For the last few weeks I’ve been pondering on the idea of a new limited series of posts. Maybe six or twelve posts here, expanding on my view of all the controversial stuff that seems to preoccupy our every waking moment.
I’m thinking here of abortion, voting and voting rights, free speech, LGBTQ issues, the Second Amendment, the environment, healthcare and the social safety net, and fiscal responsibility (or lack thereof). I’m sure offhand I’m missing some of the key topics that make people do the crazy.
It feels like good mental exercise to a) Refine my own thinking a bit and b) Likely offend, anger, annoy, or otherwise agitate every single person who reads the blog or follows me on social media over the course of two or three months. I mean with goals like that, what could really go wrong?
So, aside from anything I’ve already thrown out, what are the other grand controversies of the day just begging to be given the once over?
This week offers a real grab bag of topics that could easily be slotted into tonight’s post. There are rioters who the media insists we call protestors, there are those who want us to fall all over ourselves apologizing for the long history of the United States, there are people who refuse to follow simple, lawful instructions, there are local governments all over the country that are failing to provide the most basic services of government – the safety and security of their citizens, and there are those from every corner who are working all possible angles to find advantage in the chaos – whether that’s through committing acts of violence, theft, or injecting outside agitation into already unstable situations.
Like I said, there’s almost no limit to what I could have written on this Thursday. The problem is, I don’t want to. The only goal I’ve had for the last five years or so, really, is to be left in peace on the side of this hill… and that litany of topics brings me anything but peace.
I spent some time at the office this week. I spent some time at home. I did a little work. I’ve done a lot of reading. I’ve laid down on the floor and let myself become a human chew toy. I’ve worked through a not insignificant volume of gin. None of those things led me towards burning down a car dealership or taking pot shots at someone in the street. It leads me to wonder if we wouldn’t collectively be better off if we all just stayed in our damned lane, take a breather, and give the moment a chance to unfuck itself since continually ratcheting up the pressure doesn’t appear to be getting us anywhere productive.
Since that doesn’t seem likely to happen, I suppose I’ll just stay here on the hillside, rolling my eyes ferociously and muttering to myself.
OK. I’ve arrived at an executive decision. Keeping up a weekly feature highlighting “what I learned this week” just isn’t working for me. Call it a victim of COVID-19.
Yes, my home state of Maryland is continuing to open up. I could go eat at a restaurant, do some in-person shopping at local retail establishments, or do many of the other things that people did to amuse themselves in the before time. The catch, of course, is that I didn’t spend a lot of time doing those things back then – and I lack all motivation to do them now.
Curtailing my primary interests to whatever is happening on my woodsy acre means less opportunity to see something truly new and different that also passes for interesting to a broader audience. I’m still learning plenty, but won’t pretend that finding the perfect mix of herbs and spices for my meat sauce or investigating what’s killing off some of the local pine trees makes for particularly enthralling Friday reading. Likewise, regaling you with what I consider interesting tidbits from whatever books I’m currently reading doesn’t feel like something that would get all that much attention.
For the foreseeable future, I’m putting Friday back into the normal posting rotation. No theme, no special emphasis, just whatever ridiculous shiny bauble happens to have my attention that day.
As it turns out, when I spend the day knocking around local used book shops, eating a late lunch, and then dicking around the house I tend not to have many great topics come to mind when I sit down to blog. Lest someone think that’s a complaint, it’s not. It’s just a simple statement of fact.
In the back of my mind I know this ultra-long weekend is also at its halfway point and I’m bound and determined to squeeze as much down time and relaxation into the five days to come as possible. If things feel a bit more bland than usual around here for a few more days, consider this an official apology.
I try my best to keep a pretty extensive list of ideas I want to write about on the sideline just in case I run into one of those bad days when ideas just stop flowing. Over the last few months I’ve been cheating a bit and dragging ideas off the list. I find that quiver becoming uncomfortably empty at the moment and I’d really like to start adding things back to the list of potential topics rather than continuing to draw it down.
You, my dear readers, can do something to help. Although my personal pride would never let me ask anyone for cash donations, I clearly have no shame about asking you to help me out with ideas.
As I do here from time to time I’m opening the doors wide and encouraging you to go ahead and ask me anything. Is there a subject you think I should talk about? Do you want to know my thoughts on man-rompers or fidget spinners? Do you want to know my favorite food, color, and shoe size? I won’t sell this as a once in a lifetime opportunity, but if there’s anything you’ve been dying to know, this would be an awfully good chance to get an answer.
You can leave your questions in a comment here on WordPress, or on Facebook, or Twitter. Since I’ll be focused on answering your questions, that will give me the chance to refill my own pool of ideas, so really everyone wins here. You get the inside scoop about what’s rattling around in my head, I get to sharpen my writing chops on ideas I would otherwise be thinking about, and maybe we all get to learn a little something in the process. Really, what’s not to like about that?
Sometimes the universe hands you the perfect blog-worthy topic, fills you with background material, and page after page of everything that makes for a good and entertaining read. Just as quickly you realize at those moments that you can’t use a damned word of it because just the act of writing about it would reveal too much about your sources and methods of data collection. I’ve got a damned masterpiece laid out in my head, but I can’t do a thing with it. It’s going to have to suffice to say that it would have been absolutely magnificent. Maybe someday it’s one of those notes I’ll be able to dust off and revive, but it feels like a moment that’s missed and forever gone. It will never be as technicolor real as it is today.
I try hard not to moderate my posts even in the interest of making life a little easier on myself, but sometimes you’ve just got to put it away for the sake of not picking a fight you’re not absolutely in a position to win. It’s one of the hard realities of blogging. Pitting your greater self interest against the desire to post a sensational piece of work is just one more way the writing process conspires to keep a guy humble.
So a few of you (probably those who haven’t been around very long) might think that after a four day hiatus from posting I’d be back and better than every. Sadly, only part of that is true. I’m back. It doesn’t feel like I’ve been gone. And the muse didn’t see fit to endow me with a week’s worth of brilliant posts for your amusement. Trust me when I tell you that I’m far more disappointed than you are about that particular turn of events. If you spend enough time writing (or trying to write), disappointment is just one of the emotions you learn to live with as a constant companion.
I’ve extended the long weekend one extra day so instead of throwing myself back to the wolves tomorrow I’ll ease into it on Wednesday. I’ll try not to rub in the fact that it’s only going to be a two day week for me, but I’m not going to lie and tell you that doesn’t make me awfully happy. Instead of brilliant posts of experiences on the road, I’ll be reaching into the old grab bag this week to see what notes I have left over from posts that never quite got fleshed out. It’s not the most original approach, but there are a few nuggets in there that are likely too good to waste. In the meantime, I’m sure that by mid-morning Wednesday the restive effect of these days off will have been worn away and I’ll find myself with plenty of new stuff that needs saying.
It’s Monday again and even though it’s not a “school night” for me, it definitely feels like the break’s over.
With 1,233 visits, an average of 40 visits per day, and a one day record of 148 visits, October was a good month for jeffreytharp.com. The only sure thing I’ve learned from running a blog this long is that you can never expect success. It’s best to go into each post assuming that you’re writing to satisfy an audience of one: yourself. That’s why I’m savoring the high points when they come – especially since the last record setting month was back in May 2011. What that trend tells me is that apparently people like to see ranting about work (May 2011 I was in the final stages of escaping my previous employer) and raging about government ineptitude (This past October saw the latest government shutdown and endless incidents of political asshattery).
As tempting as it is to chase that trend, I don’t think that’s what I want to spend all my time writing about. The reason I’ve never settled into a topical niche is that I tend to be interested in whatever happens to go on around me on any given day. Maybe that’s a character flaw, but it does give me wide latitude when it comes to picking topics. I very much like having latitude.
So with that said, I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing around here for almost four years now. I’ll keep writing, you keep reading, and we’ll see if we can’t set a new record sooner rather than later. And because I don’t do it often enough, let me just say thanks to everyone who’s reading along at home, those who impart a snarky word from time to time, throw me a like, or even just shake your head in amazement that someone would bother to manage this much schlock on the internet. This is definitely the best non-paying job on the internet, but I still have a few surprises up my sleeve for the future so let’s go ahead and plan for the best being yet to come.