0668 – consider: tempo and time-scales of writing

So I’ve been thinking about this for some time and it’s starting to come together for me now.

I enjoy writing in many different ways.

I like having IM conversations with people. It’s instantaneous, it keeps you on your toes, there’s a back and forth dynamic.

I also like posting things to Facebook and Twitter – you typically get responses within a few minutes, sometimes more interesting responses an hour or two later.

These can be very energizing and exciting – things move fast and sometimes new ideas and perspectives get introduced. It’s heady stuff. But it can also get addictive – you can end up just sort of sitting on Facebook or IM all day, just constantly responding to whatever stimuli comes along. I’ve sometimes spent entire weekends pretty much just doing that.

Sometimes the conversations are just really interesting, and it’s worth staying up for. But I’d say that happens maybe 5-10% of the time. The rest of the time is just filler.

Now let’s talk about longer time scales. I can’t remember who it was exactly who said, if you dont’ have anybody to talk to, if you’re lonely, go to a library. Libraries are filled with books written by people who didn’t quite have anybody to talk to, at least about whatever it is that they wanted to write about.

In a way, the human tradition of reading and writing books is a sort of “IM” conversation that happens over years and decades. Sometimes you will receive a message from somebody who’s dead, and then send your reply out to the ether to be read by somebody who’s not yet born. That’s the fascinating hallucinatory pursuit of book-writing. I know it is something that I want to do with my life – at least, a part of my life. I want to have written some books that mean somethin to people. Books that I’m proud to give away. Books that I believe belong on people’s shelves. I’m glancing at my bookshelf now to see what those books are for me. “Soul Made Flesh” is one of them. “A Sideways Look At Time”. “The Hero With A Thousand Faces”. “Antifragile”. These are all books that I’m happy and proud to have. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, even though I’m not exactly a crazy fan. It’s a lovely thing to have in a library. The Martian Chronicles.

Writing is the game that I want to devote my life to. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to lead anywhere. There’s no guarantee that I’m going to move people, that I’m going to become a celebrity, that my fictional worlds are going to be adopted by others. I can’t guarantee any of that. But that’s fine. It’s not about the outcome. It’s about the process. It’s about writing things that I personally think are interesting and cool. That’s what really matters.

Here’s something that’s interesting – there’s a gap. Do you see the gap? There’s instant writing, there’s daily writing, and there’s writing in the space of decades and lifetimes. There’s something in between that I feel like I am not getting. I think that’s what’s missing from my creative life – and that is writing with a tempo or time-scale of weeks and months. In my head, I’m imagining having some sort of public correspondence with somebody else – writing longform letters to somebody, with a weekly or monthly tempo. That would be interesting, wouldn’t it?

I could find a way to make this work within the context of the word vomit project itself. Right now, or up until now, I have mostly approached this from the perspective of, try and write a word vomit every single day. But I know that I don’t want to be writing status updates every day, because… that’s not what I want this project to be about. This project is relatively “open-ended”, and doing status updates everyday would make it a little too formulaic and predictable. The status updates go in my notes. The word vomits are for “everything else”. So I then want to isolate something else about the vomits and then make that a part of my process. Eg this vomit’s title is going to be “consider: the different tempos and time-scales of writing”. I realize that I have multiple “consider” posts – so that can be a sort of series. I wonder what else it is that I think I should be considering.

So… let’s move fast into the solution. What am I looking to do here? I’m noticing a problem where daily IMs with friends are not enough. I want to be working on things at a longer tempo/time-interval. Which means having things be a little more structured, breaking things down into subtasks and intermediate steps. I’m notoriously not very good at this, but if I want to be writing novels then I’m going to have to get a lot better at this.

So what’s next? I have a series of essays that I have planned. I keep telling myself that I’m going to work on them eventually, but that has not happened by itself so far and it will not happen by itself ever. So I’m going to have to schedule time in advance for what I’m going to do. I’m a little too sleep to do anything smart about this right now, so I’m going to add a todo to my todo list to plan out what I’m going to be writing next. Done.

I find that I’m thinking about making videos more regularly. The last video I uploaded to YouTube was in March. It’s May now, and it’s going to be June in a few days. I would like to upload a video at least once every month for the rest of my life. I think that would be cool, and I would have a record of myself and that would be something interesting to look back on. I already kinda regret that I wasn’t making videos all these months. But hey, no point being sad. Let’s look forward and move forward.

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