Monday, January 01, 2018

New year, new writing practice

It's an arbitrary division, but even so, like many other people, as one year draws to a close and another begins, I like to spend a bit of time in focused reflection. I think back over what I did, what I accomplished, what went well, what went poorly in the year just ending, and I look forward to how I might approach things differently in the new year. I don't make resolutions, but I do often come up with a few things – personal, political, work-related – that I want to keep in mind as I move forward, and sometimes a small change or two in my routines and practices.

This year, the work-focused component of my reflection has been a bit more muted than usual. I had a bit of a mini work crisis a couple of months ago, which triggered some intensive reflection that kind of pre-empted the year-end version. Namely, I realized that I was a bit bored with rather a lot of the work with which I fill my days. Almost all of what I do fits under one or another of a few big ongoing projects. I'm committed to all of them and I have no intention of pulling back from any of them...but, still, working only on Big Things can be disheartening and, yes, boring.

As a result of that mini-crisis, I made a few changes. One was that I resolved to get back into experimenting with video – mostly talking-head stuff, often bookish, sometimes bloggish, occasionally something else. I had no time to add video dabbling to what I was already doing, but the prospect excited me, so I did it anyway. I still haven't found a definitive way to use it that feels quite right, but I continue to play.

A little after that, I also came to the conclusion that I needed to significantly re-orient one of my major projects. I won't go into detail on that for the moment, but it involved a change in focus and emphasis, a need to do a lot more reading, but also a very exciting sense of the new approach fitting better with what I have to offer as a writer. (One part of this is that I will be doing a lot of thinking, reading, and writing about the politics of listening, understood broadly and complexly, over the next little while, some of which may show up here.)

Anyway, I thought that, with all of that already done, my year-end reflections about work were likely to be pro-forma and relatively uninteresting. Except, as I've journalled about these things over the last few days, I've realized that's not quite true. I've realized that my decision to dabble in video was in part a desire to make smaller things on a more regular basis. And I've realized that the re-orientation of the book project was in part about doing more to make sure that what I am creating flows a bit more directly and organically from my own predilections, preoccupations, activities, and life. And I've also realized that I'm still not quite satisfied with my efforts to meet those two desires. Add to that a recognition that when I started blogging back in 2004, I did it casually, informally, regularly, and precisely to break up the monotony of a couple of major multi-year commitments, but that over the years my blog has become a place for writing that is longer and more substantial, and not always exactly polished but no longer as casual and informal. The online world has changed a lot since 2004, and I have no interest in going back to what I did then. But I want to do something analogous that fits the context of today.

And here's what I came up with: On some kind of regular basis – less than daily, more than weekly – I want to engage in casual, informal, short, quick, thinking-on-my-feet making-of-things. It will begin from thinking about something I've experienced, something I've seen, something I've read. It will emerge from me, but it will often involve a sort of dialogical engagement of whatever sort beyond myself or thinking through things I've learned from others.

It will not attempt to be profound or novel, though it will try to be thoughtful.

It will attempt to stay limited to one thought, reflection, or question, considered in a relatively open and unfinished way, rather than plunging down the rabbit hole of attempted depth and completeness.

Each instance will probably start as either a Twitter thread or (maybe, we'll see) a short (4 or 5 minute) video, but will also end up as a short post on this blog. Doing it this way will push me to keep it simple, casual, conversational. At least I hope so.

It will in a broad sense be oriented as a practice that will support and feed into my major projects, though that may not always be visible from the content.

I am going to actively try to push back against the ever-present urge to limit what I talk about based on some pre-set idea of "this is the kind of thing I'm supposed to write about", and stay grounded in "this feels interesting and important to me in the moment" or "this is what I'm thinking about today."

It may or may not result in anything of direct interest to other people – I hope it does, at least sometimes, but it needn't in order to be worthwhile. It is, first and foremost, a writing practice meant to support my broader work and to keep me not-bored.

And will I maintain this quick, casual blogging practice longer than a week, in the face of the full new year onslaught of regular work routines? Only time will tell! :)


Lorne said...

My own experience with blogging tells me that the best writing is done when one is truly engaged in the topic under consideration. I realize with my own blog, I am often posting more out of rote habit than conviction, so I have resolved to perhaps write less but more personally meaningfully. Maybe that is a tad self-indulgent, but at least it will be more interesting for me and will perhaps allow me to explore and clarify my own thinking.

In other words, I think you are on the right track with your plans.

Ruth Pickering said...

This sounds very interesting, Scott. I plan to follow you on your journey, and see where you, and where I, travel!

Scott Neigh said...

Thank-you, both Lorne and Ruth! :)