return, reflect, resolve, reboot

I have a clean office, a new computer, and a big pot of coffee. It’s the new year, a bright new day and it’s time to get back to work.

First of all, thanks to everyone who sent me mail (and mail to my sister!) wondering where I was and if everything was OK. All this time I was thinking my readers (both of you) might be disappointed that I had stopped writing but that there were five trillion other blogs that could take my place. Little did I know that I had FOUR readers and that they did indeed miss me. Wow! 🙂

What I’ve Been Up To, the Short Version

I am fine. My health is fine. My head is fine. It’s all good.

I have been running, and swimming. If I start bicycling again I will end up accidentally training for a triathalon. I have acquired a small flock of chickens, and a piano. I cleaned my office (this is is a big deal). I lost eight pounds (this is not a big deal; I have lost them before but they keep coming back). I have read something like three dozen books in the last six months. I got my hair cut short. I gave up caffeine again, three times. I sleep ten hours or more a night, but I have strange dreams where tiny espresso shots cruelly laugh at me.

Most importantly, I successfully survived turning 40.

Unplugging…Sort of

I did get a big ugly case of Deep Thoughts at 40, and a whole series of those Deep Thoughts concerned the amount of time I spend on the internet every day. I really did not want to have “successfully maintained her social network” carved on my gravestone. I still don’t.

In August I was reading hundreds of blogs a day, keeping up on dozens of mailing lists, web forums and old-style BBSes, reading and (um, sometimes) replying to personal email, and regularly posting to this blog as well. All of this in my spare time, on top of my normal daily workload. I didn’t have to get this involved in the internet, but I had built it up over time, slowly abandoning my own writing and my other interests and feeling like I was behind if I didn’t keep up on my email and my feeds. Even when I did sit down and write or draw or play music on my own I felt lost and blocked, as if there was nothing there in my head to draw on.

This was also a time when twitter and facebook were very popular amongst many of my friends. I was having a hard time imagining signing up for more internet time-sucks when I already felt so stretched for time and attention, and so creatively empty.

I’d like to say I unplugged from the net in August and that I feel much better, but I’m not that virtuous. I have cut tremendously back on the amount of net reading I do, I turn off my IM most of the time, and I am not on either twitter nor facebook if you’ve been looking for me there. I feel like I’m wasting less of my life on the net, but I still don’t feel good. I still feel like I have a lot of work to do to pull away.

A Bad Case of Why

Another Deep Thought I had this fall I did was wondering why I blog at all. I suspect this is a phase that every blogger goes through, a nobody-cares-why-bother-its-all-pointless phase. It just took me a while to get here and probably lasted for far longer than it should have, given that I’ve been a writer my entire life and writing a blog should come easily to me.

I think I have been unconsciously influenced by the so-called A-list bloggers, who are blogging as a business and who have a single-minded focus on attracting readers so that they can pull in advertising dollars and thus get rich and famous and quit their jobs. I’ve never really viewed this blog as anything more than a hobby and a place to write once in a while, but I still find myself feeling guilty that I violate every major business blogging rule. Thou Shalt Not Write a Journal Blog. Thou Shalt Write About What Everyone Else is Writing About and Cultivate Pagerank. Thou Shalt Not Post Cat Pictures. I’ve been guilty that I can’t seem to follow the rules and thus I’m not rich and famous like the business bloggers. Never mind that not even the business bloggers seem to be doing all that well at the rich-and-famous-quitting-the-job strategy. I can find a whole lot to be guilty about if I try.

But looking over my archives it does seem like I’ve been trying to do too many things and imitate too many other sites. I have a focus problem. I’m not kottke or boingboing or engadget but it is like I’m trying to be all these sites and a half dozen others, in addition to posting my own stuff. What I do notice from my stats is that the most popular posts on this blog, the ones that are linked the most and commented on the most, are consistently the longer posts, the more personal posts, the opinions or essays or reviews or stories about cooking or gardening or tech. The funny posts are usually a big hit.

What a surprise: my best posts are the ones where I actually write like me.

2008 Blog Resolutions

It’s time for a blog reboot. (for the content, at least. I want to do a new design and move the blog to wordpress, too, but that will have to wait for when I have more time.)

In 2008 I want to stop trying to be other people’s blogs, and be more creative on this one. What this means, I hope, is longer posts and more personal stuff. Fewer link-log posts and more funny essays (or at least attempts at being funny). I’m probably going to talk more about gardening and cooking. I’m going to post about work (not so much “my co-worker is an asshole and the coffee here sucks” type of things but more about technology and teaching and writing and publishing, which is what I do). I would really like to post more fiction. There will be cat pictures.

What I’m aiming for is an unpopular blog that is nonetheless richer for me to write. And, I hope, if all four of you stick around, richer for you too.

16 thoughts on “return, reflect, resolve, reboot

  1. I’m so glad you’re taking this new direction. If you turned into one of those look-at-me jerks who live for being A-list I’d start rounding up the intervention team.

  2. So glad you are back. Missed your blog. My wife and I were both concerned about you. I have never been one of those readers who thought the person blogging exists solely to entertain me on a daily basis so I was not upset that you took time off but am so happy you are back. I think you are absolutely right about just being yourself and doing the kind of writing you want to do. I think that is what makes your blog special. Thanks for sharing all of that with us.

  3. Laura, thank you. This kind of blog is *exactly* the kind of blog I stumbled across, the kind of blog I want to read and the kind of blog I am *so* glad you’re going back to.

    Real blogging. Not mind-numbing, spirit-crushing get-lots-of-hits blogging.

    Thank you, and Happy New Year.

  4. Hi. Just wanted to say that I’m glad to see you back. I’ve liked your writing and stories ever since the days when we were on the old Primitives mailing list back in ’91 or ’92.

  5. Was concerned, but didn’t want to be a nuisance.

    Been a fan of your writing since the “Learn (whatever) in (however many) Days” books…

  6. I’m happy with my unpopular blog, but I have this horrible little Cluster Map thing down in the corner, that apparently lies and tells me that people ACTUALLY VISIT MY WEBSITE. Of course, half of them did it because you posted a link to it.

    I use WordPress. As you can see, it’s easy to switch themes whenever you want. I’m sure it has a whole bunch of other features I don’t actually use.

  7. It’s nice to see you back!

    I’m one of those folks who would much rather hear you talk about your life and thoughts instead of reading those “A-list” blogs. And please to be posting pics of the kitties!

  8. I for one am looking forward to some cat pictures without captions. 😀 Happy New year and welcome back.

  9. Add one more to your list of readers.

    It’s interesting, regarding a New Year, I find that I’m more organized than I have been, in all of my life. I see 2008 as the year I learn programming. As for your long posts, we’ll see…

    I missed posting to your turning 40 article, but, that as well ties in to resolutions. Our perspectives change with each passing year, enter 2008, goodbye 2007.

    As for rebooting, I believe we all long for routine, but in our fast paced lives, we forget that routine is what helps us to “return, resolve, reflect, reboot”.

    I don’t blog, and this is actually the first personal post I’ve ever made. It’s refreshing to actually read about “real people, doing real things, in the real world” in the Information Age. Cat’s and all.

    At the end of the day, what’s it all for but to revel in the simple pleasures of life; family, good friends and friendly (sometimes scathing, almost always sarcastic) banter?. Maybe even reading a long post about someone you’ve never met.

    As for me, I enjoy the times with my kids and my wife and our life of learning together, working together, and playing together. I don’t find that I am on the computer too much, however, ironically, I need to spend more time, improving my skillset on the computer. Everything is getting automated, which means fewer folks doing more things. In order to make myself more marketable and to ensure I stay employed, I need to learn programming.

    Laura, I envy your career accomplishments. I’ve always been the slow, methodical learner and people of your skill have always amazed me. I guess it’s kept me humble, because programming didn’t seem to be in my future, I just didn’t get it. At 30, I just wasn’t mature enough to resolve that I can actually overcome my programming phobia. You already had the T-shirt at 30.

    So, for me, I still see my best years ahead of me. I’m confident I can be a proficient programmer now that I have the courage to tackle it. I’m more organized nearing my next 40 years, which, theoretically, should help me have more time to do all the things I’ve dreamed of doing. I’m still breathing, there’s still time – when I’m not, I won’t care.

    Considering the length of this post, I now know why I don’t “blog”. It’s time consuming. As are most “worthwhile” pursuits in life… Keep up the good fight Laura.

  10. I found your blog right before you disappeared and went back and read the entire archive. Good stuff. I was sad when you dropped out of sight, but mostly I was concerned. Whether you’re blogging or not, I’m glad you’re OK.

  11. I’m not actually a reader but love your books and even remember you mostly from the fun times before Java was finally released. (no you don’t know me)

    Just wanted to say grats on the ‘thine own self be true’ realization. You’re awesome. You do not want to be Scoble.

    Darn to your FAQ though. I can’t have a crush on you? Alrighty then, I’ll just respect you from afar, that’s more true to me anyway:)

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