Keeping Count

September 07, 2016

It’s ceremonial, and maybe sentimental, but here we are. I’m trying to remember to write more, and get in the practice of writing in public at lengths that are somewhere between 140 characters and a couple thousand words.

Someone I think at The Awl wrote something complaining that people should go back to blogging more and how she missed it, but I can’t find the story. Ironically, instead while looking for it I came across this thing Rob wrote last year about Medium, which is the platform The Awl’s now using for its website.

It probably just comes across as grouchy and weird that I just don’t really feel Medium and I’m not particularly inclined to use it for more than bookmarking things other people put on Medium. I don’t really want to knock other people pushing their Personal Brand or whatever; in late capitalism we all do things we’re not proud of. (Or, some people are sociopaths and are proud of those things, but they too are human and we have to be compassionate.)

Mostly it’s the degree of polish to Medium that makes me think I should just keep my writing on my own site and not on the big shiny platform. I probably wouldn’t be the writer I am today if I hadn’t had the space to write weird dumb things online and make mistakes and be unpolished.

It’s also maybe just wanting to think more about time and keeping track of and processing things in public without feeling like I’m performing process as a weird social commodity. An embarrassingly maudlin habit I picked up sometime in college was an appropriation of the opening sentence of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, in which I internally shorthanded summers by their significant traumatic public moments. The summer of 2006 was the one Israel bombed the hell out of Lebanon, and I listened to Democracy Now! lying on a basement apartment floor in Washington, DC. The summer of 2008 was the earthquake in China, the one where all the kids died and I had to explain what happened to art school friends who didn’t keep up with current events much. The summer “Billie Jean” filled the air as densely as the humidity. The summer it really went from bad to worse in Syria, the summer they acquitted George Zimmerman for murdering Trayvon Martin, the summer Darren Wilson murdered Michael Brown.

2016 was the summer I lost count. Seemingly week to week a new tragedy appeared, hitting not so much like a slap in the face as a wound that never really healed right opening up yet again. It was the summer that so many public figures from if not a more innocent than maybe a more heroic time died, leaving the misfits and freaks who took solace in those heroically weird or unorthodox public achievements to play old records and watch old fights and read old books. It was the summer where nothing was really a surprise but everything was still a shock to the system.

Between the lead in the water, lives lost, cities flooded, and civil wars there was discourse, politics, and day-to-day life happening, and I couldn’t shake the ugly feeling that no matter how sincere my grief or rage or confusion was it would all be read a professionalized patter or part of some creepy cultivation of social capital through appropriating the right leftist vocabulary. And there’s no way to prove that what I’m doing isn’t part of the same commoditizing ritual, except maybe by not participating in it and working through ideas elsewhere.

So, here’s my deal. I’m never going to announce when I add new blog posts to this website. I am also pretty sure that no one’s going to care enough about what I’m writing here to need an RSS feed. I don’t actually have any analytics installed on this site so I won’t know if you’ve read this unless you contact me about it. That’s fine.

Here we go.

See also: notes