I really don’t know what happened to me about five years ago, when I suddenly found it difficult and annoying to write blog posts.
I suppose this wasn’t so strange, because it is difficult to write good blog posts, and difficult things can be annoying. What was strange is that I’d been writing several articles and blog posts a week here on Literary Kicks pretty much nonstop for 23 years. I would toss a fresh piece off with my morning coffee, and maybe another one at my desk at work (no one can tell if you’re blogging or coding). At night I’d post lengthy, rambling comments in response to other people’s lengthy, rambling comments on this site.
The torrent of my weekday writing routine wasn’t enough; around 2005 I began running a weekend series called Reviewing the New York Times Book Review. This was my attempt to pay attention to the contemporary literary scene during the briefly wonderful era when litblogs were a thing and I was attending trendy publisher parties in Manhattan. I would read 15 book reviews as soon as a new issue of the rag fell into my hands, then fire off a bunch of sarcastic jollery in 10 to 12 paragraphs. I kept this pace up while also planning a weekend of fun for whichever of my three kids were staying with me, and working overtime on corporate gigs and side projects and maintaining a relationship. No problem.
Eventually the Litblog Co-op self-destructed, and I got sick of the New York Times Book Review featuring Henry Kissinger on its cover and decided to stop paying attention to this newspaper and decided to end my weekly series. I think I had an early whiff of the fact that the New York Times had slowly morphed from a progressive to an establishment-friendly newspaper – as the entire world would soon discover when the Times began fawning over Trump.
I became more politically aware by the 2010s. Hanging around Occupy helped, and so did the books I was reading. I switched my weekend blog column to something called Philosophy Weekend, which really turned out great and got a lot of interactive response from readers. This was where I started writing in depth about pacifism, though I had no idea at the time where this interest was taking me.
I also self-published a short Kindle book called “Why Ayn Rand Is Wrong” based on of the themes from Philosophy Weekend and happily sold over 3000 copies. I launched an Indiegogo for a very inchoate concept called Pacifism for the 21st Century, and began furiously writing articles on the new website I built for this vaporous organization, and also kept up my writing on LItkicks. I was now divorced for the second time (the fact that I was crazed ADHD and worked multiple software gigs while blogging four or five times a week didn’t help either of my marriages). And now the crooked, blatantly racist and fascist Trump administration had captured the federal government.
My habit of constantly writing stopped very suddenly around this time. I don’t know why.
I guess it was simply the right time for a change in my life. Some consider the expression “sea change” a cliche, so I won’t call this a sea change within myself. But I do like the water metaphor, and I’m not grandiose enough to say I was undergoing an ocean change, so I guess I was going through a sudden river change. Because I have always been and still am, to paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, a river that doesn’t know where it’s going.
I was going through a river change around this time, and suddenly I didn’t enjoy writing or blogging anymore. I was now volunteering with an antiwar organization and luckily found a tiny studio apartment situation in Flatbush, Brooklyn where my rent is wonderfully low and Prospect Park is my glorious backyard. I was still working corporate jobs at this point, but with my new living situation I suddenly realized I didn’t need to maintain a full-time corporate job to keep up a simpler lifestyle. This was all good change, great change! What I didn’t intend, though, was that part of my new lifestyle was a new apathy about writing.
I didn’t even really notice that I had stopped writing until people started to mention that I hadn’t updated Litkicks in a week. Or a month. Or a season. Oh really, hmmm, I guess you’re right.
What I was doing now was posting pictures from Prospect Park on Instagram, and arguing about USA’s fascism crisis with friends and relatives furiously, way too furiously and angrily, on Facebook and Twitter. I found myself eager to rethink and reinvent my daily routines. I started going to operas at the Met, because a solo ticket can be cheap, and decided to put myself on a fast track to opera expertise. Why did I do this? I have no idea. Because this is the kind of thing people with adult ADHD do. Going by myself to a lot of operas at the Met was just another river change in my life. I felt an impulse to do this, and when I feel an impulse I usually follow it.
This suddenly led to a new creative outlet: podcasting. Even though I didn’t know a goddamn thing about opera in 2016, I went from zero to podcast on the topic in three years, launching Lost Music: Exploring Literary Opera, which I’ve written plenty about in the few blog posts I’ve managed to scratch out since I began this new habit. Audacity is my new tool of choice, and my opera podcast was really a practice run for the podcast I take more seriously: World BEYOND War: A New Podcast.
The World BEYOND War podcast is a monthly series of interviews with some of the most serious and hardworking antiwar activists in the world. The latest episode is a very special one because it harkens back to my own earliest influences in counter-culture and alternative politics: the music I grew up with. We’re about to present a webinar with the great songwriter, bass guitarist, singer and progressive activist Roger Waters at World BEYOND War (where I am technology director), and I’m looking forward to co-hosting this special live event. This inspired me to do a podcast in which I interview myself and talk about many things including the special meaning Pink Floyd’s 1973 masterpiece concept album “Dark Side of the Moon” will always hold for me. The episode is here:
Podcasting means a lot to me. I spend more time everyday listening to podcasts than reading books, lately. Jacke Wilson’s History of Literature is one of my favorite literary podcasts, and I also listen to many political podcasts as well as culture and music. I suppose my latest WBW podcast episode’s focus on 1970s classic rock is influenced by two of my favorite current podcasts, Jokermen and Talk Tull To Me.
I’m writing this blog post on a sunday afternoon, on a chill summer weekend in New York City. I remember what writing used to feel like. It’s fine. But podcasting is more my speed lately, so I hope you’ll listen to both my podcasts, including the final episode of season three of Lost Music: Exploring Literary Opera, which is about Jacques Offenbach’s Contes d’Hoffmann. And definitely check out the World BEYOND War episode in which I talk about everything from the Holocaust and my grandmother’s childhood near L’viv in today’s Ukraine to Pink Floyd and Roger Waters and growing up on Long Island. I tried to tie a few connections together with this episode.
I don’t think I’ll ever again write as much as I used to. But I’m just getting started figuring out what my voice is for, and how to use it.