1st May – What I May Write – #MayWriteABit

Inspired by Rob Bryer, I’ve decided to accept the challenge and, during the month of May this year, attempt to write for half an hour each day, and publish the result here.

I’m hoping that the discipline of having to write and publish such an article each day will lead to me putting down on a page some ideas and thoughts that largely stay stagnating in my brain, and end up getting lost into the ether as I move onto other things and “essential” activities.

Whilst I haven’t been furloughed, and the Covid-19 pandemic has largely left my working situation unchanged, I feel this is in some ways an ideal time to be putting some mental energy into such an endeavour. For one thing, the pressures on my time and head space outside of work time have changed. I wouldn’t really say they are any less, but the changed structure means that I am now more flexible about what I should spend my time and mental energy doing, and therefore if I want to choose to spend half an hour each day just writing, why not.

Firstly, some ground rules. I think for this to be useful, I need to set some kind of parameters for how I’m going to conduct this.

  1. I want the half an hour I spend to largely be spent actually writing. I.e. fingers at the keyboard, pressing keys. That doesn’t mean that I can’t do any thinking during that half-an-hour, or referencing other things/reading, but that the majority of that time will be spent metaphorical pen to paper.
  2. Any editing will also be during that half an hour. I won’t force myself to not edit at all – I don’t entirely just want this to be a stream of consciousness, but I do want it to be relatively raw. In the past, I’ve spent hours or even days agonising over how I want to edit things that I’ve written, sometimes even to the extent that by the time I feel they are ready to publish, the moment has passed, and so I don’t bother.
  3. I can include images or other things within the article which I have produced outside of the half-hour period, and can also do reading or research outside of that time, but I won’t specifically allocate any time for this, so if I haven’t done any reading for the article that I want to write that day, I’ll either have to choose a different topic to write about, or just write based on the stuff I have read.
  4. I will publish at the end of the half-hour, no matter what. If I started writing, I finish writing, and that’s that. After that, I will only be allowed to correct mistakes.

So, what is it that I want to write about during this month?

Well, I haven’t set a very specific goal of the types of topics that I want to cover, but I know that many of them will relate to planning, architecture, land economics and community. Some other topics may creep in as well, but generally, this is non-fiction, and on topics which I always feel like I want to spend more time thinking about, but don’t necessarily get the head-space to do so.

Also, one specific thing I wondered whether I might try is writing critical reviews of old books on planning topics. For example, I’ve started reading a copy of ‘Land-Value Rating’, a 1936 treatise by Lord Douglas of Barloch, revised in 1961. Reading it is a fascinating insight into the naivety that was present in the land economics movement then, which might also shed light on continuing naivety, as well as where lessons have been learnt as to what reforms are or are not possible in terms of land economics.

I’m not an economist, and therefore one thing I would be curious to receive is any feedback on my analysis, too.

Anyway, that’s me done for day, since I’ve spent my half-an-hour at the keyboard. See you again tomorrow!