I started blogging during the Stone Age, in 2008. No one over the age of twenty-five was on Facebook. Twitter was barely a thing. Friendster was struggling for relevancy. MySpace, I can’t even with that one.
I wanted to write about pop culture through the broad lens of the trend for all things retro, specifically, classic Hollywood film. But I wanted to write about design and music and literature, too, all things that I loved and things that I loved especially when they were old. I loved old movies, old music, old books, old clothes, old houses. Everything.
In a flash of brilliance, I came up with the name One Sharp Dame. It suited me. It was generic enough, I could use it as a general purpose site but still specific to my personality and my writing. And I started plugging away, turning out three or four essays a week. I joined Facebook. I joined Twitter. I taught myself basic HTML.
I don’t think anything I wrote during those first weeks and months would have won me any awards but it was decent. Enough. I guess. Nobody read it. Nobody. I mean, most of my very best friends read some of what I wrote and they were dolls for doing so. I celebrated when Feedburner told me I made it to ten subscribers. But everyone cheered me on.
The first essay I ever linked on Twitter was one I wrote inspired by a magazine ad. The ad was of the most gorgeous bathing suit I had ever seen. It was a fire engine red one piece, shirred front, bandeau top, Jantzen. The model was leaning across the bow of a vintage wooden speed boat. The essay was about how I could write a screenplay based on nothing but that swimsuit. The movie would star Rita Hayworth and Robert Mitchum and be set in Mexico.
It was a decent idea but I had gotten used to the fact that no one read what I wrote. I put the link on Twitter and didn’t think about it the rest of the night. The next morning, I followed my usual routine of checking my site and checking my accounts. Everything seemed the same until I checked my email. Somebody I didn’t know had sent me an email comment through my blog.
My first reaction was panic. WHAT THE HELL DO I HAVE A STALKER?! Of course I didn’t have a stalker because I’d set the fucking blog so readers could send me fucking emails. But I’d never received one because everyone who read my blog was someone who had my phone number and knew my birth date.
I like’ta died, as they say where I come from. At the same moment I was looking to boost my SEO and putting links on social media, it had never occurred to me people I didn’t know would read words I wrote. It made me feel oddly vulnerable. I had been on the internet almost as soon as AOL launched. I knew what for from chatrooms and listservs. But this was of a different grain.
The message was a positive one. The person writing was also a fan of old movies and said something nice about hoping I wrote the screenplay even though Rita and Robert couldn’t star in it.
I stopped writing a short time after that. I had no confidence in my writing. Every review I wrote sounded amateurish and rote. The reviews were amateurish but I was an amateur. I couldn’t accept that work for the thing it was or see its value as solid fan appreciation and so I stopped.
I’ve never forgotten what it felt like to get that first message from a stranger. A little frightening, a little thrilling, humbling, invigorating, all of it.
The thrill of hearing from readers has not diminished, if anything, it is more exciting now. Now, the internet is flooded with blogs and websites. People are inundated with opportunities to pass their free time. And some of those people pick my words to read. They spend their valuable, precious, time reading some bullshit something I wrote. And then, they let me know they read it. They let me know they liked it or when something I wrote elicited some emotion.
Most of what I write, honestly, most of the people reading it are still people who have my phone number and know my birth date. Occasionally, something I write will strike a chord and will take on a life of its own. It will move from people who love me through to the people who love them and then the people who love them, until I lost track of the connection. The first time that happened, it scared me so, I literally ran into my bedroom and hid under the covers.
I can’t always respond to each comment. Know, however, that each and every one of them is locked in my heart. When I think no one cares or I think I’m a hack or ridiculous, I go back and read them. The private messages, especially, they are always the hardest. Almost always from other cancer patients or people who have lost someone they love to cancer. I hate cancer so much.
I can’t believe people read my shit. There are people who don’t even know me and have no reason to lie who read my shit and tell me they like it. I used to think these people were delusional or maybe not that bright. But y’all, there are people with books of their own who tell me they think I good. I don’t even know what to do with that.
The messages and the comments, they are each such tiny, beautiful, things. Proof we live in an age of awe and wonder. It is all kind of magical, how in this world that is so packed with so much noise, we find one another. I can’t believe I get to be a witness to all of this. This is such a great time to be alive. Thank you.