Observations is a daily blog published on a not-so-daily basis by Spencer Tweedy.
I owe this blog to the man eating whole dill pickles out of a ziplock bag in Union Park, Chicago, July 2018.
I was working for a music festival in the park when he walked by, handlebar mustache, all-brown outfit (broutfit), pickle bag and all—and I had to write about him. So I did. And then I wrote about the rest of my day, and about the day after that, and after that, and I haven’t stopped since.
I had been looking for a reason to start writing on the internet again, anyway. My friend Heather Whinna bought this domain name for me in 2004, when I was about nine (because she didn’t want it to get gobbled up by porn sites, a fate which she thought, reasonably, was likely for all un-purchased domains in 2004), and I used it to blog from ages twelve to sixteenish. It became a really important part of my life then; I grew up feeling connected to people (a lot of whom were Wilco fans) because I had an outlet here.
But at some point, blogging started to feel weird. I think a combination of the shift to social media and my own growing up made writing online, diary-style, feel frivolous. And it took this bullet-pointy technique, and the Pickle Man, to make me start again.
The limitations of OBSERVATIONS make it easier for me to write.
The bullet points free me from worrying about the whole arc of a paragraph, or of multiple paragraphs, while writing. I can just think of each things as its own, relatively self-contained nugget, and make that nugget read well. (Only after that do I rearrange nuggets and maybe give them some sort of structure.) In an anal, analytic sort of way, they also help me feel like I’m getting the full list of my ideas across, even if I recognize that there’s no such thing as the “full list” of ideas in the first place.
The sorta self-helpy-sounding, unwritten prefix before every item, “I observed…,” forces the bullet points into a particular grammatical form and tense, which similarly frees me from thinking too hard about how to structure the sentence. I think that it also helps me avoid the sometimes boring diary-writing prompt of What did you do today? There are people who can answer that question beautifully and interestingly, but I find it much more fun and shareable to take little notes and squish them together like this.
My mind feels a lot clearer when I have a single, unified place to write (and share) things, and OBSERVATIONS has given that back to me. When notes are sprawled out over all sorts of apps and notebooks I feel disoriented because they’re not situated in time, and unproductive because I never return to address them. The process of writing these, reviewing them, and then eventually publishing them makes me feel less stuffed-up.
The unified, sorta all-encompassing nature of writing like that could make me feel anxious; it could bring me back to the “full list of ideas” fallacy from above and make me worry about leaving things out or otherwise failing to make the notes an exhaustive, perfect account (of what’s going on, what I’m reading or listening to, what else? The list could go on, which is my first hint that exhaustiveness would be futile). But so far I’ve been able to avoid feeling like OBSERVATIONS is anything but a weird, partial, accidental record. And it’s fun to write it.
Thank you, Pickle Man. Thank you, Heather. And thank you for reading!
OBSERVATIONS is generated by Jekyll, managed with Siteleaf, hosted on Netlify (via GitHub), secured by Let’s Encrypt, and registered with iWantMyName. The newsletter runs on Buttondown. And there’s just one cookie on the site: a stats tracker from Quantcast. I want a cookie-less alternative, but for now, the service satisfies my goal of avoiding Google Analytics.
I write notes and posts in Bear (using Markdown) and Field Notes. I designed the site in Sketch and I develop it in Sublime Text.
OBSERVATIONS is set in ISO by Scribble Tone. The asterisk logo is “Connections” and the list markers are a modified “Star” from the Noun Project.
For all the posts (and stats about them), please see the archive page. To subscribe via email, please see the subscribe page. And to send me an email, please see the contact page.
Thank you 😊