Two Years of A Place For My Head
I always think of A Place For My Head as having started on the 22nd of April, 2021 rather than when I wrote the first lines of code in 2020. I hoped for something grand, of course, but didn’t have any plans other than to set down word after word.
I’d never had much of a public presence before that, despite my involvement in theatre, music, and photography as well. I stayed in the shadows as a developer, both because of seeing it as a part-time occupation until not long ago and because of being taught at an early age to distrust the Internet. I found it hard to shake the reflex to hide my identity.
As such, this is my first attempt at building something of substance, publishing it under my name, and putting effort into maintaining and improving it. The intention was always to genuinely create a place for my head. I think I’ve succeeded. Since I started, I’ve:
- Poured my heart out with the new year, detailed how I shave, and painstakingly chronicled my relationship with DotA.
- Waxed lyrical about five seasons of Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma and dismissed Invasion in a few paragraphs.
- Complained about banks and their promotional messages and exhorted writers to avoid irritating devices.
- Explained why A Viral World failed and outlined my approach to its HTTP routes.
- Been deeply disappointed by Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and deeply affected by Circe.
- Written a bit about Emacs, including my experience switching to straight.el, how I improved my use of Magit, and how it felt to embrace evil.
- Discussed common concerns like optimizing a Spring Boot–based application and obscure subjects like compiling QEMU with WHPX on Windows.
- Rebutted misguided articles about CSS.
- Made silly mistakes in haste and mostly recovered from them.
- Restrained myself from babbling incoherently about my favourite movie of all time and written off the acclaimed Tunic in a couple of sentences.
My Thoughts & Spoilers backlog has grown and shrunk, grown and shrunk, and grown and… grown, but I’m bringing it under control. Curiously, I rarely publish anything under Work. Even when I write about something I’ve done for work, I’ve found I have a higher bar now for what qualifies as a work-related entry, with most simply falling under the umbrella of Technology.
As I’ve said before, I regret only that I didn’t start long ago. My most devoted reader remains myself. I enjoy everything, from my brief early notes on entire seasons of television to the pages upon pages of ruminations about single films. I can see my writing evolve in response to being read, and see my thoughts translate more clearly now than before. I’m always returning to some entry or the other, whether to recall thoughts I’d forgotten I wrote down or to remind myself of how to perform a variety of small tasks (something which I’ve found exceedingly useful).
It helps that I’ve nurtured the habit of writing things down in general. If I’m going to do anything slightly complicated, I create an Org file to manage it. If I’ve watched, read, or played something, I write down my notes. If I’m feeling especially annoyed, contemplative, or pleased about something, I put the bare bones in a draft. It’s a relief to lessen the burden on my memory, and I revel in the feeling of having something that reflects me.
Both the blog and my growing public profile as a developer have also fostered a new sense of competence and expertise. Explaining something is the best way to learn it, and I do a lot of that thanks to the endless chain of discoveries triggered by projects like this, where I want to do a so I learn about b and that eventually leads me to x, y, and z. I no longer question my expertise. Instead, I understand my limits: I’ve done this, I’ve written about that, I don’t know this.
Obviously, I didn’t get here on my own. No one ever does.
Everything starts with my family: my mother and my sister. I still remember showing them that first, slightly overwrought entry with a hint of embarrassment. Their love and appreciation is what underpins any confidence I feel today. Once they saw merit, I was able to see merit. Until then, I was unsure I was doing anything more than indulging myself.
I’m indebted to friends old and new. More than a few of them have grown accustomed to receiving unannounced links to my thoughts on some film or the other from the past year, long after it has lost its relevance. I shared these shyly at first, but their amused acceptance of my new quirk quickly changed that. It’s more than I could ever have hoped for to see those I trust and respect not just reading but engaging with what I have to say here.
I’m grateful, too, for the infinite patience of my technically-inclined friends, who I assume have similarly become used to being interrogated abruptly and without ceremony about my latest flourishes. Having knowledgeable friends who share similar concerns to mine, who understand my preoccupations, and whose opinions I can rely on is always invaluable.
And, lest I forget, I stand on the shoulders of giants: the likes of Simon Willison, Jeffrey Zeldman, Eric Meyer, Andy Clarke, and so many, many others whom it seems foolish to try to list because of course everyone would already know them. Seeing them fight for the limitless possibilities that a web built on open standards could bring us, twenty long years ago now, is what made me want to do this in the first place.
I owe much to Eleventy as well. For those not aware, Eleventy is (in a sense) the software that powers this blog. I could talk about how much I admire its technical design, but much more important is its more intangible impact.
The Eleventy Discord server is one of the most welcoming and helpful communities I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of. I’ve made friends, learned so much, encountered myriad interesting subjects and creations, and even been hired on the strength of conversations there. I’m enormously grateful to Zach Leatherman, the creator of Eleventy, and to all my fellow Eleventy users for that. However, perhaps the greatest thing Eleventy has done for me is to allow me to begin.
I’ve lamented my perfectionism before. It’s easy for me to place barrier after barrier in front of myself, suffocating my desire to do something with interminable reflections upon the minutiæ. I’ve tried many similar tools to Eleventy in the past, each of which made it worse by demanding as much time spent dealing with them as on what I wanted to use them for.
In contrast, by being so flexible, focused, comprehensible, and reliable, Eleventy gave me the gift of knowing I didn’t have to get it right the first time. I could then approach A Place For My Head with the idea that I just needed to start. From there, character by character, word by word… it took its own form.
Finally, thank you for reading. I may only be capable of writing for myself, but every single word is here in the hope that it will resonate with you too.
And if it doesn’t, I’ll keep trying. I have to believe this is only the beginning—the best lies ahead of us. Between a list of single-line ideas, ten half-written drafts, nine months of untranslated Thoughts & Spoilers, and most of the gargantuan The Death and Rebirth of a Cluster as yet unwritten, there are already so many more things to talk about than I could have imagined. Stick around and you won’t be disappointed.
Just for fun, I thought I’d end this by tracing the evolution of one of my earliest entries (please excuse some missing icons and images, which were a casualty of the mistake I mentioned earlier):
And another celebrating the addition of styling:
I also captured an old version of the front page, complete with a doomed musical entry and a silly date-related oversight:
I knew I would miss the colours when I adopted the more sober design. I’m still certain I’ll find a way to incorporate them… someday.
Next in series: Breaking the Box: Images Beyond the Margins(#39 in Colophon: Finding A Place For My Head)