Fewer, Better Things

I took a month off of writing. I don’t know that I’m really ready to start back, but taking time off always scares me somewhat – I am always afraid that if I don’t start back, the words will quit coming.

And that would be unbearable.

Which is why, on this muggy but clear January morning, I’m writing on my laptop, in a nice room in a nice hotel on St. Charles Street in New Orleans. I had to come down yesterday afternoon for a meeting, and later this morning I will go to another meeting before I drive the three hours home. And this morning, I walked along the Carnival route on St. Charles, read the old plaques, sipped my cafe au lait, and spent some time in my head.

A thing I’ve been thinking about while not writing has been, ironically, about my writing. Or, more properly, my Writing. That’s how I think of my public-facing words, the part of my brain I share publicly with you all – it’s Writing, as if making it a proper noun imbues it with importance and stature and makes them somehow more than the rantings of a 50-year-old man with an aching back and stiff joints.

So, the Writing. As I have alluded to elsewhere, I need to scale back. A persistent problem I have is that I get bored, so I start new projects. But new things require upkeep, and one day you wake up with a blog and two newsletters and a membership program and a birdcam and a full-time job and a part-time job, and all the while, you are trying to be a good citizen and a good spouse, and it all gets to be too much.

So, periodically, you have to clean up the mess you’ve made.

That’s what I’m in the midst of doing now – cleaning up the mess. And cleaning up messes take time. I didn’t make it all in one day, and it won’t get cleaned up in one day.

For now, it makes the most sense to restrict my public-facing writing to just two outlets – my newsletter and my blog. I have written the newsletter reliably and consistently for nearly eight years now -I’m not worried about my ability to keep that up. It will shift and change somewhat, as it has for the last eight years, but it will still come out Monday mornings and will still seek to point to the beauty that is always there, no matter how well hidden.

And I love having a blog, a corner of the internet that is just mine that isn’t subject to the whims of algorithms and corporate priorities. But the blog will change: It will become less formal, less complete, and more frequent. A lot of the current format – such as long posts with leading photos and well-defined categories, are the result of business decisions and not artistic decisions. The corporate owners of the various social media outlets have taught us – trained us, really – to write for machines and not people. They have shaped us to be content creators, not humans who dream, cry, hope, and fail.

I do not like that at all.

So now I will blog for people. Expect more frequent but shorter posts. Expect some syndication changes as well – the amount of work it takes to do it the way I currently do is unsustainable.

Sustainability has become more important to me these days. It turns out I want to neither burn out nor fade away – I want to keep going, keep writing, keep sharing, keep growing, and keep learning. But I no longer want to be a product, a “content creator”, a machine writing for machines. I want to do fewer things better.

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