A return to (long-) form

I love to write. Almost as much as I love to read.

As much as we’re told growing up not to play with our words, I can’t help it. Words are such a delightfully malleable plaything, to stick to the factory settings of language would be such a waste. Like Lego.

So, writing is fun. And I love it. From wanting to write books, or journalism relating to whatever hobby I was obsessed with at the time, for years my mind was focussing on words, words, words. Puns, drama, novels, poetry, the lyrics to every Iron Maiden album.

And given that we tend to communicate a fair bit with words, this sort of pursuit is a much more useful interest than the slightly nerdy-gloss I’m coating it with might first suggest. When I was teaching, the more ways I could express myself made explaining certain complex ideas  easier/possible. Just by trying to write an article explaining, say, metric modulation, I’d have to explain the concept to myself in my head before I could articulate it onto the page. Sometimes I’d discover a whole new way of explaining or viewing theory this way.

As such, I enjoyed writing blog posts, generally the longer the better. Although I was in danger, at times, of churning out theses the length of ‘Dune’ (appendices each the length of the sequels), the act of writing was thoroughly enjoyable and probably pretty therapeutic for me over the years. The mind can be a lonely place to inhabit at times, sometimes it’s nice to let others in to see it. The pieces might have been fairly abstract, or controversial, maybe starkly emotionally naked or just a tad whimsical. And, remarkably, every so often someone would read them (wait, that’s not the remarkable bit) and be interested in what I thought (there it is). You put these words together, after playing with them in your head – this imaginary Lego – and wait. Sometimes communication happens after, some laughter or arguments or bonding or flirting or confusion or righteous befuddlement. All from some words I played with in my head then shared with the world for no real reason other than I wrote them.

It’s struck me that my long-form writing has pretty much stopped. That’s made me rather sad. I suppose I didn’t really notice it ending as I’ve been a constant jabberer on the twitter for years, so short-form writing (read: puns) has been an almost-daily exercise for me (so many puns). And writing -140 characters does provide a whole new set of editorial challenges (I make no apologies for finding this sort of thing interesting). The communication and sharing seems to work much faster, plus the sheer rate of output lowers the critical expectation so barriers to posting are reduced greatly, if that’s the sort of thing that keeps you up at night.

But my impetus to write, to a satisfyingly worthy length, has been diminished by the lack of doing. I’m not thinking of things as potential topics any more. Which is a shame. I’m now curious about what else in my life has slunk away whilst I was busy forgetting it existed. In fact, this blog post came about when I realised I’d stopped writing blogs, and tried to figure out why ON EARTH this could have happened. This should not be the fate of a man who owns more than one Moleskin notebook and several pens.

The only explanation I find satisfying is that I merged my professional website with my blog, and now most things I wanted to write on seemed stupefyingly off-topic for a musician. That’s a shame. Once thinking of things to write about became ‘work’, sticking to something easy and creatively-constrained like the twitter probably became the more enticing prospect. My attempts at songwriting have probably been reduced now that my working day is spent playing music written exclusively by others. My reading/writing seesaw is imbalanced.

So whilst trying to figure it out, I decided to write this post to see if it’d help. And I think it has. I mean, this doesn’t solve any problems and might not even win any blogging awards (it’s all politics, I’m at peace with that), but I’ve enjoyed mucking around with the mental Lego in the small hours. It’s nice to create.

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