Programming: Idk

I realized yesterday that it’s been nearly two years since I started blogging, and I’m truly proud that I’ve managed to post nearly every day since (and occasionally more!). I’ve tried to treat my readers with respect by treating this as my job, and as someone who doesn’t always have the best follow-through skills, I’m really pleased that I’ve been able to create and maintain this space.

A big piece of treating this blog as my job has involved not treating it too much as a private diary — in spite of the immediacy and intimacy that are inherent to blogging, there’s a line I haven’t wanted to cross. The goal has been to be part of the process of inventing whatever it is that we’re replacing print media with, and I’ve tried to stay on the professional side of that equation.

Having said that, I’ve been open about my career struggles — the need for work, any work, and the desire to work as a writer. I do a very particular thing, one that’s hard to define and even harder to market: I’m an essayist and a generalist, in a time when essays are rare, and niche is king.

(Of course, I do have a niche — Israel/Palestine — but if there is a single niche in American nonfiction that suffers a surfeit of material, it’s Israel/Palestine. I could argue that a lot of that material isn’t very good, or is too partisan, or repeats what’s been said a thousand times before, but that doesn’t change the fact that you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting someone who has something to say about the conflict. So, sure I have a niche. But it’s very crowded).

Since undertaking this venture, I’ve had good days and bad. It can be very hard to be a professional — a proven professional, working in her chosen field and, not incidentally, doing very good work; to have previously spent somewhere north of 15 years building a career, only to watch that tiny career melt into nothing — and then work for free, and more importantly, with absolutely miniscule impact on the world with which one is trying to communicate.

Because I don’t write to write. I write to communicate.

And so, I’ve had a few days when I thought I might just shut the whole blog down.

Inevitably, though, within about 24 hours, I’ve come back. I like writing — I love writing — and feel I have something to add to the world’s conversation, whether it be in my narrowly defined, overcrowded niche, or on parenting, fashion, or loud music. I’ve tried not to write about the one or two topics being bandied about the web on any given day, or, if I am writing about those things, to approach them from a place that others haven’t arrived at yet. On the other hand, I’m entirely comfortable with the fact that “This is AWESOME!” is sometimes a necessary and worthy comment. I’ve considered walking away, but I’ve never really meant it.

Until this past Friday, when I had a bad day, and somehow it was different. I all but heard something inside me snap.

I write to communicate, and moreover, I don’t “write to communicate” while also going about my business — writing is my business. This is my day job. And simply put, it’s exhausting to be begging for attention all the time. Exhausting and disheartening.

I spent years and years sending letters to editors trying to get them to notice me. I was pretty successful, but in the end, and in spite of my best efforts, none of it translated to anything with staying power. When the bottom fell out on print media, I just plain gave up for awhile. And then I started to blog. And then I realized that I’d begun to do the same thing all over again — only instead of sending two or five or ten letters a week, I now promote myself and my work all day long, everyday.

I’ve worked very hard to make this self-promotion an organic, honest thing — I don’t leave comments at blogs I don’t frequent, I’m a genuine member of the communities in which I network — but it’s a potentially endless endeavor. I spend hours and hours of every day not just working for pay, not just working pro bono for causes I believe in, but also writing my blog, writing (once a week) for the Americans for Peace Now blog, posting to and following up on posts at Angry Black Lady Chronicles, tweeting (and yes, this is actually an enormous part of my day, because I take the dialogue and the activism on Twitter very seriously), and also taking part in two online communities where there is networking but also friendship.

Bottom line, I could spend all my waking hours creating a little bit of content, and then asking that people pay attention to it. Indeed, I essentially did this a few weeks back, with my post about the word “nude” in fashion, as a loose experiment to see what I could achieve in a day of relentless self-promotion. That post got about 700 views. On a typical day, this blog hits the 250-550 range.

I’m tired.

If you’re one of my readers, and/or have ever promoted this blog in any way, and/or have ever left a comment, I’m beyond grateful. If I’ve learned nothing else over the past two years, I’ve learned just how hard it is to get word out to the great wide world, and why publications have entire marketing departments. If I caught your attention and you’ve stayed? I really, truly cannot thank you enough.

But I’m tired, and all of the hours that I’ve spent creating a little and selling it a lot are hours in which I haven’t gotten other important things done (like reading novels, or finishing my photo albums, or visiting with friends, or making banana bread), and after nearly 20 years of begging for attention, I’m not sure I have the heart to do it anymore. I’m good at this, I have something to contribute, and I love doing it — but I’m just not sure that I have any starch left to keep insisting on those facts to a world that (beyond you, to whom I am very, very grateful) doesn’t much care.

I’m not going to say that I’m shuttering the blog, because I don’t know that I am. Indeed, at least for a little while I’m going to run what I think of as oldies-but-goodies — posts that really mean something to me and which I wish had gotten a bigger readership.

I’m certainly going to keep up my book recommendations at Americans for Peace Now, and I’ll keep the rolling archive of those recommendations up to date. I’ll be on Twitter and at Ta-Nehisi Coates’s blog, and occasionally on Balloon Juice and certainly in the comments at ABLC. This is all stuff I enjoy that is meaningful to me well beyond my professional aspirations. I would particularly miss my interactions with TNC’s Horde, which has become the virtual version of the coffee house where I’ve always wanted to hang out.

But I have to look for a job. I have to look for a job with regular pay and regular hours and possibly having nothing to do with writing. Working solely as a contract writer on a catch-as-catch-can basis is a little too much like not getting to marry the man of your dreams, but occasionally having a surprise date with his demanding younger brother. They look a lot alike, but it’s not really what I wanted.

In the meantime, tomorrow’s the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, so I wouldn’t be writing; summer vacation started today; and we’re going to Israel next Friday. There’s a lot going on that would have made regular posting difficult anyway. I’ll think this through, and I’ll get back to you all. I promise I won’t just disappear. But for right now, all I can say is: I don’t know.

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26 Comments

  1. dmf

     /  June 7, 2011

    good ee, as much as I appreciate your efforts here and elsewhere there are limits to the medium and to our psyches that are not reflective of limits of heart or commitment, so go in peace, do what you need to do for your soul and your family , and maybe drop us a line now and then.

  2. And now you know why I’m not on TNC’s blog that much – I found a job, it pays, but boy doe it eat my free time 🙂

  3. Blogging is indeed hard work. I couldn’t keep up with your pace & volume if I wanted… I learned a long time ago that (for me) I just can’t take it that seriously, or else it will get to me. I blog when I feel like it, or not at all. Some people, through luck or zeitgeist or perhaps even hard work and self promotion “make it” as bloggers, I am not destined to be one of those folks.

    Thanks for all the hard work, and best of luck with the job search 🙂

  4. corkingiron

     /  June 7, 2011

    I hope you have a great trip! I hope you find a great job! I hope, most of all, that you remember that your voice has important things yet to say.

  5. I understand the need and hope for a job. So the best of luck to you in finding one (save those library jobs for me though).

    But don’t shutter the blog. There may come a day you get an idea, an urge, the rage to write about an issue and this blog will be a good place to do so.

    You don’t have to blog every day. Just enough to let us know you’re still here.

    Thanks for all you’ve done, and again good luck.

  6. Thank you for what you’ve given, Emily.

    I hope you land a wonderful job, a job that requires you to think and to write, for you’re wonderfully gifted. Very few writers have your ability to convey charm, warmth, and seriousness in a decidedly fair and feminine way, all the while delving into important topics.

    Much love and admiration and many hugs.

  7. JHarper2

     /  June 8, 2011

    Auntie Em, I wish I could give you a thousand comfort likes, could pat your hand and say there there, and get you a nice cup of tea. But I know that in person or over the internet it would not affect your weariness or need to communicate and make a difference and an income.
    All I can say is, I was glad to know you through your thoughts and your communications here and at TNCs and that if you have to go away I will miss you.
    God speed, but you will always be welcome to come into my thoughts again.
    All the best to you, husband, boy, and girl. Travel safe, find your joy, and come back to us sometime.
    JHarper2

  8. Lola Raincoat

     /  June 8, 2011

    I’ll miss your blog while you’re not working on it. Hope you find a way to come back to it at least once in a while. Meanwhile, happy travels! and safe travels too.

  9. SWNC

     /  June 8, 2011

    Your writing, both here and at TNC’s, has never been less than thoughtful, generous and compassionate. I admire you so much for it, and I can understand how it would be exhausting. I wish you a peaceful, restorative summer and fulfilling (paying) job.

  10. CitizenE

     /  June 8, 2011

    hey Emily–listen everything I ever put my hand to (that was legal) has been a losing money operation until I started teaching college (as way to support my family), and then the first 10 years or so only led to bankruptcy. I had a stroke of unforeseen good fortune last year or I’d be consigned to grading other people’s very primitive writing for the rest of my days, and thank goodness, it seems like after a two and a half decade hiatus I am writing poems again, though I doubt they’ll be published. Writing for nothing, but writing because for some of us it is like a wind sweeping through our souls. Right time and place strike me as everything. Your kind of writing is magazine writing, it strikes me–you belong in the New Yorker or Atlantic, but the ship that sails out of those ports has few passengers. Some folks can do a day job and still write; I couldn’t.

    But thanks for the friendship on line; we’ll meet off and on, and have a safe and meaningful trip to Israel. PS if you have time, send my email to dmf. thanks.

  11. Take as long as you need, Em, as long as you need. We’ll still be here if/when you decide to come back—if you’ll have us.

    Safe travels, in every way.

  12. CaseyL

     /  June 8, 2011

    I’m one of your regular readers who comments so seldom she might as well be a lurker. I love your writing: your humor, compassion, and anger and our eloquence in sharing them all.

    If keeping your own blog is too much, perhaps you could continue to write as one of a collective? Such as, continuing to contribute the occasional post at ABLC, or Balloon Juice, or TNC the next time he takes some time off and needs guest posters? That strikes me as the best of many worlds: a ready-made audience, but not one you need to feed every day.

    Thank you for running some Oldie Goldies while you think things over. I would miss you very much, but of course will understand if you focus on other things, like family and employment.

  13. @ everyone Thank you very much for all your kind words and good wishes. As I told someone earlier this evening, a whole bunch of things came together in a short amount of time that just really underscored how deeply exhausted I am by the entire writer-meets-world process. 20 years ain’t nothin’, I guess.

    Thank you.

  14. dmf

     /  June 9, 2011

    may the road rise with you:
    http://trans-missions.org/mezer-meiser/

  15. Dearest Emily:
    There are very few writers to whom I turn for insight and analysis on events in Israel and the Middle East. Professor Juan Cole comes to mind as does one Ms. Emily Hauser. I value your contributions and would be saddened by your absence.
    Take as much time as you need to recuperate and, when the time is right, share with us your thoughts and opinions once more.

    Doc

  16. Shadow's Mom

     /  June 10, 2011

    Oh, I will miss your regular posts, but I understand the need to pursue the practical over the aspirational. It grieves me that you have not achieved the recognition that you deserve. Travel safely, and I am glad you are reposting some earlier material.

  17. Rerunning oldies-but-goodies is a great idea. And I hope you won’t shutter the blog altogether, both because I so value what you have to say, and because I love having these glimpses into your life and your thinking. I like reading you. I’d be sad if I didn’t get to at least occasionally read your words.

    But take all the time you need. Rerun old material. Go on hiatus for some arbitrary period of time. Whatever you need to do. Because yes, blogging in a serious and sustained way is exhausting. And there are other worthwhile places where your energy needs to go.

    Take care of yourself.

  18. #17 — thanks Rachel for saying it perfectly. Exhaustion haunts us all in this writing/thinking business (or rather, non-business), and doubling up on the vitamins doesn’t always do it.

    Travel well, rest well, renew well, Em — whatever you decide, we’re with you.

    • Thank you Lesley – one of the coolest things about doing this blog has been having one of my favorite authors as a reader…! : )

  19. Darth Thulhu

     /  June 17, 2011

    Sorry to come so late to this. First V.I.P. visit at the new job sucked the past week and more away (haven’t even been properly lurking at Coatesia until today, nevermind anywhere else).

    The only consolation I have to offer is, in my way, the opposite of solace, but I hope it can provide a measure of peace.

    In 500 billion years, it will be impossible to find where the Sun once was.

    In 500 million years, our galaxy and every structure in it will rip itself apart colliding through another galaxy, and the two will be recongealing into an enormous elliptical blob. Meanwhile, the Earth will possibly have been rendered uninhabitable by the slow advancement of the Sun’s life cycle.

    In 500,000 years, not one single country nor language nor religion nor ethnic group from the modern day will be recognizable.

    In 500 years, not a single one of your hundreds of descendants is likely to know a single relevant detail about your life.

    In .5 years, you could well have already departed this world.

    It’s not worth it, to me, if joy in this is dependent upon evanescent “success” in drawing high-status eyeballs, moving high-status decision making, and acquiring an accompanied high-status pay packet. In 500 years, it’s all ash, regardless of whether you’re the toast of the Decade or instead a forgotten Israeli Cassandra.

    If all this wonder you’ve woven has any merit, it has that merit even if you never earn a dime, even if there’s never a single Israeli cabinet member who could recognize you at a J-Street soirée. A Costesian gig would be nice, certainly, but whether or not it ever happens has no bearing on whether you have done admirable work, nor on whether your offerings have touched and transformed lives.

    There is a Hindu karmic aphorism that roughly says: “You are not entitled to any fruit from your labor. You are only entitled to the consequence of the work itself.”

    God will see your efforts here be materially rewarded. Or will see that they never are. If there is anything worthwhile here, I believe it has to be independent of that.

    Thank you for hosting such a beautiful oasis.

  20. Mary

     /  June 17, 2011

    Just found this post.. sometimes I don’t get to keep up as well as I do other days.

    Selfishly I hope you’ll keep writing and I’ll get to keep following somewhere. You have become my emotional safe place. I’m an Irish Catholic girl from a family that always had very dear Jewish friends, dear enough to be called aunt and uncle, and has kept them, and now has Muslim friends who are just as well loved.

    It is so good to read testimony from someone who understands how desperately I crave peace, tolerance, progress in the peace process. I would so much miss your voice. Even if sometimes it takes me 2 weeks to find the articles!

  21. Abby S.

     /  June 23, 2011

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful, well-reasoned, impassioned writing. I came here because I lurk at TNC’s blog and always appreciated your insights, and I was glad to see that you are blazing the trail that I try to follow in my political and Israeli-Palestinian struggles. I know that even if I disagree with you, you will have a good reason for saying something, so I trust your writing. I hope you are having a great trip to Israel, and I’ll see about commenting more on this blog.

    Best of luck!

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