Here’s a thought exercise: pick a collection of things that you put together and by extension represents a part of you - the posters on your wall, the artist list on your iPod or your DVDs on your shelf. Chances are there’s a lot of stuff that is reasonably similar, and a few that are unexpected. What is the common thread running through all of these things, besides the fact you chose them? Surely there’s a more fundamental force underlying these choices than simply because you ‘like’ something. In my experience, asking why these things are there rather than simply taking your preferences for granted quickly becomes a pretty abstract, philosophical process. The question becomes not about preferences but about identity.
If someone asked me what my main interests were today, I’d say music, sport, technology, and politics. That’s because I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking about and being engaged by these topics. Writing has never been one of those things. At university upwards of ten thousand word a semester, but that was mostly a means to an end. At high school, apart from music and maths, pretty much all of my assessments were focused on my written work. But it was never something I did for fun, at least not with any regularity. That’s what this site this is about: a commitment to working ideas into completed posts on a consistent basis. I’ve enjoyed the few things I’ve done so far, and I have a few ideas sitting in the queue, so it’s all good on that front. But there’s one thing that sits in the back of my mind as I put the first series of posts together – what is this site about?
My approach could be scattergun, writing about whatever takes my interest at any given time. That’s appealing to me one level, because with no limits I can simply go in any direction I feel like, but it can foster laziness. Also, it is very difficult to establish any sort of audience, beyond friends and family, with this approach. Conversely, I could be more disciplined and write exclusively on one of my areas of interest. These subjects already have established online communities, and in some ways the easier path would be to try to attract the attention of some of these people. But I’d want to be way better than established people in any of those fields, or way more specialised. I can’t write about tech better than Gruber, nor can I improve on the analysis of Michael Cox at Zonal Marking. I don’t want to be a second rate version of someone else, regardless of how much I love their work.
I have no aspirations to a huge audience, I just think it’d be nice to have some new people find the site and think it was interesting enough to put me into their Google Reader. I get so much from my RSS feeds each and every day that it’d be an honour to have my work enriching someone else’s morning reading or daily commute.
What I am searching for is that common thread, a unifying theme for all of these pieces. These words are just like posters on the wall, reasonably public displays of aggregated identity . I don’t know what the theme is yet. Turns out it’s pretty difficult to put a two word label on your whole life. For now, I’m just going to focus on turning ideas into articles, and make them as interesting and as enlightening as they can be. If this project was ever going to be successful, it was going to have to be a journey. Feel free to come along.