Neuron Culture

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A few weeks ago the Question Du Jour, on Seed’s Scienceblogs and elsewhere, was “Why Do You Blog?” Here’s my answer — or rather, here I explaine Why I DON’T Blog More Often, and Why I Won’t Be Blogging Here Anymore.

With this post — and with mixed feelings — I bid adieu to my blogging home on Seed’s Scienceblogs and return to my own, quieter venue You can find my blog at http://smoothpebbles.com, where I expect to post a few times a month. But in light of how little I’ve posted here lately, Seed and I have amiably agreed that I should surrender this space here, as my sparse approach to blogging doesn’t seem to match well with a blog site so busy. I should note this truly was a mutual decision, which we both arrived at more or less simultaneously, and Seed has been graceful and gracious about the whole thing.

Why so few posts? The proximate reason is that I’ve been extremely busy with magazine assignments, a book proposal, managing and editing Mind Matters , the expert-written review site I founded at the Scientific American web site, pulling far less than my share in raising my splendid kids, and, praise God summer has returned, playing baseball on Sundays.

Underlying that, to be quite honest, are increasing doubts about the wisdom of me spending time blogging. I have often found it fun, and a couple times blogging led me to stories I wouldn’t otherwise have discovered or developed. But — for me, anyway — blogging has not proven a productive or deeply engaging way to write about science or the other things I care and know about enough to write about. For subjects with depth, the form feels too ephemeral (and doesn’t pay well enough) to warrant extensive effort. For subjects with little depth … well, why bother? I can see the attraction to the small-talk aspect of blogging, just as I can see the attraction to cocktail parties. But who has the time? Was a time I had the time, or thought I did. Now I don’t feel I do.

I say this recognizing that some — the other full-time writers who blog here on SB leap most quickly to mind — find none of this a problem, find no conflict between blogging and doing solid, admirably accomlished and serious work. Carl Zimmer, Jonah Lehrer, and Chris Mooney jump most immediately to my mind because they’re fellow writers, and I greatly admire all of their work — great serious stuff both on the blog and in print, splendidly diverting well-look-at-this-will-ya pieces on the blog, whole books of great depth and seriousness and import. Somehow they make the time to post posts that are well worth reading, that seem to enrich their own perspectives as much as they do the content of this site and blogdom, and (I trust and hope) still devote as much attention as they need and want to what I think of more lasting work, i.e., the stuff requiring ink. [I can hear the cyber-howls coming already …) The Web is a better, more interesting, and more truly informing place for their efforts. Ditto on most of the material by the scientists-who-blog on SB; I mention the writers here because they face the same choices I do but meet them differently. It apepars they mix it successfully — even if it means, for Carl at least, often doing so at 3 in the morning. (Such is life with two young kids; this I know well.)

So it works for them — seems too, anyway, and I hope appearances here do not deceive. Yet somehow, for the most part, it doesn’t work for me. My time has never felt more finite, and there inevitably seems something either more pressing or more lastingly valuable to devote it to: a story due, a book to develop, a child to read to, a son’s baseball game to attend, a pile of books to read before I die: the hope and desire, as reader and writer, to create the sort of experience so clearly had by the man in Wayne Thiebeault’s painting (held by me above), titled “Man Reading.”

I had hoped, frankly, to find time to write a longer and more thoughtful exploration of this dilemma — that is, why I don’t find such an immediate and accessible way to communicate with readers more irresistible and valuable, why I don’t make time for it in the way we make time for the things we value most — but … well, I just didn’t manage to make or find the time. Suffice to say that while I’m glad there are people blogging — and the best of my compatriots here at SB are doing some of the best blogging out there — I can’t seem to value my own blogging (as a way of spending my time or creating work) quite valuable enough to hike above other things that are already getting too little attention.

So farewell to SB for now, at least as a spot to place my own blog, and best of luck to the others here: Do keep up the good work. I can now slacken my blogging pace — or accept my already slackened pace — with less guilt.

I do figure to post now and then, though without any quota external or in. So please come visit me now and then at http://smoothpebbles.com, where I will likely post a few times a month, or at my general website, http://daviddobbs.net, where you can find my magazine storie (I’m working on one for the Times Magazine now) and books.

Thanks for reading, and — and Mr. Keillor says — be well and do good work.

Best,

David Dobbs
Montpelier, Vermont