Friday, June 11, 2004

There's something you have to understand...

There's something perverse about writing.

There's this weird, awkward little dance of intimacy that happens between the writer and reader. It happens when the writer is trying to communicate something that is real and true, and when the reader isn't sure how to react because it's been so long since he saw someone making the effort to communicate something like that.

This is what writing -- what *real* writing -- is all about.

I've spent a lot of time not writing like that.

The only real, published, read-by-an-audience writing that I've done is my column -- Caught in the 'Net. It is because of that, and that alone, that I dare ever refer to myself, even in jest, as an actual writer. I can, if I choose to -- I've been paid for the column, thereby making me a professional in at least one definition of the word.

The problem is this: the columns, generally speaking, aren't communicating anything terribly profound. It's a fucking Internet column. It's about computers and software and whether or not Windows has a new security flaw in it, and it's nothing. It's meaningless. It's fluff. There's nothing profound to be said through it.

And that's okay. It is what it is, and it is something that I've done for almost ten years, and something that's been read for almost ten years. And that's okay.

But it also means that as a writer I've gotten lazy. I've gotten used to just being able to write stupid fluff about the Internet, and feel like I've done my part, contributed in some way.

I haven't.

I wrote a piece a few months ago during a power outage here in town, during which I sat in the sun-room that's just off the master bedroom and thought for too long and too hard about everything that's wrong with the world. And then I printed it the space I have in the newspaper.

I was terrified the day it went to press. Not because there was anything wrong with what I had written, but because there was an actual idea being communicated in it. It wasn't fluff. It wasn't meaningless. I was sharing a piece of myself with the world, whether they liked it or not. And if they were going to criticize or retaliate, then they'd strike right at my soul, because I was vulnerable. I had opened my soul to them.

And that's the way it's supposed to be.

And the fact that I was terrified reminded me of how infrequently I bared my soul -- how infrequently I took chances with the ideas I was communicating. How infrequently I shared the truth about who I am as a person.

And that, I would find myself remembering, is what writing is all about.

So here's the thing you have to understand.

This is my outlet. My one and only outlet where I can speak real and true things. They might not always be happy or pretty. They might not always make sense. But at least from my perspective, they are the truth.

And I've been scared about doing this. About speaking true things, things that matter, things that live in in the soft flesh of my spleen. And I think that I've been scared because this process is so important.

Too many of us sit on these things. We repress them. We eat our own pain, and then wonder why we have indigestion.

Here's the other thing you have to understand.

What I'm putting out here is going to be awkward and difficult at the best of times. If it affects you and moves you, fantastic -- click on the "Comments" button and say so.

Don't come up to me on the street and say, "Hey, loved that brutal and painful piece you wrote the other day. Really spoke the truth, man!"

It's a nice gesture, I agree. But the stuff I want to put out here, the stuff I intend to put out here, is not the kind of stuff I want to talk about. I don't want to talk about it with people I know intimately, let alone complete strangers.

It's nothing personal.

It's just that it's stuff that's not meant to be talked about. If it was, I'd be talking about it. Not writing about it.

So if you read something I wrote, and it moved you, or affected you in some way, great. That's what it's about. That is, hopefully, the idea behind this whole stupid thing. And if you see me on the street and you want to say, "Thank you," or, "Loved the last thing you read," or, "You're a gigantic fucking moron," just don't.

Just think to yourself: "Oh, I kind of thought he'd be taller."

And leave it at that.

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