Aaaaaand scene…

…sort of.

Part of the challenge of this project was that I tried to write it in real time. While I was away, this meant that I took every second or third day to report on recent events, to catch you all up. And since I got back I have been writing “from Africa”, until the most recent post which closed the narrative part of the story.

Because of the way I took on the project, certain elements never found their way into the writing. My self-imposed deadlines required brevity and clarity, and some themes take their own sweet time to mellow into something understandable or interesting. So now I am back in Toronto, both in real- and blog-time, and I want to tease out some of those ideas. I hope you enjoy the autopsy, and I also hope that you will take the time to give me some input.

Yeah, you heard that right: I want input from you. Don’t think I didn’t obsess over my readership stats every single day – I know you’re out there: hundreds and hundreds of readers hitting my blog thousands of times. And though I heard from many of you both in the post comments and through direct email, I want more. What do you want to read more about? You can tell me. After all, I did take you to Africa.

And I was glad to have you there. No matter what the day held (usually puff adders, but sometimes more nebulous terrors like loneliness or self-doubt), coming back to my laptop to read your comments became a source of comfort… mostly. This kind of writing – so immediate, so personal – feels like running around naked. Online. With your parents watching. When one or more of you would take the time to respond I would feel light, the elation carrying me from room to room of the Kennaway. But there were times when I would post… and nothing would happen. These times were stormier.

After a while I began to pay attention to what kinds of posts elicited responses and which were swallowed by the void. You guys sure do like pictures! I could post about nothing at all (Ghost Pops) but you’d still visit for the pictures. And I noticed something else: the posts on race and class were widely read, but not widely commented on. At first I was irritated by this. Here I was tackling a terrifically complex and charged topic (and I must be honest – every time I would post on race I would be assaulted by anxiety), and you all just sat back and listened. But you didn’t, not really. I realized that these posts drew private responses. When I wrote about race I received many thoughtful, complex, and touching direct mails, so thank you.

Thank you, in fact, for all your input: the critical, the encouraging, and the downright odd. It was always appreciated. It helped me come to a very basic realization about myself: I am a writer, and like all writers I crave an audience.

I have a quote taped to my bathroom mirror. It was torn from a book of essays, author unknown, and it reads, “Writers are like those screamers who yell at you in the street, shouting the same phrases, the same words again and again and again, convinced that someone will stop and reply if they can only just get it right.” That you took the time to stop and reply made me feel like finally, I’d got it right.



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6 responses to “Aaaaaand scene…

  1. Matthew

    I think that quotation is broadly true of all communications professionals, Keph… and so I return to my desk, screaming the same key messages at the world for another week.

    Thanks, as always, for sharing!


  2. Please tell us more about the private responses to your posts about race and class…not identifying details, but the sort of sentiments and thoughts relayed to you.
    It’s true that it takes real bravery to speak about such tough and politically sensitive subjects. We shy away from thinking about them, embarrassed perhaps that such unfairness exists at all, but feeling powerless to effect much change. Maybe a bit guilty that we notice (and react to) colour and class identifiers and wish we didn’t.
    Thanks for your courage. Maybe we didn’t comment out loud, but we listened.

  3. Jack

    If I have one suggestion about your writing it’s this: resist the doubts that make you turn to a flatter, more academic style in the middle of a good hearty read. IMO you’ve never overdone the sparkling metaphors, near-photographic descriptions, or emotional and poetic phrasing. I think the instincts you display when you can’t take the time to self-criticize are spot on and need only to be put to use to become even more useful. Get the information correct but put entertainment and the pure enjoyment of reading first.

    Yes, and I’d like to read some of the responses as well. What an interesting appendix to this blog.

  4. ksenett

    Thanks to everyone who has responded, both publicly and privately. You all have a lot to say! Very cool.

    The messages that I received privately will have to stay private, but I will definitely think on how I can incorporate my own responses to these conversations.

    Keep your suggestions coming!

  5. Kelly

    Ditto Jack. Trust your own voice. It’s charming and compelling.

  6. Arami

    I just want to say I’m sorry that I didn’t comment earlier on how much I appreciated being taken to Africa. I guess, for me, posting some lame comment paled so hugely in comparison to what you were inviting me to indulge in and I didn’t think it was warranted. Reading your blogs was a lovely guilty pleasure for me, often done with me in front of the ‘puter and Darren laying behind me, reading and giggling a paragraph or two behind me. I’ll always remember that. Not often do you get to laugh out loud at an author who is actually funny (particularly if they are not British), but the fact that you are my family made it even cooler. I’m just all prouding over.

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