Disclaimer: I mean no disrespect to other bloggers and writers on any of the platforms that this is read. I do however, mean to disrespect the current ad-driven, marketing-centric model that dominates the blogging and internet writing landscape, which seems to reward quantity over quality.
In Walden, Henry David Thoreau tells a story about a Native American who weaves a basket and tries to sell it to a well-known lawyer in town. The lawyer refuses, saying he does not want any, astonishing the Native American. Thoreau writes: “Having seen his industrious white neighbors so well off – that the lawyer had only to weave arguments, and, by some magic, wealth and standing followed – he had said to himself: I will go into business; I will weave baskets. Thinking that when he had made the baskets he would have done his part, and then it would be the white man's to buy them. He had not discovered that it was necessary for him to make it worth the other's while to buy them, or at least make him think that this was so...“
Words have no physical value. You cannot make bread from them, you cannot hold them in your hands or use them to clothe you, they cannot set a broken leg straight. They do, however, have a monetary value. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Disney, Stephen King, YouTubers, Podcasters, Songwriters... the products they make their millions from are built with words. It is not so much that the products themselves are intrinsically valuable, but we have been convinced that they are worth our while.
Do not misunderstand. I love words. I love reading. I love writing. Words have unlimited potential, and they will never die as a medium because they allow humanity to communicate through time and space in a beautifully simple way. Thousands of years from now a galactic colonist could read Les Misérables on a spaceship, and be just as enthralled with the story of Jean Valjean as a Parisian who lived through the time period during which the story was written. They may not understand as much of the context, but the soul of Hugo's writing shines through in an immortal way.
My dream job is to be a writer.
I thought I could do it. I thought I could play the game in order to do what I love, but I got sidetracked from my real goal. I wrote with heart. I didn't try to follow trends. I tried to avoid the psychological trap of pining for success, but I failed. I spent far too much time and emotional energy looking at my reads and likes and claps and re-tweets. Heck, I never even got over fifty followers and I still obsessed over it. I was shallow, and I should have known better. I stopped writing for the thoughts and the words. My original goal was displaced by a hollow measure of visible success.
There is actually psychological precedent that supports this.
Gordon Allport wrote in The Functional Autonomy of Motives: “A good workman feels compelled to do clean-cut jobs even though his security, or the praise of others, no longer depends upon high standards. In fact, in a day of jerry-building his workman-like standards may be to his economic disadvantage. Even so he cannot do a slipshod job. Workmanship is not an instinct, but so firm is the hold it may acquire on a man that it is little wonder Veblen mistook it for one... What was once an instrumental technique becomes a master-motive.”
Harold Lasswell said it more succinctly: “the human animal distinguishes himself by his infinite capacity for making ends of his means.“
Whether you like it or not, the world judges success in the writing community by followers, likes, sales. We do it because the impact of words is so hard to measure, and the likes give us something to point to and say: “Hey look! All that work was worth something!” It is not that likes and comments are evil, just that they so easily supplant the original (and more important) motivation to write. In my case I started thinking more about how certain posts would perform rather than the quality of the words themselves. I made an end of my means.
Another problem was my conscience.
According to a peer-reviewed study, “unethical acts led to more subjective body weight”. That is: the weight of a guilty conscience is more than just a metaphor; it can be experienced physically. What does this have to do with where I publish my blog posts?
See, I'm a nerd. I love Linux, I love open source software and the movement for a more open web. I migrated/am migrating from Gmail and Google because I believe too much power in the hands of anyone, whether it be the government or a tech company, can lead to bad consequences for the common man. I deleted Facebook for the same reason (also who even enjoys their time on Facebook any more?). I believe that the tools and systems people use are just as ethically important as what they do with them. I want to do what I love with the tools that I love, which is why I have decided to quit Medium and Wordpress.
The new home for my writing will be on write.as, which is an open, non-ad driven, federated platform that I can be confident will remain under my ownership.
Here is what you can expect if you follow me:
- Two essays per month (at least) about writing, storytelling, government, philosophy/religion, technology, or anything else I am interested in. I will research the subject and employ critical thinking to the best of my ability.
- A regularly updated collection of fiction on Tapas. My debut novel, a character driven fantasy set on a planet that rotates once a year, with magic inspired by theoretical physics and Lovecraftian horror, is being updated with a new episode once a week.
- Engagement (if you want to discuss interesting topics) at least once a day on Mastodon or Twitter.
- A commitment to open source technology and libre everything. I run Solus Linux and try to utilize open source tools for pretty much everything I do.
- I also make music casually on Soundcloud.
If you appreciate what I am trying to do, consider supporting me on Liberapay (open source Patreon).