In the Arena

Self-Referential Feedback Loop

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Let me respond to Ezra Klein’s response to Justin Fox’s delightful bit about us mainstream sorts trying to be bloggers.
Now, I like Ezra. He’s a smart guy. We have the same last name and all…But he’s wrong about this:

But in this new medium — which their editors and marketing folks keep telling them they need to compete in — they’ve lost a lot of the security they once had.

To which I can only say, what security? Speaking for myself–and you can check it with my colleagues and bosses–I’m terrified each week when it comes to column-writing time. Need to be sure I haven’t made any mistakes or taken intellectual short-cuts, need to be sure I’m saying something sorta new, need to be sure I haven’t let my anger get the better of me…One of my first editors, in the underground press in Boston around the dawn of time, said: “You’re only as good as your last column.” He was joking, I think, but…I’m still biting my toes each week waiting to see if the editor likes it or not. (And if you want some real serious insecurity, try having a piece fact-checked and copy-edited at the New Yorker.)
In fact, I think Ezra is suffering from a fundamental misapprehension about the nature of writers and writing: we’re all scared, if we’re honest. We tend toward the infantile, constantly looking for reassurance. We live badly. Our lives are shorter than those, say, of certified public accountants. Check out the actuarial tables. Hell, I’m sitting here right now, round midnight, with a major league vodka, trying to snooker the gods of darkness into giving me a half-decent sleep. See, I’m writing this really difficult piece and…

Anyway, I have some strong feelings, pro and con, about blogging–and I’ll let them marinate until I feel confident enough to spring them upon a breathlessly waiting commentariat–but insecurity? Sure. More insecurity than usual? Nah.

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