You’d think that with my time spent as a retail worker I’d have some sense of loyalty to real world shop fronts, knowing that there’s value in a good salesperson’s opinion on what product best suits my needs. There’s something to that and indeed should I find myself out of my depth or simply not wanting to do the research myself I’ll head on into the store but my primary means for conducting my shopping is still via online merchants. Whilst its hard to argue the convenience factor of the majority of the experience the last mile delivery system is somewhat lacklustre, usually requiring me to either truck out to a depot, abscond from work early or hope that my darling wife will be able to break herself away from her studies so the goods can be delivered.
Before anyone suggests getting it delivered to my work I’ll have to say that my experience in doing so has been rather mixed. In the past I had had places where the delivery guys came right up to our reception desks to deliver things and this worked great. However as I graduated to bigger and better places that had delivery docks my lowly deliveries often got lost in the works, sometimes for days on end, with no way for me to track them. Thus I’ve since refrained from using them as at least when I get them delivered to my home I’ll either still have tracking from the courier or a note from Australia Post telling me where to pick it up. However if the latest innovation from Australia Post has anything to do with it I might need not rely on either of those processes again thanks to the introduction of Parcel Lockers.
For the uninitiated Parcel Lockers are a free service from Australia Post. You sign up for one at their website, select the location where you’d like your parcels delivered to and you’ll receive a shipping address which you can have your packages delivered to. Then when your package arrives you’ll receive a SMS with a code in it and you can then go to the locker in question and retrieve your package. Initially they were only available in a few select locations, the middle of Canberra being one of them, but they’ve since spread to other mid to large sized post offices although their availability at postal locations is still not ubiquitous.
After forgetting that I had signed up for one for the better part of 3 months I finally decided to give them a go to see how the process would pan out. I figured I’d keep it simple so I ordered a book from Book Depository that I’ve been eyeing off for ages (Critical Path if you’re wondering, and yes I’m trying to do exactly that) so that if I didn’t get it there’d be no great loss. About 2 weeks after placing the order I got my message saying a parcel was ready for me to pick up. Picking it up was painless, just punch in the code and the parcel locker opens for you, the screen even tells you where to look if it’s that hard for you to notice it opening. That’s it, nothing more to it.
Of course there are some limitations to this service as you can see from the picture above. You can’t get anything you want delivered to them as they don’t have sizes to accommodate everything and I’d hazard a guess that they’d send you a message to come collect it from somewhere else should you attempt to do so. Additionally since these are obviously at something of a premium they’ll get aggressive should you fail to pick it up swiftly (I forgot to get mine on the day and was told to pick it up 2 business days later before the afternoon). The simple solution to this is to get more of them something which Australia Post appears to be doing.
Ultimately what I’d love to have would be my very own parcel locker style device at my house that deliveries could be made to. I’d be happy to pay for the privilege too as the amount of convenience it would deliver would exceed even that of the current parcel lockers. However I’d likely be just as happy if my local post office had one as whilst this is somewhat convenient it’s only just above going to my local post office since I don’t live anywhere near to one of these (and indeed only recently started working in walking distance to one). Unfortunately they don’t seem to have a roadmap available as to when these will become available in other locations but I can’t imagine this is something they’ll want to limit just to the bigger distribution centres.
I was never a big fan of writing. I’m a very stereotypical nerd/engineer in that respect as I always struggled to get my thoughts down on paper, especially when I was told I wasn’t elaborating enough. I became frustrated with the arbitrary word counts as everything I needed to say could be summed up in a couple paragraphs and struggled with gathering supporting arguments. It got easier when I started writing documentation professionally, since all you really need there are the facts, but I only really started to enjoy writing about 6 months after I started this blog when I started to force myself to punch out at least 1 post per weekday.
I’ll be honest with you though, I still struggled with the basics for quite a while. Back then inspiration was a lot easier to come across than it was today (thanks to me not having a massive back catalogue of stuff I’ve already written about) but writing anything more than 500 words was a complete chore as the engineer in me yelled continually that anything more was just me waffling on. Over time however I came to realise just how to trigger that part of my brain that knows how to break down a subject into several key points that I can then turn into a paragraph each and now I routinely find myself writing 1000~2000 word posts on things that I’m passionate about.
Of course the small bit of recognition I get amongst my friends and peers for my various musings here go a long way to keeping me coming back to continue writing. It’s why whenever I hear about a friend starting up a blog I’ll link to them, subscribe to their blog and comment on their posts as I know how hard it is when you’re first starting out. I was shouting into the darkness for a good year before I got anything above what I’d classify Internet background noise so I know exactly what it can feel like to do something with seemingly no return. Of course most of the benefits don’t come from page views, but they certainly help to keep you on track to improving your writing (and hopefully other aspects of your life too).
Now I don’t necessarily recommend doing what I do exactly as whilst it’s been immensely helpful for me it’s also had the rather undesirable side effect of giving me a crazy OCD for getting a post out every day. Whilst some of my most complimented bits of writing come from the days when I have to drag inspiration kicking and screaming out of the dark reaches of my brain it would probably be a whole lot better, at least creatively, if I only wrote when the inspiration hit me. Indeed some of the best blogs I read come from those who only write when they really have to. That’s not to say that all my posts are forced out (the majority, thankfully, aren’t) but unless your goal is SEO and page views blogging or writing whenever suits you is probably the best option.
I’d also go out on a limb and say that any sort of online creative expression (whether blogging, vlogging, tweeting or whatever) will help you better yourself in some way. Of course I think some mediums are better for certain things (blogging is best for writing, of course) but giving yourself some sort of creative outlet, even if you think you aren’t that good, will do wonders for you. Sure many people already have these, especially those who make a living off their creativity, but having your own place of expression where only you are in control is definitely something worth having.
I’m not going to say that everyone in the world should blog, more that if you’re looking for a sure fire way to improve your writing and being able focus your thoughts then starting a blog might be the way to go. Plus there’s always the possibility that what you jot down will gain you an audience that will keep coming back for your musings, something that’s extremely gratifying (even the trolls, to a point). Hell if you’re worried about what people might think then just open up notepad every time you want to write something down and save the files off in some random location. Even doing that I think you’d be surprised of the improvements after a while, I know I certainly have.