Journaling in Public and Journaling in Private

Over the years, I’ve used a lot of different methods for writing. Pen and paper way in the past. Microsoft Word for a while, because, that’s what Word is for right? Windows Live Writer was a good one for a while, though it’s been discontinued, there is an open-source iteration called Open Live Writer. Sometimes I’ll just write right in the WordPress editor. I was writing into OneNote for a while.

These days I’m much more into controlling my data, well, I’ve kind of always been into that, but lately, it’s about formats. I am constantly trying to reorganize my files into the best format for the long term, and more recently, I compiled all my writing together into one blob in a folder called “Journal”. Well, some of it is just under “Writing”, but things like, well, this post, off-the-cuff, free flow of thought random writing about nothing, are in the Journal folder. A lot of it came from some old blog archives and WordPress exports. I wrote a little Python Script that would spit out a series of Markdown files with appropriate file names from a WordPress XML file a while back.

It’s not perfect, it converts some of the most obvious syntax changes, but others are just, left as HTML code. The spirit of the writing is there, and that’s what matters. Plus, I don’t use a ton of fancy formatting, so those leftovers are not that common. During this time I also comb through and collected and sorted all my reviews and other writings from over the years. These are the things that don’t go in “Journal”. A lot of them I reposted to in a cleaned-up format, which took a while, especially when gathering up the images again. Some stuff like my shitty lame fan-fics from the early 2000s and other little stories aren’t currently posted anywhere.

After getting it all organized, I reworked my flow around the new system. Which is probably the best one yet. Everything is sorted by year, the files have my usual, YYYY.MM.DD – Description format I use all over for file naming. I have an additional folder called WIP, for “Work In Progress” writing. Vague ideas that have not been fleshed out, sometimes they are just empty files with a description to remind myself “I wanted to write about that.”

Step one is to come into this WIP folder, and create a new Markdown file with a name, sometimes a date, or a vague date like YYYY.MM.

Markdown is the format of choice here. It allows for some formatting, which makes it more useful than a text file. But it also it’s just raw data, like a text file. No proprietary formatting, no funny characters, no extra hidden returns and paragraphs and line breaks or code. The most formatting I do is bolding headings and italicizing titles when appropriate.

Once written, I can easily copy and paste it into WordPress and throw in a few images if needed.

I also have started using Joplin for notes, and more secure private writing. It’s something I started last year, I think. Joplin is just a note-taking app that uses Markdown as its base. I keep a lot of what I used to use One Note for, though I still also use One Note. It’s nice because it syncs through One Drive, so I can access it across devices, but it’s all encrypted. Joplin contains ideas, lists, and journals made on the go, or sometimes just, on the toilet, where a phone is more handy.

The lists are pretty basic. I have lists of log-ins for various games, especially games where I have more than one account. There are lists of media to look into, sorted by type, music, books, movies, tv shows, video games, etc.

The journal part is just like any other journaling, but a bit more… we’ll say personal. Dumb dream notes, venting of frustrations, and some WIP blogs here and there. I keep anything I don’t really care about anyone else ever reading in the Journal folder, I keep things I might care about people reading in Joplin. Occasionally I clean out some of the regular Journal writing into my folder system, just to keep the Joplin list cleaner.

The real key to all of this is two things. It’s all in a simple clear format, Markdown. It’s also all backed up, in this case, through the NAS, through One Drive. Since it’s all small text files now, it also means I don’t care about just syncing this One Drive folder to everything. I converted quite a few .doc files and the space savings were pretty substantial, especially since it’s all just basic text that doesn’t need everything that Word has. The backup is the most important part though.

Welcome to Blaugust 2023

Welcome to Blaugust 2023, I guess, I’m not real sure what that means aside from, maybe, MAYBE, a bit more of an “intense posting schedule”. I dunno, I subscribe to Tales of the Arrgonaut blog in my RSS reader, it’s apparently something they psudo run each year and have done so for a while, and it seemed like an excuse to motivate more writing. Details on Blaugust are on his blog here.

After signing up it seems it isn’t required, but it’s also sort of originally for MMO/game bloggers. I actually do of course have a games blog, but I prefer blogging here these days so, well, probably not much games content from me. Sorry not sorry?

I do plan to try to “post more”, though I will be surprised if I actually manage to write a new post every day for the month. I did sort of sketch out some ideas in a list and surprisingly, in theory, I could post 5 days a week with this little outline. Filling in the games feels “easy” but the real issue isn’t so much the idea side of writing. It’s the DOING that tends to be my problem. I’m also taking the slightly cheaty angle of pre-writing and scheduling posts. I actually already to this anyway with most posts. at the very minimum I just schedule things to post at 6 PM local time each day (7PM for Lameazoid), because consistency feels better.

I don’t even care much about the whole achievements of the whole Blaugust deal, it’s just an excuse to try to create that motivation. I do find that planning things actually does help. A few years ago when I was trying to push myself to really keep up on Lameazoid I had a whole spreadsheet going with days and themed days and lists of what was coming each week and day and even pre researched things like, release dates for movies and games I cared about so I could do lead ups and related posts. In theory all this is supposed to be good for SEO, I guess, but I have never been able to make SEO work, like at all.

Side note to spammers, I am not interested in your SEO Improvement product, please don’t spam me I’ll just ignore it, assuming I even see it.

I was thinking of including my little “todo list” note here but maybe I will just avoid the spoilers and not. the Friday album posts are of course part of it though. I also plan to start a second music related post series I’ve been considering doing for a while now. And keeping with the music theme, I’m going to a concert on the 13th, so there will be a post for that. I don’t plan to keep only to music, this isn’t actually a “music blog”, it’s just a person nerd blog (Blogging Intensifies = Nerd Stuff, Lameazoid = Geek Stuff). I hope to do more programming focused posts, some personal thoughts and opinions posts. I may also do some societal issues sort of posts, because I have plenty of opinions there that I mostly just keep to myself but maybe I should not (spoiler, my political leaning is pretty progressive).

Anyway, the point is to write, and even if it fizzles out again after August, at least I tried to build the habit again. Also for anyone keeping score, those news digests posts don’t count.

Sorting Out all My Writing

Coding Python isn’t the only project I’ve been working on recently, though it IS the major one.  Another project I’ve been working on, that is at least tangential to “modernizing how I code” is organizing all of my writing.  I write a LOT.  I sometimes list “writing” as a hobby, but I almost never list it as a “Primary Hobby” but it’s arguably the one hobby I have done the longest, even longer than collecting toys, and that I would like to think I do, pretty well.  Ok, no scratch that, I’ve been a “Gamer” since before I could really write.  Actually, it seems like all of my “major hobbies” started when I was like 5-10, so I guess those “formative years” really do matter.  My first programming was on the family’s old Franklin PC with two 5/25 floppy drives, writing BASIC that my dad had taught me.  He had been going to college for Computer Science at the time.

Anyway, writing.

I write, a lot.  I write about all sorts of topics.  Sometimes I write technical write ups, sometimes I write (purposely) shitty Final Fantasy VII Fan Fiction. I write casual blog posts about music, and movies and toys, I write detailed instructions for work or FAQs for Video Games. They aren’t all “winners” but I have gotten a lot of compliments of the years for my writing style and methods.  i also save everything.  I mean, literally EVERYTHING I create.  There are a few things I no longer have and I still think about them sometimes, and wish I had copies.  A few years ago I even started transposing some of my old paper journals and stories into digital text.  

The end result is that I have a lot of files in a lot of formats. Some are text files, some are Word Files, some are exported XML archive files.  A few are PDF based exports as well as some olf “Windows Live Writer” files.

As part of my personal journey to “level up” a bit on my computer skills (which are already pretty great), I have been working on getting more accustom to using Markdown.  Markdown is essentially “Fancy Text Files”. They are plain text files, with special symbols inserted occasionally to make things look prettier in a Markdown reader.  The thing is, this means they are very compact in size and can still be read by even the most basic reader (albeit with the random symbols inserted sometimes).

Most of this effort involves a LOT of copy and pasting.  I’ve converted a bunch of Word Docs I had over to Markdown files. Text docs aren’t generally huge to start with, but the Markdown files mean files that are sometimes 1/4th the file size.  When we are talking hundreds to thousands of files, this is significant savings.  So far, I’ve been skipping reviews if they have embedded images, but I already have those images saved elsewhere, so I may revisit that concept.

This also means finally sorting through some other “to sort” boxes.  For example, for a while, I was posting blog posts with Microsoft’s now discontinued “Windows Live Writer”.  The shitty part is, it used a proprietary format that even Word can’t open.  Fortunately, there is a open source alternative, “Open Live Writer”.  I don’t use it to post, but I can open those old Live Writer Files and convert them to useful Markdown Files.

One fun thing I did was export all of my Reddit Posts, and pull out anything over 500 characters as a “Journal Entry”.

Another source is old WordPress Exports. I have used my newfound l33t Pythonista Skills to build a sweet little script that takes a WordPress XML export, and parses through it for dates, titles, and content. Next, it cleans up the post content a bit (it’s not perfect sadly), and spits it all out to a series of files in the format I want.This script could easily be modified to work with other similar data exports like Reddit)

That code can be found over on Github. It’s probably buggy, but it works for the most part.

Which brings up sorting.  I have posted a few times about digital organization, and I’ve gotten the text down to a science as well.  A folder called “Journal” in my One Drive, which syncs to several PCs and my NAS.  Inside it’s sorted by year, inside each year are files in YYYY.MM.DD –  I’ve also incorporated this into my blogging workflow, and so partially written posts in the current year get X_ added to the front, so they all sort to the bottom, but I have an idea of when I had the idea.

This whole new system also allows me an easy way to just Journal occasionally.  One thing I’ve been trying to work on is that “not everything has to be a blog post”.  Sometimes it’s good to just, write, for myself, date it, and spit it out.

It’s healthy to get those thoughts out sometimes. For example, would you like to know how many times I’ve randomly bitched about the show Glee over the past 10-15 years?  Because it’s more than is probably healthy.

Anyway, this project is still a work in progress, but I’ve made a LOT of progress and I’m pretty happy with how it’s been going.