I don’t know what people imagine the life of a modern novelist to be like, but the fact is, I’ve got my fingers in a lot of different pies besides writing. Once, I thought that being a professional writer meant never having to do anything other than write. I realized after a while that just doing any one single thing repeatedly over time becomes boring, no matter how much you love it. Several years ago I began teaching myself web design, and a few years after that I discovered WordPress for myself.
I had resisted WordPress for a long time because I thought of it as a blogging platform, which for the first few years of its existence is just what it was. WordPress sites all looked the same and none of them really interested me.
The platform has changed tremendously. It’s very versatile, and it can look like anything now. This site is built on WordPress, using a theme I built myself. I call it Shoelace, because it’s Bootstrap integrated with WordPress. I don’t say it’s the most beautiful theme in the world, but it’s mine, and I love it.
Another nice thing about WordPress is that it’s free and open source. It powers nearly a quarter of the websites in the world. Think about that for a minute. That’s over a billion sites. The inventor and founder, Matt Mullenweg, is not mentioned very often alongside the likes of Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerburg, or the founders of Google, but he should be. Of all the transformative geniuses on the internet, he’s probably the quietest.
I love the idea of democratizing the web. Part of what that means to me is making it technically accessible to everyone. You shouldn’t have to be a computer scientist to have a nice-looking website that works well. That’s one of the things WordPress aims to provide: broad usability. So far, they’re doing a great job.
I run a small web design firm called Mahone Bay Web Design, really more as a hobby than anything else. I like making sites for friends and for small local businesses. It gives me a lot of pleasure to see these businesses experience growth after I build a site for them.
And something about web design reminds me of the old days of publishing, when small publishers put out pamphlets and broadsheets of poetry, philosophy, and politics. It used to be common to see people standing on the corner, selling their thoughts and artistic aspirations for a penny. The web has changed the medium, but the marketplace is very similar. Everyone is still clamoring to be heard. This is part of the human experience, I guess. It’s messy and loud, and often annoying as hell.
But I still love it.