I got nothin’?

It’s been almost exactly two weeks since I wrote “LTB–and a lot more.”

That post noted some of the reasons I’ve done very little contemplative or really new writing in the last six weeks or so–and am likely not to do very much of it for the next month (or so). That’s not entirely true: I did a future edition of “disContent” that I’m quite pleased with and I’ve been generating (and editing, and organizing) content for the Library Leadership Network. But the longer essays–whether contemplative or synthetic (that is, synthesizing from various posts)–weren’t happening.

During those two weeks, I did put out an issue of Cites & Insights. That issue should be a real bargain: It has the most important sections of two $29.50 books about library blogs, all yours for $0. It also has some notes on readership over the first two million words of C&I. So far, I can’t say that the issue has either aroused any obvious interest or even achieved the usual first-half-week level of downloads and readership, but these things (can) take time.

The title

The inspiration for this post is John Scalzi’s post “I Got Nothing” at his blog Whatever. Inspiration, that is–not parallel. Scalzi’s post concerns the fact that he has only one book in the publishing pipeline, with no other books under contract. For Scalzi, a successful and award-winning science fiction writer, this could be cause for concern–but, as he notes, it’s also an occasion to try new things…with no books he has to work on.

The situation here is not parallel. I’m not suggesting that I’m remotely in Scalzi’s league as a writer. I’m also not suggesting that anywhere near as many people would care (his posts get lots of comments, generally quite interesting ones–and he posts fairly regularly. For example, this post, which went up five hours ago as I write this, already has 35 comments–and doubtless more when any of you go to it).

But Scalzi’s post, and title, did encourage me to look at my own situation…and wonder.

Maybe it’s not just moving?

Yes, moving is disruptive–and when it’s from one house you’ve lived in for 11 years to another 30 miles away, when incidents add to the confusion (thanks to a misstep just as we started looking for the first time at the house we believe we’re buying, my wife’s hobbling around with a hairline fracture–since then and for the next month or so: as she says, she fell for the house), when you’re dealing with a truly strange real estate “market,” and when you factor in California’s, and especially Santa Clara County’s, increasingly extensive paper trail…well, it’s really disruptive for a very long time.

[An aside: Supposedly, local realtors are "going paperless"--but I'd say there's at least twice the paperwork there was 11 years ago, including incredibly detailed disclosure forms. We've spent hours just initialing and signing form after form after form...and, if I didn't have an all-in-one printer so we could print out "faxed" PDFs, sign them, scan them back in and attach them to email, I don't see how we could get through this at all--we'd be driving out to Livermore twice a day. I know our buying agent and selling agent will each give us a CD at close of escrow with copies of all the paperwork--but meanwhile, I'd swear we have more than half a ream of paper for the purchase transaction, and almost that much for the sale.]

But…well, I can’t honestly say that move-related stuff is occupying all my afternoons and evenings. Even as we start packing toward the actual move, deciding on a mover, contacting utilities (and, later, the post office, bank, magazines, credit card companies, IRS, etc., etc., etc.), all that stuff should take less than half the time I’d normally devote to writing-related work.

Work that, other than some column-related effort, isn’t really happening. If I sit down to start on an essay, even one that grows by bits & pieces (e.g., Trends & Quick Takes), I find myself checking FriendFeed, checking email, then going off for a nap…and reading a magazine or exercising or going for a walk.

Which makes me wonder whether the move isn’t a convenient catchall for something else…

In recent years, I’ve said I’d keep on writing as long as (a) people want to read what I have to say and (b) I find it interesting & worthwhile to do so.

Right now, I’m a little uneasy on both counts. With luck, this too shall pass…

No quick decisions

Once again, I’m not doing anything (including not doing anything, if that makes sense) in any great hurry.

As to “the four projects,” no decision yet–although I guess the second possibility (library blogs) is dead in the water, along with sales for the books. (Short-term lesson in Andersonomics: Giving away the meat of the two library blog books has, to date, resulted in zero, count them, 0 sales of either book. But, you know, T-shirts at my author’s reading concerts are doing just fine…)

Unless there’s a sudden change in attitude, there’s a good chance the June C&I will consist of a reformatted version of the first 121 pages of The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008, which would probably yield a slightly large but not immense issue (I’m guessing 32 to 42 pages, depending on how I handle figures)–in other words, everything except the individual blog profiles. That book’s completely flatlined at this point as well, with no sales in at least three weeks (50 total to date), so we’ll see what giving (most of) it away does for sales or at least readership.

After that–we shall see. I’ve got lots of material ready to work on. (I’d still like to carry forward the Liblog Landscape study another year–I’m just not sure I can justify the effort on any basis, including “the good of the profession.”) The creative juices could start flowing again most any time…

Or the sense could grow that I’ve become an “old mind” that people are tired of hearing from, that my style of thinking and writing doesn’t have much place in Today’s Library Field and that I should just let it go.

Right now, I got nothin’.

11 Responses to “I got nothin’?”

  1. Mark Says:

    Walt, “I got nothin'” for most of this post but as for the penultimate paragraph, that is hogwash! At least as far as my opinion goes.

    I think “Today’s Library Field” needs your voice and style more than ever. ‘The Profession’ may be less willing to listen to it than it used to be (for whatever reasons) but it is needed. Not that that is reason enough for you to continue. I, for one (and I can’t be the only one), would miss your voice and guidance/example.

    As for “Today’s Library Field,” there does seem to be something going on that I can’t quite put my finger on. Not that blogs, twitter, friendfeed, etc. define “Today’s Library Field” any more than liblogs ever did but shifts are happening in our language use, forms of argumentation, attention spans, and professional groupings/affiliations, for many anyway.

    I’m not saying any of this is caused by any of the rest, or if it is good or bad. Like most things I think it is highly complex, and it is also rapidly evolving. All of this, along with my own personal situation, adds up to my own of late “I got nothin’.”

    Despite my seemingly disagreeing with you, I do understand what you mean. Perhaps that understanding is what is making me so apprehensive.

  2. Steven Kaye Says:

    Anecdote isn’t the plural of data, but I do read your blog regularly. Just not as often from feed readers, since I don’t care to plow through 4,000 items to catch up after being buried at work.

    I still think with more marketing the books could have done better, but I’m not sure what the sales of library-oriented studies are anyway so that’s just a hunch on my part.

    As for whether you still have something to say, that’s your call. I gu

  3. Steven Kaye Says:

    Anecdote isn’t the plural of data, but I do read your blog regularly. Just not as often and not from feed readers, since I don’t care to plow through 4,000 items to catch up after being buried at work.

    I still think with more marketing the books could have done better, but I’m not sure what the sales of library-oriented studies are anyway so that’s just a hunch on my part.

    I think Mark’s onto something in terms of argumentation styles and attention spans, but I don’t think that’s just a function of social media and I don’t think it’s a recent trend. And I don’t think it’s an irresistible locomotive of history.

    As for whether you still have something to say, that’s your call. I’m not sure how much more I can say on that score without it seeming like either vapid feel-good cheerleading or argument for the sake of argument.

  4. Frank Wong Says:

    Walt,

    We haven’t talked in a long time (since your UC days dealing with the data center), but I have been following the library world over the years and more so since I retiring from UC. With my toe trying to get in the current (PT) library job market, I have been using bloglines to understand what is going on in the “library” world.

    Anyway, good luck on your house in Livermore (it can be pretty good country there). As for projects, I vote for your offering a publishing for the libraries series.

    Frank

  5. stevenb Says:

    I can relate to your comment about being an “old mind” and I don’t really feel that old but I’ve been writing and speaking for a pretty long time and I’m sure that I’m perceived as being a member of the older generation. I can’t say I’ve got nothin’ – especially when I’ve just started a new column for LJ academic news wire – but I do wonder if what I’m writing is making a difference for anyone. It really doesn’t matter how much anyone writes. What matters is whether someone out there finds it of value. Sometimes you just wonder if it is worth it.

    But then I go to speak at a conference, like I did yesterday for he Iowa ACRL chapter where I keynoted their annual conference, and it was good to hear folks tell me they enjoyed an article I wrote or the blog posts. That re-energizes me and helps me to know that my writing can inspire or make a difference for those who read it.

    In fact, I think getting out to conferences and meeting the people who read your content is a good thing. We connect and it humanizes us – we get to know the readers – they get to know us. We not just words on a web page or a comment.

    So even though I’m sometimes uncertain as to whether my writingis still relevant or not, I’ll continue to try to make a difference for the readers.

  6. Daniel Cornwall Says:

    Maybe it’s just part of the zeitgeist. Although my personal blog isn’t primarily focused on librarianship, “I’ve got nothing” describes me well enough for the past few weeks. I actually still have a list of things that I *could* write about and I’ve posted a few items about digital deposit vs access through third parties, but overall I’m just not that inspired to write right now.

    For me part of it is the ability to share things through Facebook, FriendFeed etc. I mention an item, jot down a sentence or two and that’s that instead of a more substantive blog post.

    As for you, I pretty much agree with everything Mark said. You’re still needed. Someone’s got to innoculate the field against rampant shiny new thing syndrome without coming off as a luddite and I think you do that very well.

  7. walt Says:

    Thanks all (and for the emails as well). “Maybe it’s just part of the zeitgeist” resonates with what I’m seeing elsewhere. Otherwise, I think I’ll reserve comment for now.

  8. Brenda Chawner Says:

    Walt, I’d like to add my voice to those encouraging you to continue writing, and will echo those saying that you add an important perspective to the discussions. Like others, I tend to read WaR through a feed reader, and probably don’t show up as a statistic.

    Since I’m based in New Zealand and don’t get to many North American events to be part of ‘real time’ discussions, I use blogs like yours to keep up with things that are happening there, and would miss your voice if it it vanished. I also read C &I regularly.

    Good luck with the move. Buying and selling houses is one of the more stressful things I’ve done, so I’m not surprised you find it hard to focus on writing while it’s taking your time and attention.

  9. Seth Finkelstein Says:

    “Short-term lesson in Andersonomics: Giving away the meat of the two library blog books has, to date, resulted in zero, count them, 0 sales of either book. But, you know, T-shirts at my author’s reading concerts are doing just fine…”

    Hee hee.

    There exists a business model in giving away free material and monetizing the attention – for example, broadcast TV.

    There also exists a business model of trying to convince people they can monetize attention, even if it’s very unlikely – this is “social media consulting”, of which a subset is blog-evangelism.

  10. bibliotecaria Says:

    I enjoy your voice greatly.

    I would suggest that even though the moving is not necessarily taking a lot of time, it IS taking more mental energy than you might think. Moving is stressful. Wait until you’ve settled into your new place before you start thinking that your inspiration is gone and will never come back.

  11. walt Says:

    Seth–indeed.

    biblio: Thanks. I hope you’re right. (And think you might be.) Since the June Cites & Insights is, after this past weekend, about 99% ready (but won’t be published for 2-4 weeks), I’ve got time enough to see how it goes…


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