If blogs are self-indulgent, then a manifesto is edging on psychosis. Historically the tool of artists and revolutionaries to express their ideals, the manifesto has now become something you hear about after a school shooting. Which is sad, because it could help people to think about what their manifesto might say. Like writing your own obituary, if you flipped it forward and turned it inside out.
First, why build this blog from scratch, instead of just using Substack or Medium or the pile of journals on my desk?
The basic reason is I wanted to practice building a website. The idealistic reason is that I wanted a corner of the internet that was my own, independent from the current media machines.
The more ambitious reason is I think the way we read words on the internet is out-dated. We still treat these words as if they’re ink on a page. They’re not. They're magic now. You can imbed
any way you want. Design buttons, tooltips, and interactive asides that bring your text alive.
The internet trains us to "scan and share," not "sit and ponder"—and our writing should at least nod, if not bow, to this truth.
Why margin.notes? There’s the thematic play on words: margins at the edge of space (design), the edge of the div (technology), the edge of culture (new ideas). But there’s more to it: in my opinion, the margins are the most interesting and productive part of life.
The margins, dwarfed by prideful "content,” are vital because they describe how things relate to each other. In design they call it whitespace. In music, we have the rest. In life: anticipation. Without these spaces between the action, we’d all just be one big block of content, screaming into the void.
Besides structuring the art of life, margins provide the playing field for creative originality. As any mold specialist will tell you, creation happens at the edges. Not the center.
In some perverse act of ego-preservation, people insist that authenticity is something that comes from the heart, as if the "real you" is radiating from some soulful core. But that’s never been the case, really. You’ve always been an amalgamation of all your points of contact—your parents, your peers, your culture—your entire perspective is constructed by a language you didn’t have any part in making. Any "center of self" is an optical trick that emerges from the intersection of millions of influences.
In this way, “the ego” and “creativity" are the same: a connection of influences.
I think the mark of a good book is how often I want to write in it while I read. Underlining, scribbling, starring, questioning, dog-earing the pages—if the book hits right, you won’t want to borrow my copy.
Another reason I like the name margin.notes, which originally came from my friend Ted (who scribbles over his books to the point of illegibility), is that they represent a conversation. Reading should be a conversation, after all. Not just between the writer and reader, but also between the reader and their own self.
“Every reader, as he reads, is actually the reader of himself. The writer's work is only a kind of optical instrument he provides the reader so he can discern what he might never have seen in himself without this book.”
A good book should be full of a-ha moments between you and the writer. A great book should inspire aha moments within yourself. But a transcendent book should put you so much in the headspace of the writer that you lose track of where their thoughts end and where your thoughts begin. Your thought-margins, as it were, become intertwined.
"In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
It seems, for better or worse, that the only path towards growth in this universe is by collision.
And it’s true. Spectacular, unpredictable things happen when unlike things collide. Hendrix exploded at the collision of guitars and electricity. Steve Jobs found fertile ground where the transistor met the calligraphy pen. California arose at the crest of East and West. And Gronk became Gronk somewhere between Real World Road Rules Challenge and a sack of hammers.
But now I’m rambling. Which, if I’m being honest, is the real reason I like the margins. It’s extra space for me to ramble in peace.
Read something else