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Input vs. Output

Jessica Suarez
Jessica Suarez
3 min read
Input vs. Output

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I'm [/dropcap] a couple months into my column, talking to bands about recording for Stereogum. I enjoy hearing about their process, and what it takes them to physically start producing stuff.

I want to know because it’s something that I struggle with a lot. I think I’m fairly productive–I set a goal of completing and submitting one piece a day, and I track the number of pitches and ideas I sent to editors every week, too. But for things without a deadline or a vague deadline, I’m lost sometimes. I have a book due, I have a list of essays and longer pieces I want to research even before I pitch them, and a list of blog post ideas, but I keep putting them off. They fall off in the face of daily goals deadlines.

So how do bands do it? Their problem is somewhat similar: touring is their daily deadline–they must be somewhere, doing something, by a certain time. Their next album? That’s their book / essay that needs to be out there at some point. Now there’s one big difference: I could probably go a long time just doing my assignments, but I won’t improve my own work unless I start tackling the bigger pieces. Bands can’t just tour on one album forever, unless they’re Peter Frampton.

What I hear from bands is that touring can’t be combined with writing; they take two different types of energies. Touring is like muscle memory at some point, you’re going through the motions (those motions might be awesome), but it’s not, as John Vanderslice said, “making new shit.”

Writing reviews/features is “making new shit,” but in a lot of ways it’s making the same shit. I know how I write reviews, and I approach each the same basic way: the background/foreground listens, the same note-taking, the same way I pull in what I want to say and then push around words and edits. It’s fun and challenging, but it’s not always as creative as I want it to be (I already hear the response there, and thanks). It’s closer to touring than making a new record.

Now being on the internet, that’s also primarily a triggered activity, a gathering activity, I think. I read twitters and respond; I find links and re-post; I tag photos and videos and songs I’m listening to. This shouldn’t be mistaken for blogging or creating. Most people know this (and have Tumblrs for it), but I think there’s a danger in doing nothing but collecting without then trying to do some output. There’s also a danger in combining them. Dhould this long post be on the same page as a bunch of Flickr and Youtube favorites and what I finished on Goodreads? Probably not. But I’ve been doing that long enough to pretend I am “making things” when I have been just “gathering things,” often without any time set aside for processing.

I want to split that stuff up, and not pretend one is the other (though I do find both to be valid and useful activities). That’s why I moved my blog to /blog, and will use my front page on www.jessicasuarez.com for all that aggregated/gathered stuff. Part of my inspiration is Emily Gould’s blog, www.emilymagazine.com. For all the making fun she gets–probably mostly unfair–her long posts are consistently entertaining and smart. Her posts are also completely bare and on a default WordPress template. I’m sure it’s all deliberate, I think she’s someone who thinks all the time about what things on the internet mean. When you have good writing you don’t need the clutter.

That said, I probably will spend too much time formatting / re-templating my blog and front page.

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