I’m going to step away from this blog for a while, and not just because we’re in the dog days of summer.
It’s a good time to take a break because my creative batteries are running low. The schedule I’ve developed for writing this blog needs to be re-evaluated. Somewhere along the way I need to get back on track to cultivating the art of the 500-to-700-word blog post, which seems very elusive at the moment.
More than anything I just need to get offline for a while and read, recreate and get away from a routine that has served me well in recent months.
I could bang out the titles of some of the books I’ve got piled up, but there are so many here, and I don’t know which ones I will choose.
What I’m also doing is going back and reading arts-and-culture-and-current-affairs blogs. They seem like a luxury when in fact they’ve fired so much of my inspiration as a writer. Brain Pickings and Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish are models for any bloggers who insist on honoring their voices in individual settings that let their talents flourish. It can be done.
They’ve developed communities of readers who want to rise above the clickbait, easy outrage and celebrity twaddle of what we are too often sold on the Web.
Appreciating the value of side projects, including this blog, is also something I want to assess. I keep meeting more and more people who do this, who say their working and creative lives benefit from this. If you’re struggling to find some passion, or just something to enjoy deeply, ask yourself these questions:
What lights you up? What could you do every day and lose yourself in doing, if money were no problem? What would get you really early out of bed every morning if you had no other obligations and you, like me, are not a morning person?
Writing this blog has that effect for me, but there are other things, mostly offline, that I need to tend to.
Getting off of social media has been the first step. As University of Virginia professor Mark Edmundson wrote recently, we do suffer from a deficiency of connecting with the real. The author of the forthcoming “Why Football Matters,” Edmundson writes:
“Our culture has fewer and fewer opportunities for absorption. Not enough people care about the arts. Not enough of us quest for truth. The doctor’s office is an assembly line. The artist turns matters over to her assistant. The prof is busy fattening his resumé. But we have plenty of opportunities for attention, yes we do. Under the reign of the computer, jobs are more and more about attention: Get it right, pay attention to detail, fill out the chart, and fill it out again. Did I say opportunities to pay attention? No, they are compulsions and requirements. In short, if attention does not lead to absorption, or if there is little possibility of absorption in a given life, then there will be deficits of attention.”
This is necessary for what Georgetown computer science professor Cal Newport calls “deep work.” Little else can be more satisfying:
“At some point, we tire of the shallow – necessary as it might be – and foster a desire to retreat into depth, create the best possible thing we’re capable of creating, then step back, point, and remark simply: ‘I did that.’ “
So I need to jump back in the deep end and dog-paddle into some new waters. I’ve got blog posts scheduled Monday-Friday through the next three weeks, with regular posting resuming on Monday, Aug. 11.
And since I’m in that 500-700 sweet spot I will stop here, claim victory, and get on with the vacation already.