Writing, even something as trivial as the next blog post, for me – maybe for everyone – doesn’t come from a happy place. It doesn’t happen when I’m content and well rested. It comes from anger, frustration, annoyance and most of the feelings that make up the Dark Side of the Force.
Four day weekends rarely evoke those feelings in me, though… except maybe once we’re within a twelve hour window of the long weekend being over. Then the angst finds all sorts of interesting ways to display itself.
This weekend I threw more books on the stack, spent quality time with the critters, watched a couple of movies, made some drinks, had some food, spent time with what probably constitutes a full third of the total number of people I have any interest in being around for longer than 15 minutes, and generally relaxed… insofar as I ever really “relax.” It wasn’t the kind of weekend that engenders particularly interesting stories… and it certainly didn’t fill me with motivation to find anything to write about.
So I skipped Monday. It’s Tuesday now, though, and we’re back in the swing of it, so I’ll return – if not quite gladly – to the regular posting schedule.
Chalk this up to one of those nights where my worst enemy is a blank screen and a flashing cursor. There are worse problems to have – ass cancer for instance – but I really do try rather hard to have something engaging, interesting, or otherwise worth reading here four days a week… even if sometimes the word count runs a little bit short. There are a few days a year when getting across that bar is harder than others.
I’m going to blame it on the onrushing calendar and the impending arrival of Christmas and the long sweep of days off that goes along with it. It wouldn’t be entirely true to say that I’ve engaged cruise control and switched my brain over into rest mode, but it would’t be entirely misleading either. The fact is, I’m doing my level best to make the next week and a half as absolutely low key and minimally demanding as possible.
There are plenty of external factors I can’t control, but there are plenty that I can exert influence upon – like when someone asks if I’m going to scheduled a meeting about some random project coming up in April. The answer to that one is a hard no, spoken with conviction. Something, of course, could come along and convert that no to a yes, but it won’t be because I’m calling a meeting just because we haven’t had one in a while.
I’m easing into the end of 2018. So bear with me if anything around here feels just a little less energetic than usual.
Whoever it was that came up with the idea of autoplaying a video as a website opens should rot in hell right next to the guy who invented the pop up ad. For most sites I’m fully understanding that generating income from ads is how you make your money. Running a website and keeping up content isn’t an inexpensive proposition. I spend $50 a year out of pocket to keep the lights on here in my little sector of the web. I could be ad driven and defray some of that cost, but I’m determined that it’s just not worth it. Ad free content is, in my opinion, better for the reader as well as for the writer.
Usually this is something that would wait for the weekly roundup of WAJTW, but it doesn’t feel right to pile it into a list with three other things when it is so patently obnoxious. I’ve steadfastly avoided downloading ad blocking software because I know that even on the internet everyone has bills to pay, but with the ever increasing intrusiveness of your ads, I’m only another few bad experiences away from giving up my scruples and loading up some software to kill off as many of these ads as possible.
Site owners need to find a better model. No matter how good your content is, if I have to deal with an advertisers video yelling at me with no apparent off switch or pop ups that take up two thirds of the screen space, I’m not interested enough in what you’re saying to wade through the mess to look at it. Maybe it’s too much to ask, but if advertisers designed spots that were somehow compelling instead of just being annoying maybe I’d actually click over and have a look. As it is, I’ll just close the screen and go find my content elsewhere.
If there’s anything more thankless than going in to the office and trying to get some work done on the day before Thanksgiving, it’s got to be posting a blog later that same night when it’s virtually guaranteed that absolutely no one is going to be paying attention. The only thing in my favor is that here on the east coast we got the first snow of the season, so many potential readers might just be sitting the night out at home. I’m not holding my breath on that, of course, which is why you’re reading this process piece instead of seeing anything remotely resembling meaty content.
After more years that I want to think about, I really do have a sense for how scheduling drives the number of posts. It’s a blessing and a curse since it means sometimes I’ll withhold some good writing until I know more than a few people will be paying attention. It also drives the fact that I almost never post on Friday and Saturday. Sadly the world has better things to do on those days than listen to another blow hard ranting on the internet. I’m not selling any advertising here, but still it’s nice to know that what you write has got a fighting chance of being seen… because no matter how much noise we make about writing for ourselves and not for an audience, we really, really want the audience.
So as you’re sitting there, toasty warm in front of your pre-Thanksgiving fire, sipping your nog (or whatever it is you’re supposed to sip at Thanksgiving), think of the poor harried bloggers out there smashing away at their keyboards and wanting nothing more than a few more people to drop by their site. Take a little time tonight and poke around WordPress or Blogger and there’s a good chance you’ll run across someone whose voice you need to hear. It’s a jungle out there, but there are some incredibly good writers too who are just churning it out for the love of our particular game.
I do my level best not to let a trifle like work interfere with the important work of blogging and trying to deliver my next sarcasm-laden book to an expectant world. Most days I’m successful on that front. This week, my expectations are somewhat more limited. Tonight for example I’m sitting here at the computer just barely able to keep my eyes open. It’s the second night in a row that I’ve been at least an hour late heading home and on balance the week should only really get worse from here.
I’ll make every effort to keep up with fresh posts for the duration, but let me go on record as making absolutely no promises in that regard. At the rate this week is currently spiraling out of control, by this time tomorrow it’s possible I’ll be subsisting entirely on a diet of coffee and whatever I can find from a vending machine. By Thursday I’m beginning to think I’ll have lost the capacity for coherent speech and default to communicating through prehistoric grunts and pointing in the general direction of what I want.
As far as I can tell at the moment, this week plans to be nothing but a time thief and that means you’ll have to suffer right along with me… so please forgive me for whatever drivel ends up filling these otherwise respectable pages over the next few days.
1. Failing to read for comprehension. When I send you a four sentence email it’s not like reading the entire thing is going to monopolize your day, especially when one of those sentences tells you exactly how to do what you’re trying to do. No, the answer isn’t to send me more “follow up” emails. The answer, as I will tell you over and over and over again as needed, is right there starting on line two of the original response, which you obviously didn’t stop long enough to read. You can feel free to “follow up” all you want, but damned if I’m doing it for you. Your inability to read and comprehend simple English is not so much my responsibility.
2. The value of time. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know the value of my time. It’s the most limited commodity I have and it doesn’t come cheap. Unless you’re on the friends and family plan, it never, ever comes free. Whatever it is that’s so critical, unless it’s an immediate threat to life or property, really isn’t so critical and certainly doesn’t give rise to the need to give anyone a freebie. I’ve been around long enough to know that there’s always a tomorrow… and on the off chance there isn’t a tomorrow none of it is really going to matter at that point anyway.
3. Non-surprise surprises. For the love of Pete, when I’ve been telling you for weeks that X is going to happen on Y date how in seven hells are you surprised on Y-4 that Y is going to happen next week. It’s been on the damned calendar for 5 months. We’ve had at least 30 meetings about it, but whoa, every-damn-body but me seems to be taken by surprise. Look, I know we always try to kill the gator closest to the boat first, but there’s no way I’m letting anyone get away with the “Uh, I didn’t know” excuse on this one. I find it interesting that all the things we didn’t have time to do three months ago, we now suddenly want to cram into a day and a half. I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t wrap myself in knots trying to do that which is inherently illogical if not downright impossible given the limitations of available time and manpower.
I think I know why Hemingway went to places like Havana and Key West to do his writing. I can put more words on the page sitting in a dive bar perched at the end of a ramshackle pier than I can most days sitting in the comfort of my own kitchen. Working at home offers the distraction of the familiar and the hundred other things that need to be done to keep the household running. The dive is full of any number of exotic distractions, but they’re different somehow – almost inspirational in a way that your tired old Mr. Coffee and the hum of the refrigerator will never be. There’s something about being away from the familiar that lets the ideas come more freely. Who knows, maybe there really is something to being outside your normal box.
Plus, if only in my own deluded fantasy, when the inevitable leggy brunette slides in next to you with her CrossFit body and a voice of a 1940s Hollywood starlet asking what you’re doing, you can tell her you’re writing a novel… or a novella in my case… but you’re going to want to say novel because no one really knows what a novella is. Besides, chicks dig writers. Quiet down. I already pointed out this is my own deluded fantasy and not the real world where people stare at you blankly when you tell them your grand aspirations as a writer. Sadly, neither the fantasy brunette nor the writing career is really the point.
The only reason I bring any of this up is I’ve spent the last six weeks writing from notes I put together while I was at the beach. That’s six weeks working from material I put together in my spare time over three days and nights. I’d hate to think what my daily word count could jump to if not saddled by such trivial matters as having bills to pay and a full time job. Reality is an often troublesome taskmaster.
Tonight, much to my chagrin, I realized my bag o’ ideas was empty and what I reached for as a substitute turned out to be something I wrote extensively about in 2011. In fact that old post was so close in phrasing at some points that it was genuinely creepy to look at them side by side, but written almost exactly three years apart. I’ve always said that I value consistency, but in this one small area, I worry it could be too much of a good thing.
Aside from being damned inconvenient, it also means from now on I’m apparently going to have to search my own website to make sure what I’m having is a legitimately new idea before spending any time rehashing a chestnut from the past. New ideas get harder and harder to come by when you’ve strewn opinion online for as many as five nights a week for almost eight years. I’ll either need to change up the routine, start seeing different parts of the world, and interacting with new people. Or I’ll just have to spend more time at the beach coming up with ideas. When I put it that way, there doesn’t really feel like a contest about which I should do… because changing up the routine, seeing different things, and meeting new people sounds just awful.