The story deflector Thursday August 13, 2009, 5 comments

So many of the websites I’ve been frequenting for years have either slowed down to a crawl, or actually closed up shop. Many of them claim that the immediate hit of satistfaction they get from Twitter has rendered the long post writing form of traditional ‘blogging’ obsolete for them.

Others have said that their blogs had been created as soapboxes (this site was not created as a soapbox at all, but instead as a safety valve for creativity. It’s also not a blog.) from which to pontificate on politics, web standards, design, whatever, and that they no longer needed to pontificate. The Democrats have both houses and the presidency, web standards are the status quo, good design is alive and well in the new medium (though not on Twitter, interestingly) and whatever else people would have to complain about can be complained about on Twitter.

A lot of them have said that life has simply become too busy to blog. So many of them are freelancers now, or have recently had children, or are involved in new projects, and besides Twitter is so much easier.

I think that’s an interesting spin. In fact, I suspect none of them can be bothered any more cos Twitter is just so damned easy. Why bother building an inverted pyramid structure to organize your thoughts into paragraphs when you can slam out 140 characters of context-free pith in 20 seconds?

I’ve seen a few good tweets. One guy I know writes all his tweets in Haiku. It takes time and energy, and he uses the 140 character limitation to force his creativitiy into tight spaces. It’s awesome. But he also writes reams of long-form stuff. He writes news articles, and lengthy blog posts on the subjects that are close to his heart. He writes about music, and photography, and living in Toronto, and above all, he recognizes that all media are really there for one reason: to tell a story.

You see, I believe the whole universe is filled with stories, whizzing through the cosmos at the speed of thought, tiny undetectable particles of story desperately looking for a way to be told. Good writers represent big targets for these stories. They write a lot, which makes their story collectors bigger. But when they stop writing, those story collectors atrophy and shrink.

I think that’s what has really been lost, when I see all these websites I used to love reading not posting any more, or exclaiming in broad voices that ‘blogging is dead’ and that Twitter killed the blogging star. They think they’ve told their stories, and now that those stories are told, they don’t know what to do with their websites and blogs any more. But they continue to tweet. Some have stuff to say that would be better said in a long-form post, and still others have something poignant to say on Twitter. But many are contributing to the ambient noise of the Internet, and it’s these I have the greatest trouble with. They’re creating a fog, making it even harder for those story particles to find good ways to be told.

And story is the point of all media, remember?

Maybe that’s my problem with Twitter. Maybe I haven’t seen enough examples of people using this new format to tell compelling stories. I’ve played with Twitter, which hasn’t helped (I primarily use Twitter as a way to update my Facebook status). Maybe I’m old, and simply don’t ‘get’ it. Maybe all I’ve seen of it makes it an anti-medium to me. A story deflector.

I’ll admit I haven’t been writing much lately. I’ve stopped writing fiction altogether, though don’t for a moment think that I believe that Stories mean fiction. I’ve told some stories, but I haven’t told all of them.

And lately I’ve been feeling the itch again. Bet I won’t be the only one.


Comments

Daniel Black Thursday August 13, 2009


Curiously, I’ve found Twitter to be a form of writing I’m trying to perfect. It’s quite a bit off, for me, that perfection; but it’s good exercise.

Elsewise, Twitter provides lots of signal for low noise, as I manage it pretty aggressively. I routinely prune who I follow, and don’t give much thought to whether I’m followed or not. There are a few voices who excel via Twitter, and I can appreciate it for that.

There’s something about the need for currency, for the Now, that blogging as a movement seems to be overcoming. I think it’s healthy for people who want that to find their means, and leave the rest of us to take our time. I often consider, and nearly as often link to, Gail Armstrong's last post


We’ve had a good run but it’s no longer fun. Or useful. And I admit to a certain – perhaps misguided and no doubt ludicrously precocious – nostalgia for a once more intimate web, one with less of a noisy strip joint about it.

So I’m closing up shop to focus on endeavours of more delayed satisfaction, more careful crafting, more in line with where true passions lie.

I’m still having fun navigating the red light district that is the internet, and am finding lots of places with great vibes, with or without smoke or booze. I’ve recently decided to focus less on writing about the day, and more on writing about the large. There are too many other people covering the news and the pop culture, most of whom do it better than I do.

Daniel Black Thursday August 13, 2009


And…d’oh. !HTML.

Rob Thursday August 13, 2009


For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Adrian Friday August 14, 2009


Rob, that’s an amazing piece of work, that particular work of Hemmingway’s.

@Daniel (how's that for irony?) I've fixed the HTML in your comment. Why it got so Vader'd is something I'll have to look into.

Daniel Black Tuesday August 18, 2009


@Rob, I’ve been abusing that Hemingway piece (which I adore) in my Twitter apologetics lately. Twitter, as a substrate, is no different than the haiku or iambic pentameter, if you look at it the right way: writing three lines of 17 syllables is, taken alone, silly; but a lot can be done with those 17 syllables. Similarly for 140 characters.

Commenting has ended for this post, but I'd still love to hear from you.

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