I started writing this post twenty years ago…
Nah. That’s not
write right. *rewind*
This post has been twenty years in the making…
Meh. Close, but still not… *rewind*
It was a dark and stormy night when I started this blog…
That’s not even close to accurate…but let’s go with it anyway, shall we?
You might have already figured out, being the alert Gazette reader I know you to be, that on November 8, 2002 (on a Friday, to be precise, at 9:07 a.m., CT, to be precise but possibly not accurate), I first put fingers to keyboard, squinted my eyes really hard to pretend like I was concentrating, and this sprang from the nothingness of my brain to became the beginning of a little undertaking I like to call the Fire Ant Gazette.
It was an inauspicious start, to be sure, but it paved the way for the equally inauspicious middle and current inauspicious continuation.
Honestly, I don’t recall exactly why I decided to start blogging. I had my own website three years before I created the Gazette, and I was publishing a few stories — mostly bicycle-related — on it before I knew very much about blogging. If my motivation had been solely about the writing, I suppose I could have continued down that path. But blogging held other attractions, like the possibility of fame and fortune.
Boy, was I naive.
Nah, I never had any illusions along those lines. At the time, I was working from the house, doing freelance website design/development, and blogging dovetailed nicely with the technical side of my work, and satisfied my admittedly minimal desires for social interaction.
Those were heady days for bloggers, pre-Facebook, and some of us developed virtual friendships via the comments sections of our sites. I still treasure some of those friendships (you know who you are), even though we’ve never met in real life, and even if the interaction comes primarily via Facebook comments.
Speaking of Facebook, there was a time when I thought that its ascension spelled the end of casual blogs like mine. I even blogged about it:
But then I realized that folks would soon tire of trivial, inane interactions and would seek out insightful, meaningful, and wise content on the web.
Despite that realization, I kept blogging.
I’m uncomfortable calling myself a writer, even though other kind souls have done so — in my heart of hearts I know I’m just a hack. OTOH, I do love words, and I like to try to string them together in a way that amuses, edifies, challenges, moves, or intrigues people who do me the immense favor of reading them. Quite often, I posted things just to keep them from disappearing from the historical record. And I confess that while I always try to write as if there is one specific person I’m talking to — you know who you are — sometimes that person is…me.
You know how many (most?) of us hate listening to recordings of our own voices? I fall into that category; to my ears, I sound like a hayseed doofus — OK, I guess that is what I am — but when it comes to what I’ve written, most of the time I enjoy reading it.
I wouldn’t say that anything I’ve written is a masterpiece, but I think some of it is pretty darned good, and I’m proud of it.
I’m also proud of the fact that I no longer feel like I need to share my opinion on everything that comes down the pike. That was actually an easy decision on my part once I admitted to myself that my opinions were too often ill-informed and dumb. Maybe I’ve matured, or maybe I just got tired of the arguing back-and-forth that accompanies those types of posts. So, now I stick with stuff I know something about, or that piques my curiosity enough to learn about it. That does limit my subject matter considerably, but it makes me happier, and I hope it does you, as well.
I made a tongue-in-cheek reference to fame and fortune above. While I may have achieved a minuscule measure of notoriety among a close circle of followers, the fortune piece was never on my radar. I never gave a thought to trying to make the Gazette a for-profit enterprise.
Early on, I made the decision to never accept advertising or even put a “tip jar” on the site (which I admit was an extremely easy decision in the early days of anonymity). This was not a purely economic consideration. Those of us who did indeed consider ourselves “citizen journalists” were sensitive to the appearance of credibility, independence, and objectivity. In fact, in 2004 I came up with the idea of forming a loose federation of like-minded bloggers, calling it the “Coalition of Unpaid Bloggers.” It got a bit of traction for a while, and we even had a cool little icon to display on our websites.
Even today, I get a couple of unsolicited pitches almost every week wanting me to either post links to commercial sites or accept third-party articles which are all thinly-veiled ads. I ignore them.
And as it turns out, like so many hobbies that we immerse ourselves in, I’ve spent a considerable amount of money on blog necessities like hosting fees, domain name registrations, and various bits of software that make blogging easier and more fun. Even the Fire Ant Gazette-branded merchandise I designed was all sold at cost.
I regret none of that investment.
Well, as with most of what I publish here, I had no plan when I started writing this post. This is, in fact, the third or fourth draft, as I tried and failed to write something that I was happy with. I’m not sure this version is any better, but as they say, it is what it is.
According to the WordPress dashboard (WP being my current blogging platform), the Gazette now consists of 1,427 posts…that’s slightly more than one post per week over the past two decades (I estimate that I’ve deleted almost 1,000 posts that are no longer relevant or accurate or non-cringe-inducing). If you were to plot posting frequency vs year, you could conclude that I’m now in the long-tail portion of the process. I’m not nearly as prolific as in the early days. But that doesn’t mean that I like what I’m doing any less. (I’m tempted to say that I’m now emphasizing quality over quantity, but I can’t even type that with a straight face.)
In the end, it’s all about you.
I realize full well that you, dear reader, always have better ways to spend your time, but your visits to the Gazette are what has fueled twenty years of my wordsmithing. I never ever take that for granted, and words actually do fail me in adequately thanking you for your support.
I feel certain there are not twenty more years of blogging in my future, but one thing’s for sure: as long as I’m able, if you’ll keep reading, I’ll keep writing.
I hope you can live with that responsibility. [insert maniacal laughing emoji here]