This is an introductory post. Logically, you might expect someone’s what-seems-to-be-a-travel-blog’s introductory post to be about setting: Where they are, how they got there, what they’ve eaten, what they’re looking forward to. And as charming and easy to write as that would be, I’m not going to write that kind of post because I don’t want to read the kind of websites that that kind of post is introducing. I desperately want to avoid calling these things “blog posts,” but in order to rightfully do that I have to genuinely not think of them as blog posts and therefore they have to actually not be blog posts.
Listen along to this entry
Hence, “Diaries.” Darwin kept diaries. Anne Frank kept diaries. Lewis and Clarke probably kept diaries and they were probably awesome. Also a lot of ten-year-old girls keep diaries that are probably not that awesome, but because that’s what most of us associate the word with, putting it in the name of the website shows a lack of concern about my masculinity, which is itself masculine because somehow it was decided that it’s masculine to not give a fuck.
Anyway, I don’t want these posts to be like ten-year-old girl diaries, and I don’t want them to be… blog posts. I want them to be challenging to write and even more challenging to hit the “publish” button on. I want them to be vulnerable and therefore “real” and therefore hopefully compelling because all the reasons I have for not making them vulnerable are bad reasons:
- People might judge me
- People might not want to talk to me after
- Or be my friend
- Or hire me
While all the reasons I have for making them vulnerable are good reasons:
- Writing them will be more fluid and feel better without a filter of hesitation
- I can struggle along through things I don’t know and maybe know them better because of it
- It will be compelling for you to read
- The people who matter will appreciate it and respond well and maybe be able to actually help me with actual problems
Because here’s the thing I wanted to say when I started writing this: I am currently up to my neck in means. By that, yes, I of course mean that as a well-to-do white American living in rural Africa I have a hugely disproportionate amount of resources and “human capital” and routes of problem solving compared to the local median, but I also mean that 21st century creative/communicative technology has given myself and any of you who’ve found a way to read this post an astounding assortment of means for creating and communicating things of value. The kitchen is fully stocked with pots and pans, cutlery and cookware; what’s missing is the chef and the ingredients. I’m currently writing this in Google Docs, but I could be doing so in Evernote or Microsoft Word or straight into my WordPress publishing form, all of which are designed by large teams of brilliant people to give me a means of expressing myself myself in sentences and words with as little interference as possible. I’m publishing this via an independently hosted WordPress site, but I could be doing so on Tumblr or Facebook or SquareSpace or even goddamn MailChimp if I wanted to. If you are a person with a laptop and an internet connection and something to say in the 21st century, the only thing stopping you from saying it is your own fear.
For me, that fear usually breaks down into:
- Maybe when you sit down to write out the brilliant thing you have to say, it won’t come out articulated as beautifully as it is in your imagination.
- Maybe, even if it is brilliantly articulated, when other people see it they may judge that it is actually not that brilliant.
Right now, as I sit here and write these words, this whole thing feels more than anything like an exercise in overcoming those two fears. Because they’re silly fears. Because:
- Yes, of course it won’t be articulated as brilliantly as it is in your head, but what are you going to do about that? Wait around until you have the means to truly and gloriously manifest it into a lexical symphony?
- If it’s actually not that brilliant, then it’s actually not that brilliant. You’re better off being made aware of that now (however harsh it feels) than spending the rest of your life as a stumbling chump clutching to a bad idea and not telling anyone about it.
I should probably make one thing clear if it isn’t already; I’m writing and publishing these diaries for myself.
Well, that sounded more stand-offish than I meant it to. I wanted it to sound a bit stand-offish so that it would be surprising and attention-grabbing and make the point it’s making, but not so stand-offish that it makes a reader feel unwelcome.
So I’m sorry reader– you’re super welcome here and thank you for being a part of this by reading it and responding to it would be even better and I definitely should have said all that like 600 words ago. But, yeah, I’m still writing these diaries for myself. Because thinking too much about an audience on the other side of these words would probably paralyze me into inaction. Because it in fact has paralyzed me into inaction for the sixteen days I’ve already been here.
…And because I’m careening into adult life with the impending need to start precipitating a career out of the solvents that are my interests and skills, and part of me is just egotistic enough to think that my brain might play a supporting character (okay, ideally a protagonist) in the ever-unfolding narrative/thriller called “The 21st Century” (subhead: ‘Will we achieve utopia soon enough to avoid certain dystopia?’). And if that egotistic part of me is wrong, I’m best off figuring that out sooner rather than later so I can get the hell out of this Messianic Stage and start developing the skills of being satisfied with a rightfully satisfactory life that unfortunately does not include being internet famous like a hundred million other people are trying to be.
That’s the other thing about diaries: they’re written for the author. If someone like Darwin writes particularly extraordinary ones and people find them later on and revere him/her for them then that’s a bonus (or not, depending on your perspective), but whether or not that happens is not relevant to the measure of a “successful” diary.
Now, because they are diaries, they might sound a little erratic, and the structure and organization of them might shift around a lot in a way that’s confusing for you, Dear Reader. At least now I can permanently give the excuse of “Well this isn’t for you anyway.” Before I arrived to Uganda I was planning on separating entries into “personal updates” and long-form, well-researched, difficult-to-write “expositions”, but time will tell whether that formula seems to work… for me.
Like the podcast, at the moment I’m just happy to have this first one up and out there into the world. The ball is rolling, so now we’ll see whether it gathers snow. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I look forward to seeing where it goes with you.