I’m back. Here’s why I was gone.

Free Child Walking on White Round Spheres Balance Creative Commons

It’s been almost a month since my last post. Blog­ging experts may dif­fer as to the opti­mal fre­quency for post­ing, but on one point, I’m con­fi­dent they all agree: It should be more than once a month.

That being said, I had my rea­sons. This month has been breath­tak­ingly busy. Though, admit­tedly, any such assess­ment is a rel­a­tive one. I once mar­veled at a pro­lific writer friend’s abil­ity to churn out books while also hold­ing down a full-time job. “I could never do that,” I said. “No,” he agreed, reflec­tively. “You need a lot of time to hang out.”

He had a point. And while “a lot” may also be a rel­a­tive term, I def­i­nitely do need some. Which brings me to how I made the deci­sion to take a break from blogging.

Here’s the thing: This blog isn’t just about my life; it’s also a life lab­o­ra­tory. I am both sub­ject and object, both cre­ator and data. When I sit down at my lap­top to write, I’m not think­ing only about the writ­ing but also about the writer. How is she feel­ing? What is she think­ing? How is she relat­ing to this sin­gu­lar act of putting words on paper?

For pretty much all of my life, I’ve been an achieve­ment junkie. Degrees. Jobs. Books. You name it. I’ve been really really good at get­ting things done, at erect­ing what­ever psy­chic dams are needed to stem the emo­tional tides. You might say my motto has been: Act now; feel later.

But while this strat­egy may have its place, it also has its lim­its. I see this more and more. Like adren­a­line, it’s good for emer­gen­cies, not so good for the long haul.

I’m still fig­ur­ing out where to draw the lines—still fol­low­ing bread­crumbs—but in the mean­time, a few salient mark­ers are start­ing to emerge.

For one thing, my life works best when I hold my plans lightly. To put it diplo­mat­i­cally, this is not my usual M.O., which tends towards com­mand and con­trol. The met­rics for this are sim­ple. Accom­plish your goals, and you have suc­ceeded; fall down on the job, and you’ve failed.

Pre­dictably, I began the month with this idea in mind. Even with my other projects-in-waiting, two posts a week struck me as a fairly mod­est tar­get. But in the days that fol­lowed, my stress level grew, and some­thing started to shift. A sin­gle ques­tion pre­sented itself: What is the real point? This didn’t feel like edg­ing towards pro­cras­ti­na­tion or squirm­ing out of work. Rather it felt like a small first step towards tak­ing care of myself.

So what is the real point? Why did I start blog­ging? Last fall, at a par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult cross­roads, I went in search of ways to feel more grounded, more con­nected, and well, hap­pier. Blog­ging has given me all these things, which is why I keep at it. Would strong-arming myself into twice-weekly posts really build on this foun­da­tion? It seemed to me that the blog could wait. And so it did.

There comes a time in life when you have to stop doing things for instru­men­tal rea­sons,” my first-year moot court part­ner told me, explain­ing why he had no inten­tion of try­ing for a spot on the Har­vard Law Review. More than two decades later, I still recall those words. They seemed impor­tant at the time. Now I under­stand why.

© 2012, amy gut­man. All rights reserved.

11 thoughts on “I’m back. Here’s why I was gone.

  1. What a won­der­fully thought­ful and wise piece, Amy. As some­one who also needs a lot of time to ‘hang out’, I deeply appre­ci­ate it!

  2. I think I’ve finally fig­ured this out. I have been offered a cou­ple of “resume build­ing” jobs recently and I had to say, no, that in order to keep teach­ing, writ­ing what I love to write, and being a mom to my kids, I regret­fully decline.

    In the end, I’m sane and happy, and out of that comes magic. I don’t know exactly what form that magic will take, but it will be magic.

  3. Great post. My blog too is a life lab­o­ra­tory, and some­times my life just either gets in the way of writ­ing or balks at being writ­ten about. As I approach its sec­ond anniver­sary, I am won­der­ing where it is going and why I am doing it. I’m not ready to give it up because I do love the con­nec­tions that it pro­vides me, but I am ripe to find a new direc­tion for it.

    Thanks for mak­ing me think more about this.
    Molly@Postcards from a Peace­ful Divorce recently posted…Let­ting GoMy Profile

  4. My first thought is that this is your best “life lab exper­i­ment” thus far. In it I hear echos of pre­vi­ous posts — how going to the movies leads to a renewed con­nec­tion, how not keep­ing with the objec­tive of tak­ing a pic­ture a day leads to new insights, how blog­ging has lead to new con­tacts and new oppor­tu­ni­ties. About let­ting go of the “com­mand and con­trol”. And isn’t that what we should all strive for –whether try­ing to stay afloat in unfa­mil­iar cur­rents in Plan B Nation, or mud­dling through life even if our career plans have not been thwarted? I know I need to do that more often.

    I’m glad your back here at Plan B Nation. Had to click on the link as soon as I saw it in my feed. I enjoy read­ing your always excel­lent, thought-provoking posts.
    Anne Camille recently posted…Shad­owy X’s & O’sMy Profile

  5. Age brings per­spec­tive. Funny how pri­or­i­ties shift with time. I was very much the A++ per­son­al­ity … every­thing had to hap­pen right NOW, and I was already oth­er­wise engaged in … what­ever. Now, I’m more a “Don’t worry, be happy” type. Glad you took a break and smelled the roses.

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