I was here before and I’m here again.
The current climate is confrontational. It’s more or less people convinced that they are correct, running into each other head first. Sometimes not everyone of these people will be correct.
It’s easy to point to Twitter or Facebook or whatever and point to it as the problem. It’s easy to corral an opinion that the only thing that changed is that people got fewer characters to type with. It’s easy to take that as far as to think that you can, to take an example at random, swing an election that way.
It is true that we all, mostly, are information junkies with shorter attention spans than before. But that’s not a change over 20 months - try 20 years. Those of us, most of us, prone to lap this all up have it in us from birth. And as more and more of the world pulls apart from bound books, from neat, nestled entities into the big weave of opinions and memes and eddies in the space-time continuum, it would be against our nature to find this one or both of fascinating and interesting. Certainly, it dispenses with a lot of messy ceremony and context.
Waffle was here before and ran on fumes, continuing on the foundation it had once established. It had a formula, and I wrote to it. The reason I wrote to it is simple: I like thinking about things. I like ruminating. I am not super smart, I am not super insightful, I do not in any way live my life without a box, so that I may think outside it, and if I did there’s no guarantee that those thoughts would be of particular import or brilliance.
But as you might do, being the pattern recognizing biped that you are, you might write more or less random crap (with som thought put into it, but still, random crap) for over 12 years and occasionally strike upon something that resonates. You may even time some of those with being the first to say something in particular, or to point something out in particular. And you may fall in love with “having been right”, or being in some way hard to replace.
We’re all hard to replace, and we’re all easy to replace. Every cemetery is full of indispensible people.
So, past a certain point, it may be that I played the role of writing Waffle, and each time, expecting what I wrote to take off at least in some minor way. Since almost nothing ever did, this was a harmful delusion.
Thinking about the climate and the tempo, it’s not hard to understand what’s going on. At most, what I write is going to be a link passed around from place to place. Everyone sees hundreds if not thousands of them each day. The chance of winning that lottery is miniscule, and of course relies on having something that is either truly good or that strikes a tone beyond just being lucky enough to get noticed.
And from my perspective, not having a Twitter account especially and not tooting my own horn beyond publishing new items in my Atom feed (a minute, please, to mentally commiserate the ghosts of Echo, nEcho and Pie - and if that means anything to you, know that you have a good memory, and that you understand what I was comfortable with as being the “good old days”), the whole process is both opaque and hopeless, like putting things in a shop window in a shop on a long since forgotten dank alley, and wondering why there are never any customers.
I did a lot of it this year. Out of the combination of chaos, stagnation and feeling of helplessness, there had to be some destruction. If nothing matters anymore, you eventually punch a wall to see what happens - to see if there will be a mark, to see if your hand will hurt. There will be pain and anguish.
To me, there was the horrible sense that I defined myself as being someone who tried to think about things and tell people about them, and now I was living in a world where all everyone cared about was sharing their opinions on everything to the point where it overshadowed what was important. Even knowing how silly this sounds, it caused me no end of deep existential misery.
Once again, it’s not that I’m brilliant or exceptional, or really think I am. It’s that I’d been acting a bit as if I was, and the tide of evidence telling me how wrong I was crashed down hard on me.
I threw in the towel with everything. I licked my wounds for months. I turned inward. I held in a lot of things, I clenched my fist in the dark, and I thought all of this meant I wasn’t allowed to have or communicate ideas anymore, as if there was a privilege I’d lost.
Only very recently did it dawn on me that I should just keep doing what I was doing, but for the sake of doing it for myself. You can call this a five cent, one-hour-mark Pixar epiphany if you’d like, but that’s how it happened. If reasoning and thinking and feeling conviction is so important, for fuck’s sake, just do that, then. Write it down. Put it up. Don’t sit on it. Get it out.
So I am.
I’m still holding out on joining Twitter. I think I’m hyper enough already, and I still think it’s a horrible medium for both conversation and publication. I still think it feels like talking loudly at people. But even if I liked it, I wouldn’t want to care too much. This is now a strategy. To not care whether something gets linked, read, noticed, those things. If they do, fine. But no writing hoping it will. No writing unless something moves me.
There are two more things. The first is “subheads”, and maybe some of you are saying, well, thank god, what took you since 2003? Looking back, not using them was a stylistic choice, but it also reinforced the idea that I don’t even have to try. I can just stream-of-consciousness something and it’ll be brilliant. That’s not it. I avoided them because I knew I’d hate the awful puns I’d make up, and knowing myself I will, and already have, done so, but that’s just going to be the lesser evil.
The second is that I’m going to try to be honest and humble, and not self deprecating. I am not a happy person and I am struggling with many things. But as little as it is a shame to be covered is it a violin to be played for pity.
The first real entry has some energy to it, and I wanted it to have energy to it, because I wanted it to push its own idea. It proposes something new that from a distance can be pigeonholed as other things. But if it’s anything I’m tired of that existed even in the happy tightly-knit, turn-of-the-century era of people writing well-considered weblog posts at each other, it’s that so many of them were written with an angry superiority, as if establishing absolute dominance over its subject matter, proclaiming the absolute best way to peel that particular onion. I don’t want to do that in general, but I feel that a new idea is fragile enough to deserve some pompous presentation as armor and shield from the environment.
I also dropped WordPress and its consequences. Right now, this is generated by a static site generator, and I am using a default theme, shame of shames, albeit heavily modified to cut a lot of crap out. I type it locally, I generate it manually and I upload everything myself like a rube. But the file transfer connection is SFTP and not FTP, so you can tell it’s 2017. Having to do all this hopefully helps me not want to do it unless something really moves me enough to write.