Why Am I Doing This?

This month marks 10 years since I’ve been writing a blog. That one, called “Citizen Dave,” is on the Isthmus website. Isthmus is Madison’s feisty alternative weekly and it’s only thanks to the determination of its editor, Judy Davidoff, and its veteran staff that it lives to fight on today.

Like all alt weeklies, Isthmus suffered a near fatal blow when its primary revenue source — ads from bars, restaurants and music venues — dried up over night thanks to COVID. Judy and the remaining staff wouldn’t let it die, though. They’re working hard to transition the paper to a nonprofit.

Local news coverage is vital to the health of our community in more ways than I can count. So, if you’ve got, say, an extra $10 a month, please consider supporting it here. It will be the best thing you do all day, maybe all year.

I write “Citizen Dave” once a week, but in the early days it was almost daily. I figure that I’ve easily logged over a half million words there — every damn one of them chosen as carefully as a ripe melon!

Even I’m surprised at how often I’m wrong about stuff. Just ask Pres. Hillary Clinton, who was going to win in a walk.

This blog, “Yellow Stripes & Dead Armadillos,” has only been in business since January 1st. Since I administer the thing, I can tell you exactly how many words I’ve put up: 89,020 in 124 posts. I haven’t missed a day (including weekends) since February 18th. It’s a kind of blogging marathon I’ve got going. I know. Nobody cares. But I’m enjoying it.

And when I ask myself why I’m doing this — Isthmus doesn’t pay much and this pays nothing — the only reason I can come up with is that it’s fun. I’ve always enjoyed writing stuff — essays like this, short stories and novels (unpublished, of course) and even laws in some of my previous jobs.

In third grade, our teacher, Mrs. Raeburger, gave us an assignment to write a short story. We could make up anything we wanted. I don’t recall what I wrote, but I remember being so excited that my pencil shook on the page.

I’ve always felt that way about writing. I’ve never had writer’s block and I think that’s because, while I love writing, I don’t take what I write too seriously. I just crank out the words and I figure, if I don’t like what I wrote — or, more importantly, if you don’t like what I wrote — on a given day, well, there will be another 700 or so words coming tomorrow.

The specific reason I started YSDA is that I felt increasingly alienated from the Democratic Party while I thought the Republicans had become just bat-shit crazy. Our country was becoming more polarized every day while compromise, reason and comity had gone out of fashion. I wanted to do a little something to bolster the center. As it turns out, I’m not alone. There are lots of similar national efforts, but this is the only one I know of locally.

So, I’ve got a purpose in mind, but I also know that this isn’t Shakespeare and nothing I write is going to change the world. Writing is a way for me to figure things out. I’ve always felt that I didn’t really know what I thought about an issue until I wrote about it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a blog figuring I’d go in one direction and then, thanks to the questions that naturally pop up and need research to be answered, I ended up at a different place. I’ve always felt that the ability to write clearly is the direct reflection of an ability to think in the same way.

So, if I strive for anything in my writing, it’s only that: clarity. I don’t have a lot of patience for academic writing or for techie language, designed to exclude or impress or to cover up hazy, ill-defined concepts. When people write foggy sentences, I begin to suspect that either they don’t know what they’re writing about or they don’t want me to understand what they’re saying.

Just try to be clear, I figure, and you’ll also wind up being honest. I certainly might be wrong simply because my research wasn’t thorough enough or because I missed a key point, but I hope I’m never false. Clarity exposes lies or faulty reasoning.

Anyway, this is fun for me. I’d do it with no audience, but the fact that I have any at all is a constant amazement to me. Thanks for reading. And if you didn’t like this one, well, check back here tomorrow.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

2 thoughts on “Why Am I Doing This?

  1. My feelings exactly, except that Marc Eisen asked why don’t I criticize Republicans. Answered, “Is there a shortage of that criticism in Madison?” But I am too irascible — at the cost of some dear colleagues — to sing from the hymnal. Dave C., keep it up.


  2. I have to say I enjoy your writing and I think you should publish a book. Also, I appreciate your voice, like you I am a centrist liberal and find myself less attracted to the Democratic party than at any other time in my life. Unfortunately, as you said, the Republicans have gone insane and are just plane scary at this point. I appreciate a fellow liberal calling out Democrats for their radicalism and illiberalism, it makes me feel less alone. I recommend you subscribe to the substack “Liberal Patriot”, it is the same vein as your writing. Also, the folks at the “Bulwark” are doing this from a center right perspective and I appreciate their views as well. We the politically homeless people need to stick together.



    On Tue, May 18, 2021 at 10:36 AM Yellow Stripes & Dead Armadillos wrote:

    > maplesdave posted: ” This month marks 10 years since I’ve been writing a > blog. That one, called “Citizen Dave,” is on the Isthmus website. Isthmus > is Madison’s feisty alternative weekly and it’s only thanks to the > determination of its editor, Judy Davidoff, and its veteran s” >


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