(When I write at all).
For many, many years now I have been an aspiring author. It all began back in high school in the late sixties when I took typing as an elective. Much to my own surprise I excelled at typing, and this was such a boon to me because not only was my handwriting nearly illegible it was always the case that my hand would start cramping up after only a few paragraphs. Typing, on the other hand (no pun intended), allowed me to write easily and at length. In addition, I was naturally gifted with a good spelling and grammar ability, and thanks to my teachers this gift was developed and enhanced throughout my school years. You'd have never have guessed it from my grades, though. I was a lazy student, hated homework, and refused to do any more work than absolutely necessary to just get by and pass my classes.
Since my parents recognized how good I was becoming at typing, they actually bought a used typewriter from my high school's discard inventory. As essays became more and more often required in the upper grades, this was all the more advantageous for me, and without our family typewriter I wonder if I would have ever been able to graduate high school on time with the rest of my class (1972).
Then, around 1980, while serving in the Navy on shore duty, I asked my folks if I could have the typewriter for myself, as it was not being used back at home anymore, my younger sister having graduated in 1974. Sure, they said, I could have it. So I brought it home to my little apartment, set it up on a big wooden office desk I had recently purchased, and began banging away.
Isaac Asimov had something to do with this.
I've always been an avid reader, ever since first grade. I began reading Asimov in my early twenties, and I remember reading his autobiography titled "In Memory Yet Green". One thing that struck me from reading that book was the fact that he kept a daily journal from the time he was a young man. That was how he was able to so easily pen his autobiography. He had already written the book, more or less, as he went along in his daily life. All he had to do was assemble his journal notes into a flowing, readable form, do a little editing, and submit it to his publisher. I thought, if Asimov could do it, why couldn't I? So I started keeping a journal. Lasted about two weeks.
But that two weeks showed me something about myself. I could put my thoughts down on paper with relative ease, at my leisure. If I felt I had something to say, even if only to myself, I could say it and permanently record it at the same time. I began to imagine myself a columnist (dreams of grandeur, fame, and fortune!), and so when the muse struck me I wrote. Much of that writing I still keep in my files. Looking back on those papers I realize my dreams of becoming a columnist were not so well-founded, but there was the occasional letter-to-the-editor, a contribution here and there to certain newsletters, and several junior-college essays. I was no Asimov, but I could write.
The years went by, and my writing amounted to little more than snippets of opinion, seldom venturing beyond my office, usually unpublished anywhere, even when for free. When personal computers came along, I quickly mastered the word processor. Now that was something new, and mighty handy, too! No more white-out, no more replacing the typewriter ribbon, no more stuck keys, no more wasted paper. Cut-and-paste self-editing at a keystroke. Easy re-writes, and all my writing files available at an instant, all kept in one place in computer memory, and backed up by print-outs. Now writing would really be easy for me, I thought, and surely getting published-for-pay would be a cinch. The reality-check, when it hit, was rather painful.
I discovered I just didn't have it in me to work my fingers off and and my brain out, hour after hour, day after day, only to have my writing rejected. I had never expected to become famous overnight of course, but surely I was good enough to at least get a magazine article published. Not so, it seemed. Whatever I had to say, or was trying to say, was not what the editors were looking for. In other words, I had no audience. My target readership was not interested in what I had to say. So I abandoned all pretence of ever becoming a published author.
Then the internet came along, and I was hooked. Browse here, browse there, maybe even create my own website. I would spend hours on-line every day reading the news and checking in on my favorite websites, communicating with family and friends by e-mail, even using the dating/match-making services after becoming divorced. I never did create my own website, though. Then weblogs, blogs, came along. At first I paid them little attention, thinking that in order to blog I had to have one of my own. I even opened one, but after two weeks with no reply comments I gave up on it. Blogging wasn't for me, I decided. But that was about to change.
One day, I don't remember exactly how or when, I came across Daily Kos. It wasn't that long ago though. I added Daily Kos to my bookmarks, and started checking in from time to time, "lurking" as the parlance goes here. I began to understand what this site was about, and some of the diaries really grabbed my attention. Others not so much. Some of them I felt compelled to add my two-cents worth to, but I was reluctant to become a registered user here. I'm not sure why, but I was. I had already become an anonymous commenter at other sites, and had even dared to register with a couple of them, with a pseudonym for my user name. Most of my comments were limited to a few sentences, and commenting was all I ventured to do. Daily Kos, however, as it eventually became clear to me, was different in a significant way. Such a variety of writing styles, opinions, and information was available to me here, a veritable potpourri of fact, fiction, opinion, and whimsy. Myriad postings and comments containing serious thought, dedicated research, humorous (and sad) video clips, links to other good websites and blogs. All of it free, no paid subscription required. It was time to learn more, to be sure of where I was about to go. So I read the information page about this site, who developed it and why, who the administrative editors were, and the guidelines for registering, commenting, and posting diaries. I liked what I saw. Most of all I liked the fact this this is a liberal, progressive blog, dedicated to the promotion of the Democratic party and getting more and better Democrats elected to office. It was, I decided, time to become a registered user so I could at least post comments. My own diaries, maybe, would come later. One step at a time.
That was back in January of 2008. On March 14 I screwed up my courage to post my first diary, in response to the Eliot Spitzer scandal. I was overwhelmed by the comments and recommendations it got, even though it did not make the recommended list. Certainly I never expected it to, but it did get nearly a hundred comments by other users, most of them in support of what I had written. Those that disagreed with me were, by and large, thoughtful and polite, and I had a great time responding to the comments, both the pro and the con. I had finally found a home for my writing.
So that's why I write at Daily Kos, nearly exclusively now. Markos (and all of you, DevilsTower, Bill in Portland Maine, droogie5566321, Granny Doc, iampunha, even Bethrsingleton, to name but a few of my colleagues) have given me a home for my writing. Pay's lousy (snark), but I don't care. The rewards are rich, richer perhaps than I realize. I had nearly given up on writing altogether, but Daily Kos cured that. Thank you, thank you to all.
You'll find that I don't diary all that often. That's because of a rule I have set for myself, to not write unless I feel I truly have something to say, something substantive to contribute, something that means something, if nothing else at least to me. If I can meet that criteria, then I'll give writing a diary some initial thought, and see where it goes from there. If I can't see that I've got something to say, I'll let it drop. That's one of the advantages of writing here. No obligation to write, only the obligation to write thoughtfully. I appreciate that.
And thanks for reading.
p.s.: cn4st4datrees (prounounced "seein' forrest for da' trees) now has a public e-mail: treekossack (at) gmail (dot) com. Feel free to go to my dKos homepage and use the link there to drop me a line.
p.p.s: Work for peace!