My Own Grit, Or Lack Thereof

One of my goals for this summer is to find common themes in the little articles that I wrote this year and put together a book proposal. I need an outline and two chapters. I have the rare luxury of full days with few parenting responsibilities. For the next three weeks, Ian is in full day camp with a bus. Wahoo! Jonah needs some oversight, and he’s buzzing around in the background distracting me, but it’s not huge. I should be able to do this.

I’m trying really hard to get organized. Every morning, I sit down with the calendar program and plan out the day with goals and benchmarks. I reread Steven King’s book, On Writing, to get inspiration. I’m using the special writing software.

But it’s hard. I still don’t have a routine yet. I did a lot two weeks ago, had several days of other responsibilities, and then completely forgot what I was doing. I’m a mess without deadlines.

A freelance office space is opening up downtown. I might rent a desk there just to get away from the house.



A couple of months ago, I stopped writing things that I thought other people wanted to read, and started writing stuff about topics that I found interesting. It’s much simpler. No more mind reading and second guessing. No more self flagellation if an article didn’t make it to a top ten list.

Now, I write about I want to learn about or people that I want to talk to. It’s really fun. With the Atlantic title, even super busy people return my calls. I’ve met some real characters in the past year. People have cried. I was offered a bribe.

One of my favorite pieces to research was the one that I did on Sesame Street and autism, because I met so many inspirational people. Actually, I think I cried during one of those interviews. I talked to one woman who organizes Broadway-frendly shows for autistic kids in her spare time. I also talked to a representative from the Yale Child Study Team who provided technical support for this Sesame Street initiative. In the course of the conversation, I mentioned that I had a kid with autism. When she offered to put him on the top of their two-year waiting list for an evaluation, I quickly said yes.

Next week, I’m working on a piece about hunger on college campuses. It’s going to be a tough week to squeeze in interviews, because we’ll be in New Haven half the time, so I’m lining up tomorrow’s early morning phone calls right now.


Be Nice at Work

Christine Porath has an interesting article in the New York Times about workplace rudeness. She thinks that incivility at work contributed to her father’s death. She points to studies that show that incivility causes workplace errors and undermines creativity.

Examples of workplace rudeness include: • Interrupts people, • Is judgmental of those who are different, • Pays little attention to or shows little interest in others’ opinions, • Takes the best and leaves the worst tasks for others, • Fails to pass along necessary information, • Neglects saying please or thank you, • Talks down to people, • Takes too much credit for things, • Swears, • Puts others down.

When Steve left academia and moved to the corporate world, he thought that there was less rudeness in the corporate world, because social behavior had more rules and interactions with associates were more public. There wasn’t the corporate equivalent of “this is the stupidest thing I ever read” comments at an academic conference. After a while, Steve found that there was rudeness in the corporate world, too. It was just subtler.

And then there are internet comments. (Not here, of course.) This year, I had to block a few people on Twitter, because my articles enraged them so much that they felt it was necessary to send me emojis of faces with tongues sticking out. Niceness is such a far away goal for the online writer. I would settle for happy emojis.

The Last Drunk at the Party

I’ve written at least one blog post nearly every weekday since July 2003. Twelve years. That’s crazy, right?

Blogging has been very, very good to me. I learned how to write quickly for an online audience about topics that they found interesting. I met a lot of really cool people who offered a joke, an insight, and a kind word.

The conversation between bloggers ended five years ago. Traffic patterns changed. People moved to other ventures. Nearly all of the original bloggers dropped out. I kept at it,  mostly because I enjoyed the conversation with my readers, and I liked having control over my ideas and words. Even with the changing online landscape, there was always a reason to go to the computer after the kids got on the bus and write.

I must end Apt. 11D as we know it. The mashup of personal and professional and political. The daily posts. The link-fests. I can’t do it anymore.

Twelve years of daily blog posts with tons of images and graphics creates a mammoth problem. My current serving company can’t manage it. Cleaning up this mess would cost some serious money.

I don’t have enough time to blog properly. My days are getting eaten up with professional writing and local organizing. I’m so overbooked that I’m making mistakes. I’m missing meetings, not returning e-mail messages, and not even doing a great job with blogging. I have to reduce my responsibilities.

So, I’m leaving. I’m the last drunk at the party, who wanted the fun to keep going on and on. But someone turned off the tunes and put on the bright lights. It’s time to grab my purse and get on the subway.

Here’s the plan. I’m not going to dump the website. I want to preserve the historical record. I might come back every couple of weeks to add a personal post about food and kids, because that makes me happy. If you want a ping when I write something, sign up for a subscription (sidebar bottom).

I will set up a professional website at some point. I’m not sure if it will include a blog.

I’m on Twitter and Facebook. Follow me there.

I’ll miss everyone terribly, especially the regular commenters. We’ve been together for a long time, and our little community is the smartest, funniest, kindest group of people ever. I’m sure that I’ll have the DTs from blog withdrawal for a very long time. I hope that we all find each other in some other corner of the Internet or in real life.

Lots of love. Laura

An Online Life

Last month, there was much twittering about the fact that the uber-popular DIY bloggers at Young House Love are taking a break from blogging. They said that they needed to spend more time in their real life, and less time online. Today, the New York Times picked up this story about blogging burnout.

Look, it’s not always easy to keep this blog going. Sometimes the blog and my interests dovetail perfectly. I’m thinking or writing or teaching stuff in the real world that has an easy carry over to the blog. I don’t put too much time into making the blog posts look pretty, because that takes up an enormous amount of time. I can push out a blog post in five minutes, when there’s this nice convergence. Other times, my real life is consumed with boring, but necessary chores and that doesn’t work well as a blog post.

I’ve been busy in the past few weeks resurrecting my used book business. It went on the back burner for a while. I need more inventory, so I’m back to visiting estate sales on Fridays. I live in an area with a load of well read, old ladies. There are free old books everywhere, and some have an online value. It’s a weekend hobby. Maybe I can squeeze one blog post out of that experience, but it doesn’t translate into daily content.

I’m taking a break from writing, because I’m fed up with the freelance commissions. That means that I’m not necessarily keeping up with the online news articles as much as I should. That puts a dent into blogging.

We’re taking Ian to more concerts, and I’m exploring new restaurants in New York City. All fun and good real life stuff, but not necessarily blog post material.

If I was a super professional blogger, this disjunction between my real life and the blog would be very stressful. Good thing that I’m a dilettante blogger. So, in the next six months, you’re going to get a lot more real life type blog posts, and fewer politics and policy and news blog posts.

Miserable Writers Write Misery Essays about Miserable Lives

Gad. I need to get the gym. I’ve just read three articles about the miserable lives of writers. I need a drink, and it’s only noon. So, who wants to get depressed? I can share.

There’s Tom Kreider, “Controlling the Narrative” — That’s only somewhat miserable.

My friend, Margie, sent me another NYT’s article — With ‘Stay Lit,’ Writers Persevere in a Hostile World. I guess there’s a whole genre of articles about writers who keep on writing, even though they have horrible lives.

From that article I jumped over to Emily Gould’s essay on Medium, which is the capital of Depression World. Who’s Emily Gould? Well, here’s an essay about her miserable life in the New York Times back in 2008. I probably blogged about it back then, but I’m too lazy to find it. For extra credit, read the reviews of her book on Goodreads.

No Money for Anything and Your Clicks for Free

27COVERJP-articleInlineOver the weekend, about a dozen friends sent me a link to an article in the Times. In this front page article in the Week in Review, a writer complains about being approached by editors to write for free in exchange for “exposure.” I guess I’ve been bitching a lot lately about the lousy money in freelance writing.

I’m perfectly willing to make crap money for my work. Because of family demands, I know that I’m not an ideal worker. I have to work around parent-teacher conferences and dentist appointments. But when the money went from crap to crappier in the past few months, I decided to rethink my efforts.

Why is the pay for words so terrible and getting more terrible?

You, consumers of information, are in the golden age. The Atlantic, The New Republic, Slate, Salon, the Daily Beast (which is wobbling, but still alive), Forbes, Business Insider, Bloomberg, the New York Times, Huff Post all have thousands of original articles and blog posts every day. And a good number of those articles are well-written, thoughtful, and informative. If you miss an article, you can go to Twitter and Facebook to see what’s the topic du jour.

There are more writers then ever before. The writers aren’t just people who write “writer” down on their IRS form. The writers are professors who have decided that they want to be public intellectuals, public policy directors who want more attention for their pet project, and even suburban housewives whose family demands have curtailed other career options. These intruders have other sources of income and happily exchange their words for influence.

The problem isn’t the demand. It’s the supply. There are too many venues, too many writers, all dividing up the little pool of money from advertisers. Paid subscribers are as quaint as my Dire Straits album.

In some ways, it’s a good time to write. There are dozens of venues for me to write about parenting or politics or education policy or whatever I choose. These editors are looking for good content to fill their quota. They never know which article will go viral, so they will take a shot on anybody, even middle aged women writing in the basement of a suburban split level.

I excel at working in prestigious fields that pay little money. Hello, Adjunct Professor salaries! I have endless bragging rights at my high school reunions, but my social security statements are embarassing. I think I need rehab.