The value in diversifying forms of online expression: writing, film-making, podcasting

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I started writing online at the dawn of the first lockdown as a means of expressing myself, for myself. It was, and still is, a personal project. I haven’t shared it too widely but I continue to make it available online because I believe that sharing creative work has much more value than we could ever hope to measure.

While writing has been the creative outlet of my dreams, I do find myself at pains with how to express the sheer emotion of some of the ideas and thoughts I have. This is especially the case when I read books which contain visceral experiences. Writing about it feels constraining, and lately I have pondered whether video or audio might be a form more compatible for their expression.

As I research more and more into why I might want to get into video or audio as an additional avenue for online expression, the more I am convinced that their unique characteristics are more compatible for certain types of ideas. There is untold synergies for the thinker that can best assign the form which will make the idea most come to life.

Writing is best for expressing complex ideas that may or may not require referencing to other online materials. In my opinion, there are two forms a good piece of online writing can come in: the explainer and the essay. The explainer is often a concise article that defines or characteristics a specific idea or thought. Concision and focus in these pieces or writing are key, because they often are often the fodder that its more extensive sibling, the essay, links and references to. An example of an explainer are wikipedia pages. Each are no longer than they need to be, and are heavily referenced by writers to wish to expound a greater argument or narrative in the form of an essay. The explainers are atomic pieces of writing and don’t necessarily have much significance in themselves. If we think of them as atoms, then we use the essay to arrange them in such a way that familiar (or not) to argue for a larger narrative.

Podcasting has similar properties as writing essays but it is more unstructured. A piece of writing is like painting a portrait, each stroke of the brush, or each word is irreversibly permanent. A podcast, however, is conversational and more spontaneous. They allow thinkers to discuss and approach an idea not only colloquially but also playfully. Podcasting also allows for nuances of tone and voice which add to the richness of a message that is difficult to capture when writing something. There is always the option of going all-caps but it is no match for hearing somebody sound excited about something.

Film-making and videos are more like writing explainers then writing essays. The video essay, perfected by the likes of Nerdwriter1, is the image I have in my head. Having said that, a minimalist approach to video essays, talking-to-your-camera style videos, can also be rather compelling to watch. The best exponent that I have found is R.C. Waldun. Irrespective of which style is adopted, there is more creative freedom to present an idea. Given that most videos on YouTube are ~10 minutes long, it serves as a productive constraint, forcing us to only detail what is important and leave out what is not. The addition of a visual layer to our toolbox for expressing an idea is what makes it a lot more fun.

If the goal is to express ideas and thoughts with as much clarity as one can muster (and I don’t see why that isn’t the goal), then leveraging multiple forms is not a luxury but a necessity. One other reason why it might be motivating is that it might be a little more fun making our art in more than one form.

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