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the revolution will be transmitted
an insurrectionist's guide to intrepid media
by jeffrey d. walker
9.13.02
writing


It all started so innocently...

Early Winter 1999. My old friend Joe was starting up a website he called Intrepid Media. I knew this name, which had been the name of our "record company" back when I was the bassist for Brilliant. But I didn't pay a lot of attention, because I had never harbored fantasies of being a writer. I don't even think I knew Joe was a writer.

But after a couple of months, I wrote a few things, if only to help Joe out. I wrote a few pieces in the pop-culture vein that was very popular in the beginning. I wrote a few things from the heart. I wrote many things simply for the self-indulgence of it all. But mostly, I wrote because I started to enjoy watching the number of reads go up once something was posted. It was another way of self-promotion; people were reading things with my name attached to it. I took great pleasure in that. It was wholly egotistical. There wasn't much more to it for me.

But that can go on only so long...

Time passed, articles were released. Quickly, I was promoted to the first full-fledged staff member who wasn't one of the original six (who here can remember articles by "the six"). I was awarded a monthly column, so long as I could pop out one article a month. And produce I did, if for no other reason than the sheer narcissism of it.

But even as the numbers grew, the excitement started to fade. After a while, the thrill of people reading my stuff wasn't so thrilling anymore. Funny thing was, this loss of excitement came as my readership was expanding rapidly: I watched the numbers go from 20 to 200 in under a year. I attribute this growth to word of mouth (I increasingly told friends about "this intrepid thing" I was doing) as well as the diffusion of Intrepid generally. Still, I didn't really enjoy it. The articles became only words on the screen that didn't mean a thing anymore. I had no real reason to write other than inertia.

I tried to be entertaining, at least: sometimes provocative and sometimes obscure. But I was doing it without my heart. It was the late winter-to-early spring of 2001.

And things were starting to happen...

What scared me the most were the voices. Not fake ones in my head; real voices emanating from the people around me. And they were everywhere.

I was living in New York City for the first time, and I was running into a lot of people fast. I had taken on two jobs that kept me on the run from 10 a.m. to midnight (and sometimes later) every day of the week, plus a few hours on weekends. In my free time, I'd head to a bar or a club. I was out of my car for the first time in my life, and found myself surrounded by people from all walks of life down in the subway tunnels below the city. And I started to realize that people would tell me things. Lots of things. Pieces of information not usually discussed in polite society. It happened everywhere I went. Conversations...

I've never understood why it happened to me. Even complete strangers would disclose all sorts of things. Maybe it's because I won't give someone the obligatory answer to most questions. Maybe it's because I'm too rude not to pry. Maybe it's because I talk about things in my own way; I was taught to speak up because my opinion matters just as much as anyone else's. Whatever the reason, I was soon aware that people would disclose all sorts of things if I appeared interested in what they had to say.

America prides itself on its freedom of speech. But although we have it, we seldom actually use it. On average, people have certain things they discuss and certain things they don't. Many people won't entertain a conversation regarding religion unless all in the conversation agree. Most people discussing race are only comfortable so long as all participants aren't too different from themselves. Sexual preferences may be mentioned, so long as you aren't one of those. It's like Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy was applied to all aspects of life: racial, social, spiritual, sexual and even economic issues. I was surprised at how some of the most academically advanced people I would meet were still in some way narrow-minded about certain issues. Not because any of them were "bad people", but simply because the collective "we" never really discuss certain things. Still, it would another half of a year before I made a connection between the things I was hearing and what I was supposed to do about it.

And one fateful e-mail...

In February 2002, I wrote an article about friendship. It was a topic I was dealing with personally at the time. Many of my pieces were created this way; lessons I learned as I made my way through life were transcribed into the "my studio" frame of Intrepid in the hopes that, perhaps, someone might avoid the pitfalls which had bogged me down. Despite those who would say otherwise, and my own cynicism about the world notwithstanding, I always had benevolent intentions.

But it was not until a friend of mine, a mother, e-mailed me and mentioned how something I had mentioned in that article entitled "My cup runneth over" would be good advice for her teenaged daughter.

That's when it hit me...

I had never had someone actually mention that they had taken something out of what I had said. I had always hoped my work could be of use, but this was the first time that I knew for sure it was happening. The columns had been critiqued and discussed before, but this was the first time that I had heard a response that was deeper than, "I think this" or "that was funny." I had touched someone, and it had made an impact. I felt gratified.

Then, as I thought more, I realized that if people were actually listening to me, then I'd better say something of value. I started to see that the impact was a lot bigger than I had thought, and it certainly was bigger than simply what people thought of me. Where Intrepid before had been something to get people talking about me, I understood now that it was better used simply to get people talking. It was a way to get people thinking. The conversations that people had been having with me secretly could be developed into messages that could move the masses (or at least shake them a little bit). I could present the issues that people tried to avoid, that most people never thought to consider.

I understood then that it was up to me to broach the topics no one else would openly discuss. In this way, things left in the dark could be brought into the light. Hidden secrets could be revealed. Walls of misinformation and ignorance could be torn down along with the walls of false truths that people like to hide comfortably behind. Intrepid was revolution potential, and words were a weapon no one could confiscate from me.

As the power dawned on me, I sat back in my desk chair and began to smile.

'Why then, the world's mine oyster, which I with sword will open.' William Shakespeare: The Merry Wives of Windsor (2:2).


ABOUT JEFFREY D. WALKER

A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.

more about jeffrey d. walker

IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...

wish you were here
a reluctant writer on why you should write
by jeffrey d. walker
topic: writing
published: 12.18.09


picking a spouse
three steps to avoiding divorce
by jeffrey d. walker
topic: writing
published: 9.15.10





COMMENTS

wendy p
9.13.02 @ 8:22a

Would the real Jeffrey Walker please return to this planet?

jeffrey walker
9.13.02 @ 12:12p

I don't know if this will come as a shock, but this is the real me.

Or are you asking me to return to just being egotistical? I think it's too late for that.

mike julianelle
9.13.02 @ 12:22p

I think you're kidding yourself if you think you're new "topics" aren't written for the same egotistical reasons as your old ones. Maybe even more so.

wendy p
9.13.02 @ 12:22p

This one is so different from the rest, totally unexpected. So, I was kidding. Ha ha.

jeffrey walker
9.13.02 @ 12:29p

mike calling someone egotistical. looks like you took my advice and got some comedy training, huh?

adam kraemer
9.13.02 @ 3:33p

This is a good point. I don't think it has to be one way or the other. I write both for myself - to see my words in print, to garner any accolades I might be in for - and because I'm trying, in one way or another to reach my readers, whoever they may be. Either I want someone to think, or smile, or laugh, or get angry, or just react in any way. Because any writer who tells you he is just writing for himself is full of crap; if that were the case, he'd keep a diary.

tracey kelley
9.19.02 @ 12:14p

Ditto. I sat at a writers' group soiree not too long ago, where the poet flipped her pages and said "Well, I didn't really write this to be read - I wrote it mostly for myself" ...and then proceeded to read it aloud to us. Honesty is all I expect from anyone who writes.

matt morin
9.19.02 @ 12:22p

Well, just because you write something for yourself doesn't mean you can't share it with others. It's just a different audience, that's all.

jael mchenry
9.19.02 @ 12:37p

Yes, but what are you expecting out of that interaction? If I write something for myself (like a journal) I don't share it. Other than that, there's always a reader in mind. It's almost never "everyone," either, we all have an audience segmented in some way.

russ carr
9.19.02 @ 1:07p

Writing something for yourself and not intending for it to be read largely invalidates the point of a writers' group. Either the aforementioned poet has a flaw in her logic, or she really did write it to be read and she has a flaw in her self-esteem. Or something.

[edited]

jeffrey walker
9.19.02 @ 1:27p

In my case (which is the only case I can adequately speak for), the egotistical aspect early in my writing was more "look at me." I didn't care what it said, so long as people read what I wrote.

The difference now, for me, is that people thinking about me doesn't matter anymore. I'm trying to discuss topics relevant to us all that are of far greater concern than "look, 500 people read the piece this month", which was my only real concern initially. Honestly, the number of reads is far less important than people taking the time to think about something bigger than me, and bigger than themselves. It's about the issues that divide us as people. Only by addressing these issues can society stop its own grand-scale "pigfighting." This is why I write now. What readers think of Jeff Walker is irrelevant (but not as irrelevant as Mike Julianelle's opinion).

[edited]

matt morin
9.19.02 @ 2:19p

In my case (which is the only case I can adequately speak for), the egotistical aspect early in my writing was more "look at me." I didn't care what it said, so long as people read what I wrote.

So you stopped being like Adam?

jael mchenry
9.19.02 @ 2:24p

No, Adam wants everyone to like him and his stuff, which is different. Writing to everyone almost never works.

jeffrey walker
9.19.02 @ 3:29p

One thing is for sure. No matter what you mean something to say, words are always going to be interpreted however the reader chooses. In this way, the author's meaning is always subject to change. Things will only mean what a reader allows them to mean, regardless of the author's motive. It's like Eminem's lyrics, "I am whatever you say I am." Whatever anyone says can always be misconstrued. In this way, writing is almost futile.



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