The Whatever: You Get What You Get
An e-mail today that I think is worth addressing:
Though I am an avid lifelong science fiction (some say fanatical) reader – I came to your blog and then your books by a search that somehow led me to ‘I hate your politics’
I know that you are about to go on a book tour and that is about promoting your work. I’m hoping that after that you will want to get out of the promotion cycle and get back to writing about the things I value most from you.
I’ve bought and read a number of books by you and it used to be that I really enjoyed Whatever, as a part of my day. I like you as a thinker and I’m sure I’ll get and read The Last Colony – I really like the Old Man’s Universe.
I haven’t been able to through Laptop/Coffeeshop and I’m thinking about deleting Whatever from my favorites, because of their promotional – perhaps even egocentric nature.
I think that if you get a chance to spend more time writing about things other than your career once this tour is over – that I am not the only reader who would be more appreciative of you and your work. Not that every post is ‘I hate your politics’ or ‘Being poor is ..’, but those and many other things spoke to me where I live. Hopefully constructively.
To begin, folks, the reason I’m not addressing a whole lot of politics and social issues at the moment is not because I’m in a self-promoting frenzy at the moment, but because I’m damn well burned out on those issues right now. My enthusiasms for particular topics come and go, and at the moment politics/social stuff is largely in the “don’t want to write about it” category. And when something’s in that category, you know what happens? I don’t write about it. Indeed, I don’t much think about it, either, which is probably the main reason I don’t write about it. I don’t doubt I will write about politics and social issues more when I’m not burned out on them and avoiding giving them any significant number of my processing cycles. That time, however, is not today.
I’m not nearly organized enough about this site to say to myself “Hmmm, you know, I have a book tour coming up, maybe I’ll do a whole bunch of self-promotey things, and then after that I’ll write some more about politics and then put up a picture of my cat, because the kids always love that.” Honestly and truly, what I write about here is whatever I’m thinking about at that moment. There is no plan, there is no agenda, there is nothing except me sitting in front of my computer banging out words. Sometimes you’ll get what you want to read, sometimes you won’t. The only thing you know that you get from it is what I want to write. That is the guiding principle.
Which means, of course, that this site is always egocentric, not just sometimes. I’m happy the site entertains the lot of you, really I am, and I’m generally fond of you all in that Internetty way. But at the end of the day, it’s more important that the site entertains me. If I decided to put ads on the site, I could make a lot of money from it, but then I would have to start worrying about maximizing returns every damn time I wrote rather than writing what interests me. If I just wrote about politics, or tech, or whatever, I could probably get more people coming in — single-topic sites are the ones that get the most traffic, as a cursory glance at Technorati’s Top 100 makes perfectly clear. But then I would be bored out of my skull. And this is exists in large part so I won’t be bored out of my skull.
In any event, regardless of what I write, there’s always a contingent of readers who wishes I was writing about something else. If I’m writing about politics a whole bunch, I’ll get e-mails telling me I should write more about writing. If I write about writing more, I’ll get people saying I should write more about what’s going on with my pets. If I write or take pictures of the pets, there are people who say “what are you, Cute Overload? I came here for serious issues!” or some such. There are 25,000 of you visiting, on average, every week day. You’re not all going to agree on what I should be writing about. And even if you did agree, the fact is, if I don’t want to write about that general area of things, I’m not going to. I’ll post pictures of cats, or talk about politics, or write stupid entries about off-brand corporate mascots, or self-promote, or write whatever the hell catches my attention, on my schedule.
If you don’t like it, that’s perfectly all right. You are entirely free to go away and come back later, when the stuff being discussed is more to your liking, or, indeed, go away and never come back, if that’s your preference. If you go back through the archives, both here and on archive.org (for the musty, pre-2003 and Movable Type days), you’ll notice that the site’s basic structure has been the same since the beginning, when there were fewer than 100 folks checking in to see what idiotic thing I was saying that day. This format works for me, which is the person for whom it is supposed to work. One day maybe everyone will finally get exasperated and it will be just me talking to a few dozen people again, or hell, just to myself. That’s fine, too.
All of that said, if you want me to write more about some particular topic, the way to have that happen is not to bitch to me that I’m not writing enough of what you want to read, since it will only irritate me and cause me to bang out one of these cranky “it’s my site, damn you” posts, which as it happens I seem to do on a more-or-less annual basis. The way to get me to write more on a particular topic is to send me an e-mail going “Hey, Scalzi, what do you think about [insert specific topic or recent event here]?” I like getting those type of e-mails, because then I don’t have to think about what the heck I’m going to write about that day, and because then maybe I’ll be jostled out of whatever rut you think I’ve fallen in and will then commence to write more things that entertain you. I don’t necessarily respond to every request, mind you, but I look on topic requests immensely more kindly than complaints that I’m not doing a monkey dance in what manner you prefer your primates to prance. Really, try it sometime.
In sum: Around here, you get what you get. But you might get what you want, if you ask.
Hope that clears up any confusion.