I started writing here in 2011. I stopped in 2021. Ten years is quite a long time. A child born when I began this thing is now ready to start emerging out of childhood, to start noticing other people in different ways, to start reading and thinking about serious books. Some things never escape that bright world. A ten-year-old tiger is ready to die.
I started because the only thing I’ve ever really wanted in life was to be a writer. I thought the best way to do that was simply to write, and see what happened next. A lot of people have tried something similar, and it doesn’t always work; the process is absolutely random and unfair, but it worked for me. The first time a small publication offered me a few token dollars to reprint one of my pieces, I wrote in my notebook: No matter what happens next, from this day until you die you will always be a published writer. I’m still slightly giddy about that moment. I’ve learned – the hard way, maybe – not to take such things for granted.
Since I started here, my politics have changed – not much, but a little. I was twenty-one years old and a Bolshevik; now I’m balding into my thirties, less certain that the path to human progress involves battering all my ideological enemies over the head. I still believe that ‘there is tenderness only in the coarsest demand: that no one shall go hungry any more.’ But if you’ve been writing for over a decade, there will inevitably be a few pieces that you end up rediscovering with some light embarrassment. I think this should give you a touch of humility. If you were once capable of saying things that you later decide were actually cruel or cowardly or ungenerous or untrue, you should be open to the possibility that one day, in the future, you’ll have the same thoughts about the things you say now.
I’m not going to stop writing, but I am going to stop writing here. Part of this is because, like all the other people you hate, I’ve been poked and cajoled into starting a Substack. Part of this is because I discovered that WordPress has started adding reams of ads at the ends of my posts, spammy little links to articles titled You’ll Never Believe How Many Pencils This Brave Boy Ate In A Week on sites called BuzzBong and LimpFeed and Spind.ly and Cloom, and they were expecting me to pay money to get rid of them. But mostly, it’s because whatever Idiot Joy Showland was, it’s run its course.
The new thing may or may not survive. But I’m looking forward to it, because after a year or so in which most of my writing has been for editors, for money, pitching sensible essays that make some broadly comprehensible point, I’m excited to have the kind of space in which I could maybe do a cheeky Nando’s again. Either way, I’ll see you there.