Reflection on Writing for #hpj101

One part of the #hpj101 project was writing a reflection on how we see writing. This was my reflection.

My writing process is iterative. From what I can tell, it’s pretty darned iterative for most people. But for a few geniuses, everyone has to revise and rewrite, and that’s before the text goes to the editor, the publisher, or the colleague. Iterativity is central. I’d argue that iterativity is writing’s essence.

At the start of the writing cycle there’s generation. I love this part. Full body highs, hairs standing on end, endless ideas racing, can’t type fast enough even though I’m rocking 4,000 words an hour. Smell that caffeine? Yo, I don’t need it. Text buzzes me hard. And yeah, a lot of it is shit, but some of it’s pretty tight too. You know why it’s tight? Because it’s authentic, and I can draft words like “tight,” include references to Repo Man, and present myself as an angry faggot ally to the Black Panther Party--even if it’s only for a moment. In generation, my ideas become embodied. They live and take form. Just like mist or an iris’ scent, though, that power is present and then gone. I have any voice that I can summon and type.

Into revision. Oh land of the dopest dope, that is not revision land. But revision land is where I know I must workout. Otherwise the endless intellectual sides of cold fries will just make my text lardy and then die of a heart attack (reader drops it like a smelly, luke-warm fish). So I work out emotionally, textually, intellectually. These workouts bring focus to my piece. Tens of thousands of texts have been written on revision. But revision is quite simple: it is our work.

Revision usually means I drop my Walter Middy delusions of being a BPP ally and, more realistically, know that I’m a privileged gay white guy that’s trying to reduce white privilege and power abuse in my college and my environment. Revision means dehyperbolizing my text and turning two-dimensional macho performances into loving relationships with texts that know cuddling.

Everything else beyond that is a hybrid of generation or revision. Edits are revision. Grammar is revision. Editors generate, if they rock the casbah, and revise. CFPs generate ideas. Forums generate ideas. Conversations generate ideas.

In the center of all this is the rhizome. Sure, I’ve been playing that card a lot, and I know the concept’s been floating around a lot, but so what. It’s real. The concept and reality work. And that rhizome is relationship and relationships.

Generation and revision of texts are ways of relating with ourselves and others. The text we create can and does reshape how we see ourselves, how we be, and how we live. When we and our texts interact, we can choose to put our text or our relationship first--or we can put them together and say, “This is me.”

Not Perfect Posts & Podcasts: Flushing Misanthropy Releases the Text(s)

Some Nearly-First-Off Thoughts About Process > Product

I'm fresh back from attending Building Bridges 2015 in Spokane. It was a great conference. It was so good that my enthusiasm has driven over my normal perfectionist, insecure, worrisome nature and has moved me forward to post anyways. And I've been posting in a variety of formats, too.

Over the past couple days I've continued my Tweeting habit, though not nearly as much as when I was at the conference. Why? Simply because I'm interested in keeping some form of conversation going with folks on a topic that interests me. I don't really want to slip back into the silo of my world. That becomes isolating, and that's not so much fun.

In order to keep momentum, especially with the podcasts, I've done a reasonable amount of editing, noise reduction, and such. However, I've been trying out Garage Band and Adobe Audition. As you can probably guess, I'm just trying to do the basics. Editing. Noise reduction. Multiple tracks here and there. However, what I've found is that getting something out and produced is almost more important than worrying about the total quality. At least for now. So my product may not be as awesome, but I'm thriving from the process of writing, speaking, producing, and getting that product out.

Trained as an anal-retentive academic where text needs to be perfect, this is a bit challenging. Especially when what we write or produce will exist--forever--online. And there will be no way to take it down. Ever. Of course, very few people will likely care about the work; far fewer people than read or hear it. However, since online postings will never truly go away, it is impossible to predict in what context your materials may be cited or brought up.

That cycle of thought can result in some paralyzing fear.

Another paralyzing circle of fear is not being true to what interests me; instead, focusing on what I thought was hot or interesting or would provide me social capital within academia. I know that makes me sound like a sycophant or pathetic, but, you know, most of us want to be respected by our peers. The slippery slope is when the desire to be like overwhelms personal integrity and slips us into doing stuff we don't give a cent about--we're doing it just because we think it will garner others' respect. Steven Pressfield labels this kind of work or thinking that of a hack. I'm tired of feeling like a hack.

I've been swimming in the hack-pool a lot lately. It's not very fun. Worse than anything else is that it makes me feel cruddy AND it results in little to no work. The work that I do produce usually I end up disliking or dismissing.

Now, not all my work of the past two or four years fits in this. And yes, I know, these are some seriously #FirstWorldProblems from the dying generation/last breaths of #TenureTrackFacultyPrivilege. I get that. Just so you know, I find it hard to take these problems too seriously, but that lack of seriousness has impeded and reduced my ability to actually do what I want to do: engage in proactive, holistic, and interesting uses of technology to support education while critically questioning authority and power structures--especially capitalism--and the corporate feasting on higher education.

Fortunately, a flood of tweets in Spokane, my interactions with people doing what they really seemed to want to do--there's nothing more inspiring than people who are truly sincere and make you go, "Sh*t! How did I lose my faith in humanity?!"--helped me get some perspective. New angle on things I found. I met a couple of folks who helped me flush most of my misanthropy.

So I'm back, finally, working, writing, researching, and producing for the process. Sure, I want there to be good product. Excellent would be even better. But, frankly, it's been a long time since I've had this much fun with text and I'm reticent to give it up.