Sometimes I don’t write a post here because I feel like the photograph doesn’t match my standards. You never could have told me, a dozen years ago, that I’d have to think about something called Pinterest or Instagram to lay down words on the page. For that matter, you never could have told me that I would rarely see my sentences on an actual page.
I still remember the moment I first put my fingers down on a computer keyboard. It was 1983, and I had just returned from an awkward year in London. Happy to be back with humans my own age after a lonely year, I joined every activity I could enjoy. I played softball, joined the ASB, did the Academic Decathalon, and even started a Beatles club at my school. (Don’t laugh. We had 85 members. After school, once a week, we gathered in a classroom to watch A Hard Day’s Night or listen to bootlegs.) And I started taking writing classes. It cracks me up now but one of my writing classes was called Manuscript Writing for Publication. My friend John Darnielle was in that class too. (Now he’s the lead singer of The Mountain Goats. It seems we put something in that class to use.) And I started taking journalism, carefully researching little stores about my giant Southern California high school. Someone at our hour high school won the International Math Olympiad in Czechoslovakia. That was a story I wanted to write, especially because that kid was the most socially awkward person I had ever met. He made me feel positively like a debutante. So I typed up stories, pounding the keys of the old typewriters, trying to make that k stick to the page. But somewhere in the year, a clunky computer arrived in the room. A Macintosh SE, to be precise.
Do you remember those? They were giant beige behemoths, so slow that they took two start-up disks, inserted again and again and again, one after the other, to warm up the computer and coax it to show us a home screen. I thought it was phenomenally cool. How could I type, finally as fast as I wanted, and then press a button to send something to the printer next to it? And then watch my words appear, in gaudy blue font, on a page? I thrilled to it, right away, that year I was determined to no longer be shy and live in my books alone and start talking to people and do more than gather good grades like trophies to be put on a high shelf. I knew this was something I wanted, right away. None of my newspaper stories were any good that year. I don’t have any of them saved. But I started pounding out words, making sentences, starting stories and finishing them, writing so many bad stories that eventually, slowly, oh so damn slowly, my writing started to match my taste.
(If you are any bit creative, and you haven’t read this Ira Glass quote about what it takes to become the artist you want to be, then read this.)