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Soup mentioned the other day that he'd been reading my site for “almost a decade,” and it got me thinking. While his statement wasn't true — he's been reading for about six years, since just before I switched to LiveJournal — I have been writing and publishing online for over a decade. It's just what I do, a given in my life: on most days I will shower and eat and blather all over the Internet and brush my teeth. I'm a writer. I do it for money; I do it for pleasure. I do it when I'm bored; I do it when I'm sad. I've amassed a huge record of What I Do, a record that spans eleven years of my life and grows by the day.

That kind of intensity is why we're all here, I think. I don't know anyone in my offline life who can say that they've been doing something for a decade. I can't think of anyone under the age of 40, really, who can say that. I mean, yes, okay, “I've been eating my whole life,” but I'm not talking about necessities here. I'm talking about Things One Does, with pretentious caps and a lot of malarkey about the meaning of it all. I'm talking about struggles to get What One Does accepted and remembered by the general populace. I'm talking about spending years trying to turn What One Does into What One Gets Paid For, Because God, This Is My Life.

We all have that. We all have something. We all started early, worked hard, kept going. We all have archives, memories, failed attempts, and shining moments. I said that I can't think of one person I know offline with this kind of record, but every single person I've ever known online has a thing. We all have stories about picking up mom's camera at age five and never putting it down again, going to a ballet class on a lark at seven and spending the next eight years of our lives draped over a barre, joining the band in junior high and still working for the perfect F sharp after college. We're writers and artists, we're dancers and poets, we're the dorky kids in the cafeteria. We're sitting alone at lunch time trying to come up with synonyms for “angst.”

Most of us have had our Things for longer than a decade. Fifteen years, two decades, 23 years — we got serious young, and now we just can't quit. We want to be seen, heard, touched, tasted, watched, applauded. We work crappy day jobs on three hours of sleep, because we stay up all night putting the finishing touches on our fourth sonatas. We subscribe to poetry journals and spend four hours every month finding out what people who've made it can teach us. We sweat through cross-training on 100-degree summer days and through the snows of February. And most of us spend a lot of time on the Internet, putting everything we do out into the world the best and cheapest way we know how.

None of us are famous. A few of us got book deals, maybe, or jobs as music instructors at our local high schools. Some of us have massive readerships, and some of us sell our photographs personally. Still, that huge success we've been sweating for… it's never quite materialized. Maybe we don't have the right connections. Maybe somebody who's been doing it longer got there first. Maybe we're shy, or afraid to commit our whole lives to getting that big break. Who knows? Who cares? The world doesn't reward our brand of intensity; if it did, we probably wouldn't congregate on the Internet in such large numbers.

I want to see what you do. I want you to send me the best example of the Thing You Do. I want your finest piece of prose, your best violin performance, a collage of the most perfect photos you ever took. Give me stories with them; tell me why you do what you do and why this is the best example of it. I'm turning bitterdiatribe into a prodigy project (working title: Prodigy: a collection of unlost talents), and I want you. I want to see what makes you tick, why you're awesome, and what's holding you back. And then I want to get us out there.

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