I’m launching a new weekly feature here, for a couple of different reasons. One, I’m betting that it takes less time to write about the things that I want to write about, but am not writing about, than it does to even try to write about them. Two, I’m hoping that — since, as a result, I have trouble deciding what to write about when I do have an opportunity — any readers who might still be out there can tell me which of the things I haven’t written about they’d actually be interested in reading about.
I call them “leftovers” because, well, they’re “left over” from this week (and previous weeks), in terms of stuff I wanted to write but couldn’t. Also, because I’m hoping that I can stir them up a bit, reheat them, and serve ’em up even if they’re not exactly “fresh.”
- The Sotomayor Hearings: Of course, there’s a lot to be said here, and much of it has been said elsewehre. I had a particular theme I wanted to pursue, about how GOP Senators are essentially doing what they’ve said Sotomayor would do as a judge. This one may never get written, because (a) I’m not sure how much relevance it will have after the hearings are over, and (b) by the time I get it written most of it will have already been said.
- Palin and the Republicans: Since her resignation and the varied reactions in the GOP made news, I’ve been working on a post but I’ve only got four paragraphs written. Actually, it’s a post I wanted to write in the days after the Republican convention, but never had time to write. When she resigned, I still had the 50 or so columns, posts and articles I wanted to reference, so I thought maybe now I could write it. But if I post it now I further establish my pattern of posting about somethign well after everyone else has stopped talkign about it and moved on to something else.
- The Rise in Right Wing Extremism: This is another one that I wanted to write back around the time that Geprge Tiller was murdered and right after the Holocaust Museum shooting but, as usual, time wasn’t anywhere near on my side. From the time I got an idea of what I wanted to write, to the time I actually sat down to write it was more than a week. By then everything I was going to say had been said by people with bigger megaphones than mine. So, I opted for another topic I thought equally important, though it wasn’t as widely discussed (or, it turns out, read).
- Update LGBT Hate Crimes Project: There’s lots to be done here. (First, I’d like to go through and edit all the existing cases.) There’s been a verdict and sentence in the Angie Zapata case since I last updated, so I’d like to update that entry. The trial started in the murder of LaTeisha Green this week, and the jury is already deliberating. I have an unfinished entry I’d like to update and publish. There’s been a verdict and sentence in the Roberto Duncanson murder, so I’d like to update that entry as well. I’ve got an entry on the murder of Tony Randolph Hunter that I’ve yet finish and publish. And I’ve got research piled up on a number of other cases that I’ve yet to organize and write up.
- Empathy: I’ve been meaning to write another post on this. It’s a topic I’ve written about in the past. (Here and here, for starters.) It’s the one topic on my “short list” that isn’t tied to the news cycle (though this would be a good time to be writing about empathy). I’ve got a ton of articles I’ve set aside for furthe reading. It’s also the topic of a book proposal I started a few months before Dylan was born, but that’s been gathering dust since then. (I’ve almost stopped kicking myself for not picking it back up, since I haven’t had time to write much anyway.)
So, that’s the short list. Any readers out there? Which of the above do you think would be worth writing about even after the subject has faded from the news cycle?
(If you want the backstory about this post, read on. If not, let me know which of the weeks leftovers sounds interesting.)
Why This Feature?
As a general rule, on any given day I have at least three or four different things I want to write about — most of which I’m not going to get to, because writing about this stuff doesn’t fall into the categories of stuff I’m supposed to do or stuff anybody needs me to do.
Anybody else, that is.
With this blog being a one man shop, I feel compelled (by no one but myself) to post on a daily basis. But lately it’s just not always possible. One the other hand it’s necessary, and not just in terms of being a “successful” blogger.
I’ve found that I need to write, in the same way that a painter needs to paint or a dancer needs to dance. It keeps me sane, and if I go too long without writing, I get grumpy, irritable, morose, etc., and not much fun to live with.
The reality is that I’m at a point in my life where my needs come in dead last, because others’ needs necessarily take priority.
What I mean is this. I’m a working dad. I’m not a writer at work, because writing isn’t my job. I’m not a writer at home, because writing is a pretty solitary activity that necessitates removing myself from my family. So, however much I love it, however good I may be at it, however good it makes me feel, it comes last. After work, after family. Generally, anytime I spend writing — except for a couple of hours between the kids’ bedtime and mine — is time that I’m supposed to be doing something else.
(That’s generally how I can tell if there’s something I’m supposed to be doing. If I’m writing, I’m almost certainly supposed to be doing something else. Because 90% of the time, I’m not supposed to be writing.).
It comes last. By the time I actually have time to do it, I’m so exhausted that I end up nodding off at the keyboard, and realizing — usually when I’m on a roll — that I need to go to bed, because I’ve got a long day of not-writing ahead of me.
My employer, 90% or more of the time, doesn’t need me to write. Most of my job is reading compiling and promoting other people’s writing to tens of thousands. (There’s more than a little frustration and irony in that, yes.)
My family doesn’t need me to write. Sure, they might need me to be happier. But they need my time and attention. Writing requires the same, and doing both at the same time is impossible.
In both cases, I find that — most of the time — if I’m writing, I’m not doing something I’m supposed to do or am needed to do. If I’m writing, most of the time, I’m taking time away from my employer or my family. So, I find myself squeezing it into the “leftover time,” in my life; the little pockets of time when I don’t have anythign that I’m supposed to do and I’m not needed to do anything.
Like on the Metro. Until Washington Metro subway crash, in June, I could count on getting a seat on the Metro most of the time. This meant that I had about 30 minutes to whip out my laptop and continue working on somethign I’d started writing earlier. I’d even download articles that I wanted to link to or quote, so I’d have access to them even though I didn’t have internet access during my commute.
Since the Metro crash, trains are often standing room only, and packed. That’s part of the reason I bought an iPhone as soon as I was eligible for an upgrade with AT&T, because of the capability of actually doing some writing without having to have a seat on the train or whip out my laptop. (Evernote and Reat It Later make it possible to download the stuff I want to quote or link to. The WordPress app for iPhone makes it possible to write blog posts. It’s not quite as easy as I’d like it to be, but it allows me to get at least a little writing done.)
Still, there’s lot of stuff I just never get to. Typically, I’ll think of something I want to write about, get an idea, and get excited about writing it. I might even start on it. (That doesn’t mean writing, by the way. That can mean tracking down, gathering, and reading the stuff I want to include or reference.) But nine times out of ten, I’ll have to stop because something I’m supposed to do or am needed to do takes priority, and I’ve run out of time for writing. (Including weekends.)
And it means I may not get back to it until more than 12 hours later. Sometimes days later, depending on how any number of variables shake out. Sometimes, it can take a week from the time I get an idea to write about something to the time I actually get to the point of writing it.
At this point, many things get abandoned because they’re based on news items that have drifted out of the news cycle and public attention. If I pick them up and write them, it can take up to antoher week to finish, because by then I tend to write longer articles instead of short posts, because if I’m taking up a topic that’s already fallen out of the news cycle, I feel I’ve got to offer more than a few short statements, since people can get that anywhere, and probably have by the time I finish.
So, as my life has changed in the past couple of years, I end up writing less, because what I write about and how I write takes time. But it’s the only way I can think of to offer a perspective that a little more than what people can find elsewhere.
And to stay sane, which is not easy when your passion is not your work, and not even a major priority.