I’ll pretend no one is reading this
It makes for better writing.
At the turn of the solstice I (softly) declared that I was going to share ‘50 insights in 50 days’. I thought that Medium would be the ideal place to do this — but I don’t think I have been approaching it right.
I had just deleted a bunch of older/shittier articles from various social media profiles — things that seemed clever at the time, but that I had since outgrown. The idea was to clear the fields of all such weeds. To ‘burn it all’, so that new things might grow.
I’m now 13 days into the 50 day plan — but something happened on day 11 that made me think.
I started strong — but after the first 5 days I began to falter. I wouldn’t even start writing until 9pm — and I wouldn’t be finished until 11:50pm. One night I had pulled onto the side of a freeway during in the middle of a literal dark forest to write and publish a piece. It got done.
But then, at 11:51pm on the 11th night I went to post my piece for the day. I wasn’t particularly proud of it, but I ‘had to’ get something uploaded. (You can’t cheat Medium like you can your own blog — the date of publication is the date of publication.) I had 10 days of consecutive posts published — and gosh darn: I didn’t want to break that chain.
But then my internet dropped, or something whack was afflicting my laptop. I tried a different browser — didn’t work. Maybe my laptop was due to be reset? And so I tried that — but it was past midnight by the time it rebooted. The ship had sailed.
This… actually felt like a huge relief — I was off the hook! Sweet liberation! It was a let down too, of course — but I reminded myself that this was a game of my own making. And that there was an intent behind it.
You see, I have this tendency to ‘disappear’ from the Internet for long bouts — to ‘think deep thoughts’ and write many thousands of words. Words that exist in a primordial pell-mell that could one day evolve into my next book. I really want to share them — but they always seem so hellishly incomplete. Sometimes I do share some of my writing — but this usually takes the form of (very) long-form pieces.
Writing short-form is a challenge for me. It means catering to the distracted and ‘time poor’. It means sticking to a point, and maintaining a rather narrow focus. Heck: it requires knowing your point before writing. Madness!
This is all incredibly challenging for one who dabbles in the dark domains of complexity, paradox, ambiguity and doubt. But it was a worthy challenge nonetheless.
And the challenge continues.
Because that’s what one can do, when operating with a more fluid stance. The artificial construct of the game — combined with the late nights, abundance of screen time and general lack of sleep — had all conspired to thwart my perspective. But a few days rest has enabled me to see it all in a new light.
This, of course, precisely mirrors the predicament most busy folks find themselves in. If each day is a struggle to ‘get things done’ — then how are we ever going to find the time to know we are getting the ‘right things’ done? And what are the ‘right’ things anyway? And who gets to decide? Why so, and so forth.
I feel grateful for the technical hiccup that awoke me from the tunnel vision I was beginning to accrue. I’m also distinctly aware that no one really gives a hoot if I post daily or not — but from the perspective of one’s own ‘integrity’ (a concept I shall like to dismantle one day), it is good to strive for a kind of coherence.
Thus: I’m back. But, as old mate James Carse says: Only that which can change can continue. And thus, in order to survive this fool quest, I’m now writing for myself (and close friends).
I’m doing this because there’s a weird ‘sanctimonious’ vibe that seems to pervade most short-form. A kind of subtly-implied superiority or ‘sageness’ that I find a tad contrived.
Undoubtedly, it helps you sound like you know what you’re talking about. But I’ve come to decide: it’s not quite for me.
I’ve also realised: it’s weird writing for an anonymous audience. I’m used to writing to my many museletter subscribers — and it feels intimate and timely. I’m also used to writing on my website and that feels fine — there’s enough context for people to get a sense of who I am, and to know the warmly arrogant wizard-character I sometimes embody is done with a wry glint and a jaunty tilt. A long-form piece to an anonymous audience is also fine: there’s plenty of room to balance hubris with self-depreciation, and still deliver a strong message. But writing short-form stripped of context to an anonymous audience is a challenge I am a long way from mastering.
So, in the meantime: I’ll write to close friends and myself, and pretend no one is reading.
Thanks for reading!
I’m on some fool quest to share 50 insights in 50 days. This is day 13. More at drjasonfox.com