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February 02, 2005

VIRGINIA POSTREL writes about Andrew Sullivan's blog-hiatus, and I just got an email from a journalist asking me questions about the burdens of blogging. So since it sounds like this topic is coming up, here are some thoughts.

Virginia (and Andrew, and for that matter Mickey Kaus) are all right that there's a tension between blogging and doing longer, more thoughtful work. (As Kaus says, "The short deadline usually beats the long deadline, and a blog is a continuous short deadline.")

I deal with that, because I write two or three law review articles a year, and they're long and require a lot of thinking. I have to block out time to do that, and sometimes I find it helpful to use a computer that's not on the web.

But it works the other way, too. The Insta-Wife has been having a lot of health problems lately -- this is an intermittent thing -- and when that happens I'm really not in the right mental and emotional state to engage in that kind of big-project concentration anyway, and when I try there's usually some sort of interruption. I can blog from the cardiologist's waiting room -- and I have -- but I couldn't get much work done on a book or a law review article in that setting. And when you're in a cardiologist's office, you'd lots rather blog than pay attention to what's around you . . . . (I notice there are a lot of bloggers with sick wives, like Capt. Ed and Bill Hobbs, to name just two, so I must not be the only one to feel that way).

There are two downsides to blogging. One is that it can fill up your time, one five-minute chunk after another. The other -- much worse -- is that it forces you to pay attention to the news, which is usually depressing, infuriating, or frightening, or some combination of all three.

But the upside to blogging is that it can be done in five-minute chunks. My usual strategy is like the old story about filling the can with rocks and sand -- if you put the big rocks in first, there's plenty of room for the sand to flow around them, while if you put the sand in first, the rocks won't fit. I try to schedule the big stuff first, and blog around it. And when the rocks won't fit, even by themselves, there's still room for the sand.

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