↠ Dispatch 006, March 2019 ↞
Making things up
Thank you for becoming a part of this tiny gathering of people who have chosen to receive and read my words in their email inboxes. I really appreciate you being here, especially considering how I am making things up along the way, and simply allowing an organic coagulation of ideas and thoughts to chart the path ahead.
In my last Dispatch, I wrote about how I will tweak and experiment with the format of these emails and this edition is the first in that shift. In this one, my prose is accompanied by a section called Fascinations which as the name suggests, are short writeups surrounding recent explorations and discovery around topics of interest. I hope this format will offer context and structure to the links that I’m sharing and over time, compound to become a useful body of knowledge. You may have also noticed that I have tweaked the name of the newsletter to simply: Dispatches.
Other than movement on the newsletter front, my side of the world have seen a lot of flux as well in the last one month. On top of studio work (best appreciated through IG, @shophouseco), there’s been a spectrum of familiy things to navigate and put in order, and the clouds over my head has been emerging more often than I would have liked. Life. The emotion-body disconnect did get too real too often but today, I remind myself of the words of Brene Brown: “rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness”.
In spite of, or perhaps because of, all these, I have managed to squeeze in a bit of time exploring my fascinations which I’m sharing with you below. Some of these will end up at a future update of my website, but for now, do let me know your thoughts on these changes around here!
Since the last time I wrote, I’ve embarked on a glacial-paced refresh of my website which at this stage includes installing a new theme, creating links to other places where I’m at, and consolidating my newsletter archives onto a single page. I am still questioning what a personal website in 2019 should be, and one of the big ideas that has captured my interest is that of a ‘Commonplace book’ or ‘Learning Repository” .
Sometimes thought of as a ‘thinker’s journal’, it is a system that I hope will help me structure, consolidate, and make new connections out of the barrage of content that I consume on a daily basis. The well-documented explorations of my internet friend, Winnie has been inspirational, and so has Ryan Holiday’s blog posts in guiding me to the first steps of building my own version of a ‘commonplace book’. While there is the possibility of this being part of a public website, I am also considering for it to be a private, digital, notebook with the note-taking app Bear, which is beautiful and has excellent tagging support – qualities which I believe will be critical to the success of my system. Updates on this in the near future.
Another personal project that I mentioned in an earlier Dispatch is the ‘speculative urban fiction’ that I hope to start writing sometime this year. I am now soaking myself in some great stories such as the Better Worlds series on The Verge, the works ofKim Stanley Robinson, and the recently released Netflix series, Love, Death + Robots. I’m also been reigniting my interest in the Cities:Skylines game which may offer me some fodder for future writing as well. The fear of releasing this type of writing (the kind that I’ve never attempted before) is also very real at the moment, and I’m psyching myself up with advice from other writers who have been in this position before.
I’ve always been curious about the world of online publishing and networks, something which I once dabbled in an earlier life (circa 2007) with my old online publication FIVEFOOTWAY. It goes without saying that a lot has changed since then and after the techno-optimism of platforms in the early 2010s, there is now a revival of skepticism on the relationship between the role of tech companies in the writing and publishing ecosystem. It has become clear that Facebook is not an ally in the ecosystem and Instagram’s ambition lies in e-commerce instead of content. Medium, which was once hailed as the saviour of online publishing, have also had a “long, complicated, and extremely frustrating history” including being part of both the emergence and destruction of many publications and writing ambitions. All this has made the rallying call of the “Indie Web” movement – to own our own content – more relevant. WordPress even has an entire campaign dedicated to it, and it is also one of the reasons I moved from a Squarespace site to a WordPress-powered one. This momentum has led to the steady rise of email newsletters as “the new social network that isn’t new at all” and the rain of newsletters shows no sign of stopping. (You are reading one yourself. How meta.) Membership and subscriptions are also rising, and services like Patreon are deliberate in distancing themselves from being a discovery platform like the problematic tech companies of earlier years. I do wonder when we will hit peak newsletter.
That’s all I have in this dispatch. I would love to do a Q&A, so send me your question if you have any. Feel free to send me topic suggestions for future editions as well.
A different letter will arrive in a different month and till then, I wish for you to make good choices everyday.