Merlin is so damn right with this piece that I just don’t even know where to begin. The gist:
Please use that keyboard to talk about your life sometimes.
Your real life. Not just the canned version of life on which we slap adhesive labels like happy or sad, poor or rich, employed or unemployed, eating lunch or hatin’ life, it’s complicated or serial entrepreneur, meh or whatever. […]
Tell me something that happened.
It’s rare that I get too personal on this site, and probably could count on two hands the number of posts where I’ve deviated far from my (public) comfort zone. This likely comes across as calculated, and to some extent that’s true, but the desire to open up a bit more has been there ever since I started publishing my thoughts here in 2002.
The feedback I got a couple of years ago from A tendency to lose perspective was remarkable—equal parts strangers telling me it made them cry, and real-life friends imploring me to share more of that part of myself with the world. I’ve received similar feedback over the years from comparable posts, and each time I tell myself I need to do more of that. But I don’t. I quickly fall back into explaining how to get X working with Y, or how to make Z faster, or describing why this gadget is better than that gadget, etc.
Obviously those are things I enjoy writing about, but that doesn’t mean I don’t also like writing about the human stuff. Going forward I’m going to make a sincere effort to bring more of that here, for better or worse.
I like to think that what I write about matters to everyone, but of course it can’t. No matter how much some readers (and meatspace friends especially) try to keep up with what I’m interested in, most will never in a million years make it to the end of Use LaunchBar to execute, in the background, commands via a shell or Select certain tabs in Safari (or WebKit) using keyboard shortcuts. It’s just not going to happen. I accepted that a long time ago.
But, that’s kind of the point isn’t it? I write first for me, and second for that small niche of people whose interests sometimes overlap with mine.
I think the core of what Merlin is saying is that stories generally are much more engaging than explanations or even opinions sometimes, and that while explanations and opinions are needed, they should complement our anecdotes, not smother them.
Relatedly, I think that in some small way our desire for this sort of thing is why Twitter became so popular with the digerati long before it went mainstream. The service filled a void—by allowing us to take a peek at the idiosyncratic sides of some of the people whom we’ve so long respected on a technical or intellectual level, it was possible to respect them on a personal level as well.