Readers of my posts or my fiction may think that I am all over the place mentally, emotionally, procedurally…nothing could be further from the truth. I’m actually very structured, obsessed by detail and orderly to a fault. I’ve always been a maker and checker of lists, and I’ve always been interested in the workings of my mind as if it were someone else’s. Example: when I was 16 years old, I recorded and plotted all my school work hours vs my school results in order to figure out if I had a discernible biorhythms that would help me optimize the return on investment…we are still only talking about middle school here!
When the picture below yesterday formed in my mind while I was thinking about the imminent publication of my story collection “Thank You For Your Sperm”, I was therefore not scared but pleased to continue a history of small, useful obsessions. I employed the kitchen blackboard to draw my “meta-verse”, the network that contains and generates many of my non-fiction pieces: blog posts using WordPress, Tumblr and Blogger; forum posts, for example at Fictionaut; and mini-posts on Facebook, on Google+ and (painfully short) on Twitter. I don’t know if this layout is interesting or relevant to others. I thought it was interesting to see that “community” clearly is the counterpart of my individual ideas. This blog best reflects these ideas. Tools like Twitter or Google+ are closer to the concept of community. I perceive both platforms as more open in comparison to Facebook or to a discussion forum. The latter two serve cliques (albeit often very large cliques). I use Facebook as a public notepad, often in connection with an image: I may write a Facebook post within an hour of having an idea or even spontaneously. This means that I rarely think at length about these posts. Then I repost on Google+. There is no difference in content between the two posts; on average, the Google+ article is even less content rich because it is missing links to the names and pages of other artists or communities (Google+ has got these now, but they’re relatively new). The Facebook post can serve as a germ for a blog post (see some examples). The blog post typically requires a lot more research and thinking. This will take up to a month or more. Often the Facebook note will not turn in a blog post but into a different format because my blog offers a number of media formats: podcasts, quotes, interviews, book announcements and so on. Finally I’d like to mention the forums: this is frequently the place where I create longer texts which are then expanded upon or integrated into my blog (or into a Facebook post at first).
Why am I doing all this? I’m not quite sure myself. The simple answer is: because I can and because I can do it efficiently enough not to burn up all the time which I’d rather use to write. But that’s too linear and too limited a response. The truth is that an exchange takes place between all the different elements of this network, i.e. the arrows actually go both ways. The image illustrates the system of interactions that helps me generate many ideas. I then inject some ideas back into the same systems of interactions. I do this (unconsciously at first) to generate a value-add though I do not know how much it is. This kind of value-add is hard to quantify. The fact that after years of practice I still stick to this scheme shows that I have always been able to mop up enough value. Several natural parameters can severely limit the usefulness of such a system: an example is the size of the network, or the number of comments on one’s blog. Every interaction engenders more communication and eats up more time. One must constantly be on guard lest one be gobbled up by one’s own invention like Wan Hu and his 47 rockets. Intelligent tools can support networking but they can also lull you into a false sense of security and a feeling of timelessness. Tools cannot eliminate the basic conflict between communication and creativity: communication can be very creative but not all creation is communication.
[Original post in German] [Update on software: I didn’t say much about the relative virtues of WordPress vs. Tumblr or Blogger. I use WordPress (this blog) as the central content hub; Tumblr is useful to connect to certain communities (e.g. Alt Lit or Kaffe in Katmandu) and encourages reblogging, and Blogger is my German base of operations (lots of traffic, little feedback). I recommend WordPress as the most flexible system to create a web presence though of course there’re many more ways to do this. Special advice: don’t use blogging software at all unless you intend to blog. Regularly. Often. If you only tell your readers about your successes, they might get bored quickly unless your natural charisma helps them forget that you lead them on…here’s some encouragement to blog for writers.]
[Update on images: I don’t just use them (especially on Tumblr, Facebook, Google+) because I’m a visual type or because images take up space—I use them because people are much more likely to share an article if they like the image(s) that come with them. On the blog, the images can also carry subtext (by way of their captions). And on Facebook, only image posts can afterwards be edited (crucial if you want to add something, like a forgotten link etc). Images are, of course, a copyright challenge: this requires a basic ethical position (respect for the intellectual capital of others) and a little research (to find public domain material). One of my favorites: check out the State Library of New South Wales (on Flickr, see image on the left)…there are hundreds of other places where kind people have put free visual documents online for all of us.]