'World as it actually is' with multiple lines and blobs. Slightly chaotic.

As ever with Venkatesh Rao’s posts, there’s a lot going on with this one. Ostensibly, it’s about the third anniversary of the most recent iteration of his newsletter, but along the way he discusses the current state of the world. It’s a post worth reading for the latter reason, but I’m focused here on the role of writing and publishing online, which I do quite a lot.

Rao tries to fit his posts into one of five narrative scaffoldings which cover different time spans. Everything else falls by the wayside. I do the opposite: just publishing everything so I’ve got a URL for all of the thoughts, and I can weave it together on demand later. I think Cory Doctorow is a bit more like that, too (although more organised and a much better writer than me!)

As a writer, you cannot both react to the world and participate in writing it into existence — the bit role in “inventing the future” writers get to play — at the same time. My own approach to resolving this tension has been to use narratives at multiple time scales as scaffolding for sense-making. Events that conform (but not necessarily confirm) to one or more of my narratives leave me with room to develop my ab initio creative projects. Events that either do not conform to my narratives or simply fall outside of them entirely tend to derail or drain my creative momentum. It is the writer’s equivalent of what in computer architecture is called speculative execution. If you’re right enough, often enough, as a writer, you can have your cake and eat it too — react to the world, and say what you want to say at the same time.


Writing seemed like a more culturally significant, personally satisfying, aesthetically appropriate, and existentially penetrating thing to be doing in 2014 than it does now in 2024. I think we live in times when writing has less of a role to play in inventing the future, for a variety of reasons. You have to work harder at it, for less reward, in a smaller role. Fortunately for my sanity, writing is not the only thing I do with my life.


Maybe we’re just at the end of a long arc of 25 years or so, when writing online was exceptionally culturally significant and happened to line up with my most productive writing years, and the other shoe has dropped on the story of “blogging.”

Source: Ribbonfarm Studio