The obligatory "why haven't I been posting" post


Comes a time in the lifecycle of any blog when the owner writes a lengthy, rambling explanation of why he hasn’t been writing anything lately. Here we are now.

I’ve been taking a little vacation from the angle brackets, lately. There’s been a lot of rearranging in my life, lately: some of it once-in-a-lifetime kind of stuff; some of it just the normal business of transitioning from the winter season into the can-finally-go-outside-without-whimpering-like-a-little-girl season; some of it just red queen running in place. But it’s all tended to make me not so much interested in sitting down and writing about it.

The biggest work-related change was that I finally fired one of my longest-standing clients. This was a really difficult decision for me — I always tend to hang into a job well past the point when all the danger signs are just faint red smudges on the horizon behind me. Part of that’s just inertia, part of it’s the fear that if I drop this client, what if I can’t find another one? And then I’ll have to go get a real job? (Which past experience suggests is, knock wood, never going to happen — somehow, miraculously, every time I’m at a point where I start thinking hmm, maybe I should start hunting around for some more work, I get a phone call or an email and new work just drops into my lap. I’ve never yet gone out looking for work since I went freelance; it always just finds me somehow. And sure enough, about two weeks after deciding to drop this client, I got a completely coincidental phone call from a really great guy I used to work for back at Prentice Hall — best boss I ever had — and a couple weeks later another call from the equally cool guy who used to run the department I just dropped — but I’m getting ahead of myself. Hold that thought.)

I just wrote a lengthy explanation of exactly why I left that project. Very cathartic, but you know what? That sort of thing doesn’t belong out in public. And I still have some hope that they’re planning to pay those last two invoices. So let’s just leave it at this: I believe the product is headed for failure; I believe they’re making the wrong design and implementation decisions, for reasons which have more to do with office politics than with users’ needs; I believe the management structure is completely screwed up (it’s never a good sign when the managers outnumber the developers) and most importantly I believe that I was not doing my best work — especially towards the end. I’m not very good at working on products I don’t believe in.

For years after I left eCollege, I would find myself lying awake in the middle of the night rehearsing shouting matches that never happened with people who almost certainly have by now forgotten I ever existed. (No sir, it’s probably not wise to rearrange the entire site map based on whether the user is logged in or not. And it’s probably not the brightest idea to give the homepage of the site a completely different design from everything else. And please stop giving me your crappy pencil sketch page layouts, and stop bitching when I don’t follow them to the letter; I’ve met designers and you sir are no designer, get out of my fucking way and let me do the job you’re paying me for. Etcetera.) I’ve gotten much better about this; these days I lie awake at night rehearsing patient explanations to people I disagree with about exactly why they’re wrong and I’m right.

But the point is I still invest way too much emotional energy in my work. And the point is that I finally got the healthy last-straw kick in the spine that made it sink in, even to me, that I was done with this job; my presence was no longer doing me or the project any good at all. And Emily was very encouraging — she’s good at reminding me that I’m supposed to be doing this because I enjoy it. And that was that.

I didn’t realize until after it was over exactly how burnt out I was. I promised myself I’d rest for a while, take some time to finish up the (woefully, tragically, unforgiveably overdue) Inkberry software, then get started working on — well, that’s another subject. But that didn’t happen: I’ve felt an almost physical repulsion from the computer; I’ve managed some stupid sysadmin stuff, moving things from one box to another, and picked around the edges of the inkberry code, but mostly I’ve been spending my time sanding and repainting the deck, lying in the sun, rereading the least challenging books in the house (Terry Pratchett, if you must know), painting, swimming, drinking too much wine, weaning myself from a serious caffeine addiction, playing shareware videogames, botching corporation paperwork, and just generally goofing off.

It was obviously time for a break.

And we’ve been traveling around some, and will be some more — leaving tomorrow for passover, then back here for a few days, then away again for more family stuff (both sides for a change, which’ll be nice), then a short vacation in the desert… so it’ll be a while before I’m back on track. But that’s okay. It’s good, in fact. The angle brackets will still be there when I get back.

And we’ve set up the hammock. I’m going to go use it now.