On Ten Years of Writing Whatever

Well, first off, it doesn’t feel that long ago, but then, one of the things you learn as you get older is that very few things actually feel like “that long ago.” The past is always closer to the present than it’s assumed to be.

Second, for something that was basically a way to goof off, it’s funny how integral Whatever has become to my professional life. I’ve gotten lots of writing gigs because people like what I write here, sold dozens of Whatevers as reprints, had four books published because their contents were here first and won a Hugo, for crying out loud, for the things I write in this space. I suspect I would have been successful as a freelance writer and novelist without Whatever, and I also suspect that if I were to leave Whatever behind, I would still do just fine. But there’s no doubt in my mind that writing here has made lots of things easier.

Third, I think that I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, as far as blogging went. There is some value in being a first generation blogger — being one of the people who did it before it was known as “blogging,” and did it for the hell of it, rather than doing it because everyone else was doing it, or because the rumor was it was useful for your career, or because it seemed like a good way to get free money through advertising, or whatever reason people felt compelled, sometimes against their own personal interest, to put themselves online. This site had none of those expectations; it was just a place for me to keep writing in a certain way. It is what it is because of this complete lack of plan. Naturally, this suits me because I like the idea of doing things just to see what will happen. It also means that whatever happens with the site will be fine with me. When you have no plan, you can’t say things didn’t go the way you expected, because you had no expectations to start.

I think it’s also something people like about this place — that it’s sort of an overgrown, organic thing rather than something designed from the start as an eyeball magnet, or a place for authorial marketing, or whatever. This isn’t to say that I don’t promote myself or write stuff here I figure people will link to — I do both, quite obviously — but I think it’s also clear that there’s a lot here that’s here simply because I want to say something about it, or because it amuses me, or both. Which is to say it’s a not-entirely-inaccurate reflection of me: easily amused, easily bored, messy, interested in lots of stuff, somewhat egotistical, and sometimes just plain weird (by the way, I didn’t end up drinking the pickle juice yesterday. Just seemed like a beverage too far, you know?).

Fourth, sometimes Whatever is a real pain in my ass. Believe it or not, there are entire weeks and occasionally whole months when I just don’t want to post a damn thing here, but I feel obliged to, not in the least because (no joke) if I skip I day I get actual concerned e-mail wondering if I’ve fallen down a well or something. Now, mind you, part of that is merely me pushing the blame for my own vague OCD-like compulsion to post onto other people. But on the other hand it can be a real challenge to balance the time I put in here with the time I spend doing other things (notably, writing novels). One of the things I’m confronting about myself is that I really suck at time management, and this is one of places where I suck at it the most.

(Indeed, if I ever do put advertising on the site, one of the reasons I have in my head to do it is so I can hire an assistant who can do all the mundane stuff, like, oh, mail out copies of books I’ve promised to people, so I can just keep doing all the goofy, easy crap, like writing. I could have Krissy do it, but, you know, she has a job, and it doesn’t involve me. Now, mind you, if I get an assistant, he or she would assist me in other things aside from the Web site. But helping me around this place would be one of the big duties.)

In any event, I do love writing the Whatever; it’s why I do it. But sometimes it really is like a job, and sometimes I just want to leave it alone. I don’t think you do any sort of work for as long as I’ve done this without feeling that way from time to time. Don’t worry it’s not you. In fact,

Fifth, this site has had five years without comments and five years with them, and the five years with them have been better, because the people who comment here are (usually) smart and civil and good people. I think it’s really neat there’s a community of folks here, because in many ways it makes what I do here easier; sometimes when I don’t feel like writing much of anything I just point you folks in the general direction of a topic and off you go. Makes the place interesting and I don’t have to do a damn thing. So thanks for that.

Also, in general, thanks for your tolerance of me, because, as many of you know, some days having an argument with me is like walking into a buzz saw, and yet most of you forgive me for that, which I appreciate.

Sixth, and finally, I have no idea where Whatever goes from here, except to say I expect Whatever will go on from here. Aside from that: who knows. As mentioned earlier, Whatever began without a real plan, and it’s worked so far. I think I’ll keep at it that way.

But I can plan this much, and that is to say that whether you’ve been reading Whatever since the early days or just started reading this week, thank you for reading. It’s meant a lot to me in the last decade. Thank you for being a part of it all.

And now: Moving forward.


Indulge My Curiosity

The first day I wrote on Whatever, it got maybe 50 visitors, mostly old friends who I alerted by way of e-mail. Now it gets a few more visitors than that. My question for you: To the best of your recollection, when did you start reading Whatever? How did you find it? I’m just curious as to how people came here. If you don’t mind sharing, I’d like to know. Thanks.


Of Slightly Lesser Import

Today is also the second anniversary of the Bacon Cat incident. To mark the occasion, I arranged for a special reunion:

Let’s just say it was not as harmonious a reunion as one might have hoped. Oh well. Maybe next year.


What Ten Years of Whatever Looks Like

As seen through the magic of blog titles. The first is from 1998; the final one from 2007. To see the latest, just look up.

Will the title art change again? Oh, I think we all know the answer to that, don’t we.


Whatever X, Day XIII

Today’s the day: The actual 10th anniversary of Whatever. How better to note it than by going back to the very beginning — which, as we’ve been told, is a very good place to start — and looking at how I imagined the Whatever would be like a decade past.

SEPTEMBER 13, 1998: Introduction to Whatever

Hey, there. I’ve decided to try something a little new for me here at this website — for a little while, at least, I’m going to try to update this front page on a regular basis with new text; the idea here being to give folks who come to the website a reason to come back on a somewhat regular basis.

This isn’t a new idea, by any stretch of the imagination. The internet is nothing if not a fount of unbridled egos splooging their opinions out to whomever is within browsing distance, regardless of the quality (or coherency) of those opinions; my pal Ivan Brunetti’s cartoon comment here says it all.

A number of people out there even keep “online diaries”: One of my personal favorites is from James Lileks, who updates his site on a daily basis. It shows a certain stick-to-it-iveness that I admire, although I’m not sure that this own space will be updated with the same frequency. I am inherently lazy and will, whenever possible, avoid doing more work than I have to.

Be that as it may, I have several reasons for deciding to do the regular online update. As a writer, one of the things I have done most regularly, and which I think I am pretty good at, is write columns. I’ve been a columnist on various subjects off and on for most of the last decade, and it’s something that I enjoy.

Right now, I’m sort of between columns; I write a music column once a week for MediaOne Express, and I’m extremely grateful that MediaOne folks have seen fit to pay me to write one; please visit the column several times daily to inflate the hit results, if you wouldn’t mind.  Still, there’s only so much you can comment on in a music column (hint: It’s mostly music). In the absence of having another column at the moment, I’ll just use this space as my own little soapbox to comment about other things that are going on in the world.

I hesitate, however, to call anything I write in this space a proper column; that would bespeak of a certain amount of organizational structure that I can’t really seeing myself applying (it’s that laziness thing, remember). Nor would I really call it an “online diary” — Starr report notwithstanding, I think there’s a certain line beyond which personal lives ought to remain personal; I don’t plan on using this space to foist my deepest, darkest secrets on the internet. I can’t imagine most people would care all that much (especially as there won’t be pictures).

Probably the best thing to call this is a “.plan”. Plan files, for the blissfully technologically ignorant, are small files that reveal who a holder of a particular internet account is (by way of the “finger” function. Don’t ask). Plan files generally hold very basic information, but a few folks who have them use them as a place to jot down their thoughts on their life, world events, sports, movies, what have you. In short, a place to muse, somewhat publicly. It’s not about anything in particular, just what that person is thinking at that moment.

That’s what I figure this will be. Nothing especially deep, just a random thought or two I feel like sharing. My expectation is that I’ll update this every couple of days; drop by when you feel like and see what the hell is going on in my brain.  E-mail if you like, or go on in and look at other parts of the site. Hope you enjoy it.

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