There’s a crate that I keep in the basement filled with journals, letters, and other things that I wrote mostly in my 20s.
I seem to have spent a lot of my time sitting in cafés, on park benches, and even—for a year—a garret. Yes, I was one of those. So were many of my friends. Do people still keep a correspondence? We sent each other long letters—many of which self-consciously allude to the conditions under which they were written, which beverages were consumed, what was being smoked, and who the correspondent wanted to be that year. Obviously a letter written in the wake of a break-up on coffee stained paper has a heft that texts, posts, emails, or tweets do not. I do see young people writing in journals, I’m glad that hasn’t changed. But I see even more obsessing over digital images of themselves. Personally, I’m happy to have ‘papers.’
Several years ago I went through & discarded much of it, then I put it in a crate in the basement. It’s stuff that requires context and not something I want my children to go through on their own. Mostly because there’s sex in there, beta versions of myself, unfulfilled hopes & desires. Christ, maybe I should find a box with a lock and let them pry it open when I’m dead.
More than a half dozen things led to Donald Trump’s extremely improbable electoral victory. But it only happened because we made ourselves vulnerable to it. For the same reason that there’s only one crate getting damp in the basement. Our thinking was digitized, and when that happened we weren’t prepared for it. For many of us, reality was undermined before we had a chance to learn how resist. Think back to 1996 and it was a different world, a revolution much larger than Gutenberg’s happened over the past two decades. In a digital world, there is no qualitative difference between a researched and fact checked article in the Washington Post and a hit piece dreamed up by a teenager in Moldova. Or worse, by a Russian propaganda agent working for people who understand us too well. This isn’t special insight, many have reached the same conclusion much more authoritatively. This is me getting around to saying why I started a blog today. I want everyone to start taking words much more seriously.
The longest piece of writing I’ve done in recent years has been the family Christmas letter. Everything else has been pre-digested for social media. In the context of commercial writing, people read very little beyond headlines and captions. So I haven’t bothered to write much more than that. There hasn’t been space in my professional life for longer forms of writing. So, that’s what Square Foot is, a place where I can express myself in longer than a paragraph or a tweet.