What Annoys Jeff this Week?

If you’re clicking over to jeffreytharp.com and it’s Thursday, there’s a better than average chance that you’re looking for What Annoys Jeff this Week. It’s the only weekly feature I offer here and it remains almost without exception my high water mark for readers each and every week. If you’re here to read the next installment of the top three major or minor annoyances this week, though, I’m afraid I’m about to disappoint you. That’s because I’m going to use the platform this afternoon to go down a much more self-congratulatory path… I think.

If you look closely at the web address up at the top of the page you’ll see that it’s showing WAJTW/301. For those not following along that means it’s the 301st time “What Annoys Jeff this Week” is being used as a title. Given the occasional missed Thursday (although there have been damned few of those) WAJTW has been showing up regularly here for six years. In that time there have been about 900 documented annoyances. I’m still trying to wrap my head around those numbers. Even I have to admit that’s more grievances than I expected… and I’m the one who took the time to write them all out. I refuse to even do the math on how much time got poured into that (but it rhymes with funhundred and fifty hours and that assumes it only took 30 minutes to bang out each post).

So, what do you do when you realize you’ve spent an inordinate amount of time cataloging and bitching about the myriad things that have agitated you over the last six years? Since it’s the start of a long weekend, you mostly shrug your shoulders, order up a pizza, and wonder what jackassery the world is going to throw at you over the next six years. Say what you will about my chosen theme, but if you trade in people who do stupid things and what pisses you off, the well is just about bottomless. In my own utterly jaded way, I’m actually thankful for that.

On the importance of knowing yourself…

Here’s a secret… at least half the time I sit down to write I have no idea what’s going to come pouring out onto the screen. Sometimes I have a vague idea or a general topic in mind. Other time’s a have a pretty decent outline, but for the most part when it comes to blogging I have no idea what I’m actually doing.

The daily stats WordPress tracks will back me up on that. Posts and topics I think should draw views like files to honey lay quietly while something more mundane climbs up the “most viewed” posts list. I don’t know if I’ll ever crack the code on how all that is supposed to work. I’m not sure it really matters.

I read other blogs – like The Angry Staff Officer and Southern Georgia Bunny – who have a theme and run with it. I’m a little jealous of that kind of consistency. You can count on one hand the number of things I’m interested in three days in a row let alone month after month or year after year. The only thing consistent around here is that I keep showing up – and while that’s decidedly a big part of the battle, I somehow doubt that by itself will ever vault me into the ranks of “elite bloggers.”

Sure, I could change it up and specialize down into one field of focus, but I don’t think that’s something I’m interested in doing even if it would drive a bump in the numbers. As much as I want to think I’m sitting here doing this for validation or applause, I think the platform is more about being able to vent my spleen to the universe before whatever ideas are rattling around my head have the opportunity to make me complete crazy. In fairness, of course, some would argue that ship has most likely sailed.

In a world that seems bent on turning itself into an ever bigger shitshow, I’m afraid tonight’s post doesn’t do much in the way of looking at the big issues. Then again, sometimes not everything has to be about the big stuff. Now and then the small issues, the trying to put some intellectual rigor behind why we do what we do is just as important as the events of the day. If the world really is determined to descend into madness, then maybe knowing your own mind is the most important work any of us can do.

And then on other days…

Some days, like yesterday, the words flow out like water from a geyser – pressurized and seemingly inexhaustible. Then there are the other days, when nothing at all fits; the words aren’t there. Not even the topics are there. It doesn’t matter how much backup material you’re sitting on when you can’t manage to string the narrative together. If I felt like being honest, I’d admit that those are usual the evenings when I pull out a canned post – one that’s not time sensitive – that I have pre-written and occasionally use for filler when life intervenes in the writing process. As it is, though, the cupboard on those is currently bare so in the absence of good options, this is what you get.

Sometimes writing is an art. Other times it’s more like a fist fight. The fact that tonight is the latter doesn’t mean that it’s bad, just that it’s harder than it would be otherwise. That can make for good writing or it can make everything feel more than a little forced. That’s mostly the luck of the draw on any given night.

I’d like to tell you I had a better formula for how this is supposed to work, but writing, even these simple small posts, is a lot more like breathing than I want to admit even to myself. It’s just something that happens naturally without too much intervention. Sometimes it’s easy and other times it’s labored, but mostly it’s outside your direct control.

Even with the world on fire and a hundred possible things to write about, occasionally you get nothing. Since I’m not on a deadline and I’m not doing this for the money, the occasional bout of getting nothing isn’t really so bad… and since no one is asking you to pay for it, you’re mostly stuck reading it until I find something more interesting to say.

In the meantime, if you find yourself sitting in a cubicle and feel like chuckling at the fact workplaces everywhere are quite possibly filled with asshats of every conceivable form and style, click over and read a few posts at http://www.askamanager.org. They’re not all funny, but most of them are damned entertaining.

Topics, ideas, and factoids…

I keep a running list of topics, random ideas, and factoids I think might be useful when faced with a moment of indecision over what to blog about on any given night. Looking at the list it’s a pretty well rounded selection of stuff from work, news items, and the just plain ridiculous things you see on a day-to-day basis when you’re paying attention to your surroundings. After looking at this list tonight, all I can tell you is there was nothing there that moved me to type. After 15 minutes of looking at the list, that’s precisely all I accomplished.

So what’s coming to you tonight is once again, just a blog about how damned hard it is to blog on a regular basis. Most of the time if you sit down and go at it, the words will flow eventually. Occasionally, though, all you end up doing is sitting there wondering where the words are that should theoretically be on the page already. It happens. I’ve been blogging for six years and writing for a lot longer than that in one form or another, but I’m just starting to come to terms with the idea that sometimes the words just aren’t going to be there when you summon them. It’s apparently an occupational hazard.

The worst part, of course, is that it’s an occupational hazard I then get to inflict on you by way of rambling 248 word posts that don’t really say anything at all. You’re Welcome.

General interest…

So that wraps up the first installment of From the Mailbag. I don’t know if it was good for you, but I enjoyed getting away from my normal ranting and raving for a bit. So thanks to those who sent requests, questions, and suggestions. You guys always hear whatever happens to be on my mind, so it’s been interesting gleaning a little insight into what you’re thinking about too. I think the mailbag is probably something that I’ll revive from time to time since the metrics are telling me that people liked reading it as much as I liked writing it.

As far as what’s on tap for the rest of the week, I don’t have any really firm ideas yet. Thursday I’ll try to flesh out What Annoys Jeff this Week, but other than that it’s a wide open canvas. From the Common Market hovering on the edge of the abyss, to the President Clinton poking President Obama with a sharp stick, to dingoes finally getting the credit they deserve for eating babies, there’s plenty going on in the world that should keep me occupied for a few days… and if none of that interests you, well, tough. You had your opportunity to decide what topics show up around here and now it’s back to whatever warped version of reality pops into my slightly addled brain. Smell ya later.

Authority: 1

I’m pleased to announce that http://www.jeffreytharp.com is now registered with Technorati. If you’re blogging, there’s a fair chance you’re familiar with the site. If you’re not, the gist is that Technorati racks, stacks, and compares your blog based on a system of algorithms that are far beyond my meager abilities to understand and spits out your “authority” among bloggers. That is to say, it gives you a number you can compare against other blogs on similar topics and lets you compare your relative importance in the blogosphere. The scale is between a no-name, nobody of 1 and the elite-of-elite 1000.

Current jeffreytharp.com Technorati Authority: 1. This is one of those moments where it’s ok to be optimistic, because there’s absolutely no way to get lower than 1 on this scale. Onward and upward!