A Fantasy Timeline of Solitude

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Feed.ly, Seymour. Feed.ly all week long.

What does it feel like to write publicly for a week and a day?

Unexpected and weird and profoundly liberating.

As if I finally found the place where I could get the thoughts and lyrical algebra out of my head and into a safe space to rest or do whatever it is ideas want to do. Strive toward their asymptote? Develop a life of their own? X is greater-than-zero.

I started Fourth Context with the finite intention of keeping absolutely quiet about it for as long as I could — the fantasy timeline of solitude was somewhere between a week and a year — because honestly I don’t know where this is headed yet, or the actual purpose — but realized that the pursuit was less about perfection and quality or direction, and instead about consistency and overcoming the fear of sharing, and that whole, uhm, you know… putting yourself out there.

A little thing every day makes a big thing over time.

Also, you don’t have to be an extrovert (nor a narcissist) to act boldly.

So I told people, as immediately as I had acted on the impulse to enter wordpress.com in the URL bar and hit enter and not stop. I published the first post, and then told my mom1 (because, let’s be honest, she’s the safest bet, and let’s set ourselves up for some small victories and encouragement with these baby posts). And there were typos. There will probably always [ ] typos.

I thought I was perhaps seeking validation and praise and encouragement. But not long after that faded, once I shared with a few others, I began to experience how the feedback and conversations and meaning that manifests within the context of readership is deeply rewarding, and clearly not something you can anticipate or predict.

That is not to say, however, that I am instantly immune the pangs of social validation. Make a post, share a photo, step away, return 20 minutes later to a stream bound within a white double digit count inside its crimson circle. Such instant feedback short-circuits the opportunity for reflection. Some acts take time to understand the prestige of their magic.

A lack of bulk sharing of any of this on the swift moving streams of socialized content (yet) has been greatly instructive into that desire, its false promises laid bare against a deeper current of change.

Things I Learned in this first week:

  1. My aesthetic is for sure low-res, bit-starved animated gifs and especially cinemagraphs.
  2. The more personal of a reflection you share, the more opportunity there is for connection, and the recitation and evocation of memory for others.
  3. You can’t predict the course of an idea or the impact of a narrative. I write down the notion of immediacy that a stranger shares with me on a plane (Deborah is no longer a stranger), and my friend 2,500 miles away reads her words and is also compelled to take her advice. Deborah has no idea who Savannah is, or that she’s the instigator of an entire conversation regarding the merits of physical therapy. I suppose that means I should probably share these posts with Deborah, too. It’s clearly about something more than me.
  4. I’m further inspired by all of this to the power of storytelling, and that the frictions of sharing should be eliminated as much as possible. Family oral histories have value and should be placed in vaults and trusts. And shared. Immediately.

  1. Proper attribution is due; my mom suggested the name Fourth Context, having sussed out how Chapter Titling works. Hi Mom! Thanks Mom!

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