[NetBehaviour] Writing habits

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Sun Jun 8 16:58:47 CEST 2008

Writing habits

When I write, sooner or later the piece seems finished to me; it then is
placed at the end of an ongoing 'collection' file that is placed on
http://www.alansondheim.org ; the most recent is 'pr.txt.' I work on
additions to these collections until they total anywhere from 80k - 100k,
at which point the next in the series is started. I began with Net0.TXT,
Net1.TXT, etc., for about 10; then there were several named files.
Finally, the alphabet was used. The result is an irregular marking system
which has settled down in an orderly fashion for the past 100 or so
collections; 'pr.txt' follows 'pq.txt' and will precede 'ps.txt.' There
can be between 20 and 80 individual pieces in one of these collections.

The individual segments generally follow whatever line of inquiry I'm
working on at the moment, with numerous exceptions. At one point I spoke
of 'long waves' and 'short waves' to indicate thematic movement through
the mass of collections. A long wave might be Nikuko or defuge; a short
wave might be a particular Access Grid resonance configuration which is
exploited for a while.

These texts are heavily edited and spell-checked with ispell; unfortuna-
tely, errors inevitably creep in. In my last text, I wrote 'my' instead of
'may,' 'scholar' instead of 'scholarship,' and had a misplaced dash, the
result of re-justifying after some corrections. I hope these errors aren't
misleading, but are understood only as slips of the tongue leading nowhere
at all. They're not caught by ispell, and they're not caught by me.

I try to keep the average individual piece length to 43 lines, although it
may range from 10 to 300 or so. I send these out once a day at least; this
is my compulsion, and if I don't feel I've completed work for the day -
and completed work at that - I find myself, like now, unable to sleep,
cursing myself for being human so to speak.

The compulsion has to be be coupled with necessity, the 'natural' contin-
uation of a series. I attempt to balance practical/production works with
theoretical ones; sometimes the two accompany each other, and sometimes
they're simply contiguous, as with the recent series of butterflies mating
which I found fascinating; I hadn't seen this particular ritual before.

The texts are almost always written, as this one is, online at panix.com
in the Pico editor in a shell account; the font is mono-spaced courier.
There's a sense of urgency for me in this accountancy which is maintained
only by a live connection; as I've written before, I recognize the server
load and panix community which is almost always present in the background
and accessed through the 'w' or 'who' or various other commands.

Once written, the file is sent from my home directory to my Pine email, as
well as added to the current large text file. The file is almost always
named 'zz' which places it at the end of a sorting; sometimes it's moved
to 'ww' if I'm afraid it will be accidentally erased. If I'm processing
the file, I move between 'zz' and 'yy.' If I'm working in the midst of a
long file, I use 'zzzzz' for a bookmark. When the file is completed, I do
an edit, an ispell, and a 'wc' word/line/character count before it's sent
out through Pine.

The style varies from one text to another; one major characteristic is the
presence or absence of capital letters. If the text is to be 'breathed' as
if spoken with the words run together, or presented as flow or emission
itself, I'll use small letters only. If the text is traditional or
genre-oriented, capitals are employed, as they are in a number of common
poetic forms. Sections of the text may be energized by capitals as well.
All of this seems inconsistent, aggravated by no common rule for quotation
marks (single or double).

If the text is generated with the Google wsdl etc., I'll usually remove
numbers in order to create an effect of 'orality' to the finished result.
I'll check for upper ascii characters with the more command, take them out
with the 'strings' command. I may eliminate punctuation, etc.; for all of
this, I use 'sed' in various forms as well as 'tr.' At times I may begin a
text by culling from the internet text as a whole; the command I generally
use is 'grep -h X *.txt' which produces a file without giving the file
source of the individual lines. Most of the time, if I'm modifying a text
in this way, I'll use various perl programs, scripts, etc. in combination,
working to 'shape' the text to my satisfaction.

I'm not interested in writing a generated text that appears meaningless;
I'll shape it until it 'tends towards' I want, or the meaning I might find
hidden within it. This is of course a dialectical process and aesthetic
choice; for me the justification of a text lies, not in the conceptual
apparatus that produced it, but in the complex resonances between the text
and its reading, and the confluent generatings of meaning that occur in
the process.

Periodically, collections like 'pr.txt' are uploaded to my webpage, which
is of course nothing more than a directory; one can read the most recent
collection, complete or incomplete, in conjunction with the image, sound,
or video files that are referenced within it. The collection is also a
guide to them. After a while, these files may be removed to make room for
others; there are, however, 'core' files which remain in place because
they seem to me to have particular significance over a longer period of
time. Sometimes a reader will write to me, asking for a file that has been
taken down; I generally put it back up for one or two days, then take it
down again.

This is the process that's carried out, day in and day out. (I think I
once went for 6 days without producing anything - in 15 years.)  suffer
from depression, poor eyesight getting poorer, minor 'twitches' in my left
frontal lobe, and severe insomnia; it's the last that governs when I write
and perhaps how I go about it. I write at all hours of the day or night; I
need to have a complete and final thought that could always be a conclu-
sion if I should happen to die at the time; death in fact haunts the text
at one end, and sex on the other, with the struggling of the inscribed
body in their midst. I want every text to resonate with every other, every
text to carry a totality whispered among all of them. If I don't achieve
this, what I produce feels more like an 'instance' or 'advertisement,'
something on a path which is yet incomplete - and my nightmares turn


cbpp jdecarlo simona geoff src pyro rcliff jzk bitty rain jhava argent src
jkurck rcpj hud aahz karsten seligman snefru pciszek steved librik
sondheim dagger rmc jtabron bord rkarow bord bord bord aahz thor bord omar
rmc bord checker mhoram basit eskwired ayana alexis basit omar rpmohn
dangelo checker ayana tss rbf jsm mcooper ggold emmanuel snefru

Sun Jun  8 03:20:24 EDT 2008

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