On being weirder
And my plans for this Substack going forward
Let’s get this first bit out of the way before we go anywhere else: this Substack is now called Craig’s Cabinet of Meagre Offerings. I thought I’d give you a honest and upfront appraisal right there in the title. No need for you to decide whether it’ll be worth it for to stick around. It probably won’t. I didn’t think the old title—This Is Not Value—was obvious enough.
Now we’ve got that introduction out of the way, let’s discuss some stuff. Mainly, about being weird, being weirder, and a little bit about what this Substack is going to become (a lot weirder).
The problem (as I see it)
The problem? Well, it’s all just boring now, isn’t it? ‘It’, yeah. The ‘internet’. Whether you’re reading news articles, blog articles, article articles, listicle articles, op eds, think tank white paper thought leadership nonsense articles, it doesn’t really matter. It’s all just got boring. It’s all got a bit shit.
I don’t quite know when it happened or even how it happened, but it did. It’s like the old fun internet full of odd blogs of weird people with peculiar hobbies suddenly vanished overnight, and we’ve all woken up with a massive Facebook hangover. We drank too much Twitter last night too. Probably had one too many shots of Instagram as well. And doing chasers of TikTok was a bad idea. We’re all looking around in a social media haze, trying to remember where we left all those cool blogs we used to read.
At some point in probably the last 10 years, ‘it’ all got a bit serious and self-important. Everybody wanted to start making money from it, wanted to start selling things on it, or selling themselves on it. Even more recently, everyone now seems to want to become an influencer on it. And it’s terrible and moronic and causing the downfall of our society in more ways than I could ever possibly describe. And I’m being understated.
At some point, we started focusing too much on the short-form at the expense of the long-form. I tried to word this on Twitter in some way.
The problem continued—short-form content
I have a theory that short-form content isn’t really designed for people to consume and enjoy. It’s designed for algorithms. It’s designed to keep people gawking and prodding at their phone screens. At some point over the last couple of years, social media started getting smart about making us all more addicted to them. They realised that instead of giving the keys to their users, instead of empowering them to decide what they want to see, they’ll just jangle the keys in front of their eyes. They realised that the trick to getting people to stay on their platforms for longer was to temporally amuse their users with a tiny jangle of the keys—short-form video, text, images—and never give them truly what they want. Algorithms began to prioritise short-form content to encourage their users to create more of it. So now you have two layers of users: you have the users on social media addicted to the short-form content, and you have the users addicted to creating this short-form content.
Now, we find ourselves with an abundance of short-form content, a dystopian present nobody is enjoying. Everywhere we look, most platforms promote short-form, ’snackable’ content designed for you to read or view whilst you’re having a piss or waiting five seconds for a door to open. They’re designed to be short interruptions in among the inconvenience of the rest of our days. Truthfully, they’re designed to keep us distracted from the terrible danger of sitting around and doing nothing and just thinking.
My solution (as I see it)
All of this is a roundabout way of me saying “I’m done with it”. I’m not interested in perpetuating our society’s addiction with short-form content any longer. I used to be obsessed with ‘growing’ my Twitter audience, now I couldn’t care less. The only thing I care about is writing, and that’s why I’m here. Hopefully, that’s why you’re here too. To read my writing.
I think we all want to read writing. I have another little theory: that the majority of us are here to read and consume long-form stuff, because it’s only in the long-form that we can learn things and enjoy things and have our lives enhanced by truly creative and magical things. There isn’t enough room in a few sentences to write something good. My desire has shifted to writing something good.
That’s what I intend to do here. I want to provide (somewhat) well thought-out long-form writing about things that interest me. The internet interests me. The way it’s morphed and changed and moulded not only us, but society as a whole. The way it continues to throw out new technologies and interesting ideas. The way many of us just accept the way it is, rather than realising they can also create things on it. The wider and exciting potential of creation on the internet.
I’ll be continuing to talk about this, but in a couple of different ways.
This substack will be fiction and essays
I’d never considered myself to be a ‘writer’ before, let alone a fiction writer. After writing a few pieces over the last few weeks I’ve been truly bitten by the fiction bug. It’s made me consider how I’d like to see this Substack in greater detail. It’s made me realise I’m limiting my potential by sticking to just writing rants and essays.
I’ve still got a long way to go before I become an accomplished fiction writer, but it’s a challenge I’m willing to accept. I’m a creative. Fiction is more creative than essay-writing (for me at least). So there’s going to be at least two strands to this place from now on: fiction, and essays.
There’s the old thing of ‘show, don’t tell’. Instead of just endlessly and tirelessly talking around the same topics in essays, I will explore them in fiction and stories. I’m going to show, rather than tell. I believe there’s more potential for satire, comedy, and just poking fun in fiction than there is in essays anyway. And frankly, I’ve already become bored by essays. I’ve been trying to muster up the enthusiasm to write this thing all week, but I’ve got about 20 ideas in various states of completion already written down for fiction pieces.
I want to write more things like this.
It will get weirder
My Wednesday podcast began on one dark Wednesday as a very innocent pursuit of Value Adding and Being A Good Internet Citizen. By episode 75, it has become a weird and complex piece of satirical improvisational multi-layered audio nonsense. I’ve thought long and hard about why this happened. What was it that changed inside me that made me want to make it weirder? To make it so odd, that around half of the people who listen to it will be instantly put off? But also, to make it so odd that around half of the people who listen to it instantly fall in love?
I don’t really have the answer, but I do know I want to do it again with my writing. I’ve struggled over the last year to figure out a way to make that happen, but I think I think I’ve finally figured it out. I’ve been worried about making prose that makes sense to everyone, instead of following the Wednesday Audio route. Instead of just throwing things around and seeing what happens next. The ordinary bores me. I write for fun. I podcast for fun. I have no reason to make something that is widely accepted by anyone. I strongly believe this is the way any of us should approach a creative activity, but we all end up getting waylaid somewhere by the lure of the comments and likes.
So, really, this was just over a thousand words to tell you: this particular cabinet is about to get a lot weirder and better and more interesting. Be careful when you open it. The hinges are rusty and they’ll probably need a bit of oil on them.
Well, technically it’s the World Wide Web, but only Tim Berners-Lee will chastise you for that one.
you know, if you start posting monthly updates of how your growth strategy is going, or hem and haw about whether you’re going paid or not, someone’s going to remind you of this! I like where you’re going, probably because it’s similar to my attitude (though you express it with a bit more, uh, sass). Let ‘er rip!
From one (small and very un-visited as mine) Cabinet to another (remarkable and grand such as yours!), it is the variety in topics that keeps me, the reader, curious and wanting to return! I want to see what interesting things you come up with this time, and then find something in my own life, as a human, that connects with it. It’s really that simple. You clearly have the skills and apparently the self-discipline to generate piece after piece of quality writing. Looking forward to seeing what weird stuff you will conjure up here!