March 13th - Post-century writing

Length: 1834 words? Wow, that's a lot. Bear with me here!
This post talks about centuries and the process of writing them. Then it talks about the other sort of things I want to write about. Then it talks about other scattered thoughts I have about writing on websites.

I wrote 100 centuries! It was fun! I only fucked up my sleep schedule for this a little! Even though the word count was small, I’d estimate I spent on average 30 minutes writing each one, not counting the time it took to pick a topic for the day. This isn’t just because I tried to be thoughtful with my words, but because it was a relaxing ritual at the end of the day, something I could talk my time on, something I could get up from and pace around for 10 minutes without any worry. You can see this yourself in my RSS feed; the average posting time was probably around 2am (I plan to get some actual stats on this eventually). A little secret: only about 10 of my 100 centuries were written on the day they were posted for, the vast majority were finished hours after midnight (and some even a day or two later).

Centuries are wonderful. I love how the restrictions on the format make anything sound like poetry. I love how it feels like a puzzle, trying to squeeze every last drop of meaning into the few sentences you get. How the process of writing one becomes familiar and comforting: Is it a hook-first century? Or did I find the right ending first? Am I outlining something vague, or trying to pin down a specific thought in precise words? 100 words was supposed to just be the requirement for a challenge, “write 100 words a day”, but turned into the sort of restriction that inspires creativity. “Write about something in exactly 100 words”. I love the unique cadence that emerges from trying to reformat sentences to get rid of a few words. When you have two words to spare and need to decide what part of the writing deserves some extra detail, an extra descriptive word or improved flow. And I know what I’m really describing here is that I love understanding a medium of art. Because finally I’ve written enough, put in the hours, theorized and experimented and peer reviewed, and come out the other side with some kind of competence in something artistic. I’ve written before about how much I’ve struggled to build habits in the past, and somehow this one that caught. And I don’t think centuries are the “ideal art medium” for me, if there even is such a thing. But it’s the one I stumbled into and managed to stick with, so now it’s mine. I do want to branch out to more types of writing (like this!) but I’m never going to stop writing centuries.

Writing long things is hard! I tried and failed many times this last summer to write “the soup post”, a single blog post that would somehow summarize all my feelings on soup, cooking, family, home, etc. At one point it was three posts. A futile attempt at any rate, that’s far too broad a topic to put down all at once (and far from the only topic I failed to finish writing about). But if you go back and look at the centuries I wrote about soup, and stick them all together, you get a pretty good approximation (see: Soup [I] [II] [III] [VI]). They don’t cover everything, but in theory if I kept writing enough 100-word fragments of the big idea, you could combine them all to form a pretty solid understanding of my complete thoughts on soup. Maybe you’d even get to see my feelings shift over time, if I continue this long enough and write frequently enough. That’s a big part of why I want to keep writing centuries. What will Spin IX look like? Will you be able to see the influence of Sasha Cay’s album in it? If you look back at all nine Spins I wrote would you be able to see how the themes of the album, combined with my newfound appreciation for rotational mechanics, have influenced my later writing? Maybe these collections of centuries will make an easy template for writing something longer-form on a subject.

How do I build a tone when writing longer things? What comes naturally to me, for a blog post anyway, is to try and imitate the cadence I’d talk with if I was speaking these words to you face to face. Like if you came up to me and said: “hey laur, tell me about why you like Annihilation so much”, and I knew exactly what I wanted to say, I would say this. So, leaving out commas, adding breaks here and there, just messing around with sentence structure and disregarding the formal english grammatical rules that are expected in writing like this. Does that last sentence sound a bit uneasy to read, though? That’s how I’d say it out loud, but the thing is those rules are applied consistently for a reason; those little ques let an english reader know when a sentence is about to end, what parts have emphasis, etc. I’ll go looking for more feedback on this. There’s a balance to be found between readability and dryness that I’ll find through practice. I ~could~ play around with tone indicators more, bolds and text size and fonts and etc. Something to think about.

I think the reason a speaking tone comes naturally to me is the impact of video essays on my writing. By far my favourite things to read (or listen, or watch), are good communicators talking about why they love the things they love. Or, why they find interesting the things they find interesting. Or, honestly, why they hate the things they hate. It’s always interconnected with all sorts of adjacent topics, and it’s very personal. And youtube, as a centralized distributor, makes these essays easy to find. I’m trying to make an effort to find more written versions of these love letter essays, personal websites and blogs etc, and I’d love recommendations if you have any!

I want to write those sorts of things, to give you that same experience but with my loves and interests. I want to tell you why I find ice hockey so fascinating, and to explain every single detail I’ve learned over my years of following the sport. I want to tell you about my experience reading the Southern Reach trillogy, talk about how it drip-feeds the reader information, and describe why it’s been stuck in my brain ever since. I want to tell you why I love the album Spin by Sasha Cay (see: 23 - spin) in more than 100 words. If I’m being truthful, you, the reader, don’t actually have to exist. It’s enough for the text to be complete, for it to be there, and for me to have written it. I’m glad you do exist though! It certainly makes this more fun.

Another little thing I can’t fit into any of those other paragraphs is that I hate introduction and conclusion sentences. Yes, yes, I know flow is important! And yes I know that last sentence was an introductory one, but not really, it also communicates novel information, the fact that I’m making this its own paragraph because I couldn’t fit it anywhere else. If you look at those previous paragraphs you’ll see they just sort of end, and then the next one begins. And yeah maybe I’m too high-school-english-class brained, but looking at this post as a work of writing, my brain insists there’s supposed to be something there. The last sentence fragment of a century is always the most difficult (that medium is too short to dedicate an entire sentence to closing, so you need to have some sort of “conclusionary tone”, or whatever, at the end instead of a dedicated sentence), and the opening fragment was always the most annoying. The nice thing about centuries is that you don’t need to introduce! You can just -hop in-, and the short length will make it feel to the reader like you’re in the middle of something longer (See: 56 - Descent).

You may also have noticed that my paragraphs are very long. This is because I’m excited to be talking to you and don’t know how to take breaks. Is this something I need to practice to get better at, or can I just pretend it’s not needed and jump right into the next topic? In video essays you can make this easier by jumping to another title card. Maybe I can make title cards?

Flaming text reading Part 5: Website

Fuuuck yeah. God that’s so cool. I love websites.

And it’s not even like I need to have all my text be linear. This is a website [cut to title card for a split second], I have complete control over the page’s layouts! Something like alice,’s asides could be really fun for adding in little bits of context. Instead of putting (see: 56 - Descent) in parenthesis I could highlight the end of the previous sentence and have a little box to the side with extra context. Like annotations?

Another idea I had was an [Expand] tag, where I could elaborate on a topic in a resealable div without breaking the larger flow of the piece. Maybe at the end there’s a button that reveals annotations on what you just read, giving some context and little thoughts that doesn’t fit into the work itself. Could mess around with different colours too, my website feels a little cold as it is. It's a great way to bring attention to certain segments! I might even build all of these things before I post and apply them to this post, we’ll see. Most likely I’ll slowly build a library of tools while I continue to write and post here. I would love for my website to have its own language, its own communication ques, things that I build to match how I want to talk about things, and add some intractability to the reading experience.

Centuries (and other poetry), fiction and worldbuilding, personal blogging, and long-form writing. Are reasonable categories to divide the things I want to write here. I like categorizing, indulge me. All these will have their own tones, their own toolboxes, their own collections of topics. I don’t want to call long-form writing “essays”, even though that is a good descriptive word for what I’m trying to do. A book review, even an informal one, is still an essay, right? Well some of those posts won’t necessarily be about any -thing-. Oh, yes, an essay needs to have a thesis of some kind, explicit or implicit. Long-form nonfiction creative writing doesn’t necessarily fall under that umbrella. My aversion is justified after all!

Ok, I’ve been writing this instead of doing my take-home linguistics midterm, I should get on that. Um, see you around? Ok yes isn’t actually a conversation but I’ve been treating it like one to see how that tone feels and now I’m not sure how to end the post. I’ve really been making this up as I go. I need to figure out a good closing sentence. Fuck fuck fuck I hate conclusions fuck I’m just going to go. Bye!

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