“The problem with humor is that there is always some truth it it,” my friend Rett told me last night. We were at a party hosted by DailyCandy, the web-zine phenom that helped define the potential of online media, a party Rett described as being of an era that no longer exists—an era of Big Promotion, of spending money to make money (to spend money to make money…) His humor comment was directed at me though, and an email I’d sent out earlier in the week announcing my blog to friends and editors, the subject heading for which was, “So it’s come to this… a blog.”
“You made it sound like drudgery,” Rett said. I explained that the subject line was in reference to the fact that I am not a very online person, and that’s when he got deep with the truth-in-humor comment. But seriously. I still buy the unwieldy, finger-staining old-fashioned paper version of the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. I subscribe to no fewer than six magazines at any one time. I read actual books. Plus, I thought blogs were for aspiring writers, a way to get noticed, get what we in the old printed word culture called “clips,” because they were copies of articles clipped from real pieces of tangible paper. I was the last person I imagined would do anything online, least of all a blog.
“But are you having fun with it?” Rett asked.
I told him that I was. I was having an enormous amount of fun with it, which was the whole point. The reason I became a writer was that I felt a young, burning need to express myself—I’m not sure I even needed anyone to listen. I certainly didn’t have any childhood fantasies of seeing my name in print, and when I did begin to see my name in print, it never felt like anything to me. I often forget to tell my mom I have a story on the newsstand, and she calls, upset, when one of her friends tells her they saw it. The only reason I started writing for a living was because I needed a job and didn’t have any other ideas.
For the last ten years, as freelance writer, I have been in the position of having to convince someone else (editors) that what I had to say is worth their readers’ while. My idea not only has to be good, it has to not conflict with other stories the publication has recently run or is working on, nor, in the case of magazines especially, with the agendas of their advertisers. It’s a narrow slalom course from brilliant brainstorm to paying assignment. I used to find that course, the game of trying to convince editors to publish my work fun. The fun part of the challenge was, in part, that I wanted to write as well and have as good of ideas as the writers I saw in their pages, so with each story query, I was climbing the rungs of a ladder to someplace I imagined I wanted to be. Then somewhere along the line, things shifted. I got to the point where I felt my writing and ideas were better than half of what I saw in their pages, and this made the game exponentially more complicated. So I went back to the beginning. To writing because I liked to write. Because I had something I wanted to say. “What’s the purpose of your blog?” a print magazine editor friend asked me? There is no purpose, I told her. Isn’t that the point, or at least the prerogative, of a blog?
It’s worth mentioning here that at this same party, my friends and I were crushed over the news of Domino magazine’s closing its glossy, fabulously painted doors—within minutes of getting the news at the party, I received texts from two friends telling me the same thing. This was a huge blow to everything we print media/style people believe in. A friend on the business side of publishing pointed out that just because we adored Domino’s advice regarding side tables and paint colors, their numbers didn’t add up. “Is everything going to be online?” we asked in unison in a tone of eager desperation, as if we were asking for the total number of seats on the life rafts on the Titanic. He said he didn’t know. Only that, “It’s going to get a whole lot worse. We have no idea how bad it really is.” Of course, we all do have an idea, though you wouldn’t have known it to look around that party—all the well-healed swells enjoying all the wonderful food. “Maybe there won’t be any swag bags this year,” I said to Rett, responding to what he’d said about the era of excess being over. DailyCandy is known for their excellent, abundant swag bags, filled like Christmas stockings with freebies from advertisers. Lucky for everyone there, I was wrong. But at least I had something to blog about.