My first professional writing commission was for Cre@te Online, a magazine for web designers. I’d for months been feeding pithy quotes to an editor, but got made redundant from the web bit of a marketing department during a boom-and-bust cycle.

The editor sweetly immediately offered me the back page (which was typically a fun op-ed), before presumably coming to his senses and hastily asking: “You can write, can’t you?” Fortunately, I’d been penning a monthly column for a now-defunct Mac website, and so had at least a little proof I wasn’t going to file something incomprehensible, in all-caps. And in crayon.

When the issue with my column arrived, I was thrilled to see my words in print, and this kickstarted a big change in my life that has lasted to the present day. Now, the vast majority of my income comes from smashing words into shape. But the difference today is the shape is rather more malleable.

Once, I made a point of owning a copy of everything I wrote. It felt important to me to have in my hands the words I’d created. But eventually stacks of magazines built to the point there was a good chance someone would one day remark: “Yes, it’s all very sad. They found him under a pile of Internet Advisors and MacUsers.”

I switched to only keeping covers and the pages I’d written, but sooner or later even gave that up. The reasons were twofold. First, magazines were getting too expensive and I was writing for a wider range. I had no hope of getting hold of everything, and publishers became increasingly reluctant to send contributors free copies of magazines. Secondly, I more often ended up writing for the internet.

I estimate that over half of my current writing is online-first. Many pieces are written, edited, and rewritten. They become ‘word Lego’ building blocks editors use for other features. Website copy is recycled for magazines, and magazine work finds itself online. It’s sometimes hard to know what you wrote; there’s little record of changes and no sense of permanence.

In a sense, I quite like this modern fluid nature of words. That something written for a time (such as a review, or round-up of products) can be updated is like an injection of new life — a temporary reprieve before the inevitable obsolescence that eventually comes to the vast majority of writing, tech-oriented or otherwise. But a part of me does miss that set-in-stone quality of finely crafted words, and the knowledge that they would remain in that configuration forever.