The Carrier Bag Theory of Personal Websites


Robin’s post I am a poem I am not software (via Manu) got me thinking about Ursula K. Le Guin’s essay, The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, in which she (among other topics — I would very much recommend you read the whole thing!) argues that a story needn’t be organised after the Hero’s Journey principle in order to be interesting. Instead, Le Guin argues, a story can be thought of as a carrier bag, “full of wimps and klutzes, and tiny grains of things smaller than a mustard seed and intricately woven nets which laboriously unknotted are seen to contain one blue pebble, an imperturbably functioning chronometer telling the time on another world and a mouse’s skull” (oh, what a way with words!)

I would suggest that a personal website could, and should be much the same. Less about presenting your hero’s journey to the world, and more about opening your carrier bag, and showing us what you’ve got, wimps and klutzes and blue pebble and mouse skulls and all.

As I try to develop more of a writing practice, I’ve come to realise that by setting up this website as a collection of things I’ve accomplished in life that I am proud of, I inadvertently made the barrier of entry for adding to it much higher that it needs to be. I shall endeavour to apply the Carrier Bag Theory of Personal Websites to my own website, and see where that takes me.

Here are some websites I’ve come across recently that, for me, embody this theory:

Please email me with additions to this list!