The Fable of Why This Blog is C2E2’s Fault

Midlife Crisis Crossover, Randall A. Golden

Portrait of the would-be writer at C2E2 2012. Appropriate soundtrack: the theme from Laverne & Shirley.

Once upon a time there was a guy from Indiana who wrote a lot in college, took classes for it, thought that majoring in a related field would be the right choice, dropped out without credentials, stopped writing, but never stopped reading or wishing he would make time to think of reasons to write.

Years later the Internet was formed through the progressive efforts of the American military-industrial complex and The Secret Cabal of College Geniuses. When the general public was granted access to this “Internet” wonderland, entire generations of young adults worldwide ages 13-73 turned written communication into their favorite pastime. 95% of those adults decided this fun pastime would make an amazing career track.

The guy admired their line of thinking, but by then had too many bills and responsibilities to gamble on such a radical career switch, especially with no real vision or direction to guide him. His expectations were humble and perhaps a little pessimistic. While this new medium was a wondrous opportunity to reengage in a prized activity from a previous chapter in his life, he kept his participation at a strictly leisurely level. He found himself prone to churning out large chunks of writing for various activities within his online communities — Usenet, message boards, etc. Even when he began his first blog in 2006 (unless one counts LiveJournal), it was strictly a whimsical indulgence for himself and for some of his online friends, a few of whom even noticed.

One of his communities even provided an opportunity to become one of several writers for a “geek news” page. Absolutely no form of money was involved or even implied, but he was allowed all the space, latitude, and WordPress software training he needed to try a new form of writing and perhaps reach a wider audience. Despite countless hours sacrificed over the course of a year, that experiment died an acrimonious, pitiless death that deserves a separate entry to explore in some future entry. The guy would love to show MCC readers a few examples from that era, but some thoughtless, unidentified clod recently deleted the “news” page and every last article it contained. Though physical traces of this experience no longer exist, it nonetheless broadened his horizons, forced him to try new things, helped him loathe HTML a little less, and made him wonder what it might be like to write regularly for an audience of more than ten people.

One day in 2012 the guy and his splendiferous wife were planning their second trip to C2E2, during a time in which the guy had divested himself of numerous responsibilities, had more free time on his hands for a while, and was itching to flex his writing muscles once again. Two of his all-time most supportive online friends pointed him to an interesting cattle-call notice from a popular specialty news site seeking volunteers to write articles about various aspects of the three-day comics/entertainment convention.

Under normal circumstances, the guy knew he was, at best, interchangeable Internet writing guy #2,194,773. Submissions to any writing thing anywhere for any reason seemed pointless in a world where any submissions call no doubt draws millions of responses from aspiring young hopefuls and established professionals alike. The guy preferred to keep his writing enjoyable and his rejection-letter collection at zero.

However, two key sentences in the announcement caught his eye and gave him fanciful thoughts:

This is a paid position [emphasis theirs]…

All e-mails will be responded to.

The guy was dumbstruck at the very idea of such above-and-beyond generosity. Encouraged by the two online chums and his wife, the guy decided to throw humility and caution to the wind, and emailed the site owner with an intro of sorts and links to several relevant examples of what he’d done for the moribund “news” site, which had been kept intact as an archive up to that point.

In the week-‘n’-a-half that passed between the guy’s email submission and C2E2 2012, the guy received no response from the site owner. On the off chance that luck might still be with him in the form of a response after the fact, the guy decided to take photos and notes when he attended C2E2, because you just never know. His wife took photos as well. It’s just this thing they liked doing together anyway for their own enjoyment.

The guy decided on two panels he wanted to attend, and planned to take copious notes for the purposes of doing something useful with them after the fact, even if nothing came of the submission. Upon arriving at the first panel, he was discouraged to notice an older woman, clearly a professional journalist, sitting in the front row apart from all other attendees. She’d brought a laptop, an audio recording device, an expensive camera, and what appeared to be years of high-speed transcription experience. She was doing what he kindasorta wished he could do, except he had no formal training, no degree, and no real desire for straightforward, objective, bloodless writing bereft of personal viewpoint. When she also showed up at the second panel to perform the same service with the same level of training, he half-listened to the panel and half-watched her hard at work.

He felt jealous at the time, but he was also struck by two important Morals of the Story that Saturday:

1. Some modes of writing will never be his forte — may, in fact, never be enjoyable for him — and it’s silly to be jealous of those folks who’ve found contentment in mastering those.

2. Why should he wait for someone else to assign him reasons to write? Why not just write for himself and see what happens? Better yet, why not write to see why he could or should be writing, and see what other revelations result from the process?

Thirteen months later, that same site owner has yet to respond to that April 2012 email despite the publicly posted promise, and the guy is beginning to think he never will. The owner opted to run articles by that front-row journalist covering each of those panels, and was wise to do so. From a business perspective, the owner did nothing wrong except make a generous promise he couldn’t realistically keep.

Meanwhile, the guy decided to stop waiting for other people to ask him to write things, and instead set up his own online workspace, which would require him to be publisher, editor, proofreader, photographer, photo editor, production assistant, unqualified graphics designer, and resourceless amateur marketer all in one, in addition to the whole “writing” thing that he’d wanted to do in the first place. Some things became easier with time, experience, experimentation, and trial ‘n’ error. Once he’d been up and running for two months, he even dug out the C2E2 notes he’d kept in reserve and and turned them into a pair of entries. So all that note-taking wasn’t entirely in vain.

And Midlife Crisis Crossover lived happily ever after. Except on those days of low traffic and/or intense sleep deprivation because of art. It’s worth noting that if C2E2 hadn’t been so captivating and inspiring, all of this might not have happened in the first place.

Okay, yes, there were a dozen other factors at play, too. But C2E2 is far from innocent in this.

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