In December 1999 people around the world were planning huge celebrations of the new millennium, computer programmers were coding frantically to prevent the rapidly-approaching digital Armageddon known as Y2K, and the pedants were ostentatiously ignoring the whole shebang because the new millennium wouldn't really begin until 1 January, 2001. Meanwhile at h2g2, a new feature modestly titled debuted.
It seems like a lifetime ago. In 1999 the World Trade Center in New York was still standing. The US stock market was still flying high and people were making vast amounts of money for reasons that are unclear. Down in New Zealand Peter Jackson had embarked on the risky project of filming three movies at once, and many were questioning the wisdom of that decision. Of more concern around here, Douglas Adams was alive and well and, if accounts are to be believed, doing his best to avoid writing anything until the looming deadline had whooshed by.
According to American comedian Woody Allen, 80% of success is just showing up, but as an 'experienced' Post columnist of a year and a half duration, I can assure you that just showing up won't cut it for a writer. Nothing strikes terror in the average writer's heart like a blank piece of paper. That poor soul staring fixedly at the empty page is in fact listening to a voice only he hears1:
- 'You don't know anything.'
- 'You stopped being funny three years ago.'
- 'In fact, you never were funny.'
- 'You're not even mildly amusing in a pathetic sort of way.'
- 'Nobody wants to listen to you wittering on.'
- 'Just who do you think you are, anyway?'
- 'Go clean yourself up and get a real job.'
It's a wonder that writers don't all end up whimpering in corners. Attempting to put one's thoughts down on paper takes some gumption, and showing one's work to others seems to require a kind of brazen cluelessness. This said, I'm very grateful for all those who stare down their inner critics and share their work with us, because life isn't worth living without books.
Or newspapers, which brings me back to The Post. Not only do writers sometimes get the whim-whams when faced with a blank sheet of paper, so do artists, cartoonists and other creative types. Then there are the editors who have to deal with this motley lot, some of whom also share an Adams-esque phobia about deadlines, and put together something that's more than the sum of its parts. And they do it for the joy of it. Week after week. The whole idea is amazing and crazy, and it works.
So here we are, five years down the road, still a going concern. The Post was one of the first places I stumbled across when I first discovered h2g2, and I found plenty to interest me and make me look forward to Thursdays. Writing for The Post looked like so much fun, I had to try it. If 80% of success is showing up, the other 20% is equal parts hard work and sheer bull-headedness. Yes, it is fun. But even though the work is its own reward, still it's nice to receive something more tangible. Such as birthday cake. So when I've finished with this article, I'm going to head to the nearest bakery for a nice fat slice of chocolate cake with thick gooey icing, which I will eat in honour of all the hard-working and dedicated folks who bring you this fine newspaper each week. (The sacrifices I make, eh?)
Happy birthday, ! You're lookin' good.