It’s the hardest thing I know of to write in my own voice. It terrifies me.
Now, I will grant you, friends, frolleagues, and curious folks who may be reading, my life is ridiculously comfortable. It’s not something I can deny. And my feelings about it are very complicated. But we won’t get into that here, not yet anyways.
The fact is that it is very hard to write in one’s own voice. The heaviest book that I’ve read that reminded me of this is Buckminster Fuller’s Critical Path. Which you would only read if you were a big giant nerd for systemic change, which I am. Of course he was quoting ee cummings. I’ll excerpt the original, and summarize the tome’s esoteric elaboration before getting to that great thinker’s actual points.
To be nobody-but-yourself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else-means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.ee cummings
Fuller then goes on to connect the dots between feeling, in the way that cummings means, with acting, in the way that makes the world better.
Isn’t that lovely?
You get the seduction then of reading books about writing when you’re afraid to write.
Only that’s not quite my specific phobia. And it is a proper phobia.My phobia is of writing on the open Internet.
What are you afraid of, you ask? What’s the worst that could happen? That’s a silly thing to be afraid of!
You think I’m nervous about people not liking what I have to say and cursing at me online? Fuck you. You’re not listening, or you don’t know what a phobia is.
It’s really a thing that could only happen to so many people in a handful of places in the world at my age, and not that many more people older than me, here in Silicon Valley where I live. I’ve idly read studies, both of the breathy cohort trend and deeply researched and considered variety that suggests that many of the symptoms I experience are more common with younger folks. But my fear, and how I have failed to manage it, and the specific constellation of cultural contexts and childhood traumas that have made it an object in my life, are mine alone. We will get in to some of those specifics here, because they are interesting and important to my point of view. But still, not yet. They’re long stories involving blogging and steamed buns and bullets.
I am grateful, and full of cautious optimism that the valid parts of my fear of public writing on the Internet are being mitigated, by my hard-working colleagues, frolleagues, and friends. I’m gonna give some specific shout-outs to my outstanding frolleagues Lin Clark, Jen Simmons, Mike Hoye, Andrew Losowksi, Emma Erwin, Tantek Çelik, Larissa Shapiro, Jessica Margolin, and Katharina Borschet for their inspiration, support and very hard work to make the web somewhere safe, empowering, and accessible to all. There are many others, but these folks specifically work incredibly hard and fight every single day for the conditions underlying my valid fears to change.
I came to Mozilla because I don’t believe that Mozilla’s future should depend on having a single futurist who writes in her own voice. I have been exploring, in a humbling journey, the depth of my long-held disagreement with a great friend and mentor that “leaders make the future.” I’ve concluded that indeed, they don’t, and that can be amazing. Along the way I discovered what it would take me to help build the kind of foresight capability I think this unique entity deserves, and it put me right back where I started. Doing the hardest work I’ve ever done, in a way that I find deeply, embarrassingly, paralyzingly unsettling. But hey. Why do things the easy way when you can do them the right way?
So I must write, and I must write in the open, and I must write in my own voice. Because otherwise, how will all of you know why I fight for the futures I do, in the ways that I do? How can you trust me?
First I need to trust myself, and that has been a quality I’ve struggled with for most of my life.
I refuse to let another year of my life pass with this fear in it. It ends now.
I’ve so many things that have been on my mind. I’ve been bottling and hiding and experimenting with the novel and wholly empowering privilege to be a much more private person than I have been. I’ve all but left social media platforms, and have been highly meditative on what that does to my mental health and the role that particular form of controlled-space (not precisely public) writing has had on my phobia. I’ve been reading some pretty interesting and/or infuriating books (a short list: The Regenerative Business, The Big Nince, Surveillance Capitalism, Autonomous, Anathem, How to Invent Everything), and look forward to reviewing them.
I have lived my whole existence shaped by some very powerful everybody-else, and a few distinctly weird forces. I’m going to try very hard to disambiguate those influences: the cult-like social enterprises to which I’ve dedicated my labor, my academic discipline and lineage, and the specific undeniable weirdness of this place, and my embeddedness in pop culture and media ecosystems, which I think about far more critically on a daily basis in my work than I ever have in the past. So in the course of getting to nobody-else, you’ll also hear a lot about my personal identifications with Amy Santiago, Rosa Dias, Delen, Michael Burnam, Leslie Knope, and Don Quixote. It’ll be fun. For you.