About 3.67* years ago, I sat down and wrote my first blog on OS. At the time, I knew little about blogging and thought that bloggers had to choose a narrow vein of writing according to their specialty: politics, sports, tuning motorcycles, making bundt cakes… whatever. So I decided that I’d take on the persona of the crotchety old fart and write about things that I didn’t like about life in the Twenty-first century. My first post was about other people’s cell phones and the unnecessary overtures that they played whenever someone called. It received one comment and a few reads, but I was hooked.
In the 3.67 years that have elapsed since that time, I have written hundreds of blogs, and gotten more than my fair share of EP’s, ratings and comments. I quickly escaped from the confines of the crotchety old fart and began writing about idiot-but-well-meaning dogs, precocious daughters, colonoscopies and kidney stones, aging motorcyclists, metasequoia trees, the color of apples, kids with disabilities, car accidents and exploding babies. Basically my goal has always been to graphically describe moments - small moments - the smaller the better.
Over time, I slowly built a pleasantly large and loyal audience that responded to whatever I wrote. I would read and comment and, for a couple of years enjoyed the unique digital comradery that can be OS. For a while, I could always count on a wide-spread read with ratings and comments in double figures. I felt like George Will.
But I didn’t maintain my audience. I began to write less here and devoted my energies to other outlets, most importantly my own web site (jeff-howe.net) that I developed about 0.936 years ago. I began to stop reading other writers and ceased commenting on their work. My extensive “followers” list shrank by attrition as old friends left OS at a rate greater than they were replaced. The true test of my fall from grace is that I never get any self-promos in my message box any more. This is actually a good thing.
No longer being a regular on OS allows me to more easily see the changes that take place over time. By peeking through the curtains every now and then I’m able to see the gross transformations without having to bear the day-by-day hassle. OS has changed a lot. It has become much more political, much more opinionated, with less creative energy being spent on the pure joy of writing and more on the need to create a scene that draws attention.
Each time I come back to OS the site seems to work less efficiently than it did before. There have always been the mechanical problems: the frustrating delays, the spam wars, lost signals and the current spate of annoying “extreme error” messages that connecting with OS seems to generate. (Just putting this together, I've wasted hours losing my formatting every time I try to edit.) There have also been the social problems: the dust ups and gang bangs and flame wars.
Because of the connectivity problems, I hesitate to send people to OS to find my work. I’m afraid that the delays, error messages and other technical difficulties with the site will scare them away before they can even find me. That is where the beauty of having your own website comes into play. What it lacks in exposure is made up for in greater control of your own work.
But on the flip side of all of this is the community. Despite its problems, this is still the best, most wide-open, free-for-all, broad exposure, run-it-up-the-flag-pole writer’s site on the web. Some of the best work that I’ve read anywhere has been here on OS. I stay here, albeit at a distance, for that exact reason. OS is a social and professional anchor. It is a place to go to read and be read. It is a place where you can count on smart and creative digital dialogue – not that strung-out, acronym ridden prison-speak of Twitter and Facebook. Rather, the dialogue on OS appears in well-constructed ideas expressed in complete thoughts with (and this is the best part) complete sentences.
Despite how I have neglected it recently, my web site continues to find new readers… or they find it. It is reassuring to discover that there is life beyond OS. I am most often found by search engines looking for the work that I’ve done on using metasequoias as bonsai, Parkinson’s disease and some of my science writings. But one feeds the other and I am often surprised at the steady stream of readers that I am able to attract...
To those at OS with whom I’ve matched wits over the past 3.67 years - I’m sorry for my recent estrangement. It’s hard to explain. I could blame this on the streak I’ve had in the last couple of years: two car accidents, finding that I have Parkinson’s disease, getting nabbed by the IRS, the death of my mother, getting divorced, moving into a new apartment, having on-going problems reconnecting with the internet. But none of that is the real problem. The problem is that I’ve lost my muse
This funk that I’ve been in is sort of a muse-losing hiatus.
Muse or no muse, it’s time to get back into the fray. I have a new story on my web page: a true story entitled The Candy Machine. I’m going to finish up my account of this summer’s voyage of discovery with my daughter and post an album of photos from the trip. I have some new thoughts on Parkinson’s, a story about “spotting” humans with a flashlight, a story about a sidewalk in San Francisco and some new harmonica recordings. All of this will be posted at my web site; some of it – or at least links - will be posted on OS. I’d appreciate it if you’d give them a look every now and then.
These are still the good ol’ days. Posting on OS has been, and remains, a pleasure. Despite all of its problems, when I link into the site I feel like I’m coming home.
*as close as I can figure…
(Sorry, I'd provide links but OS doesn't seem to allow it...)