Teaching myself to write longer
I am teaching myself to write longer
I have noticed that my ability to write longer pieces on demand is much reduced from 20 years ago. This is probably part of a larger attention span reduction. I can't read for long periods of time like I used to either, nor can I listen to particularly complex music for very long. In a word, I have been Facebooked.
In college I would check my email maybe once a day. And I didn't have a cell phone, let alone a smartphone. I was more present, I think, even if I was less aware of the outside world (maybe those two mean the same things). But my writing style was much different back then. Longer sentences, longer paragraphs, more semicolons. Oh! the semicolons of yore.
I need to slow down, and I need to read and write intentionally. This blog is an attempt at that.
I will write a 1500 word post every day no matter how bad it is
The rule for Brontosaurus is a 1500-word post each day, every day. Even if they suck; even if I end up putting 700 words of filler at the end. I'll get better. Even if I am grossly and boringly repetitive. Even if I use parallel sentences saying the same things, over and over again.
I don't have topic limits, and I'm not going to (for now) limit myself to one topic per post. Right now volume is the goal. If I can write what are essentially three 500-word pieces that I have pasted into the same file, that's fine for now. As it becomes easier, I hope to be able to focus more in a given post. But right now I just need to turn the spigot on and get the callouses back.
Things I might try
One thing I'm pretty sure is true from long-form pieces I have written recently: research is a great way to bump word counts. I have written some kind of aimless but interesting (to me) 2000+ word essays just from following a link tree on Wikipedia. That may be a good place to mine. I'm also diving in to spotify so I may be able to write some album reviews. Even stringing together three 500-word reviews would, again, be getting back towards the volume I want.
I was all hopeful there, and we're at 430 words. OK. But that gives me an idea again of how to eyeball it. Two more of what I have. That's a start.
I'm writing this on GNU Emacs, which has been my text editor of choice for about 20 years. I was trying to blog with orgmode for a while, but like with so much of Emacs you wind up spending more time fiddling with configuration options than actually writing what you intended to write. So I'm using Nikola as my site generator.
I have a few more Nikola blogs I'm running to bleed off writing that doesn't really belong here. There's my normal sort of blog where I write about whatever BS happens to be on my mind at the time. There's my webcomic that I make by tracing my hands. There's also my poetry site : Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate.
I keep going back and forth on that: if I want volume, shunting off any writing to other sites is a bad idea. The first arrangement I had was a blog for the humanities, one for tech and science, one for poetry, and one for politics. But that gets burdensome. Maybe, when this process has done its job and I feel better able to consistently write long pieces, I will get rid of all the rest and just have a single general blog like God intended.
So, how about them Orioles
The weather today was dreadful; this is the band rain from Florence coming through VA. Some friends from work and I had had a camping trip scheduled over the weekend. We chickened out when it looked like the storm was going to move up the Blue Ridge, but apparently a high pressure system blocked the storm and it would have been a dry weekend. I bought some camping gear because I was completely out: a solar USB charger, a bug-zapping LED, tent, backpack, camelbak, sleeping bag, foam pad, inflatable pad, tarp, lantern stand and hook, E-tool, and cigar-box guitar (this one is clearly in the "optional" category).
It's my wife's birthday this weekend and we have some great eating plans coming up. In honor of the new DC Michelin list , we're going to both Pineapple & Pearls and Sushi Taro over the weekend. That reminds me that restaurant reviews could be a good source for some longer-form pieces (again, particularly with research behind them). We've been to a few Michelin-starred restaurants: Mraz, Meurice, Robuchon, Bernardin, Steiereck, Kolburg, Komi. Those would all make good long reviews.
That reminds me of another thing: I want few links and no media in my postings. This is part of returning to text as a basis which (I think) will help improve my attention span. Related to this is some of my recent reading acquisitions. I got Kindle subscriptions to the New York and London Reviews of Books, the Sun, and a few literary journals. I'd love to add some philosophy journals, particularly on aesthetics. I'll also still be reading a lot of Longform, RibbonFarm, and for the wonk in my Strong Towns.
And, finally, that leaves politics
And what a merry shitshow it is lately! Kavanaugh's hearing has suddenly started leaning off the rails. Word is McConnell told Trump to pick literally anybody else. But Trump has both oppositional defiance disorder and intermittent explosive disorder. And a disorder of my own description: if he sees a drawer, he must slam his own balls in it. It's astounding to watch.
Obviously there's not a clean Democratic play to block the nomination. This is wag the dog stuff: we have to string together enough reasonable doubt until the mid-terms at which point we hope Collins and Murkowski will both be so spooked as to back down.