May 22nd, 2012 / 10:02 am
Behind the Scenes

Tao Lin’s ‘not trying’ period on Twitter

If you haven’t caught Tao Lin on twitter since his declaration of “no longer trying” during the last ~48 hours, it’s been pretty fun/funny/interesting. Besides watching his unflagging dedication to the whim during the migration of hundreds of followers following the often several times a minute posts re: boredom, racism, music, being unfollowed, retweets forming a “Best American Tweets” anthology (during which I received ~45 notification emails), I think my favorite part so far was when he had “cybersex” with some dude from some band. It’s all getting deleted June 1st. Have you been watching?


  1. Melissa Broder

      Seems brave. Wonder if it was at all inspired by the “wild spewing tweeter” genre — of which I consider Daniel Bailey (@daniel_bailey) to be a forefather, but is recently exemplified by tweeters such as Boost Machine (@santinodela). Also, is there a connection to Lin’s feelings about aging?
      Steve Roggenbuck’s (@steveroggenbuck) tweet style has made me feel self-conscious of my tweet style for a while now — primarily in terms of tone (feel comparatively ancient and negative) and syntax (feel mad formal). I’ve considered experimenting. But it wld take me ~4 hours of trying per tweet to make it look like I’m not trying. 

      Kudos to Lin–who was always a measured tweeter, a drafter and a pioneer for many of those who may be influencing him now.

  2. A D Jameson

      Tao Lin discovers Tehching Hsieh, albeit on a smaller scale.

  3. Anonymous

      “Seems” <– a fatigued word, leading a tired, dreary existence–being dragged and punched and skull-fucked to death. Please stop the hurt.

  4. Melissa Broder

      r u related to arlo?

  5. Bobby Dixon

      I really hope that he or someone is keeping tabs on who starts following him and who unfollows. Graphed in excel and monitoring fluctuations on tweets, he may discover the deepest most important twitter secret formula of all time. 

  6. Anonymojo

      What does Tao Lin mean by “trying” and/or “to not try”?

      What’re the effects of Tao Lin’s use of the verb and derivatives of the verb to try?

  7. Anonymojo

      grouts the seam of possible but unlikely

  8. AaronWB

      Do or do not. There is no try.

  9. Afternoon Bites: Bill Murray Says Tilda Swinton Can Do Whatever She Likes, Philip K. Dick Is Still Amazing, Kristen Stewart Reads 50 Shades of Grey, and More | Vol. 1 Brooklyn

      […] Tao Lin’s not trying anymore. Officially. […]

  10. Anonymojo

      Am conducting a trial to understand what you mean.

      –but Tao Lin uses the word.  How does it work in his tweets? that say he’s going to tweet, what… effortlessly.

  11. Diane Marie

      It’s been wonderful.

  12. 'Guillaume Morissette'

      @melissa: I actually like your tweets a lot, I read them randomly when they happen to pop up in the feed thing & sometimes find myself thinking, ‘I would take her shoplifting’ or something. I personally prefer, ‘measured tweets’ to, ‘neverending bombardment of tweets’, though this idea that we should have a, ‘singular twitter identity’ and, ‘never break character’ seems limiting and kind of boring and maybe counter-productive, I don’t know.

  13. reynard

      i feel old

  14. Steve Roggenbuck

      my faverite version of tao lin’s twitter woudl be halfway in between his usual way and this way

  15. alan

      his best work has always been online

  16. Shannon

      This is another one of those things I don’t really understand the point of. 

  17. natalie chin

      i agree re measured tweets as opposed to bombardment

  18. Matthew Simmons

      Multiple, disengaged Twit-denties can be very freeing, as long as you are okay with the fact that no one will discover the other identities for a while. Or possibly ever. I’ve had six or seven.

  19. marshall mallicoat

      lots of people have been not trying at twitter for longer than tao lin

  20. Nicholas Grider

      If you mean Tao Lin, I’m right there with you.  Actually if you mean Twitter I’m right there with you too.  Because I’m old and cantankerous.  Though Twitter is probably his ideal platform, as someone mentioned above.

  21. Matthew Simmons

      Do you feel as old as I actually am?

  22. tao lin

      i can explain probably, can you elaborate a little

  23. tao lin

      i can probably help you, if you have specific questions, i am here

  24. tao lin

      i answered it in one of the tweets, would try to find now but i’m on a thing, typing things until 8:10

  25. tao lin

      is that a movie director, interested in more info

  26. tao lin


  27. Shannon

      The whole thing? Why this is such a huge deal. I like twitter, I think I use it not the same way people more famous than me use it. I don’t know. So there you go I am just confused. I’m going to sit and watch. 

  28. tao lin

      i think ‘big deal’ is relative, so from different people’s perspectives this will or will not be a ‘big deal’ and they’re all legitimate, i feel

  29. Shannon

      I can try. I suppose what I don’t understand (mainly because I don’t actually know you, I’ve never spoken to you etc) why it seems like so often, if you blow your nose or fart it becomes a big discussion that most of the time seems to lack your input. Is that on purpose or does it just happen? Forgive me I’m really nosy. Sometimes I get the impression (from my outside position) that the conversations can turn wanky for the sake of being wanky. Not this one in particular but in general when people are talking about (around?) things you write or say on twitter.

  30. tao lin

      i think a percentage of ppl think i’m faking everything, like i don’t mean anything i say

      a percentage feels like it’s not fair if i get coverage instead of someone else

      a percentage thinks a child can write what i write, therefore it’s not fair

      other reasons

  31. Richard Grayson

      I checked Google to see how old you were and if you were older than I (I will be 61 in two weeks and am excited to see older people here).

      I see you *are* older than I, but I also see you recently died:

      I’m sorry.

  32. Matthew Simmons

      I’m feeling better, though.

  33. Shannon

      That seems really, strange to me. I get it rationally sort of but it doesn’t really make real solid sense to me. I’ll stop yammering I don’t want to derail the whole conversation. Thanks.

  34. AaronWB

      “When seeking answers use,, or Google instead of asking someone. If you ask someone there’s a chance they’ll need to Google it themselves to find the answer, making it a situation where you’re simply and belligerently telling people to do things for you.”

  35. tao lin

      im in not trying mode

  36. AaronWB

      “even if you plan on qualifying your request, in an inconsiderate attempt to convey you aren’t inconsiderate”

  37. Jimmy Chen

      i attempted to do a ‘other authors not trying at twitter’ post/farce but found myself trying at not trying, like it was a more conscious and exerted effort to not try, or seem like one wasn’t trying, which brings us into the murky waters of intent, rhetoric, and mentality; tao lin’s not tried tweets are rather successful in that their nonchalance and complete unconsciousness at trying-in-general is conveyed, be it the mark of a deft writer, someone who has simply philosophically/existentially conceded to trying, or is approaching premature dementia. this is a success, though i’m very annoyed. here’s a pic of my ‘failed’ attempt at trying to seem like these people weren’t trying. as you can see, i tried too hard:

  38. Matthew Simmons

      I think we get “wanky over Tao because a lot of us sort of encountered each other & discovered ourselves as writers & artists through Tao’s blogspot blog & the connective threads to our own blogs and online literary journals. 

      And we all really like Tao and like it when he succeeds or does something interesting or surprising or funny.

      And in the end, with the small press world being what it is, and the book world in general being what it is, we all basically just have each other. So we get “wanky.”

      (Is that what you mean by “wanky?”)

  39. Anonymous

      toasted lin

  40. Shannon

      Thank you Matthew. It is a little bit. I think I mean more of the more acidy conversations. Not just here but in general when it comes to anyone involved in Alt lit.  Since I don’t know any of you that all know each other I think it’s a situation where I see things that can be read as snarky and mean sometimes, and I’m just reading it that way because I don’t have more context.

      So for me especially when the people or Tao or whomever being talked about isn’t present or having a voice it comes off nasty. Hazard of the internet I know but it’s something I think about as I see it happen. 

  41. Nicholas Grider

      I was actually mostly being facetious.  I get how and why you’re an important lit figure right now, and twitter has obvious cultural weight for a lot of people, and flaunting twitter by not trying is actually pretty interesting, but getting a grasp on post-writing/conceptual writing can be tough in the various forms it takes and twitter is more ADD than I can handle.  It’s not a value judgment about anything; I’m not in a position to judge.

  42. Anonymous

      Didn’t like when he was trying to reach the limit. He set a stupid goal that motivated an illusion of not trying and it ruined the whole gag for me. But then the next day I think he nailed it.

      I’m saying, Jimmy, that it took Tao three days to get to not trying, in my opinion. So don’t beat yourself up.

  43. AaronWB

      “If you can anticipate that a comment will cause people to respond with “what do you mean,” “what does that mean,” “I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not,” or “is that good or bad” try to incorporate the answer to those questions into your comment before posting the comment.”

  44. Victoria Trott

      he’s not trying to be considerate, b


  45. Anonymous

      didn’t realize how idiomatic “toasted” is until now. feel shook to the core.

  46. mimi

      would like to try this sentence at my job sometime – ha ha ‘try’

  47. mimi

      googling ‘tehching hsieh’ was best thing i did today

  48. Melissa Broder

      the david bowie one is good. the banksy one is funny. make this a thing!

  49. mimi

      conceived a very long time ago, i was born in 1896

      and in Act 4, i dieì_(La_bohème)#Roles  

  50. Anonymojo

      the link on the banksy tweet doesn’t work there’s a monkey in the wrench

  51. Anonymojo

      ‘Trying not to try’ entails ‘relaxing’ and ‘concentrating’ simultaneously?

  52. lorian long

      ‘I think we get “wanky over Tao because a lot of us sort of encountered each other & discovered ourselves as writers & artists through Tao’s blogspot blog & the connective threads to our own blogs and online literary journals.’damn, never thought of it like that, but yeah, it’s pretty true. 

  53. A D Jameson
  54. A D Jameson

      I find his work tremendously beautiful.

  55. postitbreakup
  56. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      Has anyone tried to record vocals to a prerecorded MP3? Am I using the right terminology? I drank too much of a very expensive bottle of scotch. My very good friend’s little brother just released a record, wanted to record backup vocals. Struggling to get timing to sync up.

      Idunno. I’m drunk. Reading about serial killers. The lady who wrote the book suggests serial killers are as mature as an infant. That is, they don’t really understand things, so every single thing doesn’t really carry any significance to them. She interviewed John Wayne Gacy. Spent over 400 hours with the bastard.

      I just typed “sha la la” to describe the background vox and he got it.

      Idunno. I spent my entire life writing. This shit is real important to me. I’ve written probly two books worth of short stories, at this point I’ve written three novels, but Idunno, I want to reach the most people, you know? No interest in impressing well-read people, preaching to the choir. Much more prefer to reach as many people as possible. See Grapes of Wrath. A book that doesn’t just affect the populace but affects a nation whatever the fuck a nation is, that adorable word.

      So many ways to skin that fucking cat.

      How do you write yr novels?

      If you haven’t written a novel, why not?

      Do you think anyone currently living should have any influence on how you live or think now that you are adult-age? If so, why?

      Grossest thing I can think of is naked obese man sitting on a pile of shit.

      Lost a lot of energy pretty quick here.

  57. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      PS, Thought Catalog: Friends sitcom and Entertainment Weekly called, they are suing you

  58. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      Which is more important: Being cool or Being prolific?

  59. Taylor Napolsky

      You guys are all killing me. 

  60. Anonymous

      I have many questions, but I don’t know where to start.

  61. dl.flsxzkmrkyrzk

      What are your books called?

  62. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      The Invectives, Yawning Fly and Starting Eyes, Beelzepup, Ways I Could Be Living

      The fact that I’m already up is not a good sign for the rest of the day!

  63. Nicholas Grider

      Prolific.  Coolness will always come around to you, though it may take years.

  64. dl.flsxzkmrkyrzk

      What did you do with them? Beelzepup, cute!

      oh you’re right, I did Wednesday already and it wasn’t ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssso great. I suggest going back to bed until Thursday.

  65. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      Not too much yet. Had some close calls with a couplea agents, then thought about self-publishing, then my friend who runs a press offered to publish Ways I Could Be Living but that was two years ago and he’s basically not stuck to any deadline he’s offered me, so I’m thinking to look into self-publishing again. That’s another follow up question, how do you break an informal agreement with a friend to publish your book?

      It’s gonna be a good day! I’m more worried about shitty liquor hangover BMs.

  66. dl.flsxzkmrkyrzk

      Say “oops I accidentally just published it before you got around to it, sorry”

      yeah I’m joking of course you’ll have a good one!

  67. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      “Sorry bro, got a little twisted in Vegas this weekend, accidentally published a book”

  68. Victoria Trott

      hey everyone

  69. A D Jameson

      “Tao Lin’s Do or Do Not Period on Twitter”

  70. dl.flsxzkmrkyrzk

       yes omg me too

  71. Anonymojo

      seems like a lot of caps for a tao lin dooze an don’ts

      am feeling high levels of convention anxiety, mixed with modest levels of conformity narcosis

  72. mimi

      recent tao-tweets seem like ‘stream of consciousness’ more than ‘trying/not trying’

  73. mimi

      damn frankie (meant for ‘1 day ago’ frankie tas long comment)

  74. A D Jameson

      “tao lin’s do or do not try period on twitter”

  75. Anonymojo

      The literary effect of a “stream of consciousness” takes some – a lot of? – effort to generate.  –and, of course, the effort isn’t necessarily paid off through a successfully mimetic or disclosive or even entertaining stream-of-consciousness.

      And even to ‘publish’ a genuine spout or torrent of consciousness takes intentional action.  I mean that Tao Lin – or whoever – has to access twitter (say) and put consciousness, or at least its linguistic mediation, physically into words–he has to type or thumb or talk or however he puts the characters into tweets.

      And I think it’s the case that even to be ‘conscious’ is already not to be passive – it’s already to act, to choose to perform or process a disposition.

      Contrary to AaronWB’s muscular assertion, it’s not possible to do without trying, except in the physiologically reflexive sense of, say, a heart beating.

      Tao Lin’s tweets are the effect of effort and intention, but he wants – I think he’s saying – to make them in this paradoxically effortless, non-intentional way.

      That at least a little bit interesting experiment is what I mean to say I think Tao Lin is conducting.

  76. Gustavo Rivera


  77. Richard Grayson

      In my day, only paranoids thought other people were following them.

  78. mimi

      in your day only birds tweeted  

      : )

  79. Richard Grayson

       It is easy to come up with 140 characters when they are all based on yourself and your friends.

  80. Daisy chain

      Tao Lin’s not trying period has forced me to actually start trying but portraying an abridged version of oneself is boring. Might stop trying…

  81. Michael Martin