Seeding the Long Tail

It’s an active form of writing that honours the art of contemplation. In a way it is living a mandarin style in the open. The genre is the familiar common place book. A gathering.

The gesture is simple (and thereby difficult in its simplicity). It is very much a product of collecting and annotating. Adding one’s own stamp to a scroll and by implication inviting others to think about how they read and view.

So it is a little like geocaching. Or perhaps more like tree planting. A geocacher might be around to hear the hoots and hollers of the treasure hunters experiencing the find. A tree planter works for a future further out than the human lifetime.

So it is like leaving traces. Accumulating a treasure trove. And letting the guardian dragon slumber eternally. The pieces are free for the taking and the encounter is fortuitous.

Traffic is generated by “word of mouth” or the vagaries of search engines. Self-promotion is almost eschewed. Almost. For a whisper of personality is tucked in around the edges.

Samuel R. Delany’s descriptions of micro-theatre in Triton provide an analogy for the shape of the process of offering that is at the heart of seeding the long tail. The performance draws on the Renaissance genre of the dialogue of the dead and augments it with a twist of ancestor worship. It is like enshrining with irreverence at times but always with meaningful and provocative engagement. Like all good theatre it rehearses patterns and suggests shifts.

It tends to avoid addressing the crowd. It constructs its reader as singular and its constructions as singularities. Even as it will playfully run through a series of “we” and on occasion inflect “you” towards the threesome or more.

The effect is cumulative. The writing self is the first reader and each entry is published as an engagement with a way of reading and living. There is an ethical dimension to this absorbing and assembling of words. One begins to intuit one’s style and tweak it now and then. Like good practice the writer as first reader is attentive.

The trick is to cultivate the rarefied art of Sprezzatura: “well-practiced naturalness” or “rehearsed spontaneity,” a trait possessed by the most gifted conversationists, debaters, politicians, intellectuals, teachers, socialites, and even Trappist monks.

When it really works it creates intimacy. What it is is a meta-erotics to live in the world automagically. It constantly models a giving of oneself over to the mind and the body. Totally at ease with process. Being in the world not of words by means of words.

And so for day 666

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