The Space Between 140 Characters And 3,000 Words

About 15 years ago I moved from my home in New York to the relative unknown in Boulder, Colorado. Without going into details, things weren’t working well for me in New York at the time and I decided a major change was in order.

Note: This post includes an audio version. If you don’t see the audio above, click here to listen.

Go West Young Man

I packed what little would fit into the late 80s Nissan Maxima I called mine at the time and drove west young(ish) man.

Since that Maxima would only hold so much and my family was only willing to store so much of what it wouldn’t hold, I needed to depart with quite a few things before heading on my way.

The majority of what needed to go were the many, many books I’d collected over the years. Not all of them, but a rather large amount. It pained me to toss them all out so I spent a couple of months bouncing back and forth between used books stores to see what I could unload.

The used bookstores didn’t offer a lot of cash for used books. They offered a little bit more in trade so I turned hundreds of books into a dozen or so more expensive ones over those two months.

The prize of my new smaller collection was a complete 3 volume set of Vincent van Gogh’s letters during the last 10 years of his life. Most of these were to his brother Theo, but a few went out to other relatives and friends.

Note: The letters are online if $100 is too much to spend on them at Amazon.

For the next year or so I worked my way through Vincent’s letters, reading a few each day. Some of you know I often go by the username vangogh online and now you’ll know the reason has more to do with Vincent’s letters than his paintings, as good as his paintings are.

The Vincent van Gogh Example for Blogging

Fast forward a few years and a few jobs and I’m starting out on my own designing and developing websites and setting up a blog for various reasons.

At the time Vincent’s letters struck me as exactly what a blog should be.

  • They discuss in detail his work
  • They comment on the works of others
  • They share stories about his personal life
  • They share information about painting techniques
  • They include sketches and drawings to share work in progress

Isn’t that what blogging should be. Shouldn’t it reveal something of the voice of the author while also sharing thoughts and observations, theories, critiques, and examples about a chosen topic. Shouldn’t a blog be an ongoing conversation with any who are interested.

That was my plan when I started. I even titled the very post here, Dear Vincent. Unfortunately I’ve never been good on following through on the plan.

I struggled through the first year or two blogging, not really knowing what to write about or how to write it. Some early posts turned out well, but many more were grasping for something to write about and settling on whatever was easiest for me at the moment.

After a few months hiatus I returned in better form, but since that time I’ve become someone who tries to pack everything into every single post, as though every last thought I could ever have about a topic belonged in each.

Toward the end of last year I talked about wanting to do more audio posts and even managed to record a few before falling back into old habits. A part of the reason for seeking audio was again to seek change in an effort to find my way back to something I haven’t been able to follow through on.

Between 140 and 3,000

At the start of this year Mark Boulton posted Shorter Long Form, encouraging bloggers to get back to something that used to exist, but has mostly fallen away.

I’d like to see more balance again. More short, scrappy blog posts (like this one), written off the cuff and in the moment. Sometimes, I’d like to read the author’s actual voice, instead of a homogenised edited one. There has to be a space between 140 characters and 3000 word feature.

I’ve been thinking about Mark’s short, scrappy, off the cuff post ever since he wrote it and it keeps reminding me of Vincent’s letters and that idea I had for how a blog should be.

Consider this post you’re reading a new attempt to get back to that idea, at least in part. Unlike most content you read here, what you’re reading now is the result of a spontaneous burst of prose as opposed to a tirelessly polished feature article.

It feels good.

I’ll proof it and may decide to give it a read to practice that audio thing again, but otherwise it’ll remain true to the spontaneous burst.

It’s a new start at an old and consistently calling goal; one I’ve failed to reach a number of times already, but I must think worthwhile to keep trying to attain.

I’ve been making a few other changes in an effort to make this restart, but I’ll save those for another time.

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Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.


  1. I’ve been working on a blog engine for some time, mostly for educational purpose. But when I first came across your blog, I was impressed with the simplicity and the aesthetics of your layout. That sent me right back to the drawing board. I quickly realized I needed to learn some design basics. I was almost finishing up my blog engine and was looking to launch soon. Having read this post the first thing that came to mind is that you just raised the bar on me again. But then later decided, this audio thing is probably better suited for more experienced bloggers like you.

    Anyway, I continue to enjoy your every post. Your consistency of posting every three to four days also amazes me. I already purchased the two books you recommended a few posts ago, and am enjoying the books. By the way, I’m still eagerly looking forward to your book. Thanks again.

    • Thanks Ahsan. That’s really nice of you to say. Sorry if I caused you to delay the launch of your blog engine, though I know the feeling. I had started a couple of designs before this one and then seeing someone else’s design made me drop mine completely and start again.

      It’s not always easy keeping up with posting, but I make it a priority. I start my day working on the blog to make sure I get something done on it.

      Out of curiosity which books did you get? I’m guessing the Non-Design one and the Design Basics ones, but thought I’d ask.

      My book is coming along. I finished the draft and I’m working my way through each section to create and add images to illustrate what I’m saying. I’m also editing each section as I go. I’m hoping sometime in mid May to have the images and editing done.

      Then I’m going to let the book sit for a couple of weeks while I make some changes to the site so I can offer it for sale. Then one last read through and hopefully sometime in early June it’ll be ready. I’ll post an update or two once it’s getting close.

      • The two books you recommended on your article ‘How To Learn Design When You Feel Overwhelmed’ were: The Non-Designer’s Design Book, and Design Basics Index. Both packed with useful information on design.

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