Shiralkar: Freestyle on a typewriter


Columnist Parth Shiralkar revels in the exploration of his own mind.

Parth Shiralkar

I’m sure I’m not the only one to experience this: you start out looking for something perfectly mundane on Wikipedia, like the naming conventions for Ikea nightstands or a culinary video for ramen on YouTube, but then you start clicking on random recommendations and end up in the most obscure parts of the internet? That ideological rabbit hole, that spontaneous improv session down whatever path it is your synapses decide to lead you on, what a fascinating insight into the most good-looking species on the planet.

In fact, as a challenge, I started out with this essay with no idea in mind. As I type this, however, I realize that my thoughts have already started drifting forward in time, predicting what keys I’m about to press, whether this sentence is going to end in an exclamation mark or a strange, trailing phrase about oranges. Is there a way, then, to minimize these hops, these little predictions that are — effectively — predicting themselves?

One should think not. Is this all that different from, say, a street rapper spitting bars about cultural indifferences and the benefits of radical capitalism paired with a hedonistic lifestyle? There is quite a bit of difference, I gather. I actually tried doing a quick 20-minute “speed-run” a few days ago. You can read it here; I thought it turned out okay.

Why did I struggle with the same amount of words as the rapper who could do the same in under two minutes? Does it have something to do with the method of delivery? Could the way an idea is delivered really have that significant of an impact on the generation of the ideas themselves? Am I not typing fast enough? Is it federally legal to construct an entire paragraph using questions only?

As a reminder, I have not thought any of the previous content out, and I am actively trying to not think of the content to follow. Take a street artist in Paris, for example. Find a picturesque spot, set up shop, let attractive tourists blush themselves into a nice 20-dollar caricature, walk home in a lovely evening drizzle. “Ah,” you may say, unbidden. “Surely the artist has years and years of practice.” And surely enough, she does. Going back to the train of thought I left orphaned in the previous paragraph: could it have anything to do with practice?

Then again, perhaps there are other differences to be considered. In my mind, writing is a slow art. Rapping and improv comedy are both faster, tonally. So is street sketching and jazz. It cannot be having a muse, or the usage of an entity for reference either. What about the ancient old skill of disciplined hard work? If sufficient practice allowed me to type out novellas in half a day, would I do it? Since I’m being honest and spontaneous, I would not. That is another difference, then, which explains why writing is harder to freestyle with than other arts, especially those involving words and stuff like that.

But is it really? I wrote this whole thing in exactly half an hour with no ideas in my head. Perhaps I can convince the Daily to publish it without much editing. Perhaps not. This was fairly the most fun activity I’ve done in a while. There are clouds over Ames this whole week that are immediately reminiscent of an anime rendition. While you enjoy the view, check out this thing called butler-rap I made! Support your local philosophers and stay hydrated.