Miscellany / Personal life / Writing

In which I finally explain where I’ve been and finally decide where I’ll be

(And in which I make excessive use of numbered lists.)

So hey, look, it’s me! Kate! Blogging! At one of my blogs!

I really did not expect to neglect all my blogs for the entire summer — which is why I never put up a warning that I’d be doing so — and I sincerely apologize to anyone who was worried. But a couple things happened:

1) I quit smoking, which sapped about 99% of my will to live, let alone my will to blog, for a solid two months in there.

2) I realized how much more peaceful my life is when I don’t blog. More on that below.

Nevertheless, I miss it, so I’m getting back on the horse. Sort of.

The deal is this: all summer, I kept thinking, “I really want to start blogging again soon,” and then not doing it. Usually, that “I’m totally going to except oops I didn’t but I’m totally going to” cycle means I really do not want to do the thing I keep telling myself I really want to do. So eventually, I had to admit I really did not want to blog anymore and ask myself why.

There are several answers.

1) After three years of writing primarily on controversial topics, I am so sick of this shit, I have basically lost my stomach for making any argument more inflammatory than “Personally — and I am in no way saying you should agree with me — I enjoy sunshine and puppy dogs and rainbows.” Except we all know even that will lead to 300 impassioned comments about melanoma, drought, puppy mills, dog fighting, DOMA and DADT, most of which I will actually agree with and be appropriately incensed by, but all of which I will find exhausting because the point of writing about sunshine and puppy dogs and rainbows was to AVOID DOING THAT JUST FUCKING ONCE.

And I mean, I’m sick of writing posts that follow the formula Chris Clarke so delightfully outlined at that link, just as much as I am of reading ones designed to rile me up, and really, REALLY sick of the inevitable comments (familiar types of which are also brilliantly and extensively catalogued there). By last spring, I became increasingly aware that I was doing a lot of “Stock Intro A + Stock Feminism/Fat Acceptance Points B and C + Free-Form Outrage Interlude + Stock Conclusion D = done for the day,” and that is really not the kind of writing I want to be doing.

Which leads me to the next point.

2) I’ve really missed writing longer things that undergo substantial revision over time and actually — get this! — become much better and more interesting than the first drafts I knocked out in a couple of hours. I’m given to understand that some people who call themselves writers actually do nothing but that, instead of making every thought they have public ten minutes after they have it! Can you imagine?

It’s been ages since I finished working on the book, and my plan was always to write one by myself after that — but for a long time, I was too busy writing stuff for immediate publication. Once I deliberately shifted my focus to the next book instead, my brain was usually too tired for blogging when I had the time, and pretty soon, I was well out of “Spit it out and hit ‘publish’” mode, so blogging just didn’t happen.

A couple of weeks ago, I contributed a piece to Salon that only reinforced how different blogging is from the kind of writing I’ve been doing over the summer (well, ever since I could pick myself up off the floor and function sans cigarettes). I had a full day between the assignment and the deadline — a positively luxurious amount of time by paid blogging standards — and still felt like it was about half-cooked (and yet way too long, since part of my “process” is writing twice as much as I’ll eventually use) when the deadline came and the editor gave me the grown-up equivalent of “Put your pencils down NOW.” The piece is okay, but I’m not terribly proud of it as a blog post or a personal essay, because I took too leisurely an approach to the former and too hasty an approach to the latter. I either needed more time or less time to do it right.

At the moment, I am all about the leisurely approach — which is a bit of a misnomer, since it still involves a lot of hard work. But basically, I’d rather work hard on quality and depth than on churning out a mostly coherent argument a.s.a.p. (Unfortunately, it’s much easier to get paid — at least in the short term — for fast, mostly coherent arguments. I am very lucky to have the choice right now.) I’m at the point where I think I can build semi-regular blogging for my own amusement back into my schedule — hi! — but I had to let myself fall off the face of the internet for a while to get back into a slower, more deliberate writing rhythm.

3) And then there are comments. There’s really not much to say here that I haven’t already said 10 billion times, but here’s variation 10 billion and 1.

Even though the comments policy meant we didn’t have too many trolls to deal with, moderating SP was — as all of us who did it noted repeatedly — a ridiculously time-consuming, tiring, and dispiriting job. By last spring, the sheer volume of comments was overwhelming, even if they were mostly quite pleasant (and often fantastic). Part of the reason our commenting policy worked was because we were committed to at least one moderator reading every single one of them — and we generally tried to stay on top of our co-bloggers’ comments, too. But that’s also part of the reason why every single moderator eventually decided she couldn’t keep doing it. And it’s a big part of the reason why, when the blog went back to just me, it soon went totally dark.

The ugly truth is, for the last several months, I haven’t wanted to read comments. Any comments. Not even comments saying, “You’re awesome,” or “Here’s a really smart, unexpected take on a subject that fascinates you,” or “Look at this picture of an indisputably adorable, rescued, mixed-breed, clean, well-cared-for, non-aggressive, hypoallergenic COMPLETELY NON-CONTROVERSIAL PUPPY.” I just didn’t want to read comments at all. Which meant I certainly didn’t want to write anything that would invite a couple hundred new comments. So I didn’t write anything on Shapely Prose and barely wrote anything online at all.

Now, I’m ready to come back in some capacity, but I’m still pretty gunshy and a bit out of practice. So I’ve made a few decisions to minimize my anxiety and maximize the fun, self-reinforcing parts of blogging.  Decisions such as…

1) I’m going to officially admit — to myself and you all — what should be clear by now anyway: Shapely Prose is over. Maybe not forever, but definitely for the forseeable future.

The archive will remain up, and I will remain committed to feminism and fat acceptance. I will even keep writing about both things for various publications, including this here blog! But in addition to the fact that nearly a year ago, I was thoroughly burned out on Shapely Prose and really just prolonging the inevitable, I’ve realized it feels too weird going back to it as a solo blog. (I guess that could also have been point 4 on the list of reasons why I didn’t blog for so long.)

Shapely Prose really hit its stride and thrived as a group blog, but as the original members moved on, I just couldn’t bring myself to recruit replacements. I would have felt too much like the former lead singer of a once-popular band desperately wringing every ounce of marketability out of the name, even if none of the other original members want anything to do with the project, and most of the old fans just think I’m pathetic. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I definitely feel like it’s time to admit the glory days of my first internet baby are long past, and I just need to let it go.

Shapely Prose will remain up at kateharding.net, with over 1,200 posts and 100,000 comments for your reading enjoyment, but I don’t plan to add anything new there (unless something changes). When I am moved to blog, it will be here, at kateharding.info.

2) I’m not approving any more comments on Shapely Prose. There are like a million in the mod queue right now, and I’m sure some of them are great and heartfelt and fascinating, and that good people spent a lot of time on them, so I’m really sorry about that. But I just can’t. Please see point 3 on the previous list.

3) Comments on this blog, when allowed, are going to be automatically closed after 24 hours. And they won’t always be allowed; it’ll depend on how much time and energy I have at any given moment/for any given subject. I expect that a long hiatus, a new url and new rules will mean a dramatic drop in the number of readers and commenters, so it’ll probably be far more manageable, and I’ll soon get over being gunshy. But as much as I appreciate the feedback — and really enjoy interacting with readers, I swear! — I cannot ever, EVER again let myself get to a point where posts are going up daily (or close to it) and getting hundreds of comments a piece, and I’m committed to reading all of them, yet it is not actually a full-time job for which someone pays me a great deal of money. I just had no idea what I was getting into before.

OK, I think that’s all my lists. And with that out of the way, I really do look forward to blogging again! I’ll see you here soon.



52 thoughts on “In which I finally explain where I’ve been and finally decide where I’ll be

  1. Re: Books, you may enjoy Dean Wesley Smith’s Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing. Smith not only supports himself as a writer, he’s also an editor and has run a publishing company.

    I can think of ways to monetize your blogging (donations, Amazon sponsorships, etc) but I’m sure you’ve considered them and rejected it. If you want to do more long-form / non-instant writing, then you should if you have the opportunity — and you do. ;)

  2. (I know you so don’t want to hear this, but I’m going to say it anyway):

    Defining your terms of engagement with a community is a Feminist Act. Rock on!

  3. I look forward to reading your posts here! And congratulations on quitting smoking. Having been down that same road, I know how challenging it is (and continues to be). Way to go!

    • Thanks! I knew quitting would put me out of commission for at least a month, based on the last time I tried it, but man, it was even worse than I remembered. And it still kind of sucks, but at least I feel human again.

  4. Yay, you’re back! I always enjoy reading your posts, and I sincerly hope this new approach to the blog works for you in the long run (though I respect the fact that sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do). Of course, this post was a reminder to me that you do, you know, write professionally for other publications and I am going to pop over to your Media page right now to catch up on your recent pieces.

    • Hey, thanks! The media page is actually a long-neglected archive of stuff ABOUT me — this was my “author site” before today — but you can search on my name at Salon or Jezebel and find most of what I’ve written in the last couple of years.

  5. I’m going to tell you what I recently told a good friend as she profusely apologized for canceling a lunch date for the 2nd or 3rd time: Do what you have to do. Take care of you. I love you and I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be here, ready to pick up right where we left off, whenever you get things sorted it. And just to repeat, I love you.

    That is all.

  6. Woo hoo! Welcome back. I’ve missed ya! And congratulations on quitting smoking, my BF is in the middle of quit attempt number … something right now, and it’s no easy task.

  7. I’ve missed reading your work, so I’m just glad you’re back! I’m not exaggerating when I say that Shapely Prose changed my life. :)

  8. I was very firmly in the “lurker” category when it came to Shapely Prose but I wanted to chime in and say that I’m glad you’re back. I can’t imagine how much stress commenting moderating must have caused, so I hope this new approach works out for you. :)

  9. “After three years of writing primarily on controversial topics, I am so sick of this shit, I have basically lost my stomach for making any argument more inflammatory than “Personally — and I am in no way saying you should agree with me — I enjoy sunshine and puppy dogs and rainbows.””

    I don’t blame you one bit. I can only imagine what an undertaking running SP came to be.

    Thanks for all you’ve written over the past few years, and good luck for the future!

  10. As much as I loved every post at Shapely Prose, there were times when I didn’t have the energy to read the comments. I can’t imagine the huge task of moderating. ‘ll second what gish said about Shapely Prose changing my life. Thanks to you, I look at the world in a different way, and I’m glad we get to continue to read stuff by you.

  11. Thank you for helping us fight. Thank you for creating a safe place. Thank you for being loud. Thank you for everything. Your writing has been an anchor to me for the past few years – as a teenage girl with a mental illness my self-esteem is pretty tumultuous, and reading what you write is incredibly uplifting. Shit, I couldn’t do that for three years, and it’s admirable that you did. So thanks. Take as much time for you as you need, because you are the most important person in your life.

    Glad to see you back on the face of the great interweb, and looking forward to seeing more from you. (and paying you for it, like you deserve.)

  12. Kate, you do whatever you have to do. I can only imagine what kind of crazy-ass hobby it was, because when I take a break from the internets hardly anyone notices. HA!! Yet we all need them.

    You’re well-loved. Reclaim your time, you’ve always deserved it. And? You’ve hammered the essential points over and over already in a dozen different ways. The message, “Your body is yours – live with it, and enjoy it” should only need to be said so many times and so many ways. Hang back and let the world catch up.

    Much (non-creepy) love,

  13. Congrats on quitting smoking! I knew you could do it.

    The burnout associated with blogging is incredible. Just the nature of it is exhausting – you have to come up with something interesting and engaging to say basically on a whim, put it together as quickly as possible, and publish it without spending hardly any time on the editing process. Then you have to sit back and wait for IMMEDIATE feedback from people who may not agree with or like what you’re saying. Then you have to do that same thing over and over again, lest people get bored and forget you exist. It’s like constantly coming up with new tap dancing routines or you don’t get fed.

    The good news is that once take off your tap shoes and start writing just for yourself and your people (those who will happily read anything you write), it becomes a lot more fun again. The pressure is off – write about puppy dogs and sunshine if you want.

    I never thought it made sense to write some of your best stuff for people who were so fucking rude (ahem Salon) when you could be writing books for people who will pay money to read what you have to say.

  14. I have to say that this is just inspirational. It hits home for me at the moment and reminds me that accepting my boundaries is healthy, wise, and practical. Thank you for all you have written, all you will write, and most of all, for your radical honesty.

  15. I didn’t comment much on SP, but add me to the list of those who is ever so grateful that you birthed that particular internet baby. It has meant so much to me, like to so many others. I’m so glad you’re ok (I was a bit worried), and thank you thank you thank you.

  16. Whatever writing you do, I will happily read, but it’s great that you could take some time to think about things. Shapely Prose made a big difference in my life (I lurked for quite a while), and I thank you for that. But no one could keep up that kind of work forever, without even getting paid.

  17. I’d like to add to what everyone else is saying – welcome back, take care of you first, congratulations on quitting smoking (that was a MONSTER), and THANK YOU.

  18. I love your writing and I’ve missed you a lot this summer. I’m really happy to hear that you’ll be blogging occasionally still and that you’re still working on writing in general. :D

  19. Obviously, I assume that this comment will not make it past the moderation process, but I just think that it’s kind of sad to shut down a blog that was such a big part of so many people’s lives. I never really commented or anything, but I did follow posts fairly regularly, and the main thing that made SP so successful was everyone’s dedication to jump on board, participate, and investigate important sociological issues together. Whether you like to admit it or not, the reason that you have personally had so much success is largely due to the support of so many people on SP, and it kind of seems like you’re movin’ on now that, you know, you can do your own thing. Yes, it’s only your business if you want to keep blogging, but on the other hand, it’s kind of not–since, let’s fact it, lots of other people helped you get where you are. Even from my uninvolved perspective, I know a lot of people ‘bought it’–but oh well, I guess it’s time for you to move on to bigger and better things.

    • Hey, look, you got past moderation! Mostly because I think it might be instructive to publish such a perfect example of how entitled some people feel to my time and unpaid labor, which is of course part of the exhaustion factor.

      Lauren, you’re absolutely right that the success I’ve had has in part been a result of other people participating in the SP community and bringing a lot of different perspectives to every conversation. The comments were, for many, as big a part of the experience as (or bigger than) the blog posts. I’m deeply grateful for that, which I said about eleven thousand times while I was writing there.

      But this is unbelievable: “Yes, it’s only your business if you want to keep blogging, but on the other hand, it’s kind of not…”

      It is NOT ENTIRELY MY BUSINESS whether I spend nearly full-time hours running a blog or not? Because other people helped me get where I am, I can never quit? Are you fucking kidding me?

      And the fact that I personally wrote hundreds of posts over three years, and the five of us collectively wrote over 1200 and moderated over 106,000 comments, and all of that is still available to anyone who wants to read it — what does that count for? At what point have I paid my debt to the community and earned the freedom to walk away, in your opinion?

      Every blogger who gets to a certain level of readership and general blog activity has to make a lot of tough decisions once the hobby magically becomes at least a part-time job. Do you put ads — some of which might well be offensive to your audience — on the blog? Do you beg your readers to send donations, and then beg again and again as necessary — knowing full well that it’s often the people who can least afford it who dig deep to chip in? Do you keep moderating comments at the same level as always, or do you let it slide, because it’s the easiest thing to let slide? Do you recruit other people to do some of the work, even though A) it IS work, and you can’t pay them, and B) You don’t actually know these people, you only “internet-know” them, and you really have no fucking idea what they’d be like to work with? And finally, there’s the question that lurks in the back of your mind all the time, especially on the bad days: Do you quit for your own sanity?

      I’ve seen bloggers I really loved reading take long breaks, or leave blogging altogether, and I’ve seen blogs I really loved come to an end. Yes, it is sad. But there are still about a zillion other blogs out there, and the idea that popular bloggers don’t have the right to quit because other people don’t want to leave the party they’re hosting is just stunning.

    • Congratulations on winning the Missing the Point Award of the day! Even if I granted every part of the rest of your comment, three years is a long-ass time to be doing anything; “movin’ on” after that amount of time is not exactly throwing people under the bus. Please consider that you have just responded to a post about why blogging is exhausting and dispiriting because of aggressive commenters with an aggressive comment about why your “uninvolved perspective” is more important than Kate’s goals for her own work.

      Kate, I’m sorry if I’m overstepping; old habits die hard!

    • I really have issues with this comment. Sure, the sales of the book have a lot to do with SP (and The Rotund…let’s not forget that it’s Marianne’s book too), but that doesn’t mean she owes it to us to keep blogging. It’s a stressful and challenging and often unrewarding thing, and no one has any right to expect someone to keep bashing their head against the same wall for other people’s benefit. The idea that Kate was somehow the center of the fatosphere and had a responsibility to cat-herd that whole community is probably a huge part of *why* it was stressful.

      And it’s not like the fatosphere as a whole has gone anywhere. I will definitely miss SP, but there are still a crap-ton of FA blogs and feminist blogs out there.

      • And it’s not like the fatosphere as a whole has gone anywhere. I will definitely miss SP, but there are still a crap-ton of FA blogs and feminist blogs out there.

        Right on, Kelly K. And thanks.

      • Right! And what about being inspired, taking up the torch and paying it forward by starting your own blog or community if you want more conversation? That would be an excellent way to pay Kate and the other SP bloggers back.

        Kate, thank you for all of your time and hard work. I was always impressed by your willingness to keep going without getting paid, so I am glad that you are planning to pursue longer, and more well-paid, projects.

  20. SP has had such a profound impact on shaping my ability to look at myself and the world around me and think: Maybe the way it IS; isn’t the way it should/has to be. Just maybe, loving myself (and others) AS IS, is possible. For that and your long commitment to the thankless drudgery that moderating the blog became I truly cannot thank you enough. I know you’ve likely heard it a lot and will hear it again: but you’ve been a wonderful spark of inspiration for so many of us; myself included.

    Welcome back to writing in whatever forms best fit your vision and desires and good luck on the continued struggle to quit smoking (I’ve watched many loved ones work through that process and can’t even imagine the difficulties!!)

    Thanks. And Rock On :)

  21. Thanks for Shapely Prose Kate, it really changed a lot for me. I’m glad you’re back, I missed your writing. Take care and good luck with all your future plans!

  22. Kate! Kate! Kate! Hi Kate! Hi Kate! You have blogged words on the internet! I am so pleased!

    And FWIW, I routinely spend days and weeks editing and polishing certain blog posts before posting them. I know this isn’t the common approach, but it’s how I do, which I suspect makes it possible.

    • Lesley, hi! I might just try the “taking days polishing a blog post” thing now that I’m trying new stuff here. (And ftr, it’s a relief to know your brilliance doesn’t always spring fully formed from your fingers.) Unfortunately, as all my former co-bloggers can attest, I have a bad habit of leaving things in the “drafts” folder and never returning to them. I could probably start a whole new blog and go for a year just finishing orphaned drafts. Hmmm….

      • The stress and urgency of reactionary blogging just doesn’t mix well with my disposition, and hey, we’re all better off knowing where our limitations are.

        In a more global sense, I think that kind of thing has been mostly supplanted by Twitter/Facebook, which are way faster than a blog response could ever be. I am disinclined to think that this portends the Death of Blogging, as some folks have suggested, but rather I hope it inspires a movement toward more crafted writing on the blogs that soldier on.

  23. Kate, thanks for SP. It changed my life and my outlook in huge ways. Congrats on quitting smoking! That’s truly awesome.

    I will definitely miss SP, and will be happy to see your writing wherever it shows up.

  24. Kate – you define the terms, we live with them, just as I define mine and my peeps have to live with those. You either get to enjoy the terms or go the fuck away. And I enjoy your terms immensely. You have given so much and do not owe anyone anything.


  25. I was an avid reader of Shapely Prose (although I never commented) and am excited to see you back on the internet in whatever capacity works for you. I have missed your words but I am very glad that you have been taking care of yourself.

  26. Thank you for everything, Kate–the past stuff at SP and elsewhere, and whatever is to come. Like so many others, I will be eager to read your writing in whatever form it takes.

  27. I’m glad to see you blogging again, Kate – in whatever fashion makes you happy. Shapely Prose had a long, lovely ride, but if it wasn’t making you happy, it isn’t worht your soul to try and keep it up.

    P.S. Seeing Sweet Machine jump in to this thread ALSO made me happy.

  28. Hey Kate
    I will always be grateful to SP for 2 things;

    1) foremost is that it helped my reconnect with all of you, my family, that I hadn’t seen nor talked to in years and,
    2) I learned about the blogging world and with your support and encouragement I started my own. It will never have the readership that you have but thats ok.

    It came as no surprise to me that you have “streamlined” your life, major changes make us do things like that, I can attest to that.

    I have no doubt that whatever you do, you will well and somewhere there is a cigarette smoking lady looking down and very very proud of you. I know I am.
    Take care

Comments are closed.