Writing on the Web

Originally published 21 February 2001 as a Tech Reflections article for Low End Mac.

A little over a year ago, the following message from Dan Knight showed up in my inbox:

Chris, you seem pretty full of useful information and helpful on the lists. I'm looking for a fourth regular Mac Daniel columnist — someone who knows older Macs and can tackle a wide variety of questions...

I was pretty busy with school at the time, but I agreed to doing a couple of Mac Daniel columns for Dan on a trial basis to see how I liked it, how it worked out with my relatively full schedule, and what sort of things it might lead to. Although I had never had much problem with putting coherent sentences together into something resembling interesting reading, I had never written anything for more of an audience than, say, my high school English teachers.

I liked the idea of getting paid to write articles about Macs, though, since I was basically doing that in abridged form on a few mailing lists anyway. The questions started trickling in, and a few of them were column-worthy, but most were pretty ordinary. Fun, of course, but not exactly inspirational. For that, I usually relied on the lists or my own overactive mind.

I really started pumping out columns in late May and early June, when I hit a good groove. I got my own email address when Dan got the lowendmac.com mail server set up. (Quick aside: does anyone, including myself, really need seven POP3 addresses without owning a single domain or paying for any of them? I wonder sometimes...) July was a bit of a wash, as I was in the process of moving myself to Australia for the next eight months. August and September saw another rush of columns, and October and November were kind of quiet, though in early November this column debuted with a seemingly inescapable Mac OS X theme. The last couple months have been really busy for me, as I've been concentrating on my education with a study tour of Southeast Asia. Now that I'm back in the States, I've had a bit of time to sit down and think on things over the last year.

Let's see. I started by writing a couple columns on a trial basis. Now, if I go more than a couple weeks without writing one, I feel like I ought to get something out. :) And there's money in this Web writing thing — not nearly enough to live on, of course, but it makes a nice supplementary income for a college student, which is to say it pays for my eBay Mac habit. I've gained a great amount of knowledge from reader feedback on my columns, seen some incredibly inane comments, and had my first serious flames from folks who are convinced OS X is far better than it really is (not that I don't like it; it's just not perfect yet), and gotten great rewards from helping people. No, I don't mean the money Dan pays me to write these columns — I mean the emails like these:

Dear Chris

Thanks for your emails. If you ever need any info on Hawaii, please let me know.

Aloha, Steve

Or this one:

Chris, Thank you for the great leads! And your time! If it's all right, I will start sending out the word of your site to friends. It is absolutely unique for its care and thoughtfulness of response.

All the best, Mike

Then there are the less clueful ones...

Thank you so much for your advice. Where is eBay?

I'm just waiting for one of Dave Barry's standard fan letters now:

"Dear Chris: I want your job. It apparently involves nothing more than sitting in front of a computer, analyzing booger jokes, and answering Mac-related email."

(With apologies to Dave Barry, quite possibly the funniest living columnist in the U.S. after Mike Royko passed.)

I love this job, really. It's low-pressure, I set my own hours, and it's fun as all get-out. The last year has been a blast, and I intend to stick around the Mac Web (and Low End Mac) for a while, at least until other commitments get to be too much. Thanks for a great first year, faithful readers, and thanks for all the fish (don't ask)!

Any aspiring columnists out there? Dan has a My Turn column waiting for you. Until next week, or whenever...

copyright ©2000-2004 by Chris Lawson