My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Some Bad News

Edit: Of course we've now learned what the mystery ailment was (cancer) and what was going on that was affecting her health. 

To my wonderful, awesome readers,
I have a bit of bad news.

I've been trying to put this off for a long, long time, but after last night, the final straw landed on the camel's back.

There will need to be some structural changes to how we do things here at Writing About Writing for at least the forseeable future. I'll get into the specifics of how this will (and won't) change the landscape here, but let me explain why first. If you don't care about WHY, you can skip to the bottom.

If anybody has been following me for the last two years, they know that I've been hanging on for dear life. (Fortunately, that's hyperbole, and I'm talking about maintaining my ambitious writing schedule or my arms would be really tired by now.) I'm constantly struggling with my writing time and my writing schedule, and I've been trying like the Dickens to get up more articles of quality in a given week. I have put up a few of these reorganization efforts in the name of meta-commentary on how difficult it can sometimes be for a writer to protect their writing time, but honestly, I didn't post it every time it happened because I thought it was getting too repetitive as a topic.

I've kept writing. (Because that's what writers fucking do, yo.) I've even kept writing every day, and getting up good articles regularly. Writing stayed a priority through all the schedule shifts and priority reorgs, and that didn't and won't change going forward. But no one watching has had any illusions about how much trouble I've been having trying to eke more time out of 24 hour day.

"Two years" is not just an arbitrary number. Exactly two years and two days ago, The Contrarian joined the Hall of Rectitude and ruined everything in the nicest way. Writing with kids is a little different than writing without kids. For values of "little" that include "literally it is entirely different in every conceivable way; you have never written so fast during someone else's nap ever). Can you even believe that there was a time before T.C. when I wrote three or four solid articles a week? It's not that writing with a two year old is impossible. Obvi (as my friend Mal, says.) It's definitely a lot tricker though. Even that first year when they sleep a lot is easier than what comes after.

When all the planets aligned the schedule that looked good on paper could manifest in corporeal form in the physical world, I did pretty well getting some good articles up. But all it took was one thing to kind of throw a wrench into the cogs. One illness. One tough board meeting at someone's work. One super villain robbing a bank but not during banking hours. One hiccup, and the whole house of cards came down. Posts were going up so last minute that a mild rhinovirus could could screw up a whole week. And if someone else was dealing with illness, I was easily working a 70 hour week before writing a word.

And yet, I've put off this post for months (possibly years) because I thought if I could just crest one more thing, I'd be though the woods. But there's always one more thing and one more thing and one more thing. And these last few months with the holidays and the vacations and the personal issues and the health issues (mine and others') it has just kept going on and on. 

The thing is, that's life. Shit happens. And you're not going to have to bury a friend or go through a divorce every week, but if being tapped for an extra few hours of child care crashes the whole system, you're probably cruising at ludicrous speed. 

I might have kept going too–holding out for that moment of scheduling Nirvana. It's possible that after finals and after Christmas and after the New Year and after the new semester starts and after I visit my mother in January that there would be some open space of time where nothing would go wrong and this schedule stretched tighter than a snare drum would finally work for a bit. Maybe.

However yesterday I heard something that brought it all into relief. I can't go into a lot of detail because it's about someone who doesn't like being blogged about, but someone very close to me has a health issue that isn't something likely to go away–not for at least the next couple of whiles and maybe ever. It's also nothing we can pretend isn't going to rock the boat. Not without being blissfully naive. Again, in a perfect world we could balance two sitters, get a housekeeper in every week, and no one would ever need to say "Chris, can you handle this?" during my precious writing time. 

But that's not life. Shit happens.

I have struggled for the past two years to get up two strong articles a week and try for a third. And that effort has meant I have done very little other writing. I've neglected other blogs I write for, longer articles that just take more than a few hours before posting, the thank you notes for incredible donors who deserve to be thanked for helping this blog stay afloat. It's cut deeply into any fiction time I've tried to carve out. I don't even read as much as I used to–I mean I still read a lot of non-fiction articles, but it's been incredibly difficult to find the time to dig into books. And this is to say nothing of swaths of days and sometimes weeks where I can't remember having more than a few idle minutes of guilt-ridden Notwriting to myself (because this list doesn't even include extra childcare tag ins, house work, or other domestic chores that I step up to the plate on when schedules get screwy). It's not that I want to write less, it's just that I want to write some different stuff and have a bit of breathing room with the rest.

I'll also be working behind the scenes to find the balance in the other aspects of my life so that I can work smarter and harder as soon as is feasible and as often as is plausible. 

So what does this mean?

This isn't one of those posts that ends up with a blog on hiatus. I promise. I might start to take a couple of days off around major holidays and post less often when I'm on vacation, but I'm not going to stop writing–here or anywhere else.

What I am going to do is shift my posting schedule. Instead of two major articles a week and trying for a third, I'm going to red shift it down to one major article a week and try for a second. I'll still update five days a week. (And possibly six depending on something else I'm thinking about doing–deets on this to come.) I've been trying to post two solid articles a week and go for a third.

Instead, what I'm going to do is shift my schedule dramatically to try to post one good, solid, home-run article each week on Fridays (except for this Friday). Monday through Thursday will be the usual stuff: polls, running plot, personal updates, guest posts, and more.

Now if I have the time and energy (or if we've had one of those Nirvana weeks I dream about), I'll do a second major article (probably on Wednesday). But if not, I'll pour everything into that Friday post. There's still going to be some fun fluff on other days but Friday will be the day I'm trying to nail it.

If I can carve out some time on weekends and write ahead, it's entirely possible that this move will actually usher in a renaissance of better posts, fiction, and more robust daily posting. But while that new schedule and whole new approach is sussing out–also depending on the severity of the diagnosis we get–it might seem like I'm doing less.

To my Patron Muses and Regular Donors:

Each and every one of you were part of the reason I held on for so long, and I am keenly aware that the new schedule is not quite as awesome. I have been saying for years that I could maybe take more time off with more financial support, but the reality is that in order to hit that point (where I either hire a sitter for a big chunk of time each week or stop teaching all together), it's going to take several more guaranteed donations to match the lost income, and in the meantime, I don't expect you to keep donating for less output.

Each of you is donating generously and if a reduced rate of my output is worth a smaller donation or no donation, please please please do not consider for even a moment that there will be even a particle of hurt feelings. If anything, I'm doing financially okay right now since making myself a little more available to my family means I end up covering more than my expenses. Donations are, of course, always appreciated and breathtaking, but they are not expected, and I will never stop writing, even if they go away. 


  1. You have my sword. (And my axe.)

    Seriously. My brain will literally not allow me to comment in any other way than that. Sorry.

  2. Good for you, Chris! Parenthood changes people. Involved parenthood changes lives. I've been watching this juggling act for more than two years now and wondering how you were going to last. The weight of your commitment is heavy. Redistributing that weight is a good thing. I'd rather have you here once a week for the next ten years than have you here 4-5 times a week for the next six months. :)

  3. Do what you must! Save yourself! Er, I mean, wait... Oh! Rearrange away, some of us aren't going anywhere. The fluff is fun, the meaty stuff is worth the wait. Honest. :-)