The Brave New Text, my book of essays about the metamorphoses writing and textuality undergo on the Web, is out in the world. It is now an artefact, a corpus of texts looking to find its own way into the giant intertextual fabrics of the Web.
Now that I finished the boom, I have another “writing” journey to set out on – the best walk to inspire and encourage as much dialogues about textuality and the Semantic Web as I can. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if it wasn’t for the lessons The Brave New Text taught me.
What I learned From Writing The Brave New Text?
Before one studies Zen, mountains are mountains and waters are waters; after a first glimpse into the truth of Zen, mountains are no longer mountains and waters are no longer waters; after enlightenment, mountains are once again mountains and waters once again waters.
The very first conceptual framework about the essays collection called The Brave New Text was this:
If it looks ancient to you, that’s because it is! The feelings, the perceptions, and even the ink pen I remember writing this with, are almost 5 years old.
It all began with a post about magic, writing and whirling information currents. A post which, as I later discovered, had written me. The twelve titles for the essays and their one-word distillations followed this post’s strong focus on two things: a vortex and a rhyme. All of the titles, and what has left from their initial structures, were largely influenced by my philologist background and the affinity I have for deconstructing words and concepts and ways of understandings. This affinity, having met my work as a content writer and my encounter with a smart and inspired group of people on Google + (yes, the one that shuts down next year) grew into a passion for digging deeper into the essence of text on the Web, and the adventures we embark on in cyberspace, writing.
I started my research and began reading about the history of the Web, about its roots, together with exploring the history of writing and reading. Too big tasks for me to tackle in a book of essays. I had to let go of some of them.
First lesson learned: let go and what is meant to stay will stay. I know this sounds like an excerpt from a self-help book, but it is something I use when crafting my texts. It is related to the flow of textuality and its inherent ability to take and bring whatever is needed into a textual stream. When your intent is clear, words weave themselves.
A Journey of Thousand Miles Begins with a … Click
In 2015, things clicked. Content writing and the Semantic Web. That was me. That was what I wanted to talk about. But that was not The Brave New Text, it was a course. With as much practical information and explorations of the changing Web, as I could possibly include, this was a work of its own, and yet it was another means, another melody of expressing what I wanted to tell the world.
The month is March 2015, I have found out that I was going to have an Alexander baby boy. At that time I thought I was going to make it – to be a mom, to write my book, to keep working as a content writer.
Next lesson learned: Writing a book is really like giving birth to a Volkswagen, as Ann Handley had put it in her book Everybody Writes. I just didn’t have the capacity to think through text on the Web and take care of my newborn all at once. So, I gave up, and put all the work for the essays to a halt. It was time to play with my baby. Not with meaning.
Bliss is fine but You (I) Need To Peel the Potatoes
Fast-forward to 2017. This is the time, or somewhere around this, when I got serious about returning to the essays. For more than an year I didn’t have the time, energy and a proper mindset to sit writing, but I had time to observe and to try to calibrate my intent. It was an inner work that had to do with aligning to my deepest desire to connect to the vision and the feel of The Brave New Text and then get back with riches from that inner journey. The Brave New Text began finding its voice. The vortex, I mentioned, was no longer a vortex. It now was more of a momentum of whirling informational currents, where muses, and us mere mortals, poke fingers. It was now beginning to expand and touch other fields, unplanned, unknown, many times scary and too big for an essay to tackle.
Enter the next lesson: I learned to seek connection to my true fascination, not to the mind-made things I thought I need to cover about web writing, such as keywords, topic research, content templates. Not that these weren’t important, and not that they wouldn’t inevitably find a place somewhere across my text in one or another way. It is just they weren’t a starting point. Textuality was. Having realized that, I learned to serve my own text, by following my bliss. Yes, the Joseph Campbell one. I needed deeper perspectives and broader touching points for my web writing exploration.
I distilled my ideas and organized them in three triads.
A structure crystalized:
As you can see, with these triads, I let go off my 12 titles (not without soothing myself that the number of muses is nine) and dived into abstract thinking about web writing and its place in our historical, cultural and technological development.
My intellectual work was done. Now, The Brave New Text had solid foundations. And what it needed next was my poet self to rise and start walking with closed eyes into unknown lands to find what I sensed, put it into words and translate it into shared understanding. It was time to start peeling the potatoes.
And I had a plan.
The plan helped me stay on track with writing, but there was still something missing. Most of the titles sounded good to me, but something with A Network of People Within a Web of Data and World Wide Weave didn’t feel quite right. They sounded like the end of a journey, rather that a start. They needed me to get back to where these thoughts started and find what is it in them that now makes me tick, what is the feeling behind them and what are the points I want to make with these essays. The answers were not a matter of planning, they were a matter of searching within.
This is where I learned that time and space are something I shouldn’t cram into one minute, or one writing session, because that was ruining my relation with kairos. I learned to take my time writing and thinking. Only through letting poiesis happen, I could lead The Brave New Text to what I envisioned it to be: a book conferring pleasure, teaching through excitement, enthusiasm and belief.
An Elephant, a Homo Ludens and an Intertextual Animal
Having tuned into the flow and feel of the magnificence of web writing brought to our lives as readers and writers, I unexpectedly met three interesting creatures: The intertextual animal, a Homo Ludens playing with an electronic text and the elephant in the interactive room. They were not planned and this is their beauty. As concepts they were part of my initial framework, the ancient one from the above, existing under words like connectivity, intertextuality, polyvalence. But now that I did my calibration work, they shined brighter, embodied.
Soon after I finally wrote all of them up, came the big date. October 6, 2018. The release. I had less than a month for finishing the work on the essays, for getting the last edits for my cover and for going through a final draft.
Surprise! That was supposed to be my final edit, after my editor had gone through the text for the last time:
Lesson learned:There is no final draft. The pesky typos and the incessant chase after better wording, nicer rhythm and richer semantic cores will never stop, unless you do.
Epilogue: A Foreword, A new Cover and a Long Road Ahead
Like most things in need of a definition, before we arrive at it we must find agreement on the foundations that underpin it. Before we even get conceptual we need to get practical. Should links be shortened? Does hypertext always need to be anchored in text? Do we organize our linking strategy according to subject matter and go deep or according to general concept and go broad? Are we here to inform or educate? Challenge or entertain?
These are questions that have yet no answers because every answer is equally possible. That means our priorities are yet undefined. We feel the urge, we sense the need. We possess the capability. But our intention is unclear. We use our tools but we are imprecise.
Books such as this, thoughts like the ones contained here and approaches such as the one undertaken within are an integral part of the conversation we ought to be having if we hope to ever arrive at a different place, with a different understanding and a new kind of perceived reality to contend with.
With such a Forward the bar for The Brave New Text was raised high. David’s perspectives also helped me clarify what the book will serve as best: it would live as a dialogue hub, both inner and external. Maybe that clarity was in a way instrumental for a U-tun for my cover too.
With a cover almost ready:
me and the designer Dilyana Angelova got together and came up with this:
A different weave, with a blue basis, taken from an image of a computer chip :) I loved that. I also love that fact that the wraps and wefts can be seen as cubes too. I actually got a beautiful comment by Ann Pollak about the cover:
the rich metaphor of the cover: knitting, unraveling, threads, plying, spun yarns, gaps, one dimension becoming 3 or 4, organic process, artifacts.
Lesson learned: Things are living threads. And you cannot weave a fabrics all at once, or by yourself only. Meaning is in the eyes of the interpreter.
And this is how The Brave New Text was born. With a lot of thinking, structuring and lots of unexpected moments, magic threads and serendipitous discoveries. And lots of lessons learned.
If I sound like I jumped into a quick ending …I am. It’s almost 13 now. I need to go. My time is up. Yes, another thing I learned when writing The Brave New Text – work and then walk away and leave space and time for things to think, grow and connect. Every day. Because, we, the intertextual animals, need to give ourselves permission to weave and navigate the Web with elaborate care.
Tomorrow, the weave goes on!