TITLE: Five Years On AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: July 09, 2009 3:52 PM DESC: ----- BODY:

Sketchbooks are not about being a good artist,
they're about being a good thinker.
-- Jason Santa Maria

Five years ago today, I started this blog as a sort of sketchbook for words and ideas. I didn't know just what to expect, so I'm not surprised that it hasn't turned out as I might have guessed. Thinking out loud and writing things down can be like that. Trying to explain to myself and anyone who would what was happening as I lived life as a computer scientist and teacher have been a lot of fun. a shot of me running the Chicago marathon In the beginning, I was preparing to teach a course on agile software development and planning to run my second marathon. These topics grew together in my mind, almost symbiotically, and the result was a lot of connections. The connections were made firmer by writing about them. They also gave me my first steady readership, as occasionally someone would share a link with a friend. Things have changed since 2004. Blogging was an established practice in a certain core demographic but just ready to break out among the masses. Now, many of the bloggers whose worked I cherished reading back then don't write as much as they used to. Newer tools such as Twitter give people a way to share links and aphorisms, and many people seem to live in the Twittersphere now. Fortunately, a lot of people still take the time to share their ideas in longer form. Even though I go through stretches where I don't write much, my blog has become an almost essential element of how I go about life now. Yesterday's entry is a great example of me writing to synthesize experience in a way I might not otherwise. I had a few thoughts running around my head. They were mostly unrelated but somehow... they wanted to be connected. So I started writing, and ended up somewhere I may not have taken the time to go if I hadn't had to write complete sentences and say things in a way my friends would understand. That is good for me. For you readers? I hope so. A few of you keep coming back. Five years down the road, I am no longer surprised by how computer science, writing, and running flow together. First, they are all a part of who I am right now, and our minds love to make connections. But then there is something common to all activities that challenge us. With the right spirit, we find that they drive us to seek excellence, and the pursuit of excellence -- whether we are Roger Federer, reaching the highest of heights, or Lance Armstrong, striving to reach those heights yet again, or just a simple CS professor trying to reach his own local max -- is a singular experience. Last week, I ran across a quote from Natalie Goldberg on Scott Smith's blog. I first mentioned Goldberg during my first month as a blogger. This quote ties running to writing to habit:
If you run regularly, you train your mind to cut through or ignore your resistance. You just do it. And in the middle of the run, you love it. When you come to the end, you never want to stop. And you stop, hungry for the next time. That's how writing is, too.
The more I blog, the more I want to write. And, in the face of some troubles over the last year, I wake up hungry to run. A few years ago, I read a passage from Brian Marick that I tucked away for July 9, 2009:
I've often said that I dread the day when I look back on the me of five years ago without finding his naivete and misconceptions faintly ridiculous. When that day comes, I'll know I've become an impediment to progress.
a forest Just last month, Brian quick-blogged on the same theme: continuing to grow enough that the me of five years ago looks naive, or stepping away from the stage. After five years blogging, my feeling on this is mixed. I look back and see some naivete, yes, but I often see some great stuff. "I thought that?" Sometimes I'm disappointed that a great idea from back then hasn't become more ingrained in my practices of today, but then I remember that it's a lot easier to think an idea than to live it. I do see progress, though. I also see new themes emerging in my thoughts and writing, which is a different sort of progress altogether. I do take seriously that you are reading this and that you may even make an effort to come back to read more later. I am privileged to have had so many interactions with readers over these five years. Even when you don't send comments and links, I know you are there, spending a little of your precious time here. So I think I'll stay on this stage a while longer. I am just a guy trying to evolve, and writing helps me along the way. -----