Back in my blogging heyday, probably circa 2008 or so, I used to run through my RSS until I read something that prompted me to start thinking my way toward some sort of proposition. Then I would start working on a post. First I would write a brief summary of what caught my interest in the article, apropos of nothing (one of the earliest comments I can remember receiving on my blog was along the lines of “Nice blog. But why don’t you try starting a post with some other setup besides ‘In BLAH, so-and-so wrote BLAH.’ “). And then I would start to try to articulate my response, in paragraphs that I would reorder and revise throughout the day, sometimes augmenting them with links to relevant articles I would happen on as the day progressed. It was easy to find such link, as the post-in-progress gave me a clear focus as I waded in my infostream. Eventually I would work my way toward a culmination, or would write a sentence that I could recognize as how the post should end. Then I reshape the whole thing with that sense of the ending in mind, give it a proofread, and post it. Then I would go back to reading randomly, looking for a new inspiration to focus me.
I don’t work that way anymore. Now, when I hit upon an article that starts me thinking, I excerpt a sentence of it on Twitter and start firing off aphoristic tweets. I don’t worry about ordering my thoughts into a sequential argument, or revising my first impressions much. I don’t try to build toward a conclusion; rather I try to draw conclusions that seem to require no build-up, no particular justification to be superficially plausible. And then, more often than not, I will monitor what sort of reaction these statements get to assess their accuracy, their resonance. At best, my process of deliberation and further reading on the subject gets replaced by immediate Twitter conversations with other people. At worst, tweeting pre-empts my doing any further thinking, since I am satisfied with merely charting the response.
Either way, rather than an essay, I end up with something like this to show for an afternoon’s productivity.
I’m not sure whether this is an improvement in my critical practice.
But I am happy about this: