This is Tom Coates’ fault.
A few weeks ago, Tom’s blog – Plasticbag.org – suddenly reappeared on my RSS reader. In that moment, I was whisked a dozen years back in time.
Back to 2008 when Tom’s blog, along with Zoe’s and Ruth’s and Tim’s and Markos’ and scores more I’ve forgotten, was on my list of essential daily reads.
2008, the year I sold all my possessions and moved full-time into hotels and began blogging in earnest to an audience of many six friends and twelve enemies and a dog. About my travels, the writing of my first real book, my various hirings and firings at the Guardian and the Telegraph and my eventual arrival at TechCrunch. 2008 was the year I first met Sarah.
Seeing Tom’s blog suddenly reawaken prompted me to dig out all those old posts, which for some reason I’d kept, archived in a big xml file on a plastic USB stick. I expected to find all of it very embarrassing, and I wasn’t disappointed. 2008 was still two years before I got sober and in the gaps between posts I got flashbacks of two day hangovers and police cells and beastly behavior towards good people who didn’t deserve any of it.
Still, for all my youthful awfulness there was something therapeutic about reading back all those old posts. The me of 2008 was dirt poor and desperate to scramble out of obscurity. You could feel it back then in every post – in every mention of a new book I was pitching, or a column I’d just written for some obscure German magazine. But what I didn’t know at the time was that eventually the desperation would paid off. The blog would become a book, then another book, then that job at TechCrunch, and a very public resignation live on CNN, followed by a trip to Vegas…
Fast forward >>>
Twelve years later, I’m more than a decade sober and by any measure you care to use I’ve achieved more than I could have imagined back in my blogging days. Today I have money in the bank, a Green Card in my wallet, and a house with a pool, and a fancy car parked in the garage. All of which came from my own writing, or from founding companies that paid other people to write.
My friends – the ones I used to write about back in 2008 – have fast forwarded too. Michael and Alex are now paper billionaires thanks to Calm. Basti is about to take Postmates public. Others are venture capitalists or media moguls or million-selling diarists or, in one unfortunate edge case, a celebrity Nazi.
I don’t say any of this to sound smug (not just to sound smug) and I certainly don’t say it blind to the role that privilege played in allowing me to fail so sharply upwards. But rather in some weird hope that, just as the new me read through all those old posts and felt like I was back in the room with the old me, somehow the old me can look forward in time and have his mind blown.
Your friends are right, old Paul: If you just put the fucking bottle down you could actually achieve something. It’s not too late. You don’t die at 30. Also, please start going to the gym. And floss.
I also bring all of this up because I think it explains why I stopped blogging. That hunger – that need for someone – anyone – to listen. That idea that some of the famous tech people I threw rocks at might read the blog and know my name. That need to posture that I was doing exciting, important, successful things – as if posturing could bring them into being. All of that is why I wrote those hundreds of posts. Look at me! Hire me! Love me!
Now I’m 40, not 28, and I’m not hungry any more. I’m full. I’m one of the people at whom others (often deservedly) throw rocks. And when occasionally I do throw them, the people they hit threaten to spend a million dollars to attack my girlfriend’s family. That’s a whole different ballgame. A much less fun ballgame. Writing is work. Unpaid writing is masochism. Did I mention I have a pool? I could be swimming right now.
But then I dug out the blog archive and started reading and I remembered how much fun it was to write knowing almost nobody was reading, and not knowing what adventure the next post might trigger. What was that George Bernard Shaw quote Michael used as the slogan for Firebox? “You don’t stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing.”
Maybe it’s the same with blogging.
In which case, what better kind of midlife crisis than to make a fresh WordPress install, upload the old archives and start throwing shit at the wall again? Worst case it’ll remind me why I stopped.
And what better timing? For the past few months, I’ve been working on a book. It’s a different genre to anything I’ve written before so, just like in the old days, I’ve virtually no chance of finding a publisher. I also have no editor breathing down my neck, or readers pleading for me to finish. That was another great thing about blogging: It’s both a great motivator to keep writing and an excellent way to distract from the actual word count. Watch this space!
So yes. Welcome back to the blog. I don’t expect anyone is reading this but, if you are, hello again world.
And do say hello back: email@example.com
(PS I’m going to go back through my various harddrives and add in posts and other detritus I find to fill in some gaps between then and now.)