Crawling Out Of A Pidgeonhole

Posted on Fri 25 April 2008 in Dispatches • 3 min read

It appears that I have written myself into a corner here.

When I first started this site back in 2004, I intended it just as a writing exercise. It was supposed to be a place where I would publish daily in order to build discipline as a writer. I had just completed a semester in the Undergraduate Nonfiction Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa, and so a lot of my early entries were the sort of literary nonfiction that was emphasized in that program. It was originally an anonymous Blogspot site, so that I would write comfortably and without inhibition. It was a great exercise, and I wrote a few entries that I was proud of.

Eventually, I decided to drop the pseudonym. My friends had mostly figured out what I was up to, and the more I thought about the importance of owning your words, the sillier the idea of pseudonymous writing became. So I dropped the pseudonym and shortly afterwords purchased my domain name and set up a proper Wordpress installation. Everything was fine at first, but I found I slowly became more cautious in my writing. I’m not talking about the nastiness that usually begins to accompany anonymity (per this theory), but rather that I took less risks with my writing.

I began writing far more structured pieces, less personal and more review or tutorial oriented. Those pieces also attracted the most attention from other people, which encouraged me to write more posts in that vein. Because I am a geek, a lot of that writing was focused around tech topics, although I continued to review books and movies. I actively resisted the Ministry of Intrigue being classified as another “tech” site, although I was advised by several people online that the lack of focus made it difficult to get traffic. I also couldn’t control how other people described the site, and because I loved geeking out on technology, the “tech” label stuck.

Eventually I accepted it and while I occasionally covered other topics, I started thinking of the site as a place devoted to tech and even began describing it that way. At first this was just fine, because I love talking about technology and I’m into this stuff. However, over time I found that I was writing less and less, as I struggled with writing posts that did more than contribute to the echo-sphere.

A change was needed, and conveniently I had just discovered Django, so I rewrote my site using it. In part this was an exercise to learn the framework, partly to build a CMS tailored to my needs, and in part to procrastinate on writing content. Once the site was built, it allowed me to do link-blogging, which was a great way for me to do quick commentary on stories that came to my attention, without requiring the effort of writing a longer post. Writing longer posts requires a particular level interest on my part, and when possible I try to skip doing so for stories that have already been talked to death around the web.

Here’s the deal though: I never wanted to be a “tech blogger.”

I wrote myself into an unwanted pigeonhole, and I’ve been stuck in it for quite a while. Everybody knows that the only way out of any type of hole is to crawl out of it, and it’s high time that I do that. So, I’m going to start shifting the focus of this site, back to the more general category of “assorted geekery.” I’m sure there will still be plenty of tech stuff, because I’m interested in it, but I’m going to start writing more often on other topics as well, and hopefully get back to doing more pieces that flex the right side of my brain.

I don’t know if this new direction is going to go anywhere, but hopefully by allowing myself to experiment and write more freely it will help the site to become more pure.

I hope you will join me on the journey.