Tuesday, November 26, 2013

State of the Union

I just wanted to give you all an update on what's going on behind the scenes with this blog. 

For those of you who just want the executive summary:

There are going to be some changes, moving forward, and though I'm not yet sure how they will shake out, a few things are certain. I'm planning on cutting back on content and either eliminating or altering the regular weekly features in order to make them more easily manageable for me. Posts will likely no longer happen every day or for every movie I watch, and the format of those posts might be different than what we're used to. I will try to keep things going as best as I can, but we might be looking at more of a "when I can and want to" posting schedule.

If you want to hear a bit more about WHY these changes are happening, more (personal) details are under the cut.

I write a lot, here. I've try to post content five days a week, with roughly five ~400-word FI updates per week, plus longer reviews and features like TCM Tuesday and Weekend Stream. This amounts to something like 3000-5000 words of original content per week, plus research/fact checking and editing. That is a lot to do in my spare time or furtively during my work day, especially considering I'm more or less doing this for me, not for money or for some sizable, established audience.

When I resumed this blog after its last lengthy hiatus, I did so with the intention of getting back into the habit of writing. I felt rusty, and wanted to sharpen my skills, such as they are, to get them back to a higher standard. I assumed that, with all of the movies I watch in a given week, I would never be lost for content to post, however often I should desire to do so. To feel slightly more professional, I decided to stick to a certain format and schedule as best as I could. I would focus on FIs because they are (or ought to be) shorter and less dependent on notes and research. Any other features I would do, time permitting, on an occasional or weekly basis. It seemed mostly manageable.

Unfortunately, what this has led to is that I now find myself constantly scrambling to get things done. There's no such thing as Dedicated Writing Time, or even Dedicated Watching Time... it's all multitasking, and that's not the best way to really enjoy or analyze any film. If I have plans that prevent me from going straight home after work, I worry about how I'm going to fit in dinner, a movie, and writing before I inevitably pass out on the couch. Ditto days when shows I watch turn up on Hulu or Amazon... it becomes a race to see how far I can get before sleep takes me. But on the other hand, if a Netflix disc is delayed in the mail, I freak out about how best to fill that hole in content. And, in either case, I wind up leaving off a ton of blog stuff to be completed the next day during work.

By trying to write and edit these things as quickly as I can, often while I'm supposed to be doing the job that, as awful as it is, actually pays me, both sides suffer. I've noticed that my writing here has become less specific and incisive, and more formulaic and dashed off, of late. This is precisely the opposite of my original intentions in restarting this blog. Meanwhile, my lack of focus at work, an issue at the best of times, has led to a noticeable drop in accuracy there. I constantly watch and refresh pageview stats, as if the difference between an average (18-20) or large (70-100) audience, for me, has any real significance in the wider world. But I can't stop being distracted by and obsessing over this stuff because that is just what I do. Basically, regular updates have fed into the all-encompassing anxiety sphere that is my life and become just one more Thing To Worry About.

I recognize that no-one is putting pressure on me aside from myself, but the pressure of anxiety with obsessive-compulsive tendencies is more than sufficient to cause distress. It manifests in mental list-making and compulsive scheduling (with moderate dysphoria over any changes to this internal schedule once its set). At best, it lets me feel organized and in control over my life, such that decisions and choices are narrowed or eliminated rather than worried about endlessly until nothing gets done. This way, things I enjoy can be enjoyed in an efficient manner and nothing is left behind. At worst, however, this tendency makes me feel like I'm constantly working and deriving no pleasure from anything because it's all just something I HAVE to do before I can relax. Any pleasure I might get out of a thing is translated into the sort of relief one feels from having completed a task—no different than how I'd feel upon doing any other errand or chore. 

This is not sustainable.

I'm under no illusions that all of this will change when I stop posting every day and move into whatever new phase this blog will take. Queues and lists and diminished enjoyment are a permanent part of my life to some extent, and they DO help with certain facets of my entertainment consumption. But perhaps relieving some of the pressure associated with HAVING to post something here every day by a certain time OR ELSE, I can take back a little bit of control over my time.

The worse angels of my nature compel me towards order, formula, routine, and homogeneity, at the expense of play, spontaneity, and new experiences. I already have a job that more or less demands precise, systematic repetition, where the same things are to be done at the same time and in the same way every month from here to eternity. This narrow, detail-oriented mindset has already crushed my creativity and sense of humor to the degree that even thinking of a single funny tweet feels like a Herculean task. I don't think I can bear maintaining the same kind of system for this blog, certainly not when the style of my writing keeps becoming more rote and less engaging as a result. That's of no use to anybody.

So, where does this leave us? I don't know. Right now, as the holiday season kicks in and my free time gets less, cutting back on posting would have become a necessity even if I weren't going mad. So I guess we'll enter a phase where I don't post every day, but only when I can and feel like it. While in this hiate-ish (oh, that's a good word), I will think about how best to carry on with some of the things I enjoy writing, here, but do so in a way that lets the writing itself, not the completion of the task, be the goal. Quality over quantity. Feeling over facts. Thought over timeliness. I may also see if there's a way to bring TV back into the fold a bit more, because I don't feel I've been serving that area well at all by confining it to one third of the Weekend Stream. But I'm not going to promise anything on any of these fronts, because I'd hate to set myself up to burn out again a few months down the road.

At any rate, thank you for reading this blog over the last few months. I know not to trust Blogger's page view numbers, but by their count I've been over 1200 pageviews in four of the five months since I resumed writing here. Now, these aren't GREAT numbers, whatever their accuracy, but it's still impressive to me and I appreciate that even this many people care what some random dude with an MA in film studies has to say. I will try not to go away again, and HOPEFULLY the things I do post will be of greater worth than they currently are. It will take some work, and it would be REALLY helpful if I didn't have to do my numbing day job, but that's not likely to change. I'll still keep pushing through it in the hopes that whatever comes out on the other side is a better, more sustainable site for us all.

Thanks again, and see you soon!

(Edited to add: If you're interested in seeing the things I WON'T be writing FIs about here, you can always follow me on Letterboxd, where I'll post some shorter, less synopsis-focused thoughts)

1 comment:

  1. Do what you need, my friend. I'll still be a reader no matter the frequency.
    And I don't know if I've said it before, but thanks for sharing with us. :)