Several years ago, I started having not-quite-epiphanies: Moments of realization in which something I already knew becomes consciously absorbed. I was not having giant light bulb moments; these weren't sudden ideas that popped into my brain out of nowhere. Rather, I experienced flashes of clarity on subjects not foreign to me. I wasn't exclaiming, "A-Ha! I get it now". Instead, I experienced a huge, "Uh-Huh. Yup. I know, but wow, that makes much more sense now."
I have repeatedly posted about my blogging comebacks, only to feel a sudden need to do so again months or even a year later due to my failure to stick around. I have trouble believing that I began this blog more than nine years ago, but when I travel back in the archives, I find my "Pilot Post" dated Feb. 26, 2004. It was an election year filled with Howard Dean's screams and, eventually, George W. Bush's earning "political capital."
I was in such a different place back then, and the way I treated this blog showed that. For one thing, I not only took this blog's name from my old column at the UCLA Daily Bruin – as described in post two on day two, Feb. 27, 2004 – but I unintentionally maintained my then 13-year-old writing habits. I described looking back at some of my old columns: "WOW, did they ever suck." But what certainly remains in those posts from my most active period of this blog -- its first two years -- is an obvious and blatant carelessness.
I'm not the most patient person. I never have been. Writing takes patience, at least good writing does, and that goes for writing in all of its forms, even the quick-turnaround variety. The emergence of blogging and the immediacy of information sharing online via Twitter et al has certainly not helped those, like me, who prefer adding im- to their patience. It has also led to the emergence of a seemingly endless amount of writing lacking adequate rewriting, proofreading or copyediting. It has created a world in which "Breaking News" is both the rumor of a relatively minor piece of information and than just hours later the "official" word that said rumor was true.
With such tight deadlines and the necessity of being first with everything to ensure that people visit your site rather than a competitor's for every piece of news or even opinion, it's understandable how mistakes make it into the final product. With plenty of professional sites, copyediting in general is an afterthought at best if not actually an even-thought.
I don't say this to critique other writers and publications out there. I'm talking about my own work and habits. Carelessness is prevalent even among many people who care a hell-of-a-lot. I never considered myself such a brilliant writer that in either my opinion pieces or my screenwriting and fiction I never made any mistakes or wrote the perfect final draft with my first draft. I just didn't have the time (I told myself) or didn't care enough (more likely). And suddenly, I do. I've drafted dozens of pieces the last few years that I've simply saved into irrelevancy on my computer but never published in this space and offered to any others. I didn't like the initial results, and I simply procrastinated returning to finish them.
With my original UCLA column, I developed a simple pattern: Have idea, write it, quickly scan for typos (i.e., run my spellcheck and therefore miss all those correctly spelled but wrong words), and submit. If the piece was too long (this was for a physical, print paper, mind you!), I'd cut as rapidly as possible. That's why my old columns "suck," to quote myself.
Sure, I was also 19-20 years old and like most people that age, had a heightened sense of self and my opinions. Plus, I was still learning how to write. But I also took pride in the conversational tone of my writing, which was another way of saying that I didn't really care that my columns were long-winded, possibly dull, and certainly not targeted to an actual "conversation" with a reader.
Don't get me wrong: I find nothing improper about a conversational tone in print, and I believe I still use one. But doing so successfully actually takes a craft; one different than simply recording one's stream-of-consciousness to the page.
When I looked at those early posts from nine years ago, I noticed the same carelessness. I wrote the same way – type, type, type, scan, publish – and I found multiple typos and several minor coding errors, i.e., forgetting a quotation mark at the end of a web link creating a completely incoherent sentence in a published post.
My last temporary comeback occurred at the end of last year. I didn't want to make promises (even to myself) that I wasn't going to keep, so when I found myself seeing a ton of theater while simultaneously searching for a way to satisfy the longing to do something creative, I wrote a few reviews before getting sidetracked again.
More importantly, I had spent the previous year-and-a-half (give-or-take) consumed with a job that kept me from my usual obsessions and joys – namely, film, TV, and theater. I thought my blog made the most sense as a place for me to start shouting back at culture and the world, even if nobody was paying attention. Hell, that was the whole purpose of Out of Focus in 2004, even if I spent those first weeks mentioning and linking and "trackbacking" to other more popular destinations in a frantic attempt to say, "Hey, look at me! I'm here now too."
I parted ways with my most recent job in early April and decided it was time to refocus my attention on those things I've danced around and avoided for most of the past two decades: my own writing and other creative projects. It has been a slow process as I continue to try to develop a routine and not get in my own way. I continuously face the reality that writing is hard. That's no epiphany, of course. That's a continuous "Uh-huh."
But with every new journey, there's always a first step, even if it's the hundredth or thousandth "first" step. So here I go...