The Level Playing Field

Comments 25


I will never be able to run faster than Usain Bolt or swim faster than Michael Phelps.

I will never be as intelligent as Neil deGrasse Tyson or Stephen Hawking.

I will never throw a football as well as Peyton Manning or dunk a basketball like LeBron James.

I lack the physical prowess, mental aptitude and genetic resources necessary to be a great athlete or a genius astrophysicist.

But I look down at these keys I punch expertly like an old pro: 26 letters, 10 numbers and a handful of symbols.

That’s it.

That’s all there is.

And my fingers dance. A beautiful sound I fell in love with during my days in the newsroom. An orchestra of tapping. The sound of a thousand word choices being made simultaneously in the great exchange of ideas.

One of my biggest childhood regrets is that I never learned how to play an instrument. I’ve owned two guitars, pianos and keyboards, and a full drum set. And other than some average-at-best trumpet playing in middle school, I’ve never been able to make music—something I love very much.

I have a mother and sister who are both very talented, musically.

I wish I’d inherited those same gifts.

Equal Opportunity – Since 1878

The modern QWERTY standard keyboard has been around since 1878. I once made the keyboard a metaphor for dating after divorce. It totally worked.

That’s how long everyone has had to get to know these keys: 136 years.

I haven’t taken any polls, but my guess is there is a higher percentage of proficient typists living in 2014 than there’s ever been given that so much of our time is spent in front of computers or mobile devices all using the same keys.

I just look at it. It’s simple genius. My brain completely ill-equipped to understand how I’m able to punch all these keys in exactly the right order to make each sentence. Endless possibility. That’s what this device represents. A world without limits.

This is the keyboard used by William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe and the New Testament Gospel writers. (Just kidding.)

But it WAS used by Mark Twain. By George Orwell and Hunter S. Thompson. By Charles Bukowski and Jack Kerouac. By Ernest Hemingway.

It was also used by Mark Zuckerberg to create Facebook. By Bill Gates to create Microsoft. By Larry Page and Sergey Brin to create Google.

Just look at the keys in front of you.

Punch these buttons one way, and you have Not-So-Bright-Internet-Message-Board Guy: “wtf your a idiot every moran know the knicks goin all teh way !!!!!111!!!!11!!!”

Punch them another and you end up with my drivel.

But somewhere in that endless sea of possibilities is the perfect combination of keystrokes. The perfect combination of words that make magic. That change lives. That introduce new ideas. That will pen the next Oscar-winning film. That will earn the TV news anchor her first Emmy. That will win the Noble Prize for literature.

And you don’t have to be the strongest. Or the fastest. Or the smartest. Or the best. You just need to have the keyboard and be brave enough to tap it. Disciplined enough to rewrite. And courageous enough to ship it.

You might even rescue someone 1,000 miles away.

The internet has made it easy. And we have no more excuses.

You have a song to write that will stir our insides.

An idea to share that can help change the world.

A story to tell that might save a life.

Everyone uses the same keyboard. No advantages. The same keyboard. The world’s greatest achievers. Using this exact same tool. What might be possible?

I was wrong.

I am a musician.

This keyboard, my instrument.


A glorious symphony.

Calling you. Calling me.

Go create.

25 thoughts on “The Level Playing Field”

    1. Thank you. It’s so true. We can do so much with this thing.

      Really appreciate you reading and commenting. 🙂

  1. Matt, your post spoke to me loudly today. I’m in New York and took to the typewriter in junior high school, when I chose typing (then it was a class for the slated-to-be-secretaries students). My fingers sang, and today I still type 65-plus words per minute. I often miss typing on a typewriter and wonder if I’d learned on a laptop keyboard, would I have made my words-per-minute count higher. Doesn’t matter. I’m not athletic, the balance beam and uneven parallel bars petrify me, and I’ve shrunk at least one if not more inches in height during the past 10 years. However, these fingers, and my fascination with storytelling and reporting, are ageless. Here’s to the Fourth Estate!

  2. Pingback: The Fourth Estate, and then Some | Kaleidoscope Eyes

  3. I think I probably needed this. So hard to find the time and the inspiration and the… time. But the tapping of those keys, it’s a heartbeat. We need that. Thank you for the beautiful reminder.

    1. You?

      Considering the load you carry every day?

      Everything in context, Jen. (Just one ‘n’?)

      I’ve said it before, because it’s true. You take things… the regular, ho-hum, everyday-life things. And you make them something more.

      You extract all of the beauty from daily life that gets lost on most of us as we search fruitlessly for greener pastures that are equally green to the ones we already graze on.

      You take the ordinary. And you make it magic.

      And it matters.

      And you must never, ever doubt it. And you must never, ever forget it.

      You’re wonderful. Please keep being so.

    1. Sir!

      I go through lulls these days, where I’m horrible about responding. Apologies.

      It means A LOT to me that this resonated with you and made you feel something.

      Making the days count, indeed.

    1. 🙂

      If you want to create, we’ve never lived in a better, more-accessible time.

      We don’t need gatekeepers to give us permission.

      We don’t need to pass any tests.

      We just need to make something and share it. The world will decide what to do with it after.

        1. That’s amazing.

          This is the first year, I was aware of what the entire event was.

          I have this fantasy about writing a novel.

          I lack the confidence (in spades) to give it an honest go.

          I can’t even begin to fathom what it would take to crank one out in a month.

          1. It can take a few years of practice to get to the point of getting all the words out in the first draft. It wasn’t until my third year that I found a system that worked for me, though it doesn’t work for some of my friends.

            The most important thing is to not try and go over things you’ve written at the beginning of the month. Every week those on the site warn us not to revise during November. (*smiles*)

          2. I’m super-impressed by it all.

            I sometimes wonder if I ever got a novel written–even a really horrible, shitty one as my first effort is likely to be–if I’d garner enough value from the experience to be able to do a much better job in future efforts.

            The kind of stories I write now? They just sort of pour out of me organically.

            Fiction writing? As much as I love it, and could probably learn to fall in love with characters, it’s much more of a grind.

            It’s not dying to get out of me in any sort of natural way.

            Big difference.

          3. It doesn’t have to be fiction. They have all kinds of genres or no genre at all if you want. I know people (and have been that person) who just wrote fanfiction for it.

  4. I find your ‘drivel’ (as you say) incredibly helpful. You have a real gift. I look forward to reading your book. All the best.

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