Brevity, Earnest Back-and-Forth

Image shows [caveat: I am not an art history person, but doing my best] what I believe to be a "disgorging" foliate head, a stone etching from Wales of a conflicted-looking man with vegetation coming out of both sides of his mouth.

I don’t idealize the blog era, but I do miss a few things about it. One is the inherent flexibility of the form. A blog allows for brevity (merciful brevity). When no extra words are needed, there’s no mandate to stretch an idea to fill a slot. On the other hand, if someone needs to say 10,000 words on a subject, a blog accommodates that, too. Newsletters are also like this, I know, and arguably Facebook. And I enjoy writing essays for publications I respect, working with editors to shape my ideas for the better. And of course one truism of capitalism: everybody’s gotta make a buck. I don’t begrudge anyone demanding payment for their labor. Still, in recent years when I’ve had something to say that didn’t fit on Twitter and didn’t require developing into some kind of larger story or thesis, I’ve tended to stay silent and retreat into my book draft. Reviving the blog gives me a friendly place for those in-between things.

I hope I don’t sound hectoring or too repetitious or middle-agedly nostalgic here. I know I’ve already written twice in the past couple months about things that still attract me to this form. But again, I’m not issuing a prescription, just mulling the oddness of circling back to my blog after years away and finding it to be a refuge. It still tickles me, even after all this time, that I can say whatever I want here.

I also miss the feeling of an earnest, casually developing back-and-forth conversation, something I realized after reading Beth Winegarner’s recent post, “What the trees want,” a thoughtful and thought-provoking response to a Medium post I wrote on the Biblical creation story, “What Did the Forbidden Tree Want?” The image above (of a foliate head in Llangwm, Wales) is taken from her post. Plenty of screeds and half-baked-think-piece-prototypes issued forth during the heyday of blogs, some of them on this very site, but I enjoyed being indirectly reminded that there was friendly nuance and learning sometimes too.


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