I've been commenting on several articles lately by unhappy writers "flouncing" Open Salon, or just expressing frustration about not being on the cover or how come we don't get paid or are the editors evil or have we all unwittingly been drawn into some sort or reality show in which 3,000 writers claw each other's eyes out till only one is left standing and he/she gets fifty bucks while the site makes billions in oil company endorsements and the rest of us suckers starve and die.
I found myself writing this, "And besides, I have more fun with my OS friends than I do with my regular friends."
My first response to these posts was that I enjoy writing here. My writing improved greatly over the first four weeks since my first post, Dec. 1. I am excited to think about how good I can be if I keep working. I had written a few chapters of my series "Shaving With Connie Francis," before posting them, and they sucked. Knowing someone would read them frightened me into tightening things up, smoothing over some rough passages, blowing up a few others altogether.
Then came the responses. I was thrilled, as I was with a few Editor's Picks. I hear grumblings that the EP's for new writers are a bit of a cadge. Newbies are thrown out where they can be seen in the hopes of getting them started finding like-minded or sympathetic writers who will fill them in on the friending thing and kind of nudge them into providing free content for the site while their spouses go without affection and employers move them up on the list of recession casualties and their dogs shit in their shoes because no one takes them for walks anymore.
The thing works fine for me. I'm getting better. I have several published authors reading my work regularly. I have legions of fans, okay, scores of fans, well, not quite, scores, call it an even dozen of people who have asked me to zap them a PM when I post, which is a dozen more than I had two months ago. All good. I have no desire to run the site and wouldn't know how to if I did. I'm happy Lauerman and whomever are getting paid doing what they do to keep the site up every day.
It's my playground and I love it. Which brings me the long way around the bend back to the friends thing. I wrote, "I have more fun with my OS friends than I do with my real friends." Is this healthy? Should I try to get out of the house more often?
I have chosen my friends here and they have chosen me and how often does it work out this way? The last time I was on a playground looking for friends I chose the meanest pricks around because if they were my friends they weren't beating me up. In high school I hung with a tight circle of guys from a small Catholic school because if we stuck together the guys from the bigger public schools wouldn't beat us up. I went to college with a kindergarden classmate. But he was an engineer and I was in journalism so just like that my friends were journalism people.
I made many friends over the course of many careers, but were these mere matters of convenience and civility? Would I have chosen them based on their tastes in fiction, poetry or painting? I think everyone ought to carry a list of 25 things in their pockets. Meeting someone new, we could simply exchange lists and have much to discuss or not.
Never thought I would rediscover the joy of writing letters. Never thought I would read poetry and enjoy it. Never thought I would care so much about someone's else's rare and horrifying disease, sick kids, lost dog, aging parents or trip to Antarctica. Never thought I'd have to set an alarm so I stop reading other people's stories and start writing my own.
I'm happy to report I can still function in the flesh-and-blood business of human interaction. Tomorrow I will go out with my wife and some of her flesh-and-blood friends to see Kris Kristofferson. I will have fun. I will be witty, though not nearly as clever as I am here, as there is no "delete comment" function in the unforgiving flesh-and-blood world. On Sunday we will watch a football game with a longtime flesh-and-blood friend of mine and his wife.
I will not bludgeon them with my opinions about the stimulus, nor will I cause anyone discomfort re-living my rehab experience or the effect of braces on my high school sex life or the shortcomings of my offspring or my ancestors or my dogs. We will keep the conversation on country music and good songwriting and the advantage of having a quick-release QB when trying to beat a blitz-happy defense.
I will save my opinions on other topics for when I return here and get to choose my friends, and wallow in the attention of those who have chosen me.