The first picture ever posted on Booming Back. Not quite sure why.
The Alhambra, Granada, 7th December, 2005
A funny thing happened sometime over the course of the last three years. I can't precisely say when it occurred, there's no single lightbulb moment of realisation, no peak in a graph that I can point to and say, "before here, 'this', after here, then 'that'". While I may not know then 'when', I certainly know the 'what', for at some point during the last three years I lost the ability to write.
Obviously I don't mean this literally, pen still moved across paper, keys still clacked on a keyboard, but this was mainly for work. What I lost was the happiness I gained from writing, and with it went the will to write for fun. What I lost was my voice.
There were many things that I can point to as contributory factors. In 2012 I started my own company and quickly this took over almost every waking moment. The days were filled with endless business plans and forecasts, sales presentations and investor decks. For the subsequent three years I can comfortably say that the sheer volume of writing done was never higher, as evidenced by a dancing daemon of eyestrain that hops up and down on top of two terabyte drives filled with nonsense that almost certainly will never be seen again by another human being.
As the time available and the willpower to fill it with writing for fun decreased, I noticed an increasing tendency to self-censor what I was writing for public consumption. I had spent more than five years developing a style by the time Occupy Dame Street came about, and with it came the decision to emerge from anonymity and allow a number of other publications to republish me. From there came the opportunity to write directly for these sites and a magazine or two, all in a very particular voice and with a focus on calling out what I saw as the wrongs in Irish political culture.
However with an increased focus on my own business, I became overly concerned on the potential negative effects such a distinct voice might have on the perception of my company and its ability to grow. I started to write less and less, and what I wrote about mattered less to me as well, choosing safer topics and veering away from heavier ideas. As I toned down this blog, so too did my desire to keep writing it wane, serving as a constant unhappy reminder of the compromises that I was making.
Being grumpy all the time also took its toll, and I found myself pulling back from Twitter for similar reasons. Being consistently and vocally perturbed at the perceived wrong-doing all around does not lead to a healthy mindset. Yes, everything is pretty bad most of the time, but spending those brief moments when it's not recounting the many ways that it normally is, well, let's just say that that's not a very good way to pass your time.
The more I didn't write, that harder it became to write, until weeks without posts became months without posts, and it became harder still. I sat down at the start of January to make an effort, to force myself into posting regularly in the hope that, like jumpstarting an engine with a borrowed set of cables and a neighbour's car, the desire to write would ignite within me again and I would somehow reclaim my voice.
How did that work out? Like the apocryphal story of Mao's thoughts on the French Revolution, it's too soon to tell.
What I will say is that this is the 1,000th post here on Booming Back. Today is also the 10th anniversary of the blog, with the first post being published on February 15th, 2006. Over the last decade I've written an average of more than one post every four days. It hasn't always been consistent, it certainly hasn't always been good, but it has been and is a part of me in a way that is very difficult to explain - even the bits that I'm unhappy with, I'm still happy with.
I don't know what comes next. I haven't rediscovered my voice yet, but if I'm very quiet and the night is still I can just about hear it in the distance. Will I find it, or is it just the echo of blogposts past, bouncing around before fading away in to silence?
It's too soon to tell.