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.