During the week, I found myself mulling over two or three posts that I might write at the weekend and post on my site. One was a reaction to the announcement that Bookshop.org has brought forward its United Kingdom opening and is now operating in partnership with independent UK bookshops and a book distributor. This would be a follow-up of sorts to my post from last weekend, “Who needs independent booksellers?”
The second was prompted by a blog post by Drew DeVault about Gemini, a hypertext protocol that is much simpler and more straightforward than HTML. Drew believes that the web is no longer redeemable and that we need to start again with something more basic that has fewer features. This seemed to jibe to some extent with two posts of mine from the last few months, “Writing ‘plain’ text” and “Even plainer text” and I thought it might be worth while to develop the connection between Drew’s proposal and my own scattered thoughts.
The third idea was something closer to home. I actually started to write it on Saturday morning and got to 1,000 words before I realized that I was repeating (perhaps in a clearer form) something I’d written about 3 months ago. That realization prompted me to consider whether I haven’t, over the past few months, been writing about “bloggy” topics as a way of procrastinating about writing projects that I more urgently need to work on. By that I mean either some fiction of my own or critical pieces about the writing (fiction and poetry) of others.
Looking back over the things I’ve posted since the end of July, I see that they include no fiction and only one piece of critical writing, “Prelate of the grove”, about Andrew Marvell’s long poem, “Upon Appleton House”. The post is really just a note discussing the use of the word “prelate” in that poem, and it’s been hanging around for years, having started life as an aside in my thesis and simply needing a little expansion to turn it into a standalone post. There wasn’t much new about it, in other words.
Have I been allowing myself to be too easily distracted from my longer-term projects by such topics as books and bookselling, technology, writing and publishing, gender, and the triad of aphantasia, anxiety and SDAM? It’s not that these subjects aren’t important to me, or that I don’t think I have anything worthwhile to say about them, but I have a feeling that I could easily go on about them indefinitely and never get to the writing that really matters to me.
Does it really make sense to have strong feelings about whether a writer uses HTML, Markdown, plain text or WordPress’s Gutenberg; whether she has an RSS feed or an email newsletter, or publishes in PDF, ePub, HTML or (again) plain text? Is it worth getting worked up about whether she has a blog with her own domain name or chooses to post on Medium (or Facebook, for that matter)? I find myself getting drawn into these (quite often internal) debates and repeatedly going over the same arguments. At some level, I know that the content is what is truly important, with the method of delivery or consumption coming a long way behind. But I can’t seem to help myself from jumping into dogmatic discussions of the latter.
From August to October, I arguably had a good excuse for sticking with the shallower, “bloggy” topics: I was wandering between hotels while I looked for somewhere to live longterm. Now that I’m settled, it must be time to turn my focus to writing the important stuff.