Writing Again

It has been 810 days since I took a break from writing in public. I offered my rationale then, but the reason I stopped blogging was simple: I was emotionally burned out and no longer enjoyed writing.

What followed my Ph.D. graduation was far different than what I had imagined. Of course there was the immense relief, the feeling of personal accomplishment, and a sense of gratitude towards everyone who helped me. After awhile, though, I seemed lost in a world without a place for me. I accepted a postdoctoral research position and felt a tremendous responsibility to prove that my degree was not wasted on an idiot. For all of the amazing benefits that academia affords, its transient nature can equally bring sadness. Friends — the truest friends that I have ever known — graduated, left for other opportunities, and pursued their own lives. I was neither a faculty member nor a student, rather an in-between, consigned to some sad and lonely purgatory. On top of this, my wife and I were expecting a child that upcoming February.

I realize those are all great problems to have, so it probably seems like I have nominated myself for the Whitest Whine of 2016. Truth be told, though, I am a simple person with only so much emotional capacity. Those circumstances all split what I had to offer, and I felt like sharing myself through writing was borrowing on credit. So I stopped.

That overly dramatic introduction is all to say that I am back. I plan to actively blog this year, and hopefully for many more to come. What changed? In the intervening years, I moved from Oklahoma to Utah, accepted an assistant research professor position, and have enjoyed the hell out of my wife and son. I feel good. And writing makes me feel good. So I will write.

But perhaps the biggest impetus was the inspiration that I gleaned from a tweet about the confederate flag. I’ve followed Dave Winer on Twitter for some time. This past July, he tweeted about Oklahomans greeting President Obama with confederate flags during his visit. I replied to say that we were not all assholes. He favorited the tweet and then followed me.

I pride myself on not holding people in reverence. People are people. Some do cool things, some do not. But they are people. I will admit, however, that I exclaimed in my office, “Holy shit! Dave Winer followed me.” In fairness, the man pioneered blogging, invented podcasting, and helped develop the RSS protocol. The principles that led to his career’s work shine through in his Twitter feed everyday. Mr. Winer is a prolific blogger. He advocates for an open and interoperable web. He shares himself. Small things, big things. But he shares. This quote from his essay on the 20th anniversary of blogging is the perfect explanation of my motivation:

Blogging is a platform for free people. We’ve seen people distort what blogging means to the point where blogging is a job for some. I never thought of it that way. It’s a way to tell your story, to share what you see, to process it, draw conclusions, and move on. It’s like a fresco painting. Or an interview with a reporter. It’s quick, it’s over, and it’s done with.

Why do I still use my own site on my own server? I could use Facebook, but then I would have to use Facebook. Their tools for blogging are not good, and I am forced to trudge through so much anger, hate, and stupidity. I love Twitter and use it daily, but the current limitations on post size make it a poor platform for blogging. I could use Medium, but, like similar platforms, it suffers the disease of being a silo. I want to own my words. I want to own my source code. I do not want rich people’s motivation to please investors deciding who sees my words or how they see it or when they see it. Fuck algorithms. I post something and you can read it. Simple.

I will post details on my tools later this week. In short, everything is written in Markdown, published using Hugo, synced using Dropbox, and hosted on Linode. That may sound convoluted, but it is actually quite simple.

What will I write about? Anything except professional scientific opinions (those will reside somewhere else, details soon). This year promises to provide plenty of material. Politics. Science. Education. Health. Entertainment. Media. Technology. The newest version of my site will separate original posts and link-blog style posts. This will make the delineation between essay and quip clearer.

There is still some cleanup needed, so bear with me over the next week or two. In the meantime, I look forward to sharing with you. I hope you do the same.