It’s taken me nearly two months – maybe longer – to get to this point and now that I am here, I still feel as if I have farther to go. Not that I expect anyone other than myself to really care – after all, everyone is perpetually struggling with their own issues and demons, why should mine be of any consequence? No, I only make mention of how I am feeling to explain where I am with the express purpose of being able to explain where I – and the website that has consumed me for nearly six years – is going.
See, I thought what SomethingCool News needed was a format change, a new way of categorizing the information I still felt was pertinent to print. It turns out that premise was incorrect and in fact, there was nothing wrong with SCN at all. The problem with the website wasn’t with its content or format, but with the site’s owner – namely, me. My mistake was thinking that the problem could be solved simply by changing the format of SCN just three issues shy of Issue #300. My reasoning was that if I decreased my workload and the weekly deadline I had imposed upon myself, I would have more time and interest in churning out the type of content that I used to be proud of. It was a good theory, but was fundamentally flawed. Sure, giving myself more time to write, research and interview increased the chances of putting out higher-quality work, but it did nothing to improve the state of the writer, researcher and interviewer himself. Put another way, giving someone more time to do a job doesn’t mean the job is going to get done if the person still doesn’t want to do it.
The truth of it all is that I simply lost my passion, my interest in SCN. There a host of reasons for this; I have since deduced that there is no one single cause for why this happened. But it’s clear that this crisis of conscience was coming for some time. Loyal readers of SCN no doubt noticed a trickle of laziness that crept into subsequent issues, a trickle that would later become a complete downpour. I don’ t think I put out a high-quality issue of SCN for two months or more, as each week a little bit of my journalistic soul was eaten away, finally culminating in a half-hearted format change and then the decision not to update any content at all. SCN, I had decided, had run its course.
This coincided with a profound shift in my personal priorities. I wrote of a sense of foreboding of the coming new year, and it only took a week or so for that foreboding to come to fruition, although not in the way I had surmised it would. For a time, nothing seemed to matter – not my job, not my family, not my friends. As I said, there are a host of reasons why this occurred the way it did and I won’t bore you with the details, suffice it to say that I was prepared to let SCN fade away into nothingness with not so much as a farewell to loyal readers.
But then something started to change. I found myself with an abundance of time on my hands, and discovered even though my soul was empty, my brain still yearned to be full. So I started listening to CBC Radio, began reading old magazine articles and started downloading various podcasts. I began to ponder questions of philosophy and art, becoming more interested in, say, why a book had been written rather than what it had been about. I thought it would be fascinating to talk to writers and musicians about their work and how it had come to be just to hear what they had to say. As a result, I downloaded podcasts and listened to interviews with such people as a way of feeding this particular appetite.
Yet, even as I did so, the interviews that I heard and the people that I listened to seemed far off, miles away, out of my own realm of relevance. A conversation between Alice Munro and a radio broadcaster was interesting, but it lacked personance, to create an entirely new word. I will never meet Alice Munro which is okay, since she has been interviewed already hundreds of times and her work is well-known and well-read. I felt no personal responsibility to learn from her, even as I did. As always, I felt more responsibility to talk to the lesser-known writers, the lesser-known musicians, the obscure artists for whom the bright shine of a spotlight may never come. That’s when I realised what I was feeling was what I have always felt – a kinship for the underdog, an interest in the obscure and an inherent pull to work against a social grain. I felt like I had felt in those intense days before I started SCN.
For that’s what SCN was…is. A forum for the overlooked people and stories that proliferate our existences. SCN’s mandate was, after all, to cover the stories the mainstream press would either overlook, ignore or simply wouldn’t publish. For five years, I worked under that mandate and succeeded, in my view, spectacularly at achieving that goal. But then, as time passed, the sheer weight and magnitude of what I was doing became too much for one person, and because it was the work of one person, the creativity began to lag and what once seemed like so much fun simply became work. Throw in a personal issue or two along the way and you have the ingredients for the death of passion which, as it turns out, is exactly what happened.
But, slowly, the passion began to return. I began to consider other possibilties for the website. What if SCN was more than just sobering and obscure news stories? What if, instead of writing about issues like homelessness and politics, I wrote about local artists, local philosophers and actually threw in some good news from time to time? What if we broadened the horizon and began to include things like fiction and cartoons to go along with interesting live interviews with intriguing people? What if SCN grew from its roots as an anti-mainstream media publication to become a one-stop shop for the quenching of intellectual and artistic thirst? What if SomethingCool News simply became…..Something Cool?
Once, I had been consumed with the idea of taking on local community newspapers, beating them at their own game and taking their readers. It mattered to me at one point how many people viewed SCN. When I reached the 11,000 mark I was elated, even if a good number of those people were only visiting the site for 30 seconds. Now, I realise what an empty goal that was and how meaningless my desire to be well-read was. If I wanted to be popular, I realised, I would have done things differently from the very outset. I now understand that I don’t care how many readers I get, how many people share my views on things and how popular my writing is. I just want to write about things I find interesting. Writing is one of the very few things I am sort of good at and if I can share my passion with people, regardless of how many those are, then that is what I want to do. That, in the end, will be my final legacy to this dark and chaotic world: a small beacon of brightness that may briefly enlighten the lives of one or two people. Or none at all. But at least I will be able to say I did my best and that I tried, and that I had a hell of a time doing it.
So yes, change is coming. I am already working on some content for the relaunch of SCN, set to go down February 9th. Sure, there will be a new look, but it’s the content that I am most excited about. I experienced first-hand the difficulty of keeping personal levels of passion and morale high as a journalist/writer, so how do other bloggers and writers do it? I’m going to ask some. Speaking of writing, I recently met a Grade 12 student who couldn’t spell the word “seasonal” – how did this happen? I’m going to write about several kids I have met – a 16-year old who refuses to go to school, a 17-year old who is too smart for the school he’s in, and the personal trials of another young man who, despite starting off on the wrong foot, plans to finish off his education the proper way.
And, speaking of school, each year, many schools put out some high-quality plays, but mostly it’s the students of the school who come out to see them. I’ll ask a local play director why everyone in the community should go and check these plays out. I’ll ask a philosopher who shares his views online if being able to talk to the world in this new media age has actually improved the quality of all the philosophizing. I’m also going to track down a young political cartoonist to join the ranks of SCN and will share the writings of another young and local talent.
I’m also going to work on hard news features too, working on both a Good News Story of the Week and, just to be fair, a Bad News one as well. I’ll explain to you how kids as young as 14 are getting their hands on marijuana and, in a subsequent story, will tell you about the miracle of a near-fatal accident. And don’t worry, they’ll be plenty of commentary and opinion too, although I hope the majority of it is yours. But I will continue to bring you some of the opinions from people you have come to know well: Chris Alexander, James Breckenridge and Leo Knight to name just a few. Plus, I’ll opine a time or two and might even share some of my own artistic creations with you as well.
And that’s just a sampling of what’s coming. SCN will be interesting again, even if we have lost a few readers along the way. I have come to terms with that, and am okay with it. After all, this was never about making money or making friends – it was about engaging minds, perhaps even changing them with insights and perspectives not typically accessed. There’s no room for ego or vanity with that kind of purpose, and just as well – as I have recently learned, those are the things that will destroy a person’s passion, even as they work to keep an empty and starving soul alive.
See you on the 9th.
Editor, Something Cool (News)