Wow. I wasn’t expecting to hear that Andrew Sullivan will stop blogging, but I can’t say I’m surprised:
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.
That completely resonates. I’ve been writing on this site for something like seven years and I began doing it full time last summer (along with other related side projects). I joke with friends about how I’m unemployed, but the reality is I work way more now than I ever did when I was teaching. When you’re writing about and responding to the news — whatever your niche is — you’re never off the clock. There’s always something breaking that you want to get to immediately. And if you’re late to the story, the traffic will have gone elsewhere.
That means vacations are never really breaks, my sleep schedule is erratic, I’m constantly multi-tasking, my computer is always by my side, and reading a book for enjoyment is something I haven’t done in a long while. I don’t really “unplug” anymore. (I’m not complaining, by the way. I realize how lucky I am that I can do this for a living, and I freely choose all of this.) It’s exhausting and fulfilling all at once.
I also know that this site will eventually have to adapt or end. Maybe when I have kids. Maybe when another project captures my attention. I don’t know those details, but I know it’ll happen.
Joe Jervis said it well:
Anybody who does live news blogging knows all too well the havoc this kind of work can wreak upon your personal life. Sure, there’s great freedom to be able to work wherever you are and any time. But you also have to work wherever you and at any time. I’ve blogged from trains, planes, buses, ferries, taxis, airports, “vacation” hotel rooms, and from the backseats of cars. I’ve angered and hurt close friends by leaving parties to update a breaking story or by turning down invitations because something is about to happen. (These days those invitations often close with a tart “if you can leave your computer.”) I do love what I do, but yeah, I get you Andrew Sullivan. I’ve strongly disagreed with you on many occasions, but this, I get.
Back to Sullivan for a moment, I’ve learned a ton from him over the years just by watching him go independent (and remain financially stable), shut off comments (while still giving readers a chance to contribute to the conversation), give voice to those who disagree with him, change his mind publicly on a variety of things, put his emotions into writing even if he may later regret it, and cultivate a staff that can seamlessly run the site even when he’s on a break.
None of that is easy to do, and he’s done it brilliantly. I know my own style has been influenced by his work moreso than just about any blogger out there. And I hope he’ll find a way to pursue his passions in a new arena.
(Image via Wikipedia)