Dithering

Here goes nothin’

It is a running joke in my marriage: How restlessly I shift from site to site looking for a place to land the words I put out when no one is paying me to write them. The web is littered with my digital detritus. I have an excuse to some degree—I have zero shame when it comes to squatting on a property (a subdomain, like my Medium address, for example) just to own my name, but what I struggle with is the actual tool itself. This thing I’m writing in now.

I’ve had Blogspot blogs—I sometimes post to this one still as a way to say “yep, haven’t forgotten”—and other WordPress sites. I’ve grabbed countless social media accounts. In the end I always find a way to get restless and look for something new.

This morning, however, I thought, “Man, fuck Medium and Substack and whatever the hell else needs to be fucked, I still have WordPress.”

And WordPress is a good tool. I’ll likely be using it for paid work again in the next year or so.

Also, I have friends on here who write and if this prompts them to get back at it, all the better.

I’m sticking with one tool…for now. I have to give myself that out. I reserve the right, that is, to change my mind.

For once, I’m not sure I will change my mind. I no longer want to use brain space thinking about stuff like whether I could make money on a Patreon or with a Substack. I’m using the tool I know best, the one that works.

The dithering is done.

Hi there.

In the years since I first began a blog in 2000 (my wife, then fiancee, inspired me to start one for reasons not worth going into now), I became a professional writer and editor. Blogging, which I initially enjoyed enough to daydream of doing it for a living, is what I do for a living. That plus writing the occasional book means it’s not a bad living, either.

What happened over time was the more I wrote for money, the less I wanted to give it away for free. That makes sense, right?

I would have a twinge of nostalgia sometimes over the last 11 years–I last kept a regular blog of my own in 2009 or so–and start something new, only to give it up again. There was an embarrassment factor in that as well. I have ADHD — not diagnosed until I was 33 — and have found I’m kinda sensitive about the way it affects my behavior. I can be disorganized and forgetful, easily overwhelmed. The word “flighty” comes to mind. To me it is an intensely negative, dismissive word, yet it certainly fits me where some subjects are concerned, at least on the surface.

…But what I’m saying is of course I worry that I’ll do it again. Write this post about how I want to do this more then not write anything personal and casual for the hell of it for a year or more. It’s like a running joke.

And I might, I don’t know.

But here are the facts as I sit here at 9:23 pm in Central Massachusetts on a warm August night: I have this blog, to which I’ve imported various blog posts written randomly over the last six-seven years, and I have this: truecrimepost.com.

At the moment the true crime blog contains crime blog posts I (again) imported from other destinations, just to flesh it out. They are missing images and links might be broken, but hey, there’s something there. I also frankly think it’s a good URL, which was important back in the early days o’ blogging, but who knows, now. So it might fire up too.

I have a Medium account at Huffwire.com. The only wishy-washy-ness I feel right now is deciding on which blog CMS to use — stick with WordPress or make myself Medium only. Medium is a lovely content management system and there’s a built-in audience… but it kind of pisses me off on a regular basis too. The writer’s program doesn’t work as well as Medium intended, I think, and for every intriguing Medium post that is well-written and worth reading there are 20 badly-written, semi-plagiarized piles of automated content farm level bullshit.

But I ramble, something I haven’t given myself permission to do in a while.

The thing about doing my own blogging again is it hit me recently that the things I do don’t really have a home online. I’ve kind of been coasting. I need to present more than just my whack-ass Twitter account to the world.

I’m a singer and a writer of more than men’s lifestyle stuff for Maxim or any other sites.

Also, I’ve believed for years now that the deprecating of longform personal blogging for “micro-blogging” was in some ways a mistake. It has led to a soundbite culture. That has its place but sometimes you don’t want to click the “thread” link on Twitter. You want to read the full thing written out and in editable form, should the writer make a mistake that needs correction.

I can’t bring that back and I can’t bring back crime blogging, make it supplant true crime podcasts, most of which I find either tone-deaf or severely lacking in bringing anything new to the table. I won’t even look at this as trying.

I just know it’d be nice to return to a more personal space. One where I don’t feel pressed to worry about SEO or whether I’ve got a goddamn image embedded every two paragraphs or so.

It’s worth a shot.

Wouldn’t you know it…

I recently put up the money for one of WordPress’s good hosting plans to gussy up this blog as well as my new True Crime Wire. And wouldn’t you know it? I get so much work I don’t have time for my own blogging at all.

Which, thing is, I really want to do. But I have to admit that sometimes I get done with writing a post for my regular gig with Maxim or for one of my freelance gigs (there are a couple, including Vice’s tech vertical, Motherboard) and my brain is too drained to do much else. I’m trying to change that. 

We’ll see how that goes.

Don’t Go To Jail, By Saul Goodman, as Told to Me

Earlier today I wrote a vague post about my book. This afternoon, the Los Angeles Times published a first look at the book (not a review, an overview). So I can present it now:

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(Please ignore my MacBook, which is in need of a dusting.)

It was indeed written with “Saul Goodman,” after a fashion. (No, not Bob Odenkirk. He doesn’t write his own lines!)

You can buy DON’T GO TO JAIL here.

Book stuff

The book I wrote will be public later today (it will be available in early April). I don’t want to oversell it, but I’m proud of a couple of things: it’s not a serious book–it’ll be shelved under humor in some stores; it’s still about a subject I know a little more about than the average bear. I did have to do quite a bit of research but I knew where to look for that research.

A few years ago my profile as a writer was pretty serious. I covered mostly crime, often heavy stuff, not silly “dumb criminal” stuff. I’m still into true crime as a subject, but I have to admit the fact I got a chance to write something that might be funny in any way means a lot to me. This is an anti-funny way of putting it, but it’s true.

A thing I noticed about many writers and people into true crime is even if they were funny in conversation, it rarely showed in writing or discussion. This makes sense given the serious nature of crime, but at the same time it was really stifling.

So when I decided I wasn’t going to focus solely on crime anymore as a writer, I kind of looked for refuge in something else that’s always been hugely important to me: comedy.

I come from a funny family. My sarcastic, wickedly ironic father, and my sly, observant, witty mom. My late brother could have a room of people in tears when he was really on. We laugh a lot and always have. As a kid I tended to make friends with funny people. Starting in the late 70s I was more often listening to comedy albums than music, even though I ended up majoring in music in college. I have ridiculous opinions on comedy and a pretty specific list of people whom I find funny, favorite comedians and writers. A few are even friends—or at least friendly acquaintances—now.

There’s something satisfying in a personal way in knowing my first book will be organized under entertainment, as humor. That some familiar with my past work as a writer might even find it a real head-scratcher, that it’ll seem like a big 180 to them. It isn’t, though. It just feels a little closer to my natural bent as a writer and as a person.

And I hope it’s not the last book I have on those shelves, either.

So, I wrote a book…

And it will be out in April.

I wrote it over the course of a month, in October, 2015. That’s almost all I can say about it right now. But tonight I realized my book coming out made me feel like I should update this site more often. That, and I’m paying for a domain name now. So might as well, right?

If you once knew me as a crime blogger, my book won’t be a total surprise—but it is not a true crime book. If I’m being totally honest, I’m glad. Like, really glad. True crime is in vogue right now, which is mostly great, yet there was a time when I’d lost my taste for it and didn’t want to be identified with it. I haven’t fully lost that feeling, though I would never say a true crime book is off the table for me. It’s just that if I do write one it’s going to be something I choose very carefully and do with a huge amount of attention to detail and writing. I will not half-ass it.

The book I wrote—and this is giving nothing away—was supposed to be funny, too, and I hope I succeeded. That’s one of those things I just won’t truly know for a while.

Anyway, it hit me that I care about how things go with the book and I want to write more, and the writers I enjoy the most online are serious about keeping digital presences up to and including active blogs as well. So hopefully, in spite of all the daily writing I do for work, I’ll be updating this more frequently too.

Huh…

I’m always meaning to update more. Recently I got a freelance gig writing for Maxim Magazine, though, the last week and a half has been about adjusting to that.

I haven’t had a blogging gig in a while (if you’ve only read this site recently, my bio will tell you they aren’t new for me) and realized I may have even missed it. My specialties, if I have them, have been crime and tech, but I’m re-discovering pop culture blogging with Maxim and it’s fun.

In fact it’s sort of made me re-think my old ‘writing is blogging is writing’ philosophy. On the one hand, that’s correct. Writing is a skill. If people pay you to do it in any capacity, you should work hard to be good at it. But I’m remembering how the pace of blogging is so different, compared to, say, drafting and then polishing a short story, essay or a long piece of reportage. A lot of conventional writing wisdom says you draft sloppy first, then re-draft, refine and so on. You can do a truncated version of this when blogging, but for me at least, it won’t go fast enough unless I edit on the fly. And I can do that. It doesn’t always end up in a perfect product, but it’s often one I can live with and don’t feel dumb directing friends to read.

What I’ve begun to realize is I think I had an idea that blogging might be bad for other writing. It’s not. In fact, it might be excellent practice, and a route to instilling something too many writers lack: versatility.

I can’t promise I’ll do this–I’m also a dad and since I work from home the main housekeeper/cook most weeks (my wife is a better cook than I am but we tend to save her wicked skills for holidays)–but I could see how my gig with Maxim might actually lead to me updating this blog even more. I see stuff every day that I consider pitching to post for Maxim, only to see it doesn’t quite fit what they’re going for. But I think I may start popping that stuff here–which would actually make this blog what I intended it to be when I made it: one guy’s curated newsfeed of the weird shit that interests him.

Posting more stuff here, writing about a broader range of stuff than I’ve covered so far, will only feed and add to what I do for Maxim. Blogging is writing, sure, but after doing it for the better part of 15 years I’ve come to see it is its own particular skill, and there is no shame in my mind in making a conscious effort to get better at doing it.