I’m back. Here’s why I was gone.

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.

Copyright © 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.

    • Thanks for these thoughts, Jess. I’ve been through so many iterations that I’ve pretty much accepted that I may be figuring it out–and then figuring it out again a few years later–for another couple of decades. But you know what? That’s okay too. :-)

  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.

    • Thanks so much, Molly! Wow, two years–that’s a milestone. Socurious to see where you move in the months ahead (both in blogging & in life). Whatever, wherever it is, I know it will be great.

  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.

    • Thanks so much! I’m glad to be back too. :-) And I love those thoughts about echos–how fun to have a reader (you) discover threads I wasn’t aware of myself. So appreciate you taking the time to share these reflections.

  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.

    • Age! I wasn’t really thinking along those lines, but of course it plays a role. Thanks for pointing that out–and thanks so much for reading.

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