Tuesday, October 26, 2010

So What's Up with the Not Writing and Everything

I began this blog in June 2002, so it's been more than eight years (which is a millennium in internet time, I think).  The past two months has been the most protracted dry spell for posting that I've had. 

A few things are going on. 

The biggest happened at the end of August.  But (and I hate it when people do this on the internet, but oh well*), I am not ready to discuss it publicly.  The family members involved have already had their privacy violated about as much as is possible, and they don't need me piling on.  Suffice it to say that the situation involves people I love and the legal system in both its necessity and all its iron cruelty, and that it's more awful than anything I imagined could happen.  Some day I will write about it, but not now.

It's strange how something traumatic changes you.  I couldn't honestly say that (beyond the first few weeks) inordinate amounts of my time have been taken up, but there's been a subtle and very damaging shift in my ability to concentrate.  Moments of solitude hurt, because that's when you think too much (mowing the lawn has tended to be the worst time) and so I've found myself filling those moments with as much buzzing as possible: answering email, flitting from one blog post to another, following comment threads.  This takes up time but does not produce writing, and so when I've been able to concentrate, I've tended to spend that limited focus on my new book (now called Tradition and Influence) which was almost done.

Additionally, I am in what I had thought was my final year as department Chair, and there have been a variety of crises in the department.  I never kept this blog a secret from my colleagues, but a few times previously something I had written here was brought up to me or complained about.  I didn't care too much at that particular point, but given the nastiness that has overtaken my department recently, it has seemed like a good idea to self-censor.  One of the things I dislike most about being Chair has been the requirement to think about how what I say or write isn't interpreted as only my personal opinions, but that's the way the world is, and there's not much that can be done about it. 

Finally, "It is ever so with the things that Men begin: there is a frost in Spring or a blight in Summer, and they fail of their promise." I've become increasingly disillusioned with the world of blogging and with internet communication in general. Scott Nokes suggests that the good discussions have migrated to Facebook or other places, and he's probably right, and it's even more likely that I'm just old and cranky, but it feels to me as if the conversations that sprung up around blogging have devolved either to partisan sniping or to coterie-focused back-scratching.  Since neither of those interest me, I've been withdrawing.  (Again, this most likely says more about me than about what anyone else is doing). 

So I've done a couple of things.  The first, which I did this summer when the events referenced above happened, was to plonk all of my Wheaton, departmental and academic acquaintances from my Facebook friends.  Sorry about that.  Given what was going on, it just wasn't appropriate to have Wheaton people or fellow academics on there, and I think for the forseeable future it will stay that way.  Nothing personal in the plonking, believe me, but it was something I needed to do.

Second, I have avoided posting things to the blog about policy, administration or chairing.  But since these things have been taking up a substantial part of my days, that has reduced the material for writing.

Finally, I have been focusing more on producing pieces for publication rather than on bloggy ephemera (though I guess in some ways the internet is more "forever" than JEGP or English Studies).  I actually don't like writing with that much focus, as I've always preferred jumping from one project to another when I get stuck on the first, but I feel like I have to husband my limited reserves of concentration.

So really this post is an apology to those readers who have stuck with me so long and are no doubt irritated by the lack of content.  I hope to do better, but don't know when I will. 

* This does read like one of the cliches of internet drama.  I'm sorry for that, but not sorry enough to make it too easy for someone to ferret out what I'm referring to.  My most immediate family is thankfully not involved.


Michelle said...

I'm sorry to learn that you've had this burden. I hope that Lady Justice does her work expeditiously, so that whatever it is can be rectified (if possible!) and whatever the new normal is going to be can begin. Wæs hæl!

Alastair Grant said...

oh dear - Professor dude having a rough time. I too am sorry to read about the turmoil you are suffering from, especially that which you imply but no state.

With regard to the nature of blogging, and what you readers are interested in reading; all I can add is my own perspective.

I came here having listened to you TTC tapes. I'd be quite happy for your blog to just be quick pointers (with insightful comments)to other people's sites. IMHO that is the kind of thing that blogging has evolved into. Full discourse isn't that common because like yourself (at the moment, at least) sustained concentration isn't that common. Even this comment is far too long!

take care - and good luck mowing that lawn.

Nichim said...

Well, this reader misses your blog - guess I'll just have to get reading some of your scholarly publications. I'm hoping for a copy of The Tolkien Encyclopedia for a holiday gift, and some peaceful time to read along to Beowulf Aloud. Thank you for all you do.

Carl Anderson said...

Sorry to here of the difficulties -- and I should be sorry to see WT&SS go. I've never been certain about the world of blogging (I am possibly too old-school, and have always felt more at home on email distribution/discussion lists!), but this has certainly been one of blogs that made me think that there was something too it all, after all!

But, in any case, I shall hope things take a turn for the better. Darkest before the dawn, and dawn ever the hope of men -- or something like that!

Another Damned Medievalist said...

some of that is largely why I have not being blogging so much lately. Some day, we can exchange stories about thankless tasks :-)

John Cowan said...

I am not at all irritated, but only saddened. I read a lot of very low frequency blogs through an RSS reader, so while I'm always glad to see a Wormtalk and Slugspeak posting pop up, there are plenty of other things, each having their own flavor, available for me to read. I feel sad only when a blog is closed and I know there will be no more, and I'm glad you haven't done that.

I am all too familiar with the kind of inability to concentrate that kills only your highest and best activities, leaving all routine operations functioning. I've had on-again-off-again asthma all my adult life, and three years ago I spent half a year suffering from a low-level flareup. I could easily walk and chew gum at the same time, but I just couldn't focus enough to do high-quality programming, and it eventually cost me that job.

I do think, though, that "blogging" is no longer any one thing, any more than "radio" or "television" or "printed books" are. The medium, that is to say, is no longer the message (as it still is in tweeting): people blog in a variety of styles for a variety of purposes. You blog to share with us, your readers, part of the contents of your extremely interesting mind, and that's always a good thing to have available in whatever quantities and qualities you wish. Nor do I detect either sniping or back-scratching in the comments here. If you are chronically annoyed by the dysfunctional communities that form around certain other blogs, just stop reading them. I have done so many times.

Best wishes for the eventual restoration of your equilibrium.

Elena said...

I'm sad to read of your difficulties. Your blog has always been one of the most interesting I've been following so I hope you won't abandon it completely.
Sometimes I too have wondered "where discussions have migrated", as mailing lists seem dying, groups and forums are silent and blogs often gives one the impression to be talking to oneself.
Honestly I don't think I've ever seen an interesting discussion on Facebook, but maybe I haven't befriended the right people or "liked" the right groups, I don't know!
Anyway, I wish you all the best for the future and I hope bad times will end soon.

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Drout,

Keep your head up. You are one of the best Anglo-Saxonists of our present day. You are a successful, intelligent, good person - don't let lesser people get you down. Be mindful of your glory, take pride in past accomplishments, and recognize that already you've done so much at such a relatively young age. Your fame is spread widely. Enjoy it.


Anonymous said...

Glad to find your blog; I've always liked Middle and Old English. Then to find out you do an SF course is an added bonus.
Sorry to hear you're having personal and professional issues. Hope they get resolved soon and well.

One thing, though: it's pronounced "Heinlein," not "Heinlen"... at least that's what I heard in the first ten minutes of your SF thingy. First and second syllables are the same except for the beginning.
SF authors aren't attempting to be predictors, by and large, though. I remember when Bill Gibson submitted the proposal for "Neuromancer" to Terry Carr at Ace--he wasn't attempting to write a "cautionary tale" so much as to write a fun, well-thought-out book, I believe.
That was a very strange period in his life and he's settled down a lot lately, although I haven't seen him for months. Next time I drive out to his house I'll have to ask him if that's what he intended (I can't call--his voicemail is always full up).

Julie said...

I hope you continue blogging from time to time. There is no one else out there with your knowledge and enthusiasm for Anglo Saxon, Tolkien, etc. I came to your blog from the audio tapes on fantasy and like hearing what you are pursuing with your studies and publishing. Many of us live in places where we have no access to the kind of intellectual community that can exist in a university town. It is nice to have a little of that over the web.

STAG said...

A blog by its nature is a diary made up of first drafts.
The value exists in the feedback from commentators.