But Always There Has Been Pearl Jam

I’m sitting at the table in my garden apartment in the airbnb in Chicago. Snow has fallen on the ground. Freezing air has settled into the city. My two-day writing journey is underway.

It’s early in the morning. I’m sipping coffee, making notes, and preparing to fix Part One of The Summer of Run. I’ve been fixing it for some time. That’s just my process. I have to dump a great deal of shit on the page to figure out where to plant the seeds.

When it’s time for me to write, I need silence. No music. No talking. No…anything. I need my mind clear, and my thoughts focused.

But that’s not where I am today. Today, I’m creating. I’m painting in my head. I’m building the stories around the spine of the narrative, the thing that makes the story…a story. To do that, I need sound. I need music.

I need Pearl Jam.

My first writing job in 1994 was with the alt-weekly Cincinnati CityBeat. I wrote straight news. I reported on City Hall. I wrote a column called “The Burning Question” where the news team would come up with one question for a local politician or public figure, and then ask them. I loved the column. I loved when I got cussed out. Or when somebody would get so enranged they’d hang up.

But that was journalism as sport. What I loved was features. I had the chance to write short and long features. I wrote about a biker who ran a small church for prostitutes and homeless people. A group of graffiti artists who tagged the city’s sewers (and had a police task for set up to stop them). A bike club that raised money for children and hospitals.

I’d spend weeks running around the city, interviewing people, spending time with them, getting to know them. But I’d never write a thing. Instead, I’d just collect bits and scraps and pieces of notes.

Then when it was time: I would start my ritual.

I’d sit at the bar assembling my notes on bar napkins, numbering them as got drunk, and then dropping them in a manila envelope. I’d construct the bones of the narrative while I got drunk and in between games of pool.

The next night, I’d go home, open a bottle of Jameson, turn off the lights in my room, pull out the napkins, crank up Merkinball, and write until the story was done.

On more than one occasion, I would get up in the morning without recollection of whether I’d submitted the story. I’d slide on my torn jeans, tie my flannel overshirt around my waist, slip on my black dockers, my black leather jacket, and wander into the office to ask the editor if he’d received my email.

I continued that routine — more of less — for the next two decades of my life. The booze came and went. The drugs came and went. My relationships came and went.

But always there’s been Pearl Jam, the soundtrack for my writing. The mood behind my creativity.

So New: In Which I Survive TedxCincinnati (25 of 90)

I wished I had Brad King as a professor in journalism school. The Ball State University professor is a fellow researching how new technologies impact story-telling. He reminded the crowd that no one is a digital native. — TEDxCincy showcases think power, Laura Baverman in the Cincinnati Enquirer

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It was a good day at the TedxCincy conference.

There’s simply no way I can thank everyone, but I’m going to start at least: the awesome crew who made this event happen (Mary, Michael, Emily and David), the volunteers, the other speakers, the Ball State University Center for Media Design folks, my students and former students (Rhett, Becky, Logan), my friends (Kevin, Dacia, Elizabeth), plus all the wonderful people I met (Katie, Suzanne, Meredith).

There were truly amazing speakers, people who just simply blew my mind. Here are my top 5 in no particular order (leaving out Dhani Jones, who was also spectacular):

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So New: In Which I Officially – and Formally – Leave Media and Technology Behind(24 of 90)

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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.

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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.

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