On Ten Years of Writing Whatever

Well, first off, it doesn’t feel that long ago, but then, one of the things you learn as you get older is that very few things actually feel like “that long ago.” The past is always closer to the present than it’s assumed to be.

Second, for something that was basically a way to goof off, it’s funny how integral Whatever has become to my professional life. I’ve gotten lots of writing gigs because people like what I write here, sold dozens of Whatevers as reprints, had four books published because their contents were here first and won a Hugo, for crying out loud, for the things I write in this space. I suspect I would have been successful as a freelance writer and novelist without Whatever, and I also suspect that if I were to leave Whatever behind, I would still do just fine. But there’s no doubt in my mind that writing here has made lots of things easier.

Third, I think that I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, as far as blogging went. There is some value in being a first generation blogger — being one of the people who did it before it was known as “blogging,” and did it for the hell of it, rather than doing it because everyone else was doing it, or because the rumor was it was useful for your career, or because it seemed like a good way to get free money through advertising, or whatever reason people felt compelled, sometimes against their own personal interest, to put themselves online. This site had none of those expectations; it was just a place for me to keep writing in a certain way. It is what it is because of this complete lack of plan. Naturally, this suits me because I like the idea of doing things just to see what will happen. It also means that whatever happens with the site will be fine with me. When you have no plan, you can’t say things didn’t go the way you expected, because you had no expectations to start.

I think it’s also something people like about this place — that it’s sort of an overgrown, organic thing rather than something designed from the start as an eyeball magnet, or a place for authorial marketing, or whatever. This isn’t to say that I don’t promote myself or write stuff here I figure people will link to — I do both, quite obviously — but I think it’s also clear that there’s a lot here that’s here simply because I want to say something about it, or because it amuses me, or both. Which is to say it’s a not-entirely-inaccurate reflection of me: easily amused, easily bored, messy, interested in lots of stuff, somewhat egotistical, and sometimes just plain weird (by the way, I didn’t end up drinking the pickle juice yesterday. Just seemed like a beverage too far, you know?).

Fourth, sometimes Whatever is a real pain in my ass. Believe it or not, there are entire weeks and occasionally whole months when I just don’t want to post a damn thing here, but I feel obliged to, not in the least because (no joke) if I skip I day I get actual concerned e-mail wondering if I’ve fallen down a well or something. Now, mind you, part of that is merely me pushing the blame for my own vague OCD-like compulsion to post onto other people. But on the other hand it can be a real challenge to balance the time I put in here with the time I spend doing other things (notably, writing novels). One of the things I’m confronting about myself is that I really suck at time management, and this is one of places where I suck at it the most.

(Indeed, if I ever do put advertising on the site, one of the reasons I have in my head to do it is so I can hire an assistant who can do all the mundane stuff, like, oh, mail out copies of books I’ve promised to people, so I can just keep doing all the goofy, easy crap, like writing. I could have Krissy do it, but, you know, she has a job, and it doesn’t involve me. Now, mind you, if I get an assistant, he or she would assist me in other things aside from the Web site. But helping me around this place would be one of the big duties.)

In any event, I do love writing the Whatever; it’s why I do it. But sometimes it really is like a job, and sometimes I just want to leave it alone. I don’t think you do any sort of work for as long as I’ve done this without feeling that way from time to time. Don’t worry it’s not you. In fact,

Fifth, this site has had five years without comments and five years with them, and the five years with them have been better, because the people who comment here are (usually) smart and civil and good people. I think it’s really neat there’s a community of folks here, because in many ways it makes what I do here easier; sometimes when I don’t feel like writing much of anything I just point you folks in the general direction of a topic and off you go. Makes the place interesting and I don’t have to do a damn thing. So thanks for that.

Also, in general, thanks for your tolerance of me, because, as many of you know, some days having an argument with me is like walking into a buzz saw, and yet most of you forgive me for that, which I appreciate.

Sixth, and finally, I have no idea where Whatever goes from here, except to say I expect Whatever will go on from here. Aside from that: who knows. As mentioned earlier, Whatever began without a real plan, and it’s worked so far. I think I’ll keep at it that way.

But I can plan this much, and that is to say that whether you’ve been reading Whatever since the early days or just started reading this week, thank you for reading. It’s meant a lot to me in the last decade. Thank you for being a part of it all.

And now: Moving forward.

26 Comments on “On Ten Years of Writing Whatever”

  1. No, thank you, John, for writing such an awesome blog and attracting such awesome people to comment on it.

  2. O Forgetful Scalzi, and yet not once in this verbal avalanche – most of which we have skipped – have you given thanks to The One Who Deserves It Most.

    Here’s a clue: Her Glorious Shimmering Radiant Perfection, Who Bestows Her Beneficent Gaze Upon Scalzi (for reasons we do not quite understand yet), The Most Magnificent Beauteous Ghlaghghee.

    We just thought we ought to point out the real reason for your successes.

    The Official Ghlaghghee Fan Club

  3. Can you hear the concert of clacking keyboards getting ready to say “you’re welcome” and “thank YOU” ?

    For some reason, Whatever puts me in mind of Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon. Polite and intelligent conversation, wry sense of humor, a host with a gentle but firm grip on things …

    Now, if we could just find which of us is the alien getting ready to blow the world up …

    Oh, and thanks.

  4. Thanks and Your Welcome. I haven’t been visiting long (since april 2008), but I have enjoyed most of the time I’ve spent here. I have’nt been able to spend too much time lately but when I have a chance I check in and it’s still fun. I enjoy your posts and your use of words is brilliant, but I really enjoy the comments. Besides myself this site has seemed to attract very inteligent and cool people so I’m grateful to your hosting and to your guests. Any way wherever Whatever goes from here will be fun.

  5. Quoth Scalzi: “…if I ever do put advertising on the site, one of the reasons I have in my head to do it is so I can hire an assistant who can do all the mundane stuff…”

    John. Really. One word: Athena.

  6. I’m a new reader. I found you because another blog I read referenced one of your political posts and I liked your voice. I’ll admit I’ve not read any of your books and have no idea what you all are talking about when you go in that direction. But perhaps someday I will. In the meantime, I enjoy your writing and community here. Thank you for creating this world and allowing me in.

  7. Happy 10 years! Or congrats, or something along those lines.

    I’m a fairly new reader here (I think I probably found it after reading OMW a few months ago) but it has quickly become one of my first stops. I just wish I’d followed the whole bacon on the cat thing back to the source when it happened! Then I would have found this a whole heck of a lot earlier!

  8. Thank you. And especially thank you for pushing through on those days you don’t want to post anything. It’s more than any readership should expect.

  9. It’s interesting reading that Whatever is an unplanned thing, because sometimes you give the impression of having a master plan for how your life goes, or at least your writing. But I think the reason it works is that even without a plan, even as an outlet for goofing off, there’s a certain amount of discipline involved. It’s active spontaneity. You post when you feel like it, but not only when you feel like it. You have regular features (e.g The Big Idea), which makes it easier to find things to write about and gives readers something to watch for, while creating more work for you.

    And what can I say? It works!

    Happy anniversary, John.

  10. I have a theory about the relativity of time. No not that theory. When I was a kid summer seemed to last forever. Now I wake up in the morning and notice that it is darker than it was at the same time last week and wonder where the heck did summer go? Here’s why. When you are five years old three months is a full five percent of your life experience. Get to twenty years old and a summer is just over one percent of your life experience. It only gets worse from there. At 43 years old, three months is just over one half of one percent of my life experience and if I blink I will miss it. Don’t blink.

  11. It is impressive that you have been able to keep up with it for ten years. Many folks I know (and I, for that matter) have tried numerous online journals, comics, and other periodic online updates over the past twelve years or so, but nobody has maintained consistent entries. In many cases, there have been numerous fizzles and deaths from individuals…I could probably use two hands worth of fingers to count my own.

    It might be natural to say it is easier to maintain a journal for a professional writer, but I suspect it isn’t true. It is hard work, at least at times, and it is probably the hard times that cause sites to fade away.

    Keep filling up that server space…

  12. John,

    It is indeed quite impressive that you maintain the presence here that you do, while producing as much paying product as you do. That you allow us to comment as freely as you do is just the icing on the cake.

    FWIW, we’ve (finally) bought and read you first three novels now (still digesting and discussing), and I believe we’ll be getting hardcovers for our permanent collection in the not too distant future.

  13. The two sole-proprietorship blogs I’ve followed for years are yours and Lileks’, and I was happy to learn (via your reply to a query here) that you had once hired him. I enjoy both your senses of humor, although politically I’m a lot closer to your pole than to his. But beyond that, I think your two blogs share what #12 above called “even as an outlet for goofing off, there’s a certain amount of discipline involved. It’s active spontaneity.”

    I wish that I could sit down and compose (music) a little every day or two, instead of in a great burst every few years. But I can’t imagine a way to create a structure in my life that would compel me to write something regularly, analogous to what the Whatever has done for you. You should consider yourself lucky that what you sometimes feel “obliged” to do benefits yourself as well as those you entertain.

  14. It’s times like this when searching Youtube for “herding cats commercial” (and watching the result) is what the soul needs.

  15. Thanks for doing it. I find it consistently interesting because there’s pretty much always something different to read about- I love the Athena/family stories because my girls are just a bit older, I find it interesting (and fascinating) how blogging relates to your writing, the commenters are generally interesting and smart, and you’ve introduced me to some fantastic writers that I might not otherwise have found.

    Congratulations on making it through 10 years- in blog terms, that might as well be an eon.

  16. Awesome. Glad to be a part of it.

    For my part, the book came before the blog… that is, OMW is what I bought, then found out you had this weblog thingy. Fast forward 3 years and I’m still here.

    Thanks for making a place for discourse on geeky stuff, and for turning me on to many good books… there are lots of books that come out every day, it’s good to have a place to help sort the signal from the noise.

  17. Hey, if you want to put up advertising to give yourself more time, I, for one, welcome the chance to click on our new Hormel overlords.

    And congrats and thanks again. :D

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