I thought I was the center of the Universe

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Returning to Halley Suitt’s writing, Delacour Rapprochement, she responds to Jonathon Delacour’s and Stavros’ statement about being “half a planet away from the action” with:

One of the things he mentions is how he and Stavros The WonderChicken live far away from some of us bloggers who hang out in Boston, SF, NY. I was very interested in that, just thinking about it the other day, not in terms of living near bloggers, but rather, thinking about how few people you see in any given day and our lives are lived – even in this jet-set world – in very local ways. If your local neighborhood includes Harvard University or Times Square or The Golden Gate Bridge, you do have a different “local” experience over a lifetime which some may call elite, but this is where we live. I don’t know if I want to apologize for it, but as I mentioned in my post “The Star You Are” it’s disingenuous to pretend it’s not part of the game here.

It is funny, but when I read both of the gentlemen’s use of this term, I read it as their being half way around the planet from the United States, not specifically Boston or New York or San Francisco. Within the given context of BloggerCon, this is Boston-based primarily because Dave Winer hosts the event there, not specifically because it was a a global center for weblogging.

I have lived in both Boston and San Francisco, and they are interesting communities, with lively histories and culture. They are both known for their universities, as well as being technical centers. However, considering that all webloggers aren’t academic, nor are they technical, I’m not sure where the implicit understanding of these two locations being focal points comes from, other than both locations have been the center of technical conferences.

(I do understand where the New York reference came from – New York and New Yorkers have always considered themselves the center of the known universe.)

I’ve known Stavros for close to three years, *Mr. Delacour for over two, and Ms. Suitt just over a year. Among the people they know or have known are folks who live in Wisconsin, Tacoma, Tennessee, Chicago, Georgia, Japan, Canada, various places in upstate New York, the UK, and yes, in Boston and San Francisco–but not to the exclusion of any other location. So I am puzzled by Ms. Suitts assertion that Harvard University, Times Square, and the Golden Gate Bridge provide some form of elite background.

I worked at Harvard Business School, and it was an interesting place. It’s a very pretty campus, and famous, but so is Indiana University, Washington University here in Missouri, Perdue, Yale, and, well, I could go on. Times Square is cool. I always try to visit Times Square when I visit New York. It’s a wild place, primarily because you’ll never know what or who you’ll meet there. But elite? Not unless you want to count the guy trying to sell fake diamond watches on the street.

Then there is the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge. It is a treasure, and still one of my favorite places. What’s remarkable about it is how accessible it is. No matter what time of day or the weather, you can always find a quiet spot on the beach by the Bridge.

I am belaboring a point at Ms. Suitt’s expense and for that I apologize to her. She is only reflecting what is an unspoken assumption among American bloggers, which is these locations are the places to be. There’s always a conference, or symposia, or some blogger get together that features at least one, possibly more A-List bloggers. Even those of us within the US can feel half a planet away from the action sometimes.

But it’s really only an illusion, smoke and mirrors.

Ms. Suitt also wrote:

I want be a writer when I grow up. It’s not easy to make a living being a writer. It’s easier to get paid to write if people know who the hell you are. I do want people to know who the hell I am, because I want them to read what I write. I want to be paid for what I write.

If Stavros or Mr. Delacour were to visit from South Korea or Australia, I would first give them both **huge hugs and big, wet kisses–on the cheek, I hasten to add, lest some think I’m propositioning them here, in my weblog. I would show them my home and places I love, and wine them and dine them and delight in finally meeting them. I would ask who they would want to see and I’d load them tenderly into Golden Girl and take them anywhere they want to go. We could go to Washington, or even North to BC. How about close to home and Chicago? Texas? No problem. Georgia? You got it. Boston? It would be my honor.

But even if, as is likely, we never meet, nothing would change. My interest in them wouldn’t suddenly fade away, because it is their writing that attracted me to their spaces and it is still their writing that brings me back. Them boys, they be damn fine writers. And so is Ms. Suitt.

The only geography important to writing is your head. Writing isn’t who you know or where you live, it’s what you put on the page. You can’t write when you’re at a party, or a blogger dinner, or conference; all the parties and dinners and conferences in the world aren’t going to make you a better writer.

As for fame, there’s no guarantee that even the best writing in the world will make you rich and famous; being included within a weblog won’t make that writing somehow more lucrative. A few people have received professional gigs, writing and otherwise, because of their weblogs and their popularity and who they know. They will always be the very rare exception. Folks saying otherwise, and I’m not including Ms. Suitt in this, are doing everyone a disservice by implying that weblog popularity provides some form of shortcut to glory and fame.

Ms. Suitt seems to agree with this:

I came to blogging as a writer. Did I come to blogging to become a famous writer? No, I think I came to blogging just to write.

Walk down the street right now, no matter where you are. Ask the first person you meet who Glenn Reynolds or Dave Winer are. Then ask them who Janet Jackson is. Every time you confuse weblogging with fame and fortune, repeat this exercise, but replace Janet Jackson because fame is fleeting.

*I’m trying out Joseph Duemer’s use of formal last names rather than the more familiar first names when discussing ideas rather than people. There has been discussion that the use of first names can personalize conversations, which can lead to misunderstandings. In addition, use of first names may make new readers feel more excluded from the discussion.

**Well, there goes my attempt to withhold undue familiarity.


Feministe on Rape

Feministe has an extraordinary essay today on Rape is a Men’s Issue. She writes:

My boyfriend roasted a customer at work this week for his choice of attire. A college student walked into his store wearing a “Free Kobe” t-shirt. When B saw the smug student wearing the shirt, he whipped his head around, put on his meanest face and snapped, “That shirt is fucking stupid.”

The kid looked shocked, Bryan said, and it was clear he felt something akin to shame or stupidity. Good.

However, many of the young men that Bryan work with were unaware of what the shirt meant. When Bryan explained that Kobe Bryant was on trial for rape, they understood, but didn’t seem to bothered by the ordeal or the provocative nature of wearing that offensive attire. That complacency bothers me.

I keep wondering how many people are out there wearing the same shirt.

As she finds out, too many. And more.

Excellent points, and excellent writing.

(The font is a bit small so wear your glasses, don’t miss any of the words.)

Weblogging Writing

Sleepless in St. Louis

If you were up in the wee hours of a St. Louis night, last night, you would have noticed me publish and then pull a couple of posts, which I then re-published this morning. Last night was another difficult, sleepless night for me, and sometimes I write things I’m not sure I want to publish: the first because it does reflect on friends of mine (and concerns that I’m breaking a confidence); the second because sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, I am a moral coward.

However, I’ve been assured that no confidences have been broken in regards to the first, and as for the second, in the morning I am always a tigress, hear me roar. I may be inspired by the night, but I’m emboldened by the morning.

My sleepless nights are due in some part to attempting to live life as a writer, as Halley Suitt puts it. Though I want to make further comment on her geographical ruminations in a later post, for now I can agree with Ms. Suitt when she writes, It’s not easy to make a living being a writer. Even being known, especially being known primarily in weblogging circles, is no guarantee of success when it comes to selling books or articles.

(Especially not when you write a book on something like RDF and most of your readers aren’t technical, aren’t interested in RDF, or both, as sales seem to indicate. I should either write about sex, dieting, or having sex while you are dieting.)

Unless you’re JK Rowley or Stephen King, most fulltime writers live in a permanent state of hunger; spending an amazing amount of time thinking of new article and book ideas, looking for new publication sources, and searching for other sources of income in between those times when actually working on one’s current book (three chapters of which will earn the next installment in the advance and thus one can pay for one’s car, not to mention that the kitty cat needs to have her teeth cleaned).