New Year’s Resolution: Complete a solid book every two months.
“Two months” is defined as the first day of January to the last day of February, first day of March to the last day of April, and so on. “Complete” is defined as all of the main content – does not include prefaces, introductions, or appendices. “Solid book” is defined as a physical copy of a book over three hundred pages, by an author from over fifty years ago, on topics related to this blog, written in a manner that is not a play, script, or poem. I have decided on this resolution because it is something I need, something which can reliably get results, something that can be remembered throughout the whole year, and something which is easily defined. Few things fit all four categories, each in a meaningful manner. Most things do not pass the second criterion at all, as they are largely determined by chance. It is fine to set a goal largely determined by chance if that is your interpretation of a New Year’s Resolution, but I think it is better to use it to build a habit you want – a good communal/cultural excuse/reason to improve yourself.
I chose reading books because it will help me become a better communicator.
In terms of topic or content, it doesn’t particularly matter which books I read – all I need is to observe more structure. As it stands, I do not read books. I read the translated subtitles on anime and visual novels, I read blog and facebook posts, I read the captions on the omnipresent “meme” pictures, and that’s about it. This shows in my writing: the individual sentences are decent, the aphorisms are great, and the bigger picture is a cluttered jungle. If my long entries are difficult to read, it was because I had a difficult time writing it. It’s long and difficult not because it’s packed with meaning, but because the important lines are not in expected places or at expected intervals, and because there is too much stuff in between. My entries are dilute.
While I do prefer an absolute longer length post to a shorter length post, I am reaching those lengths out of failure rather than success. My entries are long not because I am managing to put together multiple ideas beautifully, but because I am putting them together horribly. It is never clear to me what I need to write next. The overall structure is there: “This entry is about putting together A(i) through A(j) ideas, and X(i) through Y(j) are how each one connects”. But how much belongs in each of those containers? Which ideas should be self-evident, and require nothing more than a single line or a link to a previous entry? Which ideas require examples? What kinds of examples? How many examples? The act of actually filling the ideas in, of encoding it to language, loses me in oblivion. I can see so many possibilities, and there is very little guidance on which one I should use, or how many.
I have been using this blog primarily as a place to record my ideas, but the fact that they have been encoded and put into external memory has helped me learn much more and more quickly. What exactly I learned is not due to writing or reading, but of good fortune. It was chance that I did what new things I did, what people I met, how I interpreted that story everybody’s already heard of into this new idea. They are things not under my control. What was under my control was a decision to write it down. My purpose too shows in my writing; the single-minded goal of recording the biggest parts before I forget it. None of my posts or ideas lack structure. The structure is certainly there. It’s simply cryptic and more than in just the intentionally floral or poetic sense. I do the absolute minimum to put an idea down, and, like a machine built with the absolute minimum amount of thought, it’s a junkyard contraption with inconsistent strength. Sometimes I hit the dot with the most important parts, other times I don’t. Sometimes only the examples are weak and all the main structure is well-done, other time’s its the opposite. As a general trend however, I am doing well less of the time. I have had the need to use colors, bolds, and other non-language tools to highlight my main point more and more often. It is a sign that my actual writing is becoming weaker.
If the messes I made before were junkyard contraptions, the messes I am making and am going to make are sewer sludge.
Whereas before the balance was in favor of creating new ideas, the shift is now towards creating new writing. It’s always been an effort to use language to clarify and solidify my thoughts, but there was a time where the mess was a cute little thing which enabled me to think much greater things. I forced language into certain niches and holes I needed so I could use an idea and not simply marvel at it. Now, it’s almost the opposite. The words are not at the command of the idea; the ideas are at the command of the words – it is no longer “what words do I need to use to make this idea work”, but rather, “what ideas do I need to use to make this entry work”. The former perspective has almost become foreign to me, and the latter almost natural. It is not where I want to go. My most recent seminal post on Magic/Faith/Fatigue did its job, and I believe things much more strongly now – but there are many things in it which indicate a much direr future. It took me two weeks from start to finish, and somewhere north of twelve hours total, for a pretty shitty result. Halfway through, I wanted to finish the entry not because it would feel good at the end, but because I would no longer have to deal with the noise it was inflicting on my mental model. Writing has become more harm than help.
I believe that reading more will change this. By reading books that have passed the test of time, by transitive property and imitation my writing will reverse its course into liquid chaos. (An explanation of why reading books helps belongs here. But I don’t really have much to say about why it works and I don’t want to test my filler/sludge tendencies anymore, so I’ll just leave this at that. There’d also be a paragraph transition.) With improving writing will come improved thinking. And of course, improved reading. While I don’t think I’ll ever quite understand how anything gets more pageviews or gets pageviews at all, I understand why I get none. It’s a difficulty even for me to read my own writing sometimes; why would others even bother? This all transfers into “real life” as well.
If I don’t really like listening to myself, why would anyone else? Having amazing ideas is all well and good, but if it’s packaged in a unsightly form, who cares?
Aesthetics are important. I do not believe strictly in truth. The criticism holds; I need to improve the way I present things.
My goal is to become a better communicator, my resolution is to read a solid book every two months, and my method is to make the writing on this blog as clear and as clean as its title and the ideas I’ve attempted to write in it.