A New Kind of Writing: Thoughts from Places

Ransom Riggs

Former flosser John Green has been writing novels for years now. He's also been making successful video blogs as part of the brotherly YouTube power duo known as the VlogBrothers. Normally, the two processes couldn't be more different -- making vlogs is usually quick and spontaneous, and novel-writing is usually, well, not. But as John has written, he's interested in "finding ways to write for people that don't involve a pen and paper," and says that "YouTube could use a little more writing ... and books a little more YouTube. Writing is very good at slowing us down and leaving us, however briefly, with that rarest gift of the Internet age: a quiet, contemplative moment. Youtube is good at calling us to action and bringing us together."

John and his brother Hank's new series of YouTube videos, Thoughts from Places, goes some distance toward combining the forms. They're not like anything else I've seen on the YouTube -- thoughtful, funny, introspective, and usually involving some minor degree of travel porn, as John and Hank often go to interesting (and jealousy-inspiring) places -- and they've rapidly spawned an army of imitators. I thought I'd share a few here.

I'll start with this one, about Los Angeles and the recent tragedy in Japan, because *I'm* in it!

In this video, John goes to what he claims is his favorite city -- Amsterdam. I'll be there in two weeks, and hopefully I've love it as much as he does. What I can guarantee is that I'll come back with lots of pictures and videos.

The charity Water.org recently brought Hank to Haiti because Hank is an Internet Personality of Note and they assumed, I think rightly, that his video-based advocacy could help spread the word about Water.org's efforts to build wells there. Here's the video he made.

So I mentioned at the top of the post that there have been lots of TFP imitators, and there have been, though in retrospect calling them "imitators" is harsh. They are more like homages, and anyway I think this is a form that just about every video-camera-wielding person should try out, because making a video about the place you're in and how you are in it forces you to be aware of yourself and your surroundings in a new and kind of wonderful way. Here's a rapidly growing list of Thoughts from Places style videos from people (mostly teenagers) around the world. They're a cool way to get a bit of day-in-the-life flavor from people who live in places like Chile, and can visit this amazing national park with the bluest water I've ever seen --

-- or the more seemingly prosaic streets of one's own Midwestern city, where this YouTuber looked a little closer and discovered that the place he lived was speckled with Fairy Doors.

More of John and Hank's Thoughts from Places are here.

If any of you feel inspired to make a video like this, upload it to YouTube and put a link to it in the comments. If we get enough of 'em I'll post them on the blog!