0686 – to figure out your categories, clarify your intent

I have a sort of ‘procedural’ blogpost to be written about tags and categories. I remember when I started blogging, I never really thought very much about any of that. And perhaps that was for the best, perhaps overthinking categories and tags would’ve kept me from focusing on the writing. Maybe not.

You can never really tell with this sort of thing, and sometimes you end up giving other people the wrong advice. But then, does it really matter? They’ll hear what they want to hear and take away what they want to take away. On one hand, we ought to be responsible with what we do and say to others. On the other hand, does it really matter? Does anything really matter? You shouldn’t hurt or harm people, but isn’t it also possible that you basically overthink everything that you do, to the point where you’re trapped, inauthentic, boring?

My life is the river that flows between these two banks. Both extremes are intolerable. The challenge is to find increasingly optimal, gratifying paths in between. I wonder if there’s a sort of “fundamental attribution error” type thing that goes on – do we blame other people for bad outcomes more than we credit them for good ones? Do we take more responsibility for good outcomes? Seems likely.

I was going to say that I’m not currently too interested in writing about the tags and categories – but now since I’ve started I wonder if I should just keep going and flesh it out. I wanted to talk about feelings. Let’s see if we can merge the two.

I remember feeling annoyed and frustrated with my blog back even in 2012. I was trying to wrangle all of it into some sort of coherent, unified system. I wanted it to be pretty and elegant and easy to navigate, but it resembled more of a junkyard. Today I’m a lot more comfortable with the idea of literally calling my blog a junkyard. A part of that is because I’m still in a phase of reworking and figuring out what I really want to say. I’m “running fat”. My main tags in my archives are “personal development”, “GTD”, “memoirs”, “conversations”. On 1000, they are “directives”, “procrastination”, “writing” “status updates”, “truths”, “behavior design”, “essays”.

What’e the right set of categories and tags to use? I used to vaguely believe that there might be some sort of ideal system, a perfect blog architecture. I’ve grown to realize that it will always be a work in progress, and it will always be a crude attempt to try and represent your thinking.

As I write this, I realize I have a similar issue at work, too. I find myself looking for superior ways to tag and categorize blogposts at work.

It all really boils down to the challenge of labelling and sorting information. Knowing your tags and categories in advance will actually influence the things you write. This is quite a significant insight – because it means that it’s worth taking some time and energy to think about the things that you want to write, and then have your categories and tags shape that.

Honestly, despite all the thinking and revising I’ve done, I still haven’t come up with a clear and simple answer to how to tag and categorize things. And the only thing I’ve gotten is increasingly dissatisfied with the way I do things. Loosely, I think categories are like “columns”, or even “sub-blogs”. In this blog, I have a “reviews” category, within which there are subcategories like “book reviews”, “gig reviews’, “movie reviews”. But as I reflect on that… what is a review, even? A lot of the time my “reviews” are really just a collection of notes for me to reference later on. But I’ve decided to make my peace with that. My reviews are notes, deal with it. I renamed my “unsorted” or “uncategorized” category to be “notes”. Technically every blogpost is a goddamn note, but “notes” is the pile of notes that hasn’t been sorted into other piles. I get it, “unsorted” works too, but somehow that just makes me feel incomplete and unsettled and I don’t want to deal with that.

I guess the reason it’s hard to figure out categories and tags is because it’s really about figuring out what you want. What you’re trying to achieve. What you’re really doing. What am I really doing here, with my blog? Is it a workspace? Is it for public consumption? Am I trying to curate an experience for readers, or am I trying to create a sort of public set of notes?

Intents change, so it’s not a good idea to try and come up with some sort of grand unifying lifelong intent. That would be premature optimization. Rather it makes sense to commit to some timescale over some period of time – I think ideally about 5-7 years – and then optimize for that. Once you’ve got a clear-ish project in mind, you can break that down into sub-tasks, sub-topics, sub-whatever. Right now, my word vomits and my blog and everything, really, are in a sort of cocoon-ish state of flux and transition. I can feel it. I can feel that I’m due for change, that I’ve broadly achieved what I vaguely set out to achieve, and it’s time to recalibrate things now.

So… I have a list of project ideas. Book ideas. Essay ideas. I know that I want to spend my life writing, and doing the requisite research and reading and meeting people and having conversations about things that are manifested in my writing. I realize that it’s not so much about having great ideas (I’m starting to make my peace with the fact that ordinary people come up with brilliant ideas all the time, and that you really just need to take things and drag them to the finish line with all your heart.)

The title of this particular vomit still falls within the “directive” sort of framework. Everything is liminal, nothing can be tidily bound. I want more heart in my writing. I want more heart.


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