Fifty days ago Jeremy Cherfas wrote about a fun blogging challenge he took part in a decade ago with the goal of writing 50 posts of exactly 100 words for 50 consecutive days. That idea got me thinking about trying it here, albeit without the word limit. Anyone who has had a conversation with me will know that there's a very clear reason why I don't like arbitrary limits on communication. This personal challenge was started fifty days ago and this post makes for 50 in as many days. Success.
This does bring me to the next challenge, though. Writing every day is fine for a casual pastime, but something that I've wanted to do for quite a while is to write better posts on topics that give people a reason to invest their time in reading each paragraph. The vast majority of the items I've published on here over the last few years have been essentially stream-of-consciousness posts. Sure, many of them would be written one day, edited another, and published later, but the short pieces could have been done better. Heck, even this post could be written better if I were to properly plan it out on paper, organise the key concepts ahead of time, and write with the beginning in mind. The concept is not at all new as this is how I would often write for the web between 2008 and 2010, otherwise known as "the time before I became really active on Twitter".
One of the primary reasons I'd like to write better isn't to gain readers, but to better organise my thoughts on a topic. This past year I've been studying philosophy — particularly the different forms of existentialism — by reading book after book in my spare time1. The authors of these cognitively deep tomes have given me a great deal to consider. In order to better organise my thoughts on each chapter, I've written notes in an A5 notebook dedicated to the subject. Keywords, relational arrows, questions, quotes, and further areas to explore are just some of what's been written down, each page of which could be expanded to a 1000-word essay given the opportunity. Topics such as the meaning of (my) life, isolation, death, God, friendship, and the forgotten lessons from the 20th century would make for an interesting series of introspective commentaries.
Well ... interesting to me. If anyone else were to find value or entertainment from such a frivolous use of time, then all the better. Regardless of public interest, writing more thoughtfully and purposefully would offer the opportunity to slow down, plan, and clearly enunciate the ideas that are still plastic in the mind. This form of analysis can be quite useful when breaking down a concept into its individual components before holding them up for further exploration. What I like about doing this is the challenge of justifying a position, testing its correctness, and making refinements along the way. Any idea that cannot stand up to a little scrutiny is not worth holding on to. This is what long-form writing enables.
What I am ultimately looking for from my own writing is a better understanding of myself and my place in the grand scheme of things. Stream of consciousness blog posts can offer a future me a glimpse into the mental state of a past me, but they seldom answer the over-arching question of why I thought a given way at a given time, or how my understanding of the world has evolved.
Can the time be dedicated to write proper essays, though? Let's find out.
- I will admit that there's not a lot of spare time during the day. When 15 minutes avails itself, I will read a chapter, though. ↩