As an actor and writer, husband and father, I have two often-conflicting monkeys on my back: Monkey number one is Creative Monkey. He occasionally digs his claws into my brains, and refuses to let go until something wonderful comes out. I love him. Monkey number two is Pragmatic Monkey. He regularly wraps his prehensile tail around my neck and only eases his grip when I'm doing the things I need to do to support my family. I don't necessarily love him, but I'm glad he's here. From time to time, I can satiate both monkeys, like writing Games of Our Lives, working on CSI, or touring with Earnest Borg9. More often than not, though, I can only satisfy one monkey at a time, and when push comes to shove, Pragmatic Monkey always wins; with a family to support, I just don't have the luxury of turning my back on him. For the last few years, I've been luckily enough to to strike a Balance that makes both Monkeys happy . . . but for most of this year, Pragmatic Monkey has been squeezing the everlivingfuck out of me, and in an effort to make him happy, I've ended up taking on far too many responsibilities, and given away way far too much of myself to other people. I've rarely seen Creative Monkey, let alone felt his wonderful claws in my brains, and that's got to change. I miss him.
I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I believe that I didn't come down with a crippling case of mono that forced me to bring my life to a complete halt just because The Universe hit a two-outer on the River to take me down. So over the last couple of weeks, I've taken a very hard look at my life, and looked for The Lesson. After a lot of soul-searching, and long talks with the two most important women in my life (my wife and my mother) I've come to the following conclusion: I'm tired. Really, really tired. I guess it's appropriate that I got mono, because my body physically manifested what I've felt emotionally for a long time.
Call it what you want: over-extended, spread too thin, burned-out . . . the bottom line is, in an effort to put lots of irons in the fire, help some people out, and increase my opportunities to retire in style at the age of 25, I've given too much of myself to other people, and there hasn't been enough left over for me and the people I love. The scary thing is, if I hadn't had to cancel the Red Hat Summit appearance, I may not have realized it until it was too late. When I had to cancel the Red Hat Summit, I was shocked, that, rather than expressing compassion and understanding, I was called "unprofessional," and a lot of people got very upset with me, because my health prevented me from speaking at their precious conference, and it made them "look bad." I felt like I wasn't even a person anymore. I felt like I was an object, a commodity, a number. For months, something had been bothering me, and I couldn't put my finger on it. It was like seeing something out of the corner of my eye that vanished whenever I tried to look directly at it, but it suddenly came into focus: I have felt, for a very long time, like people wanted a piece of me, and I'd willingly given it up. I was filled with empty spaces. I had to take a step back, and redraw my boundaries. To quote my favorite TV show of all time: "I am not a number, I am a person."
There are so many things I want to do, and I haven't had time to do them. I want to plant a garden. I want to walk my dog every morning. I want to write fiction. I want to finish the two books I'm working on, so I can get into the third. I want to play more poker. I want to take my wife out on dates. Mostly, though, I don't want to miss out on what little time I have left with my stepkids before they fly right out of the nest in a couple of years. I was working my ass off to provide enough financial security to do all those things, but I had hardly anything to show for it. I was undervaluing myself and my work, and at the end of each day, I was emotionally exhausted and I couldn't even think about enjoying time with my family. All the while, these people who had gotten a small piece of me — some of them business associates, many of them random Internet readers — kept demanding more and more and more.
When I was so sick about ten days ago, I had a fever-induced epiphany: I needed to make several changes in my life. I needed to redefine some boundaries, and re-organize my priorities.
So let's get to it. The first thing I have to do is refocus my creative energy, which brings the following changes:
- I have written my last column for Dungeon. When I started, I was under the impression that I could write whatever I wanted, as long as it was related to gaming. So I wrote about games I love, like Illuminati and Car Wars. I wrote about playing Magic with Nolan, convention gaming, and playing True Dungeon at SoCal GenCon last year. I really enjoyed writing the columns, but the feedback I got was largely negative (it's really time to just get the fuck over Star Trek, nerds), so Erik Mona, my editor at Dungeon, asked me to write columns that were focused purely on D&D. I tried my best, but my life was just too full to put in the time that running or participating in a campaign requires. It was very hard to write a column about D&D when I couldn't play at least once a week, so I told Erik last week that I felt that I couldn't provide the quality and consistency that he and Dungeon readers deserve, and he graciously accepted my resignation. I loved working for Erik, who is a fantastic editor, and I will continue to read both Dungeon and Dragon, which I feel have improved tremendously under his leadership. I'm sad that I can't be part of it any longer.
- I've resigned from igrep. I like the people who created it very much, and I completely believe in their technology — if you're a developer, and you're not using igrep, you're wasting a lot of time — but it's clear to me that I can't provide the services that they need from a spokesman, and it's best for everyone if I invest my time and energy somewhere else.
- I am not doing any more conventions this year. I don't have anything new to offer in terms of creative content right now, and I'm not going to go out and rehash the same old shit. It's boring for me, and the audience deserves something better. So I'm taking the rest of the year off to work on new material.
I also need to make some fairly significant changes to my blog. I have to keep perspective and focus: I write this blog because it's fun and enjoyable, and ultimately I have to write it for me, and I have to write in a way that keeps me comfortable. There's this guy named Paul Phillips, who the poker pros call "Dot Com," because he made a megatillion quatloos during the dotcom boom. He retired in style, and became a seriously good poker player. He also writes one of the greatest blogs (actually a live journal) that I have ever read, and I don't say that with any hyperbole. He writes about poker, other players, technology, geeky things, and his baby girl with wonderful, honest, prose. But he's got his boundaries, which he makes very clear. His Live Journal helped me come to the conclusion that I could redefine my boundaries and still have a blog worth reading and writing. For example, his FAQ is unambiguous and makes it clear that he's not interested in any bullshit. It doesn't mean he's a dick, it just means that he knows what his boundaries are and that he'll defend them. I respect that more than I can possibly put into words, and I intend to follow his example. (Though I probably wouldn't have folded that Queen-high flush to TJ Cloutier at the Bike, when only two cards in the deck beat me ;). I've also read and thought about another blogger I respect, Tony Pierce. Tony recently wrote a great post about what happens when bloggers experience blogger burnout. At one time or another, I have been guilty of every single entry on his list, right up until today. Starting right now, I will change that. I don't think everyone is going to be happy with these changes, but I think that will say more about the individual than it does about me. In fact, if you see me as a fellow blogger, writer, stepparent, privacy advocate, spouse, pet owner, poker player, [whatever] aficionado, geek, or human being, I'm pretty sure you're going to understand all of these things. As a matter of fact, if these changes upset or offend you, you should probably not be reading WWdN in the first place, and I hope you'll leave.
- I hate Reality TV, and I feel like my blog is dangerously close to crossing the line from " this interesting thing happened to me" to "come with me while I take a shit in the woods." I need to tell more stories, and bear less soul. You know what I've learned about The Internets? It's full of freaks, and if a high-profile person bears too much soul, they really come out of the woodwork and latch on. It's a little creepy. So, I need to reclaim a lot of myself for myself and my friends and family. If that means people stop reading WWdN, I'm really okay with that. In fact, I hope it has a bit of a Darwin effect.
- When I get the redesign launched, there will be minimal advertising. I'm doing this because I believe I've found a tasteful and non-intrusive way to help support my family. I will never allow WWdN to become a billboard, and I will never allow my writing to be influenced by, or secondary to advertising or sponsorship. I do plan to enter a few affiliate programs, and if I ever link to something that could go through one of those programs, I'll do it. Again, I'm sure this won't sit well with everyone. Deal.
- As my blog has grown out of my control in the last year, and taken on a life of its own, I have self-censored several times. Mostly, it's when I want to rage about what a colossal fucking liar George W. Bush is, what a disgrace he is to my country, and how the mainstream corporate media have completely failed to hold him and his administration accountable for countless lies. I'm a passionate person, and I'm passionate about politics. I'm going to write about it, and I'm not going to pull any punches. It won't be my primary focus, and I will never be as great a political blog as The Moderate Voice, Josh Marshall or Atrios, but I've turned away from political posts for too long. If the world were a bar, America would currently be the angry drunk waving around a loaded gun. Yeah, the other people in the bar may be afraid of him, but they sure as hell don't respect him. And as soon as he drops that gun, he's going to get his ass handed to him. I'd rather my country be respected than feared, and I'm going to do whatever I can, however small, to make that happen.
- I will move most of my Los Angeles-specific content to blogging.la, including news about local readings, ACME performances, and the like. I estimate that there are less than one hundred local readers, so it makes more sense to put local stuff on a local site.
- Because I make my living by writing, I'm going to focus most of my time and energy on completing the books I've got in production, even if that means I write fewer blogs (though I have noticed that it's almost axiomatic that when a blogger says, "I'm going to blog less" that they actually blog more). However, I'm not going to keep material off my blog because I'm planning on including it in a future book. I've already written a successful book, Dancing Barefoot, that was entirely composed of previously-published material, and Just A Geek would have been even more successful if O'Reilly hadn't mis-marketed it so badly, against my wishes and advice. I'm not worried about losing book sales because some, most, or even all of the material is available on my blog. I believe 100% in the Long Tail, and I owe much of my success to it.
- For the month of June, I am guest-editing the Technology section of the SuicideGirls newswire. (Newswire is Safe For Work, the rest of the site is not.) I will be putting up about three new technology stories every day this month.
- I'm also guest-blogging for the poker blog pPlayer.com this month. I haven't posted anything at pPlayer, yet, but I plan on running some book reviews, as well as some interviews with well-known pros, poker bloggers, and authors. Both of these gigs allow the two Monkeys on my back to happily intersect: I get to write about things I love, and I get to support my family a little bit by doing it.
- I'm putting the finishing touches on a podcast. I'm not going to go into any details, because several things are up in the air, but I think it's going to be pretty damn cool.
I'd like to close with a little blast from the past . . . a thought for the day:
A small leak will sink a great ship
Thanks for reading. :)