When I tiptoed into this space on the Fourth of July — an expat igniting a tiny sparkler — I posed the question in the headline above.
I concluded with the conviction that writing without being read – or paid – is masturbation.
Pounding the keyboard for more than a month, I have ejaculated eight pieces.
They have been read by family and friends, former colleagues and former students and, I hope, some people who now know me only through my work.
Five of the eight were picked up by Huffington Post Canada, a landfill of Web recyclables.
For a while, I made these donations with the hope my stories would find a wider readership, even catch the eye of an editor interested in paying for my brand of media criticism.
Regardless, I recently resolved to not buy another round for unappreciative amateurs, reside on a page alongside hacks, flacks and hobbyists, or address the awful state of the media while abetting one of its sub-species.
So, for now, I will continue masturbating in the privacy of my own site.
I also said in my initial exercise that I needed to start writing again. I didn’t say that, after a long layoff, I needed to find out whether the words would come again.
Writing is hard work. Red Smith likened it to opening a vein.
A colleague during my days at the Toronto Sun said I smiled when I typed. I don’t think I’m smiling anymore. I strain for the right word more often than I used to, but no longer fear full-blown writer’s Alzheimer’s.
My pal Judy – who has donated her time as an editor on most of these pieces – says what I am doing is good therapy.
Equally therapeutic is publicly cuffing the media. As I told an unprepared and out-of-her-depth radio interviewer, it was time to stop bitching on the couch and start bitching at the keyboard.
The most jarring moment in the radio interview was being introduced as a blogger. I hate the word.
I view this space as a collection of op-ed columns. If you consider this presumptuous or pretentious – fuck you.
The freedom to use such language when appropriate is liberating. Unlike most mainstream media, I do not tailor my sentences for children under the age of eleven, prudes or religious zealots.
That said, the only false start I’ve had in the past month is a column updating George Carlin’s list – from the early 1970s – of “the seven dirty words you can’t say on television”: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits.
I watch a lot of television – news (argh), sports, movies, drama series and comedy shows like Jon Stewart (sob), Bill Maher and John Oliver.
I don’t understand why some words are bleeped and others are not. (HBO and the premium movie channels are free to air any expletive and depict a gynecologist’s view of sex.)
For example, why on most shows is it okay to say every slang word for penis but none for vagina?
I contacted the executive director of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, who responded quickly to all my questions, and a flack for Bell Media, who refused to talk to me.
No matter. The piece didn’t gel.
After I posted my first column, a couple of my younger former colleagues, still up to their throats in the daily drama at high-powered news outlets, scolded me for writing about Brian Williams and not the contretemps roiling the Canadian media universe.
I did attempt to adjudicate the case of Paul Watson v Toronto Star – brought to my attention by one of these treasured friends – because it illuminated a farcical collision of idiotically inflated egos.
A note: Any story ideas are welcome, though there are ample instances of media malfeasance and lunacy screaming at me during my daily routine of visiting various news sites and watching TV.
You may have noticed I have offered links to a couple of my previous columns and the radio interview. File that under the prevailing practice of alerting correspondents – in case you missed it.
But the pervasiveness of links elsewhere baffles me. Why are so many so anxious to promote detours from their sites? And why would any writer afford the reader an opportunity to stop reading?
I am, however, currently working on a column that will encourage you to break away – and hopefully return – to read and view a few cherished pieces by two of my favorite storytellers.
In the meantime, thanks for reading, for sending messages and comments of encouragement and praise, for heeding my shameless plea for “followers” and Twitter flacks.