Books By John Estes

The Battle of the Sidebar

So yeah, who cares, but it’s not always an easy thing to do exactly what you want to do when constrained by widgets. As with the many procrustean beds we are forced to conform ourselves to, the widgetized areas of WordPress put you either at the mercy of the available widgets or ultimately I suppose at your ability to write on for yourself, which not all of us are quite on this earth to learn how to do. My goal was simple: get a list of my poems available online to show on the homepages sidebar. Doesn’t seem like something that you’d have to pull North Pole strings to acquire, but at least after an afternoon of seeking a solution rather than grading papers or doing something someone cares about resulted in one rather than nothing. Since you cram a bunch of individual posts into a column the way I used to, and WP wants to excerpt your post whenever it puts it in a sidebar, the eventual breakthrough was finding a widget that would let me put a Page’s contents over there where I was fixated on Posts. They tyranny of minor differences. So thanks very much Carl-Fredrik Herö—may your sons be handsome and keep your widget up to date long into the future.

My next experiment, underway as I write, is to post to the blog using a plain text file marked up in Markdown, saved in a Dropbox folder. If anyone is reading this, then it must have worked in some measure or another. I have been wanting to move all of my writing, or the better part of it, to plain text, and have for some time been drafting in either IA Writer or, as I am now, ByWord. The amount of money I have spent on plain text editors for the iPad is a badge of honor I suppose, but I have yet to achieve what I consider a workable workflow, the imagined system looking like: I can work on any given document from any device I have, and then easily, through a structured mark-up, output them straight into a typset form. As it is now there is still the need to copy the text out for formatting (even in apps like Scrivener and Ulysses, I hear people say, programs I am only just now trying to learn) as I do into Mellel (that fantastic word processors stubborn refusal to be compatible with any editor on the iPad is motivation for moving away from it). So this is all practice, it’s all toward a practice.

Speaking of the practice, I drafted the first poem in awhile this morning, spurred at first by a title, as often happens, a phrase my shrink used on a script for me ensuring they don’t poison me with a generic: *Dispense as Written*. It has very little to do with drugs, or at least no more than everything has to do with chemicals, but I’ve been happy with what happens, as it always happens, when one writes something in the morning and one’s mind—followed by the hand—works on it throughout the day. Makes even the drudgery of sifting through code for where to tweak the padding and auditioning widget plugins tolerable. The poem does make life tolerable; seems like small praise but not many things can lay claim to even that much minor succor. Anything that gives one something to care about.

This Is Where It Will Go

So when my site was moved from one server to another that transit somehow broke the site, and though probably with the application of enough time and ingenuity I could have fixed it, the time feels more productively used just to build a new one. That one was around long enough. I am trying to learn my way around WordPress anyway for some sites I’m building for Malone’s creative writing students, so while my old CMS into which I have a decade of experience sunk is more flexible and probably powerful, here is where the new thing will be. I have an inordinate love for process over product, and so am attached to the idea of a development blog that attempts to impose a veil of transparency upon a creative process that prefers to be low lit, so although I’m not doing anything here terribly interesting (yet?) and although the poem I just wrote could certainly not have been blogged about in process the way the design of  some new product feature can be explicated, I’ll see what I can do. Whatever I can do, here is where it will go.