Andrew Sullivan on the toll of blogging

Andrew Sullivan has?written a TL;DR explanation of what it was that drove him from blogging.

There is much in his article that resonates with me.

I was sitting in a large meditation hall in a converted novitiate in central Massachusetts when I reached into my pocket for my iPhone. A woman in the front of the room gamely held a basket in front of her, beaming beneficently, like a priest with a collection plate. I duly surrendered my little device, only to feel a sudden pang of panic on my way back to my seat. If it hadn?t been for everyone staring at me, I might have turned around immediately and asked for it back. But I didn?t. I knew why I?d come here.

A year before, like many addicts, I had sensed a personal crash coming. For a decade and a half, I?d been a web obsessive, publishing blog posts multiple times a day, seven days a week, and ultimately corralling a team that curated the web every 20 minutes during peak hours. Each morning began with a full immersion in the stream of internet consciousness and news, jumping from site to site, tweet to tweet, breaking news story to hottest take, scanning countless images and videos, catching up with multiple memes. Throughout the day, I?d cough up an insight or an argument or a joke about what had just occurred or what was happening right now. And at times, as events took over, I?d spend weeks manically grabbing every tiny scrap of a developing story in order to fuse them into a narrative in real time. I was in an unending dialogue with readers who were caviling, praising, booing, correcting. My brain had never been so occupied so insistently by so many different subjects and in so public a way for so long. ?

I was, in other words, a very early adopter of what we might now call living-in-the-web. And as the years went by, I realized I was no longer alone. Facebook soon gave everyone the equivalent of their own blog and their own audience. More and more people got a smartphone ? connecting them instantly to a deluge of febrile content, forcing them to cull and absorb and assimilate the online torrent as relentlessly as I had once. Twitter emerged as a form of instant blogging of microthoughts. Users were as addicted to the feedback as I had long been ? and even more prolific. Then the apps descended, like the rain, to inundate what was left of our free time. It was ubiquitous now, this virtual living, this never-stopping, this always-updating. I remember when I decided to raise the ante on my blog in 2007 and update every half-hour or so, and my editor looked at me as if I were insane. But the insanity was now banality; the once-unimaginable pace of the professional blogger was now the default for everyone.

If the internet killed you, I used to joke, then I would be the first to find out. Years later, the joke was running thin. In the last year of my blogging life, my health began to give out. Four bronchial infections in 12 months had become progressively harder to kick. Vacations, such as they were, had become mere opportunities for sleep. My dreams were filled with the snippets of code I used each day to update the site. My friendships had atrophied as my time away from the web dwindled.

That is exactly what it is like to do what I do. One reason I hunt is to get away from the phone, the laptop, the endless demands of what I do. I even know the bend in the access road where coverage disappears and I sigh with relief as I drive through. But the pull of what I do exists still…I also know the parts of the areas I am hunting that have a small area of coverage to check emails, update Facebook and grab the latest Tweets.

But the rewards were many: an audience of up to 100,000 people a day; a new-media business that was actually profitable; a constant stream of things to annoy, enlighten, or infuriate me; a niche in the nerve center of the exploding global conversation; and a way to measure success ? in big and beautiful data ? that was a constant dopamine bath for the writerly ego. If you had to reinvent yourself as a writer in the internet age, I reassured myself, then I was ahead of the curve. The problem was that I hadn?t been able to reinvent myself as a human being.

Again very similar to my own thoughts.

Andrew Sullivan checked himself into a meditation centre to “detox”. It was rather extreme. He lived in total silence for weeks. I couldn’t do that but I do enjoy silence. It is part of the reason I live where I live. Knowing that if anyone wants me they have to drive an hour to get to me. The beach, the wave sounds, the trickling stream and the beautiful ever changing view are all things that keep me reasonably sane. But cabin fever does build, the need to solace and peace sometimes. Like I said, hunting provides some of that, plus the benefit of a freezer full of meat.

These past few weeks have been a trial in reality and in my mind. I’m going to have to get some me space back again soon because if I don’t the black dog is going to bite…he’s already sitting there growling at me.

As is usual it is Andrew Sullivan who?reaches out and sends me a message with his writing.