The Wednesday Writeup - Issue #1

A weekly update from Aengus McMillin

Welcome to The Wednesday Writeup!

Thank you so much for subscribing to my newsletter.

I have been taking an online course called Write of Passage for the last month or so, all about rethinking the approach to writing, building up habits, and generally strengthening the writing muscle.

One of the assignments is to start publishing a newsletter, and so here we are! My goal is to send out an update every week on what I’m doing, things I have been thinking about, and interesting content that I have been consuming, along with a blurb + photos about somewhere that I have visited on my travels.

I'm hoping this newsletter is valuable to you. I would love for this to be a two way street, so send me an email if there is anything you thought was interesting, something you would want to know more about, or even if you just want to say hi.

What I'm Doing

Of course, as with many of you, I am self quarantining. My summer plans have been cancelled, I'm not at GDC like I originally thought I would be around now, instead I'm hanging out in Oregon trying to get as much out of this time of self isolation as possible. I'm working to develop better habits, produce more content, and waste a little bit less time.

I have been spending the last week dedicating lots of time to Write of Passage. After skipping the first two weeks due to travel I really wanted to give it my all in the second half to try and get some results out of it. Already I have published a curation piece on Network Programming for Game Developers, and today I just published a piece on Learning with Spaced Repetition. And of course, I now have a newsletter!

I have recently started using Roam Research. This has already begun changing the way that I journal, consume content, and write. So this last week a fair bit of time has been spent learning more about Roam, taking the Nat Eliason course, and pulling in notes from prior systems. I still need to find the right balance between this and other tools, but it’s fun exploring the system regardless.

I'm also making steady progress on an audio note taking app that I have been working on. I'm hoping to release a V1 either by the end of the month or at some point early in April, so keep an eye out for that! It's nothing groundbreaking, but it should have one of the quickest and easiest workflows for short length audio capture of just about any app I have seen, so I'm hoping it can come in handy for folks that capture lots of ideas on the go. I will likely write more about the process of releasing that here in my newsletter as well.

What I’m Thinking

  • Coronavirus has been so top of mind for everyone, in some ways it's difficult to pay attention to other things. I have to admit though, I really haven't been engaging with that sort of stuff as much as maybe I should be. I'm self isolating, and trying to take the right steps, but there is such a flood of information that I have begun largely skimming past Covid stuff and just trying to find the more interesting technical or creative things that are coming out of this whole mess. One thing I'm very curious about though is how all of this will change the remote work and education dynamics around the world. Suddenly this has been a crash course experiment in working from home and a test of how productive people can be.

  • I'm finding as I write more that it has helped me quite a bit with exploring my thoughts, realizing what I'm interested in, and diving more deeply into ideas. One of the biggest challenges has been deciding what my focus should be, or using a term coined by David Perell: "What is my personal monopoly?" Currently my thought is to combine audio, education, and programming. I think if I could successfully incorporate at least two of those elements into everything I write I would have a good direction for myself, but still debating if that is the right way to go.

Things to Read

Articles

I signed up for the Superorganizers newsletter this week and have been greatly enjoying some of the content. Here are a couple of my favorites so far:

  • How to Make Yourself into a Learning Machine

    This article gave me good material for my recent Spaced Repetition post actually. It is an interview with Simon Eskildsen, Director of Infrastructure Engineering at Shopify. During the interview they discuss how he selects books, how he approaches reading, how he learns, how he uses Anki to implement spaced repetition (currently with a database of 10k cards!), a custom plain-text Zettelkasten system he has implemented, an approach to GTD with Things, and how he is working his way through cooking food from every country in the world. Lots of really interesting tidbits and insightful lessons to be learned

  • Seth Godin Hates Being Organized

    Really fascinating look into probably one of the single most prolific creators on the planet. For those unfamiliar, Seth Godin has written and published a blog post every day for decades. This interview gives insight into how he approaches problems, why he dislikes organizational systems, and how he creates the things he does. It's a really intriguing peek into the way his mind works.

Outside of Superorganizers, I also read through the Nat Eliason Roam article before taking the course to make sure it was something I was interested in. Lots of good information just in there on how it can be used effectively. Probably one of the best free resources out there for Roam at the moment.

Books

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

I was surprised by how short this book was. I started it one night about forty minutes before going to sleep, and I finished it within an hour of waking up the next morning. But it is packed with nuggets of wisdom, especially in the first two sections. The third section got a little overly spiritual for my tastes, but still some interesting things to learn scattered throughout all of that. I had heard about this book all over the place the last couple of months, and had even heard one or two people mention that they will re-read it every week or two, and I can kinda see why. It isn't my favorite book ever, but it is probably worth re-reading every few weeks for motivation and inspiration.

Atomic Habits by James Clear

I listened to this on Audiobook a few months ago, but figure it is worth a mention in my first newsletter. It is probably one of the most actionable and useful books that I have ever read. Lots of great information about creating systems, establishing habits, and the sort of things to keep in mind when choosing, developing, and maintaining, habits to create a better life. I am probably going to be reading this very soon so that I can capture notes, something I didn’t do enough of from the audiobook, plus I almost definitely won’t regret rereading.

Things to Watch

Neil Gaiman Commencement Speech at University of the Arts

I watched this a while ago, not this week, but it is so good I'm sharing it anyway. Neil Gaiman is of course basically a master of creativity, incredibly prolific and innovative with his works. Lots of great insights in this 20 minute speech about having a career in the arts, how to approach the work, and generally how to succeed as a creative person.

Location of the Week: Califate Glacier

I was lucky enough to be able to visit this glacier at the beginning of March during my Patagonia trip. It was truly an awe inspiring experience. The sheer scale of it doesn't come across fully in photos. As we drove up and got our first view all of us were amazed by just how vast it was.

While we were there it was relatively warm and quite a few pieces of ice fell off in front of us. We were standing relatively far away, which disguises just how big these pieces are, but when you hear the sound of them cracking and splashing into the water it is clear just how massive these chunks are.

Signing off until next week
- Aengus McMillin