After having written books for more than a decade, a curious thing happened to me: I stopped writing without noticing it. I had been fairly reliable in getting books and articles cranked out, a book every five to six months, an article or two a month, since 1992. In 2002 I had my name on five books, two of which I'd written in their entirety. In 2003, I had two published, but that was a little deceptive ... they had both been written in 2002 and the production process slipped into 2003. By late 2003, my writing pace slowed ... I had several article I'd hoped to get to magazine publishers, but somehow, there was always something else getting in the way of getting them done.
By late 2003, I went to work for a small e-publisher (a long story that will no doubt eventually make it to press, but not now) as Chief Architect. I wrote very little, and the challenge of putting words on paper became ever more difficult for someone who had been used to slinging out several pages a day. This extended into this year until comparatively recently, perhaps a couple of months ago, when I realized that it had been more than a year since I had written an article for publication, I had pretty much left what book projects I'd had on the transom rot away, and I hadn't even added anything to the Metaphorical Web or written the long, sometimes very involved e-mail letters that I have become somewhat notorious for.
Writer's Block is one of those strange afflictions that those of us in the writing biz occasionally succumb to. I believe that most writers are not conscious in the same way that other people are; they live very much within themselves, and a great deal of brain activity actually occurs just beneath the surface of consciousness. Writing dialog is actually a pretty clear indication of that - the consciousness, the ego, of the writer is subsumed while those of the protagonists and antagonists comes to the fore. A writer often "hears" these voices and transcribes them, rather than consciously plotting what his characters will say.
This is not necessarily quite the case with technical writers, but there's a similar process of mentally building up castles in their minds that can be quite complex .... and often very fragile. It doesn't take much to cause those castles to come crashing to the earth, and the more turmoil that's in the life of a writer, the more difficult it is to perform that bit of mental levitation.
That turmoil was very much a factor of life last year, to such an extent that not only did the words not come, but the mind tricked itself into thinking that things were okay when they weren't. The brain's a sneaky little bastard when it wants to be. Writer's block creates a wall around that part of you that is charged with writing, and seeks out anything it can seize on to prevent you from expressing yourself.
The day that I made the realization that I had not published in anything for months was also the day that I wrote a three thousand word article, spontaneously, after looking at a magazine and realizing that I had the basis for an article. After that, it was like those sequences from the Weddell Ice Shelf breaking free from Antarctica, as that voice within me that had been so silent began to make itself heard again.
This blog that you're reading now is, to a great extent, a reflection of that voice beginning to reassert itself. A great number of things have taken place in the last year, some good for the areas that I cover, some not so good. I think that we're entering into the next "epoch" of computing, one in which many of the things that we assumed to be true since the mid-1980s proves not to be. I plan on covering this coming age, chronicling the events from a technology perspective, while hoping to provide as many insights into my belief that ultimately all society is software.
To those of you coming from the Metaphorical Web Yahoo Group, I will continue to maintain that site but will be doing most of my writing now on the metaphorical web blog. I am also planning on blogging from the SVG Open Conference in Japan from the 6th to the 9th, where I will be teaching classes on XSLT2, XForms, and possibly SVG publishing. If you can't make it to the conference, I hope to provide at least some insights into the precedings.
To all others, I bid you welcome, and hope that you enjoy this, the Metaphorical Web.