Monday, May 20, 2013

The Audience is Listening

Adam Gurri:

The point is, if you start blogging thinking that you’re well on your way to achieving Malcolm Gladwell’s career, you are setting yourself for disappointment. It will suck the enjoyment out of writing. Every completed post will be saddled with a lot of time staring at traffic stats that refuse to go up. It’s depressing.

Instead, the perfect balance is committing to only those crafts that you can perform with satisfaction even if you have to do so in utter obscurity. Then, put your work out in public as part of the process itself—if you’re making homebrew beer or an Arduino hack, make a video or write about the process as a means to think harder about the details of it. If you’re a writer, think of putting it online as simply having the work backed up in one more place.

In this way, you open yourself up to the spectrum of possibilities, ranging from utter obscurity at one end to global fame at the other. Far more likely is something closer to the obscurity end but much more satisfying—that you will draw the attention of a relative few who share your interests.

In my mind, this is the best way to take advantage of modernity while minimizing its costs. We are an affluent enough society that we’re able to make enough money as individuals to have time to devote to doing something we love for its own sake. We are also an interconnected society where some artisans are able to rise to sudden prominence and make a living doing what they love. A satisfying life will focus on the former while keeping the door open to the latter possibility.

There's these two friends of mine. Between them, there are are least six blogs floating around the web like ghost ships, mysteriously abandoned shortly after launch with no signs of struggle. Both of them are well-educated and driven to be serious writers. Both of them struggle to write regularly and frequently seem despondent over what they do produce, as well as the lack of any foreseeable future for it in the marketplace. The identity of being a writer-with-a-capital-W seems to be a heavy burden on their shoulders; the glass always seems half-empty. And here I am, a mere scribbler, about to chalk up 1500 posts and loving every minute of it. It's almost enough to give me something like survivor's guilt.

With respect to Gurri's excellent post, I'd still prefer to keep the door firmly barred against recognition and reward. It's a delicate balance to hold; I suppose there's always a chance that making one's work public could lead to unwanted attention. But addressing an audience, even one that mostly exists in the abstract, is how I keep from disappearing into narcissistic diary-keeping, or talking in complacent shorthand and private jokes. Echolocation, however tentative or intermittent, is necessary for perspective. So thanks for reading — and thanks for being so few in number.