Writing Hell, that's how I write!

Rands on Joel

The writing career to date. I’ve got 30 journals dating back to the early 80s where I believe, at one time, I lied IN MY PERSONAL JOURNAL that I’d figured out the Rubix cube. The high school years were productive. There were girls about and, for some reason, I thought a semi-fictional story was a great pick-up line. I was right. I started my first unfinished book at this time, it was about God as a high school student. It was as trite as it sounds, but it did lead to the discovery that I enjoyed long periods of sustained writing. This was a surprise because I was dealing with the early stages of NADD brought on by endless redialing of local BBSes.

College. Ok, time to get serious. Wait, there are actually things you need to learn about being a good writer? Shit. Now, I’m depressed and staring at my words too much. This intense introspection led to a significant loss of voice. I’m try to sound like the lessons I’m following and my writing is unfamiliar. Good thing I’ve got the nerd thing as a fall-back plan.

Break-through. Last year of college. I’m firmly entrenched as a QA engineer at Borland and the nerd work is mentally moving faster than the college lessons. Inflection point. I take a throwaway class on the American detective novel and discover Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels. Wait, you mean a purely conversation book can be entertaining? And intelligent? Hell, that’s how I write! Time to start another book. This time, we’ll combine conversation characters with my nerdery. It’ll be a hit.

Wham. Internet boom. The second book continues to form, but slowly because of the weblog. Not this one, that one. That’s right. 1996 people and I’m weblogging. Well, I am until the start-up and then I’m busy. Really busy. It takes a good three years to remember the joy of writing and it partly has to do with Joel Spolsky.

It was during the insane years of the start-up that I found Joel. My thought at the time, “Yeah, that’s what I was trying to say three years ago, but I blew it. I was writing too little about too much rather than taking time to really hammer out one idea.” Joel wasn’t the reason I started writing for the web again, but he’s certainly one of the inspirations.

This makes the inclusion of my What To Do When You’re Screwed essay as part of his collection a particularly joyful event. A piece of my work is formally published by a guy whose work I respect. You can wax on about how the web is revolutionizing personal publishing and I’m a fan, but holding a published book with your work in it… is just… real. Being in the business of bits, it is a pleasant change to see my work in atoms.

Thanks, Joel.

Oh yeah, buy the book.

7 Responses

  1. I completely agree with the holding-your-work-in-your-hands sentiment.

    That and I plan on using “in atoms” as a real descriptor.

  2. kristen 19 years ago

    Blogging in ’96! You really are teh c001 🙂 I started my first blog when I was in sixth grade–it was on Expage and I documented the gossip going around in my class. It included an award-winning entry that revealed Lindsay T said at a sleepover that she was going to lose her virginity on Valentine’s Day when she was 16. I’d like to think that my blogging has improved since then, but sometimes I wonder.

  3. Congrats, Rands, and I agree that that line about atoms is fantastic.

  4. Wow, this looks like an awesome collection.


  5. Salutionaries.

    I hope the dead-tree books never go away. The feel is just so much more appealing, and a good cure for my NADD, because I can sit and read an entire book, taking breaks only to pee. And they don’t hurt my damn eyes.

  6. Lloyd 19 years ago


  7. Some other Joel 19 years ago


    Congratulations. I was hoping he’d found you.