It's not about the blog (Larry Dignan responds to NYT's "death by blogging" story)

I'm not a blogger who writes, I'm a writer who blogs, but someone who loves me still felt the need to call my attention to a story in the Sunday Times: "In a Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop", in which Matt Richtel holds up the fact that two tech writers recently died of heart attacks as proof that blogging is inherently unhealthy...or something.

Quoth our Matt:
To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style. The pressure even gets to those who work for themselves — and are being well-compensated for it.

Oh. It all makes sense now. Any time I see the words "writer" and "well-compensated" in the same paragraph, we know someone is working him/herself into the ground.

Writer Larry Dignan, who was interviewed by Richtel for the Times story but didn't make it to the page, posted this real life response:
We write for a living, yap all day and don’t have to wear suits. You could do worse than blogging...You could be getting shot at in Iraq. You could be a single mom working three jobs to stay afloat (Happy Birthday mom). You could work in a coal mine. You could be in a life and death battle with Leukemia. You could be doing any one of thousands of high-stress jobs. Sure, the Web has a lot of stress but let’s get real: If you’re stressed out over 5,000 RSS feeds chances are good you’d be stressed by any profession you chose.

The point I was trying to make was that nothing (certainly the deaths of Russell and Marc Orchant and Om’s heart attack) exist in a vacuum. You have to take care of yourself.

Matt’s money question was this: Give me the anatomy of your day? I told him it varies, but I said the first thing I do in the morning is work out. To do this gig you need stamina and that means you need to be in some sort of shape...

After a workout, I may get a blog in before feeding my daughter (assuming I’m working at home). Most days all of this occurs before 7 a.m. EDT. Then I blog and blog and work in management stuff in the middle.

Clearly, this answer wasn’t going to work for Matt’s story–there was a smidge of balance even if I have to get up at 4:30 a.m. for it.

Dignan did admit to checking for headlines when he gets up to use the bathroom at night, but overall presents a much more realistic portrait of any writer's life. In any media, if you're making a living arranging words in a row, there's no such thing as "enough" or "done" or "retired" or "vacation". The best we can do is strive for a daily balance that includes self-awareness and self-preservation.

Last night when I was at spin class, I realized I was giggling like a crack monkey. It felt so good to be there, moving my body after a long sedentary day. I always get off the bike sweaty and spent, but I can't wait to get back to the keyboard. The workout really does do something to the brain.

Dignan concludes:
Am I balanced? Not quite, but I do acknowledge the goal. Like any job there are plusses and minuses. I noted that I happened to like the pace and said it’s not the stress per se as much as how you handle it. Bottom line: You can’t pin two deaths and a heart attack solely on blogging. Of course all of those points would have exceeded the Times’ word count.


Interesting post. It's all about balance, isn't it? Some people never learn it, and life gets to them. These are the folks who can't take walks without their Crackberries, can't get through a meal without texting or taking a call, and drive their significant others away with their incessant workaholism. Doesn't matter what their line of work.
Joni Rodgers said…
And come to think of it, we're completely discounting the possibility that dozens of authors are praying daily that certain bloggers drop dead. Hmmm...
Hah! You're right. There *is* that, along with the voodoo doll factor.

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