Most blogging platforms are pretty good and yet pretty shitty. They all make it easy to post a blog to a custom or private domain fairly instantaneously. They all have some infrastructure for generating momentum and community. They all have functional stylistic tools for making your stuff look sexy. Alas none of them do the real trick. None of them make you a better writer. And I wouldn’t expect that, necessarily. Though it doesn’t seem a totally unreasonable proposition that a great tool could make you better at its target task. But further… none of these GD platforms make writing easier.
They make publishing, formatting, sharing, circulating, styling, uploading easier. But what about writing?
Why not a blogging platform with thoughtful prompts? With curated reference and how-to material for blogging? With bonafide bloggers as customer support?
Here’s a pledge: from here on out, every time I’m compelled to tweet, I’ll blog instead. There’s something both totally silly and totally sensible about this. Tweets tend to be sentiments. Or at least I’m tempted by sentiment. Often those sentiments are petty, or trite, or unremarkable. But sometimes those sentiments tap at a well of great feeling. Or an area of great curiosity. And maybe it’s worth tapping a little more than 140, or 280 times.
Like this one, this sentiment might be worth a bit over 280 taps. I’m sick of twitter, it’s where all my favorite minds dispose themselves. It’s a bar where I get the worst side of all my favorite authors. It’s a concert where all my favorite musicians yammer but don’t play music. Over it.
Here, now, my mission is to psychologically reframe the notion, act of blogging. Pinpointing my existing framework is challenging, because it’s more so a subconscious perspective or preverbal belief. Prosaically, I want to think about blogging much like I think about journaling, as foremost a form of self-dialogue. Though ostensibly adjacent, blogging is different than journaling. It’s worth noting that it’s taken me the better part of a decade to learn to journal; rather I did so organically for a stretch of puberty before “forgetting” in adolescence (thanks in large to myriad cultural forces i/e the advent of performative and abbreviated social media communications). Slowly but surely, in my 20’s I’ve rediscovered journaling and developed and maintained a healthy of writing things down.
the gateway habit – journaling
In my life, journaling may be distilled to three rudimentary components:
determining what needs to be written down
determining where to write things down
writing things down
This seems reductive- it both is and it isn’t. I really start with no. 3 and no.’s 1 and 2 take care of themselves. For years I was more concerned with what journaling wasn’t, than what it was. While I somehow avoided falling into a black hole of technique sampling (I’m personally prone to quasi-preparatory dawdling), this was due in large to a general pattern of journal-avoidance. My ideal of a journal was precisely this sort of orderly day log, (I still don’t like to use the word “diary”). Attempts to maintain a real-time prose record of my life were futile and frustrating. Imitating the self-mythologizing style of so many historical figures’ was simply not feasible then, and it still isn’t.
The only quasi-consistent writing habit I maintained, more or less from puberty, is memorialized in a google doc called “songs w christoph.” (chris is a friend and bandmate of mine. It’s several hundred pages long, and aside from stanza breaks, the document has no discernible format. It’s just a decade of accumulated verse. This formlessness is, AFAIK, the prerequisite to any content at all.
A year or so ago, I dropped any cultural associations and ideals with the act of journaling. More so, they slowly let go of me. I don’t know when I consciously noted the open-endedness that makes “songs w christoph” work, but I started implementing it more universally in my life. Grocery and shopping lists, creative writings, work-related todo’s- I started just jotting them down indiscriminately in my nearest notebook. In addition to “marble composition books” I jot notes in Bear on my mac, and occasionally the notes app on my iPhone. When I’m up to it, I implement Tim Ferris’s indexing system in combination with some zettelkasten-style tagging, though on the whole I’ve let organization become an afterthought.
Since surrendering my ideals of style, content and organization, journaling has become near effortless and increasing useful and meaningful. I allocate little bandwidth to actively maintaining the habit and I pass few self-judgements for taking a day or week off. Seldom do I retrospectively reference my journals in any sort of structured way. In the rare case I do need to dig up something specific, the worst case is it’s not indexed, and I have to flip thru several dozen pages to sniff down my trail. Even if this takes 45 minutes, the situation is far preferable to one without any journals at all.
Like the handful of other substantial life-improving behaviors and habits I’ve successfully adopted over the years, letting go of expectation is truly the first step.
It follows that (blogging) expectations must be recognized before they are released… Whilst scanning, I’m immediately bombarded with blogging ideals and models to imitate. But much like journaling it’s the negative identification that seems to get in my way. Ideals do not serve as aspirations to emulate, rather they are self-defeating points of comparison.
The proclivity to shut-down my own effort / creativity in any domain is probably best addressed in the context of greater psychological patterns of self-sabotage. Rather than open that box here, I’m inclined to emphasize what I believe is the essential nature of the problem, in this specific case: “anyone who wants to beat a dog can find a stick” (russian? saying).
That is to say, identifying expectations, or enumerating their specific natures may not actually be that useful. In any case, the ultimate hindrance that such expectations pose is a prohibitory invalidating comparison: instead of tugging me in the wrong direction, they stop me in my tracks. “Good,” “bad,” and “correct” expectations are similarly detrimental. They all insist that whatever it is I’m doing is what blogging is not.
Inversion then presents itself as a viable option: if I can reduce blogging to some set of essential principles, and focus on embodying those, I’m bound to succeed. But this tactic too, I suspect is a trap. I’m able to synopsize my journaling principles, but that’s only in retrospect.
So what now? Where to begin? If the release of expectation and delineation of scale-reductive manageable aspirations won’t do, what will? At this juncture, the peripheral cylinders stars firing: set SMART goals, find a social accountability partner, institute stakes like a financial penalty. The list perpetuates and I’m beginning to notice I’m already home. The solution need not be formulated and explicated in advance.
It’s happening. I’ve written, at a glance, 500 or so intelligible words on a single topic. Moreover, this writing takes steps to resolve an identifiable personal problem and contribute meaningfully to a sustained narrative. I’ve honored two blogging principles I didn’t know I had: pragmatism and archiving. I did it without much thinking about thinking or getting lost in the weeds of comparisons. I answered my own question, “how do you write a blog?”
appendix: deriving principles
in revision, optimize for non-redundancy over (or for the sake of) ontological cohesion… efficiency precedes continuity
think on the paper, whenever possible
topicality emerges from ease and meaningfulness, not the other way around
Over the past year, I have experienced hypnagogic hallucinations with increasing regularity. Initially, I found these experiences unnerving, but I was not nearly as disturbed as the people I told about them. Several of my best friends grew upset, frenzied even, when I shared what I saw at night— namely skeleton cats, bubbles, OBEs, fractal paint on the walls, levitating orbs of light, gibberish scrawled in condensation on the bathroom mirror. I always mock my friends’ concerns. They call me pathological, I call them squares.
Predictably, delusions of any sort are concerning given a family history of schizophrenia. Months ago, I hypothesized these events were a hereditary proclivity catalyzed by certain Keyseyian molecules. After a strenuous month of testing, my neurologist pinpointed narcolepsy. Naturally, comes the question of what to do when your hallucinations are “normal,” and not the onramp to highway psychosis.
At this point in the narrative, most friends ask what I do to suppress these experiences, knowing their cause. And I contribute to their “pathological” hypothesis when I tell them I do nada, zilch. I watch, I listen, and generally enjoy the spectacle.
Why are depictions of psychosis and hallucination in the west unfailingly nightmarish?¹ Probably a multivariate equation of American exceptionalism, dry-ass, ghost-free (or lame-ass-ghost-only) Judeo-Christian belief systems, a total dearth of shamanic practices, a collective affinity for violence….
I grew up with with Hawaiian folklore, which hosts a multicultural roster of supernatural entities. We’ve got ghosts of every Polynesian and East Asian origin. We’ve even got the aforementioned lame-ass white ghosts. And I don’t believe in any of them, but they’re also totally real. The point being, aside from a few more teen-urban-legendary stories, anecdotes of Hawaiian paranormal activity are greatly informed by East Asian and oceanic spiritual lineages- cultures that embrace the unseen. Even the most frightening of these ghosts are rarely malignant. The Faceless Lady at KC drive-in combs her hair while you take a piss after a waffle-dog. A giant Hawaiian man who smells like piss might approach your grandpa on his Lana’i one afternoon, then dip when he gets board. Should you find yourself in the path of night-marchers, piss on yourself and they’ll leave you alone. (Can someone account for all this urine? Maybe the president?)
Before I was diagnosed with narcolepsy, a psychologist I trust chalked up my experiences to nothing more than Hawaii’s rich astral plane. This pissed me off, she should have pointed me to the nearest neurologist, but her attitude is noteworthy. A sort of “they don’t bite, so who cares?”
To boot, I am seldom unable to identify my hallucinations as such. The other night, I was 70% sure classical music was playing, though Alexa informed me that there was nothing to pause. That’s pretty much as bad as it gets. Even my OSA-induced sleep paralysis, from which I’ve suffered for years, is oft-framed by a comical causality: a fat guy sitting on me, a t-shirt that’s too tight. (These jokes do not ease the migraines).
As far as I’m concerned, my hallucinations will only be getting “worse” in the years to come. They will likely be exacerbated by an affinity for certain amines and -amides, prescription GABA-agonists, amphetamines, a cyst in a particularly sensitive lobe. I’ve got the works here. Narcolepsy symptoms are known to intensify in late adolescence, too. What to do?
Bring it on, ghost fuckers. In fact, drop by anytime you like (I’m talking to you skeleton-cat). What’s inherently terrible about seeing things that aren’t there?
Julian Jaynes posited that early humans were unconscious beings, slaves to schizophrenic command hallucinations that dictated every action. He cites Odysseus’s lack of individual autonomy. This is not a credible theory by any measure, but evidence is mounting that Jaynes may be onto something. I’m sympathetic to him— certainly our hallucinatory capacity has served some evolutionary benefit. At the least, it is an innocuous inconvenience, akin to the integration of our sexual and sewage hardware.
What I’m getting at, here, is that I enjoy the occasional hallucination. To me, they bring much needed decorum to a crude world. I am grateful to Miyazaki, Chicken Skin, and even the surrealism of Louis CK, to all of which I attribute my embrace of the uncanny. As I struggle to conclude here, the text is beveling gently. It’s hard to imagine a distortion any spookier than the “queer, self-obliterating²” humanity we share.
1. This is not to discredit the many truly psychotic individuals who experience immersive waking nightmares. I have nothing but empathy for these people. (Though I wonder if our culture has conditioned their hallucinations.)
7:30 am – Simulated sunrise with Philips Hue lights. Reliable, but insufficient intensity. Usually wakes me but negligible effect on energy.
8:00 am (or whenever I become properly conscious) – 20 mins of 10k Lux equivalent exposure via Luminette goggles. Seem to alleviate grogginess.
200mg Provigil, 100ug intranasal Orexin-A, 40 mg Nexium for nausea
20 minutes mindfulness meditation. Sometimes use guided audio with Headspace.
8:45 am – 50/50: high fat ketogenic breakfast or no breakfast
Spend about half my day in a windowless office at a fairly ergonomic desk.
9:00 am – 12:00 pm – light caffeine intake usually diet coke or bulletproof tea
30 – 40 min walk to office, sometimes 30 minutes of light cardio (basketball)
10k Lux bulbs in office.
1:00 pm – 100ug intranasal Orexin-A, 20 minute walk outside.
2:00 pm – 4:00 pm – moderate ketogenic lunch, usually cobb salad or 3/4 lbs pastrami
f.lux or equivalent color filter on all screens. (usually have these on all day, my iPhone is also permanently grayscale)
UV/orange glasses on at all times
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm – large ketogenic dinner
11:00 pm – screens off, end shower with 15+ seconds of 33° F immersion
set chilipad to 24° C
11:30 pm – 1.5 mg melatonin
read on backlit kindle paperwhite, put on BIPAP
12:00 am – sunset simulation with illumy
Been waking up with rested body, calmer mind. Still feel bit of constriction in back of head, near junction with upper neck. Could be elastic straps on head. Able to stay conscious all day, attention span peaks upon arrival at office and at nightfall. Unable to stay focused for more than 2 hours.
Been waking up naturally around 7:30 am (no auditory alarms). Other days I rip off ventilator and wake up between 9 and 11 am, with headaches, stimulants keep me conscious and useless.
would like to reduce stimulant intake with caffeine-free tea and titration of provigil, more focus on orexin-a as effects become clearer. scheming automated orexin-a delivery via inline nebulizer activated 1-hour before waking. Beginning Xyrem titration upon insurance approval.