This is not a blog, I keep insisting. But.
I needed to re-familiarize myself on the discourse so far, so I went to the site today to read the pieces in their published context. And what I saw there sure as hell looks like a blog. It reads like a blog.
At the same time, because each piece in the discourse builds on the ones that came before it, it only works properly if the reader reads the pieces in order. Otherwise things get garbled.
Thus another problem with reverse chronology gets revealed.
Excepting the occasional time that a certain piece comes to matter to people for some reason or another, a blog exists in an eternal present. It is about the now. That it's usually a single author, often about a single topic, makes it like a degenerate form of newspaper.
And unless there's a reason a piece garnered particular interest, a blogpost from a year ago is a like a newspaper from a year ago: a valueless artifact.
Why would I spend my time writing something like that?
I thought about it and thought about it and puzzled about it and wrote about it and puzzled about it some more, and finally I decided it's this:
The blog's most defining characteristic is its reverse-chronology. Through its form, the blog insists that what's most important is what's most recently published. The further down the page the reader has to scroll, the more what's there fades in importance. It's like when you do a Google search. When was the last time you looked beyond the first page to find what you were looking for?
Back in April of last year, I declared of the work I'm publishing here, This Is Not a Blog. But how useful is that? It's easy to say what something is not. This also is not a large automobile. It is not a pepperoni pizza.
But what is it? I've been struggling with that ever since. I've done a ton of drafting about it, trying to figure it out.
Before I could get any further, I first of all had to figure out what I really meant by blog.
I found this note written in my hand on a piece of scrap paper as I was cleaning out all the crap from my car the other day. I have no idea when it's from, what the context and impulse was, what it was supposed to mean:
Now tell me again this little story, this truth, this thing I must know. Of course you must be careful or too much ink will flow.
Whatever I meant by it, it's kind of awesome.
A delightful side benefit: It's forcing me to develop my technique. I tend to be let's call it expansive. I'm not very comfortable operating under such strict limits.
It's an editing exercise, I've discovered. When I'm beginning, I allow myself to just say too much. I learn what the topic wants from me. I try on different ways of speaking.
Once the piece reveals what it wants to be, then I seek the balance between too much and too little. I look close and ask, What is unnecessary? I leave only what can't be taken away.
I still believe that putting writing in front of people every day is crucial. But the way I've been going about it--the way I've been drafting and revising and getting pieces out--just isn't working.
Some days a certain type and length of piece demands to be written, and when that's the case there's no choice but to follow the piece where it leads. But the rest of the time? What then?
A what-if arose: what if I invented a new form? What if I limited myself to only 99 words?
You try something many times without it working. Finally you accept that maybe it just doesn't work.
I've been publishing daily since the spring equinox of 2015. The way I've been going about it has turned out to be continually exhausting, and it's getting in the way of the longer-form writing that I see myself moving into.
Yet I believe that putting something of myself in front of people every day is crucial.
I've been searching for a solution for a long time. And I think I'm finally on to something.
You live, safe, within an impenetrable metal box. Nothing from the outside can break the box. It shrugs off bullets. A freight train would bounce off.
But you've become trapped in it, crushed by it.
Deep in your heart you know the box will break into a million pieces if you so much as stand up straight.
Is it worth leaving its safety? Ask yourself: when was the last time you took a bullet? When was the last time you were hit by a speeding train?
Expand. Step out into the light.
You get caught in patterns and within those patterns you find comfort. This space is known. It is safe. You can--you have--lived here.
This safe space, it's like a box. It has impenetrable metal walls. It's bulletproof. It could shield you from the crushing impact of a speeding train.
Within it, you have survived.
But the box doesn't fit you anymore. Right? You bang your fists against the sides. You hate this fucking box.