One thousand

This is the 1000th post in Tell Me a Story About the Devil history. When I started this experiment in 1997, I never thought about how long it would be around or how many entries I would amass. But here I am, with a nice, round four-digit number to stare at, and maybe I feel some sense of accomplishment, but I mostly think that I still need to write more.

I was a bit curious about word count, so I did a dump of the posts from the database and found that from April 11, 1997 to yesterday, I’ve written about 950,000 words here, which makes sense, seeing as my goal is about a thousand words per entry.  If you divide that up into 400-word printed pages, that’s 2375 pages.  In comparison, the bible is just under 800,000 words, and War and Peace is about 560,000.  The longest book I ever wrote was Summer Rain, which was about 220,000 words.  The longest book I’ve ever read is probably Infinite Jest, which is something like 400 or 500,000 words.

When I started working on this journal, the word blog had not been invented yet. There were a few people doing online journals, and I vaguely remember scattered pieces of them in my mind, bits of peoples’ inner self.  Web rings were really big back then, and I spent some time wandering through those, trying to find like-minded writers.  The mommy blog was not big yet, and neither was the “I graduated from an Ivy League school and now I’m an office assistant” journal.  LiveJournal was a couple of years off, and wordpress wouldn’t be released for another half-decade.  When you did stumble upon a journal site, it usually belonged to a pretty hardcore, dedicated person writing, and the entries were usually longer and more meaningful.  You had to know how to write HTML by hand, and you had to have an account somewhere other than AOL, which eliminated 90% of the online population.  But that type of writing reminded me a lot of the personal zines that came out in the 80s and early 90s, the punks and artists who chronicled their life experiences in little xeroxed books. I always dug that kind of writing, the Cometbus type of zine, and I tried (and failed) to do that on paper.  That’s one of the reasons I started this thing.

I’ve gone through many iterations of the technology used here.  First it was individual posts in HTML, with a shell script that put together an index in a different frame.  (Remember frames?  Ugh.)  Bill Perry helped me with some elisp so I could sit down at emacs every day, do a C-c C-j, and enter my text into a buffer.  For the first few years, I actually telnetted to, who host, in Pittsburgh, and entered the text there.  Then everything moved to my home machine, at some point when I was in New York.  And then I got rid of the shell script crap and went to PHP.  And after years of ragging on WordPress, I finally broke down and switched over a couple of years ago.  So everything looks completely different, but all of the old entries remain.

I published a book that contains most of the first three years of this journal, located here. It’s a bit of a hard sell to convince people to buy the paper book for twenty bucks when you can read everything here, and I think the best writing I did was after those first years in Seattle.  But I really wanted a paper copy of all of it, so there it is.  I’ve gone back and forth on doing a second volume of the later stuff, but it’s a huge task, and I’d have to pare down things, as most print-on-demand book binding will only let you do about 800 pages, which is a few thousand less than all of this.

This project was never my life’s goal, and I never set out to make it my sole output for writing.  I never developed a gimmick, and I never thought that if I blogged enough, I would sell a movie idea or get a meeting with someone about a book deal.  None of that stuff existed in 1997, and by the time people were getting famous by blogging about their cooking adventures or their sexual escapades with government officials, I already got jaded on the whole thing.  I always wrote here as a way to warm up to my actual writing, the books, the zine stuff, the short stories.  And I have not been doing as much of it lately, but it’s still an important distinction to me.

I’ve recently started going back to my old entries, because none of the pre-wordpress writing had titles, and I feel a need to get everything titled and tagged, and maybe remove the absolutely dead stuff.  And I’m almost embarrassed by the earliest writing, but there’s some great entries from the mid-00s when I was really firing on all cylinders.  I wish I could write like that every day.  I wish I could write like that today; I feel like taking a nap instead of writing this up.  And I would, if I didn’t have half a kitchen in boxes right now.

So anyway, there you have it.  Thanks to everyone who has read regularly, left comments, and helped me keep things going here.  I always appreciate the input, and I’m glad someone out there does read this stuff.  One of the things that saddens me even more than the fact that the long journal entries of people’s inner conflict have been replaced with 140-character descriptions of people’s lunch and not much more is that people seem much less connected now than when I started this.  I mean, I remember a lot of detailed exchanges with the people I used to read, and it seems like that has all gone away.  I’m hoping it’s a cyclical thing, and someday people will want to respond to emails with more than five words again.  Who knows.

Anyway, thanks again, and here’s hoping the next thousand come easier.

  • … and there's another one done. Congratulations!

  • caren