Artistic inspiration ignores the law of supply and demand. - Mason Cooley
I’m often asked how I manage to keep up the breakneck pace I’ve maintained for the past two years, and my usual answer is “I honestly have no idea.” Now, that’s not entirely accurate; the primary secret is just plain hard work, over 12 hours of it most days (and that includes Saturday and Sunday). As I’ve said before, my husband travels a great deal for his work, and since he supports me I can devote most of my waking time to the blog while he’s on the road. Obviously I have to stop to cook, answer the phone, tend to my animals, take care of personal hygiene and all that, plus go to town for groceries and errands once or twice a week, and when my husband’s home I only work on the blog while he’s on his own computer writing reports or the like. On rare occasions I even take short trips, such as my recent one to Atlanta for the Southern Harm Reduction Conference. But other than all those exceptions (and the extremely rare instance of physical illness), I generally spend most of my time right in front of this computer.
Now, not all of that time is spent writing; obviously a lot of it is taken up in reading other websites, looking for news items for my TW3 columns, answering correspondence, dealing with support issues such as index maintenance, etc. And the time I do spend actually writing is more productive than the typical person’s because I’ve never believed in the myth of multitasking, which steals about 40% of the productivity of those who believe in it; when I write there is no music or television on and I’m focused only on what I’m writing and nothing else. It also helps that I run my blog on a tight schedule: exactly one post a day, no more or less, queued for automatic posting at 10:01 UTC so that everyone in the world can see it on its posting date (though at different times of day). This consistency allows me to take advantage of good writing days to get several columns done, and I needn’t worry about taking days off because I’m usually a good bit ahead. Furthermore, I keep my columns to an average length of 750-1500 words (though a few are shorter and TW3 columns come in at about 2000); if I have more to say than can be said in the allotted space, I break it into two or more parts.
But those are all practical considerations; writing also depends on creative impulses that don’t always consent to keeping a schedule, and that’s where “I have no idea” becomes true. What I mean is that I really don’t know how I’ve managed to churn out over 800 daily columns without more than an occasional (and always short-lived) case of writer’s block; apparently Aphrodite has asked the Muses to watch over me. Still and all, I’m not going to lie and tell you it’s always (or even usually) easy; in fact, it’s quite often exhausting. The fact that it’s extremely rewarding, and the frequent praise I get from my readers, more than balances that; however, I’m still wary of the possibility of burnout, and so I’m ever-so-slowly decreasing my workload so as to give myself more time for other commitments (including working on the new house, catching up on my reading and maybe doing that book everyone keeps insisting I write). The Sunday links columns are an example of that decrease; I put them together as I spot likely items all week long, so by Saturday all I have to do is arrange them in an aesthetically-pleasing fashion, add an epigram and index the thing. I’ve also changed some of my indexing standards, which won’t affect y’all much but decreases my behind-the-scenes work.
There is one more way in which I’ve been slowing the pace lately, and though it wasn’t originally intentional it seems as though it’s become inevitable. For the first year, I tried to answer every comment or email which asked a question or gave me a compliment, and to do so promptly; lately, however, I’ve found myself unable to do so. I still read every single comment y’all post and every single email y’all send, but all too often I find myself so busy that I put off replying until later, and then I can never catch up. And when those comments contain praise and/or good wishes, I feel rather ungrateful and rude for not replying. Maybe that’s silly, but it’s partly my nature and partly my upbringing; even though I intellectually know that with the dramatic growth in readership something had to give, when I neglect to provide a personal response to each and every complimentary comment, I feel like a lazy bride who can’t be bothered to do her thank-you notes. So though I’m still going to spend as much time giving personal responses as I possibly can, I have to recognize that some days will be better than others and it may be that the busy ones will start coming more often. What I’m trying to say is, please don’t take it personally if I don’t reply directly to your comment, or if I take a few days to respond to your email; it just means that I’m tied up with work or circumstances. I sincerely appreciate every single reader who takes the time to send me kind words or encouragement, even when I don’t reply; in fact, the desire not to disappoint my loyal readers may be the most vital ingredient in the magic formula which keeps me going.