A year ago Friday I brought a month-long hiatus in this blog to an end. It was all really rather melodramatic. Some loser tried to get my goat by leaving a comment threatening Zeke. My goat was got. This joint got taken off-line for a few days while I sorted things out — resulting in more traffic than CRN had ever had before, or has had since. (This was, I will confess, a source of some rueful inner joking about readers responding when one gives them what they want.) And then I came back for a few days, realized I liked my time with Zeke better with the blog turned off, and went fishing for a month.
This had kind of an unexpected, delayed effect. One of the ways in which I have (dealt with my grief/tortured myself) about Zeke has been to read blog entries for the year before, committing what I could to deeper, long-term memory, chuckling over anecdotes I’d forgotten and such. And then November, and no anecdotes: a hole in the historical record.
And suddenly my blog got a whole lot less interesting to me. I started remembering that there were things called books, some of which were waiting for me to write them, and even more waiting vainly for me just to read them.
Then the trolls hit after CRN won that awards thing (a brief video of said awards victory can be seen here.)
So by the time our pal The Theriomorph announced her new and restricted publication schedule, I was primed to pay attention. Beth had already posted something thoughtful and provocative on the frequency of blogging issue, and I had been rolling it around in my mind. (Beth has posted another good one on the topic this week, too.)
I have an application for grant funding for the Joshua tree book due in a couple weeks, and I need to spend time looking for other ways to cover the expenses involved in finishing the book. A lot of finishing involves just sitting in a chair and frowning at the keyboard for a few days, and that’s cheap. But there are places I need to go in the desert, and even camping is getting more expensive these days what with four-dollar-a-gallon gas. There’s a dissertation I’d really like to read for a small but important detail in one chapter I’m revising right now. No local libraries have it for copying, but I can score a copy for forty bucks if I order it from my desk at UCSF. Part of the research yet undone involves poring over Mormon pioneer diaries, which will likely mean a couple weeks of staying in Salt Lake City. There are important places I ought to visit that my 2-wheel drive pickup can’t quite handle: renting a 4WD for a couple days would make things easier. Interviewing Native elders often — if you want them to get the idea that you take them seriously and respect them — involves the giving of gifts. I’ve got some fundraising to do, in short.
This work is going undone. I’ve been blogging instead.
I was talking with the e-faun last weekend about her decision. She told me about having done a kind of cost-benefit breakdown of her blogging, finding that it was, in effect, a distinctly poorly paid full-time job. And then she said “and I can’t even imagine how much time you spend on CRN, Chris.”
It was an interesting point. I kinda let the blog sit for a few days this week while I mulled it over.
Cost: I am putting essentially a full-time-plus work week into this blog, most weeks. This is probably why I flip out twice a year and take a break from blogging forever. (!!!1!) And between that and trying to earn some cash to pay the internet bill so that I can continue to blog, I haven’t been leaving myself much time or energy to write them books.
Benefit: The community, first and foremost, in ways both tangible and intangible, mainly having to do with emotional support in a sucky year, and with pleasant distraction in a sucky year. And occasional baked goods. There are other intangibles: immediate feedback on writing, a gift most writers in history have not enjoyed, illuminating discussions, and catharsis-by-troll-stomping. Unintangibles are somewhat more limited. A few folks have offered donations through the Amazon tip jar, and more have sent me gift books, and I’m moved deeply when that happens.
Mostly tangibles going out. Mostly intangibles coming back. It’s how hobbies work. No big deal. But once this becomes more than a hobby, The Theriomorph’s talk about abundance and scarcity starts to ring in especially profound tones.
As this conversation spreads slowly throughout our corner of the blog world, people are grappling with the prospect of scaling back their blog writing, sometimes markedly, in order to focus on those parts of life that provide more tangible returns, whether that’s writing books, or focusing on one’s day job, or whatever. And each person will have a different balance that seems right to them. And I’ve been spending the last week considering whether I ought to mothball the blog, at least for a few months. I love writing here, and my writing has gotten better writing here, and you people are one of the chief joys of my life. But well, one must sleep, and one must earn a living, and 30, 40 hours of blog maintenance atop that is draining in the best circumstances.
But I wonder if there isn’t a third way at least potentially available here, a way to take the Theriomorphic abundance model and make it work in this situation, to tap into the abundance generated by this community of people so that I can balance the book writing and the blogging without either one suffering.
It’s worked before, after all. About a year ago I asked people to chip in for a generator for the Wampum folks, and asked other people with blogs to add the appeal to their sites. I understand we covered the cost of the generator in a few hours. The year before that CRN spearheaded a multi-blog campaign to send Lauren to the BlogHer conference. We had airfare, hotel room, and Lauren’s lost wages paid for in 18 hours.
I have little problem asking people for money on others’ behalf. It’s much harder — mortifying, in fact — to rattle the tip jar for my own work. But I’m going to suck it up here and do just that.
I’m asking for your help in meeting the expenses involved in my finishing the Joshua tree book.
The budget is open-ended, because the project is open-ended. Twenty bucks would pay for half a tank of gas. Fifty would cover duplication expenses and postage for a relevant dissertation. Two hundred would cover living expenses for three weeks of field observation, or a few days’ room and board while I interview land managers in the USGS Las Vegas office.
If you’re a blogger and you think your readers might be interested in helping support writing of what will be the only mass-market book on the Joshua tree’s natural and economic history, its ecology and biology and ethnology, please consider mentioning this appeal to them on your blog.
If you’re unfamiliar with the kind of writing I do on desert issues, you can look in the “desert” category and browse around. Of recent posts, this one on piñon-juniper forests, or this one on a bit of eccentric desert lore, or this first-person narrative provide good examples of my related writing.
If you provide me with your name when you donate, I’ll be happy to mention you in the acknowledgments to the book.
The donation page is here.