I patched some holes and dents in the wall before I painted our upstairs office.
“But I like my old bell!” She whimpers. “It’s purple.”
“Your old bell is broken, and I couldn’t find another purple bell.” I’m tightening the nut on the little plastic clamp that attaches a brand new black-and-silver bicycle bell to her handle bars. She’s been riding a two-wheeler for a couple years now, but occasionally takes a tumble. The most recent of these encounters with the pavement saw casualties that included a scraped knee, a road-rashed elbow, and a little purple bell that was crushed beyond simple repair. “This new bell is a little bit more sturdy and shouldn’t break as easily as the last two.” I add.
“I don’t want a new bell.” She pleads. “Can’t I just keep the purple one?”
She is holding the corpse of her purple bell in her hands, turning it over and over, inspecting it. “So?” She shrugs.
“It doesn’t work.”
She tries pushing the lever that would, under ideal circumstances, make it ring a loud and clear chime heard across the neighbourhood. The plastic bit is squeezed between the mangled metal parts and the same lever grudgingly gives a few millimetres emitting a gurgle of frail metallic clinks before sticking in the new position and refusing to move any further. “So?”
“You need a bell that works.”
“You’ve been riding a bike for two years now?” I stop my work and look at her. “You know what a bell is for, right?”
“To tell people I’m coming?” She suggests, hesitating.
“Yeah.” I sigh. “I don’t want you to hurt someone, okay?”
About six months ago, when I had a lot more free time on my hands, someone — let’s call her a potential client — proposed that I could build a website for a very specific audience. The added challenge was twofold: (a) it had to be a kind-of ‘version two’ of an earlier site I’d worked on — in that it had to do more, better, and more interactively, and (b) it needed to make some money.
I took on the challenge. I sketched out a rough business plan — a few pages of notes mostly — and put together a bit of a wishlist and wireframe of what such a website would, might, could look like. And the problem was that given the wide scope of website CMS systems out there, nothing really — even when accounting for a wealth of plugins, addons, extensions, or hacks — fit the solution to the business problem I was facing. So now what?
Like any good little geek, instead of sticking my head in the sand and hoping for a fix to come to me, I set out to build some custom code. In a few short months, scattered time devoted, I built the framework of a pretty neat little system — then promptly got a job doing something completely different and forgot about it. I forgot about it for nearly half a year.
For no particular reason, I was poking around the code again last night. Poking around code a few months after you’ve written it is interesting: you see things in a different light, but you’re still not so distant from the writing of it that you don’t understand the code your wrote. It’s enlightening and satisfying. You see things that work and you think “sweet” and you see thing that are still broken and think “I can fix that.”
I’m not exactly sure the offer of building that initial, proposal, genesis business concept still would stand — the idea sort of fizzled out, and the further I get from that concept the less I really want to work on it — but the little bit of code I wrote to start the project is still a solid little foundation for a quirky kind of CMS system that might have legs of it’s own, particularly if I were to find it a new rasion d’etre and were I to explore it a little bit more, code a bit more, and polish the effort a bit more. It might not make any money, but it might be something worth building, just for the sake of building it.
And so that is what I’m doing. I’ve decided to crack open the code of this little system and see if I can build what I’m now dubbing a “social cms”, soon to be piloted as a blog and resource pool around a completely different topic than originally intended: information architecture and management. And if it works? Well, hey… you read it here first.
I could find all kinds of excuses for my idle lack of posts here, but the biggest and juciest of them all would be NaNoWriMo, of course. The month-long writing challenge kicked off a little more than two weeks ago, and — as of this writing — I’m managed to generate a thirty-thousand word gush of semi-respectable draft fiction (an this on top of accepting and prepping for a new job, looking after my daughter more often than normal, dealing with the brutal arrival of winter, and trying to polish of the last three of my outstanding contracts before the end of the month.)
Some would call that crazy. I call it keeping busy.
The curious thing about that writing-urge, particularly during an event such as NaNoWriMo — that, for the explanation of those out of the know, is the International challenge to voluntarily signup and write a 50K word novel draft across the month of November, fully, completely — is that we who participate in such silliness often find that the lingering stress of trying to cram in our daily writing tends to mellow out the rest of our daily obligations to a white noise of ‘just get it done-ness’ that, while important, is still just noise.
It’s a good thing I have an understanding and supportive spouse.
It also means that unneccessary writing — such as that one would find in blogs and other personal websites — is temporarily condemned to the written-word equivalent of the ‘fix-that-dripping-tap’ chore, the last thing one really wants to do — unless there is a worse alternative. That doesn’t make it an evil option per se, just an option that doesn’t happen to get done in the fractional amount of time regularly allotted in any given day to writing. There is an exception, however, it seems: when one reaches one’s point of writer’s block and one needs to write something besides the ongoing dialog or description that has been pounding through one’s fingers for the last nineteen days, and instead explain and justify why one is doing it in the first place.
You can read about — and the results of — my writing efforts at the novel’s website, www.vudupulse.com