As I start thesis writing in earnest, my priorities are shifting to the production of documents necessary to the academic ritual: the proposal, annotated bibliographies, review of related literature, and chapters of primary research. I am writing on the form of the web browser and its social effects, investigating how browsers were shaped through distributed processes of software architecture and improvised linguistics into an infrastructure upon which we google people to find their Facebook profile and Twitter feed. The part of me that’s been doing this shit for years is a singular candidate for the task, the academic come-lately (part-time, at that) within approaches with some apprehension, and the friend known to you dreads that as we are a postcard’s reach apart, it’s more likely that postcards are all that will pass between us.
It’s become obvious practices that once defined me have suffered as I’ve travelled different social and professional avenues and consequently developed new practices. And it’s difficult for me to admit that my creative output has not dropped as much as I sometimes feel; there are analogues. Where I was once defined by semi-annual meticulously crafted mix CDs, I now with similar frequency and attention assemble brunch for 20 in my one-bedroom apartment. Books with starred reviews are Goodyear-welted shoes, late-night drives are late-night walks, weekly benders are personal training appointments. I am led to believe this is normal for my age.
Similarly, I’m learning not to mistake change in the form of my output for a drop in my ability to “leave my mark.” Blog posts, mix CDs, portfolio/gallery websites, cityscapes, sketchbooks, AIM statuses, long-winded and vain email newsletters – each has come and go as my preferred medium, and who knows when if ever I’ll resume any of these with the same zeal, let alone skill. For the foreseeable future, my blog’s purposes as an outpost for commentary on current events, meme participation, telling of my new favorite earworms, and nudging and winking (and hyperlinking) in the direction of funny shit have been distributed to the lower-maintenance domains of my Facebook profile, Twitter feed, Flickr photostream, Hype Machine loves, and Pinterest boards. I’ll probably write occasionally to float wacky ideas that likely wouldn’t float with my thesis committee, and 140 characters isn’t enough for all the wonderful things and weird shit I want to share.
(Like, I mean, have you seen Marwencol? My esteem for it grows every time I think of it, and I now doubt I’ll see a better movie released this year. It’s a documentary about Mark Hogancamp, who survives a beating but loses motor skills and memories, and a discussion of the role of photography and memory, the role of sincerity in art, and the role of art in therapy. It goes into Charlie Kaufman territory (recursion, specifically, and not as a storytelling technique employed by the filmmakers so much as a consequence of the documentary process (and the subject being documented)) and is so terrifically distinct from anything I consider my experience of the world it’s easy to forget its foundation in real events. Oh, and Hogancamp – who is still getting by on disability checks – takes a cut of sales of related merchandise (maybe some box-office receipts?), so patronage includes a nugget of charity.)
(So there’s that.)
Part of me now chafes at a not-much-younger version of me that exercised writing not because writing is not something to be exercised but because I/he believed that it was through a systematic exploration and exploitation of syntax and diction that one improved as a writer. Improved and writer now seem insubstantial, even laughable, just as there was once a me that thought a feeble configuration of magnets and arrows and dials the ideal of compass. At 25, I probably couldn’t make a better mix CD or write a better blog post than when I was 22, but that realization took almost three more years to reconcile comfortably. I still believe that getting prolific is a step towards getting good, but that better bears a troublesome resemblance to analysis paralysis and all that. As I’m steady working and ringing up debts in pages and accounting in chapters for at least the next eight months, that reconciliation arrives at a fruitful moment.
To those who know (and the present tense feels so tenuous here) me as a blogger, mix maker, enfant terrible (increasingly sans enfant), I leave you with this: While I am writing – the usual 79 minutes and change in one 95 MB file – to remember me as a friend. I worry I only have so many words, and they are needed elsewhere. Till the next postcard, know you’re invited to – and missed at – brunch.