Occasionally I wonder whether I blog too much and consider whether I should stop, cut back or change directions.
I identified with some of the things that Andrew Sullivan said when announced this week that he will stop blogging. Even as a sideline venture, as my blog has always been, a blog keeps whispering “feed me” in your ear. You read or hear things and start thinking about blogging about them, even if you only actually blog about a small minority of them. If you care about a blog, it becomes demanding or time-consuming. If becomes a big part of your life, and sometimes you need to make changes in your life.
I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged.
He posted that on Wednesday. I feel like a slacker for waiting till Saturday to blog about it. So many people have already weighed in:
- Ezra Klein wrote about how blogging has changed under Vox and other media startups.
- Josh Benton reviewed Sullivan’s blogging history and importance.
- Mathew Ingram wrote about the evolution of blogging.
- Ana Marie Cox analyzed our the evolution of blogging and whether the term even fits any more.
Sullivan’s reasons for deciding to stop blogging are deeply personal, related to his health and feelings about how he wants to spend his time and about feeding the beast that a blog can become (he started charging for The Dish two years ago, which no doubt raises the pressure for feeding the beast; my blog is free).
Each blogger’s situation is different by many factors: what you have to say; your relationship with the people who respond to your blog; how unique or important you think a particular post may be; how frequently you want or need to blog; whether you blog for pay, passion or both; whether and how the blog is advancing your career; other things going on with your life, such as jobs, health and family.
I have kept blogging through several career and personal turns because I always felt like I had something to say and I have enjoyed my relationships with people in the blog comments, on social media and in person who appreciate my blog (including many who disagree on some points). And the blog has advanced my career and raised my profile within journalism.
The newspaper job I never held that I wanted most was columnist. (I wrote columns as part of my duties in several jobs, but never was a full-time columnist.) A columnist needs to have something to say three or four times a week, and that job seemed to line up with my notion that I had something to say (or could find something to say) frequently and regularly. That didn’t work out, but I think I way prefer blogging to being a columnist (I’ve written about the similarities and differences and won’t repeat them here.)
More than 10 years ago, when blogging was growing as a field in digital media, I started my first blog, Training Tracks, for the newsroom training site, No Train, No Gain. From the first, blogging scratched my professional itches. Though response was light initially, it was meaningful (including a response from an Arab journalist that I’ve blogged about before). And the response grew, as I engaged with a wider community in social media and on this blog.
I have been an early riser most of my life, and blogging fit neatly in that morning space between when I arose and needed to start working. When I traveled a lot (or commuted about an hour each way on the Washington Metro in my TBD days), blogging became a way to pass time on trains, buses and airplanes and in hotels and airport lounges. I’m sure that 90 or more percent of the posts you read here are written mostly between 6:30 and 8:30 in the morning or away from the home and office. The blog helped my work in multiple ways: Some posts were directly related to work, some promoted my colleagues’ work or provided guidance to them. And working on posts got my day rolling, so when I turned attention to work, I already had momentum.
Usually the blog is pure joy. I love writing it. I love the interaction it brings and I love the outlet for things I have to say. But sometimes other matters suck up even those early hours. Sometimes I don’t like what I’ve written or can’t say what I thought I needed to say (my drafts folder has 61 items, not including all the drafts in Word files or all the old workshop handouts I’ve been meaning to update and post here someday; maybe I’ll try to dust off some of those while I’m undergoing chemo). Even on those days when I don’t write anything that’s ready to publish, the beast still whispers (or sometimes shouts) “feed me.”
This is only my sixth post of January. I posted 28 times last January. Nearly half of those were guest posts, but guest posts involve plenty of work, too: recruiting contributors, rounding up their copy and photos, editing and posting their work. Each is a post on my blog, and last January felt productive in a way that this January doesn’t. And in October, I had 20 posts, only one of them a guest post.
My decline in production relates on multiple levels to my treatment for lymphoma:
- Some days I just don’t have the energy for more than the stuff I have to do. I can ignore the blog’s voice saying “feed me,” but I can’t ignore the calendar reminder that class starts in an hour. Blogging has always been a spare-time pursuit, and when your energy lags, you heed the most urgent voices.
- I’m sleeping later, so that early-morning blogging momentum doesn’t happen as often. (On the days my treatment includes steroids, though, I get a little middle-of-the night blogging done.)
- My blogging has shifted a bit. I’ve long blogged about baseball on my Hated Yankees blog (only two posts this month) and about travel on Mimi’s and my 2 Roads Diverged blog (no posts yet this year, and given all the travel I’ve canceled, probably dormant for a while). Last year I also contributed about monthly to the INMA Culture Change blog (I withdrew from that one as I was curtailing outside work to undertake treatment). I just finished a draft for the EdShift blog (to which I also contributed last month. Last month I started a Caring Bridge journal on my cancer treatment. I wrote 12 posts there this month, most of them shorter than a post here and not taking as much work, but still they have taken up some of my blogging time. I’m pretty sure that’s the only time I’ve blogged more in a month on a different blog than I have here.
- The illness and treatment take up bigger parts of your attention, pushing aside things that you often read, think, chat and write about. Mimi called to my attention Wednesday that Sullivan was stopping blogging. That’s a development I probably would have seen first on my own when my mind was less crowded. Even the second time Mimi mentioned Sullivan’s announcement, I at first thought she was talking about Margaret Sullivan (Sulliview, Sullydish, hey, I’ve had a lot on my mind). Eventually I read his note to readers and thought about it enough to blog about it (obviously). But it had to fight through a lot of more pressing matters to make it to the screen.
- The time you spend responding personally to family and friends (and strangers who have connected through this blog and on social media) is time you’re not blogging. I cherish all the gifts, cards, emails and social media messages I’ve received and I want to respond personally to them all (I’m hoping to catch up during this hospital stay). That time spent in personal communication probably comes from the time you’d spend in wider communication.
- Some things just don’t seem that important. A friend suggested a blog post on Twitter this week. I was flattered that he wanted to know what I thought on the topic, and I might have banged out something quickly. But, beyond not having time to bang out something quick, I didn’t care that much. You may not see as many posts from me over the next few months, but they will be about the topics that crowd their way to the top of my priorities.
I understand why Sullivan is stopping blogging, even if I’ve decided differently. While his blog has moved from place to place, he’s been a blogger longer than I’ve stayed with any job. Sometimes you move on from one great job to another. Sometimes it’s just time to change, for a mix of good and bad reasons.
I hope Sullivan’s health issues are not serious (or, that if they are, the treatments are as effective as mine). I look forward to reading whatever book(s) or long, thoughtful writing he produces. (I have a few book ideas that I haven’t pursued because I just don’t have — or haven’t made — the time.) As a fellow blogger who hasn’t practiced this craft as long as he has, nor soared as high in the blogosphere as he has, I salute Andrew Sullivan, thank him and wish nothing but the best for one of the best.
I gave brief thought to putting my blog on a hiatus when I posted about having cancer. I decided to settle for a slowed pace (except for those nights when I can’t sleep). Here’s why I choose (for now) to continue blogging:
- I cherish the relationships that this blog helped me build. The outpouring of support from journalists has been humbling and gratifying. Of course, the relationships also started and built in real life and on social media, but I know the conversations that this blog started and joined have been a huge part of my professional friendships. I cherish that and will continue at whatever pace I can manage.
- My treatment has curtailed my travel for several months, so the blog (and social media) help me maintain connections when I’m not able to connect in person with professional friends at conference, workshops and seminars. (But if you’re headed to Baton Rouge …)
- I know that I still have something to say about journalism and media, and this remains a good place to say it. So I’ll continue blogging here at whatever pace I can.
Personal update: My lymphoma is in remission, no longer visible in a CT scan. Much treatment remains. We have to kill off the microscopic cells and the cancer in the colon and bone marrow, where it had spread and which the scan doesn’t show. So I’m back in the hospital for round 3 of chemo. Mesna is coursing through my veins now, protection against the Cytoxan, of which I’m not on my second of six doses over three days (when a drug has “tox” in its name, you know it’s gonna have side effects). Details on Caring Bridge.