Thursday, May 29, 2008

First The Explanation

Amani: 'Whatcha been up to?"

Griftdrift: "Just working the craft".

Amani: "How's that going?"

Griftdrift: "Not that good".

Many days I'm jealous of Jim Galloway and Thomas Wheatley. Deep in my lizard brain I know there are days when they also struggle, but the surface cortex, where the whining centers are located, wonders what it must be like to spend the day surrounded by other writers. Of course it is fantasy but it can be difficult to get past the image of bourbon soaked, smoked filled bullpens where somebody yells, "My god! Did you hear what Glenn Richardson's done now?"

I've been contacted by several people asking why I don't blog as much lately. When your in the depths of a whine binge, the mind roils around every conceivable excuse.

I've been travelling a lot lately. This is a fact but when I sat in my wifi-enabled hotel room not wanting to write about my latest poker adventure (something I know entertains my readers) something else must be amiss.

Everybody's got everything covered. Due to changes in my little business ventures, I've turned into a vampire. By the time I wake up each morning, the old guard and the new guard have covered everything under the sun. They do it well too and I feel I have nothing to add. I know there are certain readers who do not read every blog in Georgia and only come to my place to catch the latest news, but I can't force myself to be a simple repeater.

I became addicted to real reporting. Recently, I was interviewed by a grad student about new media. And if she's reading this I haven't forgotten about the release - I'll send it soon. She asked me what it was like to break a story and I told her it was like suddenly finding the pot of gold at the end of a treasure hunt. It's intoxicating. And addictive.

Soon, I wasn't satisfied with simple commentary. I had to find real stories about real people and tell them in practically real time. Fortunately for me, a few months ago a tip came my way about a potentially explosive story. After weeks of hunting, interviewing and researching I concluded either it wasn't a story or it was a story that was beyond simple ability. For the first time I felt despair. Failure is a terrible low after the highs of previous success.

But ultimately I realized the reason I wasn't writing was I felt awash in the negativity. I believed a Presidential election, especially one this important, would be a writer's dream. Instead, as the usual oil slick of awfulness began spreading across the land, I concluded it was only a vapor.

After writing six months about such obvious injustice as Genarlow Wilson, can one really get worked up about Barack Obama saying he visited 57 states?

This wasn't passion. This wasn't even parsing. This was nonsense.

But as it has in the past, last night poker taught me a lesson. Every poker player goes through a bad stretch. I call it swimming through the cold water. When you are in the ocean, through the vagaries of currents and thermoclines, you will suddenly find yourself in shocking cold water. You can't swim backwards. You can't stay there. You can only move forward and find the warm water again.

Poker also taught me something else. After a particularly hard turn at the tables, sometimes the negative can become your friend. Sometimes you must perform mental judo and flip the negative back on the blackness from which it comes.

Sometimes you have to embrace the hate.


Fearless Leader said...

The fact is, not a one of us are blogging quite like we did. We can blame the new kids on the tech block, the Twitters, the Tumblrs, but I think we're seeing something stronger at work.

If it wouldn't sound so pretentious, I'd just chalk it up to an overwhelming sense of ennui. I'd then fire up a Gauloise, throw on a beret and walk my double-espresso drinking ass down along the Siene. Languidly, of course.

But jokes about Euro-trash aside, I think we're all too damned tired and maybe (just maybe) too much in touch.

Why haven't I put finger to key to rage on about annoying governmental goings-on? Well, because a cursory glance at my trusty Google Reader tells me that the topic is well in hand, already being addressed by bloggers I trust and admire. Why put in the effort to formulate an honest to God post if all I really need to do is nod in agreement from the comfort of my desk?

Inexcusable, I know. This is the participatory society, after all. This is what we said we wanted. But it is so much easier to just watch the passing parade.

So what's it going to take? What's going to be the thing to relight the pilot light under our collective collaborative asses?

Amber Rhea said...

I don't know about "something larger," Thomas... I'd be careful about extrapolating like that.

Although I've been tempted to do so myself.

Anyway, for me, a lot of it is plain old lack of time. Work has been getting busier and busier. And I haven't mentioned it, because frankly I hate when people complain about how busy they are at work. Hello, it's work!

But, I have been thinking of writing a similar post like this too. Actually it's been swimming around in my head for a while now, unwritten - due to lack of time. And then there's my unfinished Balticon wrap-up post, whcih really turned into a wrap-up of the Don't Be That Guy session, which I could really tie into the larger unwritten "why so little blogging" post, because I've been feeling pretty distressed since Balticon. And then Melissa went and wrote this and reminded me 1) why I don't read Gawker blogs except for the stuff she writes, and 2) just how distressed I feel.

Rambling. I should stop. I've got my own blog for that, right?

Maybe we should have blogging parties at Manuel's. I woudl like that.

rptrcub said...

I wouldn't worry about losing the spark -- sometimes you're just worn out and need a breather. Then at other times, you're hypomanic and can't stop.

Sara said...

I have almost zero desire to blog lately and there's not a real clear reason why. I just don't feel the urge.

I doubt I would do much more than drink at a blogging party, but hey that's my idea of a good night anyhow so I wouldn't complain.

thomaspatrickwheatley said...

You don't want my life, James. I'm flat footed, have yet to hang my photos on the walls of my apartment, and have become fixated on the three tomato plants I'm growing on my porch. Such is a life I would not wish on anyone.

Seriously, this was a beautiful post to read and spells out what I often go through. I agree with rptrcub, although the real reasons behind a dip in energy are entirely your own to examine and decide. And with writing, it's hard to do that. I have times when I feel like I'm hitting on everything. Then there are times when I'm just like you -- everybody's covered it, what new can I add to this, is that information worth even adding to the conversation? I can't be everywhere and do everything, but I can have a good time trying to do so. And yep, there a lot of stories that never see the light of day. I've had too many to count that have fizzled after I've put so much effort into them.

I joined Tumblr, which I like because it's got a hit-it-and-quit-it atmosphere and you actually feel like you've created something tangible with which people can interact or engage. On the other hand, I joined Twitter last week and have only updated it twice. I think I'm reaching the point where I can only be plugged in to so many applications/devices/widgets. I get to the point where I'm questioning the return on the time investment I make in these devices and wonder what I'm losing during my time with others. I wonder just how much more these screens we're all reading are truly bringing us together and I weigh whether my efforts are better focused elsewhere.

Don't rush it. Let it come back to you. You need to take a breather sometimes. But only stop if you think it's in your best interest, mentally, emotionally and healthwise. Your writing, insight and commentary is, in my opinion, a wonderful voice in the cluster$#@! that is Atlanta. So I'm going to be selfish and ask that you keep going.

Also, it is fun as hell to hear someone in the adjacent cubicle at work say, "Did you hear what the Speaker just did?"

Lucid Idiocy said...

"After weeks of hunting, interviewing and researching I concluded either it wasn't a story or it was a story that was beyond simple ability. For the first time I felt despair."

Two things. First, don't despair. It's just part of the process. I think the old saying is "every third rock you kick over ain't gonna be Watergate."

Second, it's not always about breaking new ground. Sometimes it's about backing someone else up.

The AJC broke a story today about the feds sending a really strong, 65-page letter to the state about problems with its mental hospitals. Even as much as has been reported on this issue, this letter made my jaw drop.

I'm writing essentially the same story for tomorrow, with a slight Middle Georgia bent.

Why? Because it's important. And The AJC shouldn't have to be out there by itself as a newspaper saying "this is important, and worth your attention." The Macon Telegraph should be right there behind them, saying "You're damn right it is."

Lucid Idiocy said...

Know what? I want to change mine.

Quit being such a pussy get on with it.

Grayson: Atlanta, GA said...

Why do I feel like I should chime in here? Then again, I've been sinking every energy, misguided or otherwise, into... of all things I whine constantly about... blogging. I'm hopeless.

However, having been married to a professional writer once, I have absolutely NO desire to ever spend too much of my precious time anywhere near one ever again. They can be just plain, uh, gross. All of 'em. And they drink too much, womanize, cheat, lie, steal, don't wash, complain, hold severe delusions of self worth, well... you get the point!