresh is sitting on the very line between useful and creepy.

It’s meant to prompt you before a meeting and it does so, but not always. I forgot that I still had it after reviewing the app. Until one day, two months later, it pinged with details of the woman I was meeting to discuss a writing project. I showed her what it said and she revealed that it was all wrong: she had purposely lied on LinkedIn and Facebook in order to defeat this kind of thing.

But then I had a meeting right after that and Refresh didn’t do anything. But then I had a third meeting and it pinged.

A few weeks later, I was going to an event I’d produced and it pinged with what it called a dossier about a particular someone else who was going. That was freaky-plus because my calendar just had the event name and there was nothing I could see that named her – and didn’t name half a dozen other people that Refresh was ignoring.

But still, you know, even though I could just delete it and walk away, I am drawn back to it. There is something so smart about what it does that I’m fascinated at the algorithm. Plus, it gave me the name of someone’s partner and I’d forgotten it. So thank you, Refresh.

Except, last night I got something new. Have a look, see what you think. Is this what I was really doing last night?


Harder than it looks: big event takes a Tumbl

Before I began producing the odd little event, I thought it was all pretty much like wedding planning. It is, but give me a wedding any day: the church isn’t likely to back out at the last minute and if any guests don’t appear, that’s one less family row to worry about.

I have found it profoundly satisfying to sit in an audience knowing that this thing around me is happening because of me. Other people are hosting it, my work is entirely done – until afterwards, anyway, when you start settling up the bills – I can just enjoy it like everybody else.

But I can’t imagine the difficulties of organising the a weekend-long event with very many star guests and a hoped-for 3,500 attendees. The makers of Dashcon 2014, a convention devoted to but not in any way endorsed by Tumblr, don’t seem to have imagined the difficulties either.

It only took a few hours for DashCon 2014 to degenerate into the most catastrophic fan convention in recent memory.

Over the course of one weekend, the organizers took $17,000 from conventiongoers as part of an emergency fundraising drive, failed to pay any of their high-profile guests, and attempted to compensate disappointed ticket-holders by offering them an “extra” hour in a children’s ball pit. The ball pit only fit around six people. There was apparently not a very long queue.

Over the course of a weekend, DashCon 2014 descended into chaos – Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, The Daily Dot (13 July 2014)

The story goes on.

When is it over?

There’s not going to be some great life-changing Hallmark-Card-like slice of advice here, I’m just wondering about something I have wondered about a lot.

I wonder when things are over.

There must be a day when something is done. This first popped into my noggin some years ago when I read a line somewhere about how Dar Williams‘s new album was coming out soon. (I think it was Many Great Companions, which is so good that when a friend asked what I liked about Dar Williams, I just bought her the album. It’s cheaper to write reviews, but I wanted her to have it. I want you to have it too, but I’m a little short today.)

I can’t remember when this was but I was surprised because up to then, her previous CD had been the new one. My own Doctor Who releases go through a similar thing.

Actually, Doctor Who, there’s a thing. I go through various processes writing those, there are the same types of deadlines to the same types of timescales and in theory I could say my involvement ends when I deliver the last draft. Well, you don’t know there won’t be more to do then. So call it when the scripts are in studio, that’s definitely the end for me. Well, sometimes I’m in studio and working on scenes. Okay, post production. Definitely no involvement there, so that Doctor Who is over and I’m looking for the next one.

Except there are liner notes to write for the CD. Quite often there are interviews to do.

So okay, when it goes on sale. But that’s when I start talking about it all, I suppose officially because that’s marketing and promotion, but really it’s because now I can FINALLY talk to you about it.

I don’t put “Tweet about Doctor Who” in my OmniFocus To Do list. It isn’t a task, it’s what I do for fun. So by the time we reach the tweeting stage, you can bet that my OmniFocus Doctor Who project is long completed. So that’s definitely it, that’s definitely over. I have ticked off everything I have to do, everything I have to deliver, I can mark the entire project as done.

That seems very satisfying.

And that’s why this is on my mind today. I did an event yesterday that has been some preposterous number of months in the making and this morning I’m doing my OmniFocus review, I’m getting to that project and I am about to grandly click on Done, when I don’t.

Because I’ve thought of some more tasks. Well, call them tasks because it would be bad if I didn’t do them. Just wrapping up stuff, there are so many people I want to thank for getting this done for me, for instance. That could go in the fun pile, that needn’t be a task To Do per se, except I’ll feel very bad if I forget someone in the rush. So I jotted down who it is. And okay, I know it’d be handiest for this person if I phoned and for that person if I texted, and so on.

Then there’s the money to do with the event. That truly is a task. That is several tasks in a row.

When that’s all done, then, that’s when this event is over.



I just need to keep the event details around because I’ve had a lot of praise for it that might help in the pitching for the new one.

How to add Facebook events to your normal calendar

Facebook is all about sharing – until you want to go outside its walled garden. It is a right bugger trying to get anything out of the Facebook app and into anything else and nowhere is this more ragingly painful than with events.

If I get a notification on Facebook that someone has invited me to an event, sometimes I will avoid reading it until I know I can do something about it. Until I know that I will be able to check my calendar and know whether I'm free. Until I know for certain that I can make the decision and say yes right away, I will sometimes come off Facebook rather than do it or lose the notification.

And other times I just say bollocks to it all, I don't know if I can go so I'm going to say I'm not going.

It is possible to link Facebook to your regular calendar. That's certainly true on a Mac or iOS where Facebook is baked into the operating system, I'm sure it must be easily possible on PCs and Windows too.

I will never know.

Not because I won't bother to try it on a PC but because I will not do it on anything. Most especially not on my Mac.

Because that setting links your calendar and your contacts: every bleedin' Facebook person you know is then automatically added to your phone book. There are people on Facebook I can't even remember adding as friends and my Contacts book is long enough already. I'm not doing that.

Now, because I won't do that – you try undoing the addition of hundreds of people to your phone book – I can't test out what happens with calendars. It seems highly, highly likely to me that if you give Facebook the keys to your calendar, it will use them. It will add every Facebook event to your calendar.

But have you see every Facebook event? Tonight I decided to sort this out for good and in doing so poked around a lot. I saw my complete list of Facebook events and there are dozens upon dozens of which I am going to one. And of which I had heard of two. Dear god in heaven, keep Facebook away from my calendar.


I did this so you don't have to: I worked through how to tease a single event out of Facebook. I was invited to something, I fancied going but wasn't sure I could make it, so I got it out of Facebook and I added it to my calendar. I did so prefixing it with ¿ (just as I recommended here) and I'll look at later at whether I can make it. I'll look later because I can. Because it's in my calendar and I chose to put it there.

It's a measure of how frustratingly locked down Facebook is that this feels like a victory.

Here's how to do it.

1) Go to the Events page on a web browser, not the Facebook app.
2) Find the event, click or tap to go into it
3) Look for the … option toward the top and click that
4) Choose Export Event
5) Choose Send to Email

There may be several email addresses available to you there in a drop-down menu: choose a real, non-Facebook address.

You'll get a calendar invitation file, a .ics, in your email. Click on that and you'll see more details than you ever care to know (like the list of everybody who's said they're going) but also an option to add it to your calendar.

Does that sound like a faff? Imagine figuring it out like you're searching for an Easter Egg in a game. That was me tonight.

It's a waste of time, having to get an emailed .ics before you can do anything about it, but at least it works.

¿ Best calendar tip ever ?

You noticed that headline, didn’t you? It’s because of that ¿ and how remarkably it stands out.

Incidentally, this doesn’t work at all if you happen to be reading this on a screen that doesn’t display Spanish-style upside down question marks. But if you can see them, you can use them and they are remarkably useful in calendars.

I have more and more events or meetings to go to and it’s rare that I know immediately when they’re on. If it’s that the meeting will be ‘in a few weeks’ or ‘early in June’ then I’ll put a To Do reminder in OmniFocus to find out and confirm the date then. But the most often thing is that I’ll either offer or be offered a particular date and time and it has to be confirmed later.

You can’t risk agreeing to a date and then double-booking yourself but where possible you also don’t want to block out some time that may not be used. So I’ll use a ¿ at the start of the name.

I did this just now: went to Fantastical, tapped the + sign to add a new event and typed this: “¿ Yasmin tea 1-4pm tomorrow at Yorks Bakery”. There are two elements there: I know the range of times I can get to a meeting with Yasmin, I’m waiting to see if she can do any of those. So that’s why it’s “1-4pm”. But the key thing is that ¿ because, wow, it stands out.

¿ Yasmin tea 1-4pm at Yorks Bakery

See? You can’t miss that.

If you’re on an iPad or iPhone then the ¿ is on the standard keyboard: just press and hold on the regular ? key to get it. (I use a Belkin external keyboard on my iPad and on that I need to press Alt/option and ?.) On a Mac it’s Alt-Shift-? and if you’re on a PC, hold down the Alt Gr key (to the right of the spacebar) and on the keypad type the number 168.

This idea is stolen, by the way. I believe I got it from David Sparks and Katie Floyd on MacPowerUsers who I believe may have got it from Merlin Mann. Now you’ve got it too