about eight hundred words

I’ve done a lot of writing in my life, producing songs, reviews, blog posts, articles and a book. My favorite form of writing, though, is the newspaper column. As both a reader and a writer, I love that these pieces can be read quickly, that they must have a fairly specific point and that they are accessibly written. But the most engaging part of a column (to me) is that one learns of a given writer's particular preoccupations not from reading any particular column, but from the accumulation of information that comes from continually reading that him or her week after week.

Several years ago, when I was in graduate school, I got to write a political column for the student newspaper. I absolutely loved it, and have been looking for that rush ever since. I got tired of waiting for someone with a magazine or newspaper to offer me a column, so I gave one to myself by starting this site.

The page’s title comes from the word count I did of some random column in the newspaper after I got the idea to put up the site. I have since discovered that some columns are as short as seven hundred words and others range up to a thousand. But I liked the sound of eight hundred words, so I stuck with it.

Perhaps more important is that over time I have more-or-less abandoned this plan. My original plan was to put up at least one column a week, and to supplement that with a blog as things kind of came up. Rather than being short, pithy little pieces, though, my blog posts quickly became over-researched monstrosities far longer than the typical column. Many of them in fact resemble the dreaded think piece. So I eventually dumped everything into the blog because no one is paying me, it's my site and I can do whatever I want.

Nonetheless, I still think that the writing here does what good columns do: deliver a fairly (but not uniformly) consistent viewpoint centering around some consistent preoccupations. Like other blogs, though, it also features the occasional short (or not-so-short) recommendation or undeveloped musing. I like the free-flowing format that has developed here, but do think that my initial impulse to keep things punchy by restricting the word count was a good one. So I might impose some greater discipline on myself in the future. In the meantime, though, I hope you enjoy reading whatever I put up there. Feel free to comment or submit something should you be inspired to do so.


Editorial Policies

  • I understand why people on other sites have policies that they will issue notice of correction whenever any writing is changed or updated. In theory, I support that. Unfortunately, I am an inveterate tinkerer, and will constantly revisit posts and columns to correct spelling, alter grammar, update syntax and so on. I can guarantee that putting notices up every time I did that would get tedious very quickly. So I won't do that.

  • I will always place a notice of correction, however, on any update or revision that reflects a substantive change in the meaning of what has been written. I reserve the right to determine which changes meet that standard.

  • It is my impression that most commenting these days takes place on social media. Thus I would encourage anyone who wishes to comment on something I have written to do so on Twitter, where I am @mike_in_atx. I have removed the capacity for readers to make comments directly on the site.

  • Any policies may be changed at any time.




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