a newfound discomfort with hypertext
I bought a printer, months and months back, because I had these ideas of beautiful janky little booklets, monochrome laser printed, lovingly finessed margins. I buy people’s zines and read them. I write, I illustrate things, I have a rotating stapler; trust me that there is a level on which this made sense.
I haven’t made any.
The reason is slightly more complicated than overambitious hobby flightiness – and thinking about it has left me with a bad taste in my mouth about this website.
I do some creative things, but I’m not A Creative. I have a carefully nurtured sense of entitlement to Fine Arts and Haute Whatever, but my college degree was vocational in essence1, and I have a demanding job that isn’t well served by my spending time on any of this stuff.
I have cheerfully tanked my analytics by leaving Twitter and disabling search engines. I am not trying to Blow Up here.
So: whatever you notice me do, trust I am doing out of an inchoate Inner Drive To __.
But that’s okay! On the Internet, that’s okay. I can contribute something by pointing at a glassware company’s sort of bananas online catalog-thing and excerpting some found poetry. You wouldn’t have found that without me, and if you yourself don’t find it funny or interesting, you can still perceive my directing you toward it as part of My Whole Deal.
And if I get more het up about something, find myself perseverating, wearing circles in the mental carpet, well, I can write up a giant piece of “nuh-uh!!”.
What determines whether something is worth publishing?
On the margin, it is free for me to send any visitor Bormioli Rocco branding quotes. If you feel your time is wasted, well, it is not so terribly hard for you to click away, close a tab. I can be experimental or loose about what I include here. Casual. Chatty.
And as for wondering whether some counterpoint is worth writing up – well, discourse perpetuates itself. Read too many pieces saying XYZ without reading replies asserting the obvious Not XYZ, and you will find yourself convinced of the virtue of tossing Not XYZ into the ring.
I believe that this one thing I wrote is Good, and the better part of it is because I embed, quote, link to things that I didn’t see other people juxtapose in the same way. Imagining writing a zine version, something similarly scoped as a zine, gives me the willies. Yes, partially because I have grown decadent in my footnotes – but also because I derive authority from my links2. You may reasonably not value my opinions or ideas, but you’d be a fool not to respect my links. I embed myself in the Web and I embed the Web in my work.
Yes, I too love the antecedents to digital hypertext, but Ramelli’s wheel is hardly a default. Paper asks to stand alone.
You know all the memes (and more than memes) about “God, give me the confidence of a mediocre white dude”? I do notice how dudely my blogroll is, despite my curatorial efforts. How heavily pale male the general population of Independent Website Proprietors is. In some ways, this is helpful: an often encouraging benchmark. “Well, I have at least as much right to speak on the topic as this fellow.”
In other ways, though, I find myself criticizing how little any of them – any of us Posters – can have to say.
I buy zines – order them, read them. I am disturbed sometimes by the critical voice in my head. Sometimes I can read between the lines exactly my own anxieties. An author-artist who wants to make Something, who feels like it’s got to be different from what she’d post online, and who thereby excises the breezy lightness from her own tone, ends up stilted. Jamie Mortara was wiser to publish a chapbook of their poem tweets, tumblr posts, directly. I buy innumerable witchy almanacs that feel inferior to search results – no, my own benefit from that lighter contract between webmaster and visitor. Procreate-illustrated personal essays without shape or substance.
It is hard to conquer my own fears and insecurities that what I have to say isn’t worth the staples, particularly when I have seen others waste those staples. Is it harder still to conquer because I have this lighter, easier path to take instead?
Is my ethic of link-justified hypertext a brace compensating for muscles I should develop?
I have posted thirteen thousand toots on Mastodon and that’s a pretty astonishing number but I don’t feel bad about it. The world is not worse off for my chatter. But if I didn’t have my little asbestos-free social media, if I didn’t have this site, would it encourage me to progress further? Or would the higher barrier to entry for my projects instead limit what I produce, share?
At the end of a day spent dealing with Difficult Other Shit do I even want to wrestle with my own demons in this way? Are my creative drives weak enough that I just – wouldn’t? And what would that say about me?
When I’m cooking, I experiment, because cooking is mostly boring as hell3 and if you’re not interested in Precise Technique, the creative bits are what you have to sustain you. I’ve been refining a hazelnut-based pasta sauce, for instance. Pretty much any time I cook anything, I go through these phases where I’m enthusiastic about the idea, and then excited about my variation, and then somewhere in the middle - lid on the pot, dish in the oven – I become possessed by the certainty that it’s going to be terrible. It rarely is, but of course it’s not about the food, is it?
If I could delete my efforts without wasting ingredients (sin, sin, mortal sin), without leaving a household meal-less, how many times would I have? And you must be able to infer without my telling you that I shy from ingredients expensive enough to Ruin, to fail to live Up To.
Here I find myself drawn to caveat. I’m Sure A Thousand People Have Written About This Already. I Know None Of This Is Especially Individual To Me. But do you notice that won’t stop me from publishing this? It’s a blog post! No one cares! You came here for correctly nested HTML tags and I sent you them for the fee of zero dollars. I owe you no quality, no restraint. Authenticity to the spirit of the project, maybe – but no late-arriving insecurities stop me here.
A literal B.S. degree! ↩
I wasn’t just talking about other people when I mused about the power of never-read citations, maybe. ↩
Draining labor defined by inhaling a bunch of life-shortening particulate pollution, even when you’re careful enough not to cut or burn your hands, and having to decide whether to cook to others’ tastes or your own. The cultural script that we should all pretend this is enjoyable: oppressive. Fight me and I will clobber you with the lid of a cast-iron pumpkin-shaped cooking pot. ↩