In my latest newsletter, I briefly described one of the ‘dubious delights’ of writing nonfiction: its undefinitiveness. You can’t hope to say everything there is to say on a topic, and what you do say often becomes outdated. This led Leon Paternoster to consider how the notion of a novel being finished might change in the online world.
It was like the early 2000s all over again: I publish something on my website; somebody else comments about it on theirs; and, even if I hadn’t already been subscribed to the other person’s RSS feed, I would know about their post because their blog sends a courtesy ping to my blog to say my post has been commented on. And here I am commenting on the comment, back on my own blog. This is how things should work. I yearn for the glory days of blogging, before Twitter and Facebook ate its lunch. Personal blogs were, and still are, the Internet at its best.
But, for some time now, I’ve been growing increasingly conscious of the limitations of the blog format in catering for the provisional nature of factual writing. Blogs deliberately, and usefully, place great emphasis on your latest posts. They adopt a ‘news’ metaphor. But this is far from ideal for publishing interrelated ideas that are all subject to constant revision. This is a publishing challenge that very much interests me, but one that’s unlikely to become a priority when there are so many books I’d rather be writing. I shall, however, continue to keep an eye on developments regarding the reinvention of an old, pre-blogging concept that makes use of a new metaphor: digital gardening.
Obsidian, my note-making app of choice, has become indispensable to me for developing fleeting thoughts and half-baked notions into detailed, interrelated ideas. It’s perfect for curating the provisional. But I won’t be signing up for the option to share my notes online because, well, frankly, they’re written for me and nobody else. That said, just to prove I have indeed put some thought into the issues I’ve been describing, here’s a screen-shot from my Obsidian vault:
In the absence of more fully formed thoughts, please consider this screenshot a provisional note of some stuff I might eventually get round to writing about on this website in future.