…he’s looking for another way to live and work:
Why? Two reasons. The first is one I hope anyone can understand: although it has been the most rewarding experience in my writing career, I’ve now been blogging daily for fifteen years straight (well kinda straight). That’s long enough to do any single job. In some ways, it’s as simple as that. There comes a time when you have to move on to new things, shake your world up, or recognize before you crash that burn-out does happen.
The second is that I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.
I want to spend some real time with my parents, while I still have them, with my husband, who is too often a ‘blog-widow’, my sister and brother, my niece and nephews, and rekindle the friendships that I have simply had to let wither because I’m always tied to the blog. And I want to stay healthy. I’ve had increasing health challenges these past few years. They’re not HIV-related; my doctor tells me they’re simply a result of fifteen years of daily, hourly, always-on-deadline stress. These past few weeks were particularly rough – and finally forced me to get real.
I hear him. Having blogged almost non-stop for ten years, the last four-and-a-half of them while also writing two books and building this channel (and since May battling my own health issues which have been exacerbated by the stress) I fully hear what he is saying, and partly identify with it. I have another book to get written, too.
Blogging has lost some of its fun; when I began, and blogs were still newish, social media hadn’t yet arrived. Facebook and Twitter and the rest hadn’t fully balkanized us into echo chambers and then enabled buzzwords and sloganeering to become active substitutes for thought. The combox was a place of real — generally civil — debate; an exchange of ideas was still possible, as was the fleshing out of thought. Sometimes minds were actually changed. Even mine.
That has devolved downward, and moderating comboxes often begins to feel like mucking out a cesspool, which is why mine close automatically after two days.
I’m not ready to quit blogging, but I have increasingly pulled away from writing on politics, and even media criticism, because it has begun to seem pointless and predictable, to me. The life of faith is less predictable, but even in that arena, the white noise is beginning to overwhelm thoughtful voices, and echoing chambers are forming, and our responses become more habitual than they should be, because we’ve drawn lines and stopped listening to each other, certain that we — and the people who agree with us and validate us — are the ones who’ve got God’s ear.
So yes, I get what Sullivan is saying, and what he’s not saying, too. This gig is fun, and it is a privilege to be able to do it; but it’s exhausting — basically, if you’re awake, you’re working — and it can be disorienting, too. The internet too often becomes a substitute for reality, and the people we love too often become the interruptions to it. I wrote about that in Strange Gods:
I have a friend whose work involves being online for a major portion of the day. She knows that the last place she should allow herself a daily visit is Facebook. Facebook is no good for her. It renders her unproductive. It usually makes her angry. She is aware that the site is a place of illusion, misdirection, and, sometimes, malicious distortion. She knows it often brings out the worst in her, separating her from her best intentions to love God and others. Every few months she tries to wean herself from it. “I tell myself I will only go on Facebook in the morning to get news and at night, just to see what the world has been up to,” she says. “Even if I manage to do that for a few days, eventually I’m back. The page is always opened and refreshed whenever I have a spare minute—and I am just sucked into it.”
I asked her if she realizes that in saying, “See what the world has been up to” she means that the big world—the fascinating world—was the one coming to her through a 19-inch monitor, which was able to draw her attention more completely than a human being standing right before her.
She admitted it. “It shames me,” she said. “Sometimes I’m listening to someone talking to me in the office, but I’m thinking, ‘Just finish talking so I can get back to my stuff.’ Of course I’m not thinking of the work stuff but the me stuff, which I can’t get enough of.”
She pushes away the real world and escapes to the illusions. She rejects what is sometimes dreary, like other people, to delight herself and bathe in the regard of the better, less-troublesome, handpicked others of the Net.
I certainly could not judge my friend because, as someone who makes her living online, I am all too familiar with her plight; it is mine too…I have succumbed to the distracting, destructive power of seeing my own ideas and words erected somewhere, all spruced up and reflecting me back at myself.
Sometimes the Internet reminds me of a house of mirrors I once visited — a maze of me. I turned around and walked into myself. I passed a mirror and jumped at my own reflection. I apologized for intruding only to see I was apologizing to me.
As I said, disorienting. If one has another job that takes one away from the endlessness of the internet, one may retain a better, more well-rounded perspective on things, and on people. Earning one’s living here, though really does take a toll on body, mind, and spirit.
I started the blog partly as an outlet for my thoughts and feelings as my brother’s life began to ebb away. When he died, Andrew Sullivan was very kind to me. He’s tired and in need of a different, less all-encompassing “reality.” I don’t blame him, and — like Kyle Cupp I surely wish him well.
Instapundit writes that he’s not going anywhere (and I’m grateful to read it, because he’s my favorite read, everyday, and the reason I spend far too much at Amazon). He admits that having to constantly be aware of news is a drain (it really is!), but I think his short-form blogging — and the fact that he has a gig that forces him to interact with the word three-dimensionally, helps him stay fresh. I need to get out more; I think that might help.