The word count at this site, counting two-plus years of blog entries, various and sundry permanent exhibits, and 337 previous Vents, is now somewhere in the vicinity of a quarter of a million, about three James Michener novels in total.

The comparison, of course, ends here, since obviously I don't have anywhere near Mr Michener's talent, and the amount of money I've made from my writing wouldn't buy a Happy Meal, let alone endow an art museum in bucks-up Bucks County, Pennsylvania. And this, I suppose, appeals to the side of me that believes in meritocracy: excellence should be rewarded, whether it happens to coincide with my particular tastes or not. If I wrote excellently, I would hope that I, too, might find some reward, financial or otherwise.

But I don't. I churn out a steady stream of good and original stuff, but the stuff that is good is not all that original, and the stuff that is original is not all that good. Even on the blog scale, where a certain amount of slack is built into the calibration, I'm incredibly ordinary: I know I'll never have the wicked wit of a Scott Ott, the emotional flow of a Susanna Cornett, the relentless logic of a Steven Den Beste, the whatever-the-hell-it-is that James Lileks has. And there's nothing wrong with that, particularly: whether you believe it's the workings of nature, the result of nurture, some combination thereof, or some entirely different explanation altogether, ability has never been parceled out evenly, and presumably never will be. Still, I find myself unsatisfied with my D-list lot: I am perhaps less inept now than I was in 1996 when I started writing for the Web — these days I make fewer of the sort of routine grammatical mistakes for which eighth-graders used to get marked down — but every word I write seems to tack a few more centimeters more on to this trail of banality.

On the other hand, if they gave out awards for sheer persistence, I might actually come close to qualifying. But I have a feeling I wouldn't much enjoy whatever prize is being offered.

The Vent

24 April 2003

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