My dear friend Scott Rosenberg has written a great book, titled Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters. Due from Crown (which also published his wonderful first book, Dreaming in Code) in July, it’s bound to instantly become the definitive account of weblog history. (If you know of my background as a former copyeditor, you will appreciate the level of excitement that it took to elicit that split infinitive in the last sentence.) But Say Everything is way more than that: It’s a also a page-turner about start-ups and falling-aparts (in love and business), the fascinating (and seemingly eternal) tensions between commerce and idealism, the awesome power of our urge to communicate, and the sometimes unbearable pain of being “flamed.” And many other things — all of them happening to be vitally meaningful to me in my life right now.
To take one: the pitfalls of autobiography. As a monologuist who makes a living talking about myself to strangers, I’ve had to navigate the border between public and private with increasing sensitivity. Mostly, this has to do with my wife and son, who are at the center of my life. I want to preserve their privacy, and also maintain a sanctified family space for myself. At the same time, my natural impulse as a performer is to talk about what is most important to me — which would naturally include a lot about … my wife and son. So there’s something of a dilemma. The same goes with my early attempts here at blogging: I want to write with the kind of intimacy that will honor the attention of my visitors, but I am still determined to preserve that privacy zone around my family.
What to do? Well, I haven’t figured it out yet. But I’ve gotten an enormous amount of guidance (both inspirational and cautionary) from the stories told in Say Everything. I’ve learned about bloggers who started out spilling their guts, then closed down completely to save their personal relationships, then found a workable middle ground (or didn’t). I’ve seen how blogging — which Scott shows, thrillingly, to have emerged organically from the very DNA of the Internet — continually confronts its practitioners with a myriad of crises and opportunities (or, as Homer Simpson would call them, “crisis-tunities”). And, as with all of Scott’s incredible writing — online and off- — in the end, I have found myself feeling profoundly hopeful, somehow.
In fact, among its many salutary effects, Say Everything has sparked me to get back to writing this blog — after a too-long hiatus — and not remain paralyzed by my usual (and often crippling) fear of my writing not being good enough, or too revealing, or too un-revealing. By rejoining this remarkable movement of self-revelators, and by just doing my best, I am happy enough making my own tiny, imperfect, incremental contribution to a sprawling history of these times. I don’t have to say everything: there’s a whole blogosphere for that — messy, democratic, running in reverse chronological order, and dodging trolls all the way.