I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions. ~James Michener

The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible. ~Vladimir Nabakov

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ~Sylvia Plath

With apologies to the late Ms. Plath, the worst enemy to creativity is self-destruction, ma’am. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitch…oh, alright, I’ll stop.

It’s a regular Sunday here, late in the morning with the nagging screech of cartoons in the next room. I am still fuzzy-headed from sleep, drinking coffee from a huge white mug that says “DENVER” on it, which I bought precisely for its ability to hold a large amount of caffeine so I don’t have to keep going back and forth to the coffeemaker. The sun fences with the clouds – advancing with little shafts of light, then retreating behind the grey again. Every few minutes a jet rumbles overhead, in final descent to Sea-Tac. An assortment of spring birds chirp in repeating patterns outside the big window by my shambles of a desk, where I sit and write every day. It’s a regular Sunday, but also a day of note for me. Today is the two-year anniversary of this blog. This is the 884th post I have made.

Holy crap! That is a big-ass coffee mug ‘o words right there. Don’t ask me where they all came from. I don’t drink that much coffee. But I feel good about it. I do. I do, and this is why: this is one strange blog. On any given day, you and I might find a concert review, a political rant, something surrealist my daughter said, a piece of fiction, YouTubes of loud goats, a collection of small-town crime reports, a detailed recollection of something I did 35 years ago, or a photo of some weird person at the beach. I say “you and I,” in the above sentence because I have no idea what I am going to write on any given day. None. Zip. Zero. Nada. But 884 times over 730 days, I wrote something, I liked it, I put it here, and sometimes other people read it and liked it too. Every day, something will appear here – not often painstakingly crafted or blindingly insightful or definitively informative – but, I think, more likely than not to make you smile or think, or possibly think and smile at the same time. Hurray!

Someone else who loves their own damn blog is the rawthah-famous film critic and author Roger Ebert. I am a big fan of his, from the earliest days of Siskel & Ebert – a never-missed TV program in our house when I was growing up – and I came to appreciate later what a really good writer he is. His work is elegant without being precious or pretentious, clear and concise with just the right amount of detail and emotion. This is a big deal, you know. It is not all that often that you find a career journalist who can expertly express feeling and texture and depth as well as Ebert can. When reading his pieces it becomes so clear that Ebert is happiest when he is able to communicate: to illuminate, to explain, to persuade, to celebrate, to deconstruct, to catch and then shape something intangible into something we can keep.

It was with great sadness that I first heard of Roger Ebert’s battle with cancer a few years ago, just a few years after Gene Siskel died of the same disease. It’s been an exceptionally tough fight. You can learn something about real strength of character by seeing how he has handled his illness and its costs, and I say that not in some weepy maudlin pity tone, either. You want to learn something about how to live your life, not just how to get by – look at what Ebert is doing, and what he has learned. Yesterday I read this Esquire article about Roger Ebert written beautifully by Chris Jones, and you should see it too. It’s not a easy read, I will warn you – I ended up in tears by the end – but it was very well worth the sadness for the ultimate sense that Roger Ebert is still Roger Ebert and the maker of The World’s Finest Lemonade.

Ebert has lost his ability to speak. His lower jaw is gone, taken by thyroid cancer that spread, and reconstructive surgeries that failed. He is fed through a tube. Consider the ramifications of those particular cruelties upon someone who talked on TV for a living, how it would feel to have your physical voice taken from you as well as your familiar face, all on public view. It would not have been at all unexpected for Ebert to retreat into his lovely Lincoln Park home with his devoted wife Chaz, and never be heard from again.

So…what made the difference? Roger Ebert started writing an online journal, a blog. Able for the first time to “speak” at length about anything he wished, to the entire world in real time (which is what the internet is really all about, Charlie Brown), freed him from many of the constraints of disability into something with endless possibilities for expression and communication. From the Esquire article:

“The existence of an afterlife, the beauty of a full bookshelf, his liberalism and atheism and alcoholism, the health-care debate, Darwin, memories of departed friends and fights won and lost — more than five hundred thousand words of inner monologue have poured out of him, five hundred thousand words that probably wouldn't exist had he kept his other voice. Now some of his entries have thousands of comments, each of which he vets personally and to which he will often respond. It has become his life's work, building and maintaining this massive monument to written debate — argument is encouraged, so long as it's civil — and he spends several hours each night reclined in his chair, tending to his online oasis by lamplight. Out there, his voice is still his voice — not a reasonable facsimile of it, but his.

"It is saving me," he says through his speakers.

Roger Ebert, in the parlance of this indelicate place, has balls. He still goes out, still travels, still sees his friends and colleagues, still scraps with all he has to define his place in the world while he is here. I’ve said these very same sentiments here – I don’t know how many times because there’s an f of a lot of words here – but I’ll let Ebert say them this time:

“I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”

When you absolutely know this, everything you do makes sense and life is immeasurably better. It doesn’t always take a tragedy to reveal – maybe just enough years on the planet and a little time spent in reflection and observation. At the end of the day, if you have left someone smiling when they think about you or something you said or did or made, there really isn’t anything a whole lot better. You don’t have to be grand or famous to have done amazing things -- things that may have such deep and radiant effect you can’t even begin to understand it all or where it all goes.

So, honestly, I feel pretty damn good about making myself AND someone else giggle over a goat that sounds like a man or turning someone on to a great new band or maybe saying something in my voice that someone else would think but never say. It’s a lot of fun to write and do stuff. So hurray to me today and hurray to Roger Ebert and hurray to you for being there too. I hope we all can keep doing our things for a big-ass coffee mug o’ time.