In search of the writing high

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 21, 2014, 10:42 PM | comments: 0

I'm about half-way through reading Roger Ebert's Life Itself: A Memoir. I suspect that much of what I've read so far probably isn't that unique to his life, in the context of the timespan he occupied, but when he writes about writing, I can identify with him at a deep level.

It seems that some of what made him a news guy and writer was the thrill of seeing your work go to print, and have it consumed by many others. I completely get this, as I was writing for my college paper at a time just before newspapers were disrupted by the Internet. At best, my column was read by a few thousand people, but it affected people. Some were moved by it, some hated it, and fortunately people weren't afraid to tell me. I could sit down behind my hand-me-down computer and dot-matrix printer, and craft something that, maybe in the smallest way, changed people. It was a rush.

Around the same time, and for a few years after that, I had radio, where I could assume that a few thousand people were listening to me at any given time. The government access TV I was doing also saw a few thousand eyeballs at a time. Later, I would have my Web sites, and those reached my biggest audiences yet, sometimes more than 10k people in a day. At Microsoft, I worked on an app that served 100 million pages every month. None of this compares to the high of that printed word.

In 2005, when my programming book hit the store shelves, I once again felt that buzz. It didn't sell particularly well, but it was still quite a feeling to have something you wrote appear on dead trees in a book store.

In the years since, I've obviously taken to writing on this blog, and to a lesser degree, my tech blog. For the most part, a few hundred people read the average blog post. There's something strangely empowering that anyone can write something and get it in front of people, but maybe that's why it feels like it's less special or impactful (or as the saying goes, opinions are like assholes, everyone has one). In recent years I've questioned who I'm writing for, and why.

To that end, I don't get the writing high the way I used to, and I think I mostly write here to remind myself later on what I was thinking about. Mind you, the gaps in that thought map are vast. When I look back at the posts from 2005, for example, there is no mention of my disappearing marriage, and certainly that was the biggest issue I had.

I do miss the writing high.


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