“The story is always better than your ability to write it.” — Robin McKinley
Tomorrow I will give a talk in the Aronoff Center for the Arts about a topic I know very little about.
This is a new experience for me. New in the sense that I haven’t really had this feeling in years. I’ve spent the better part of the last 15 years working with emerging media and journalism, a field that’s roughly 15 years old. (And I’ve been on the Internet since 1985…which is the kind of math I don’t much care to do.)
I’ve been about as expert-y in the field as one can be since the time this was a field that people talked about.
I couldn’t tell you the day I became one of those experts. I can only tell you that I am one. (Whether you chose to believe that or not is inconsequential to the reality of my premise.) At least I am for one last day.
Because tomorrow – Wednesday, Oct 6, 2010 – I’m going to reboot my world, and I’m going to do it in front of 1,000 people. No more news and technology. I know about as much on this topic as you can functionally know. I’ve built my legacy and it’s time to move on, to let the next generation of news and technologists do what they will.
For me, the next phase of my career is strictly storytelling: building transmedia stories that use fiction and non-fiction while blending real life and cyberspace. That teach, that immerse and that persist all around.
Go big or go home because failure is an option, I tell my students. And I’m going to live that particular mantra tomorrow sometime around 10:30 am.
It’s a bit frightening for me if I’m honest. I’ve reached a point in my career where, if I decided, I could have carved out a very nice niche, coasted through tenure and emerged as one of those “leading academic experts” in about a decade. And I’m old enough to appreciate the value of that.
I love that I’ve had the chance to sit down with brilliant people from around the world – the people who are building the next, next-generation news operations – and get Big Intellectual.
As much as I’ve struggled with this admission, the fact is that I’m a bit elitist in that sense. I’ve worked hard, gotten an education at a powerhouse school, done work in front of millions of people and been critiqued by people who are actual smart. I make no apologies that I hold my education and experience as not equal to everyone else.
Here’s the dilemma I’ve been wrestling with for the last year: There’s a safe-ness to being an Insider (even if it’s an Insider on the outlying edges of the Inside).
And something just doesn’t feel right about that safeness. It feels as though I may soon find myself resting on laurels that happened years – decades – ago, righteously defending what I have done without ever having progresses beyond those achievements.
Which is the opposite of everything I have just described.
I’m a builder, a maker. There is nothing I love more than finding a big, gloppy mess, rolling up my sleeves and figuring out what’s going on. Conversely, there is nothing I hate more than standing in front of a pristine, completed product.
The one constant that has helped me come to grips with my elitism is this: I’ve never been afraid to start over; I’ve never been afraid to do any job; and I’ve never used my education to bolster what I have done over the progress of what may be right.
At least I hope.
But there’s only one way to be sure.
I’m ditching everything I’ve done, putting it behind me and moving forward. Into this world of Transmedia Narratives. To a place where I start in the basement. The first rung. The bottom of the barrel. The place where I know nothing and nobody knows me.
Of course, my time in the world of technology and media has helped me find some of the people who have created this field. And my background with emerging technologies has helped.
Still as I sit here on the 16th floor of my hotel, preparing to give a talk about a project that won’t launch for another 9 months, I’m nervous. Waiting in the wings to see what happens when I step on to the stage not as a grizzled veteran of emerging technology and journalism, but as a newbie preparing for my first steps down a new path.
Anxious to experience the rookie mistakes I make. Anxious to experience the soaring successes that come with not knowing what you’re not supposed to do.
Aloha means goodbye. (And hello.)