The term lo-fi refers to music where imperfections in the recording are audible. Sometimes this is a matter of circumstance, like a live concert album or nearly anything made using analog technology. In other cases it’s an intentional aesthetic choice. Lo-fi music is associated with the DIY elements of punk, grunge, and outsider music. With all of that in mind, I want to talk about lo-fi writing, and why I refer to myself as a lo-fi writer.
Fans of lo-fi music cite a few key reasons as to why they love it. The first is the authenticity. You’re listening to a real performance, not an overproduced track someone has spent far too much time thinking about and manipulating. It’s real to the artist’s voice, their musicianship, and the surroundings in that moment. Unpolished work is seen as feature, not a bug.
Recording in lo-fi also removes barriers to entry. If the only music that ever got released required top-notch gear and production, there is music we’d never hear. There are people that could never get their message out. Our culture would be lesser for the absence of those creative voices.
Okay, But Lo-Fi Writing?
My taste in reading runs toward literary fiction and classics. I have nothing but respect for authors that spend years crafting a story until every word is perfect. At the same time, I love blogs, and zines, and journalism. Things that are created with tight deadlines, strict budgets, and few resources to work with. The important thing isn’t that the tale is perfect, but that it gets told. Sometimes that means typos, an odd spelling error, and grammatical gaffs.
The alternative term, which is far more pejorative, is hack. A word that originally just meant “for hire”. A taxi is a hack, a car for hire. Political hacks are paid to express a certain opinion and maintain a party line. Hack writers are often associated with pulps. In order to make a living, they banged out a lot of work in a short time because they were getting paid by the word. Typically, those per-word rates were low.
What Lo-Fi Writing Isn’t
Being a lo-fi writer doesn’t mean I don’t care about the work. It isn’t that I’m intentionally sloppy, or amateurish, or unprofessional. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not doing this solely for the money. I write because I am a writer. But I also need to pay the bills.
The economic reality is that in order to make a living, I don’t have the luxury of time. I very much want my work to be the best that it can possibly be, but perfect is the enemy of complete. Unfinished work doesn’t earn money. (I will not insert a dig at people trying to sell unfinished games on Itch. No. I will not go there.). When the deadline comes, you need to be able to say “good enough” and send it off. Then you need to dive straight into the next project. That’s the life of a lo-fi writer.
What is Lo-Fi Writing?
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About Berin Kinsman
Berin Kinsman is a writer, simple living minimalist, and spoonie. By day he works as the owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.