She clasps the crag with crooked hands
Close to the sun in lonely lands
Writing is in someways a lonely land, or lonely may not be the precise word I’m looking for. There’s a kind of necessary solitude, the need for a clear space. At my home office, this usually means me telling the kids, “Go yell at each other somewhere else so that I can think.”
You take your quiet places where you find them. I’m currently in my hotel room in Amman, Jordan, where its just me, the laptop, and some really good coffee. But it’s really an internal quiet some times. I write in noisy bars too – when I was working on my book, The Poisoner’s Handbook, I got some of my best inspiration while drinking sidecars and listening to a clatter of sound.
Ring’d with the azure world she stands
When I started my blog, Speakeasy Science, I wanted it to be part of the bigger world, of course. And I wanted it to have some of that sidecar-and-sound feel to it. The chemistry cafe, the Periodic Table Pub, okay, I can’t think of any other great alliteration, but a place for a conversation about this gorgeous, complicated and fundamental science. It began as a Word Press blog on my author page and I was genuinely honored, this spring, to be invited to move it to Science Blogs.
And at Science Blogs, let me say, the conversation has been wonderful. I’ve learned a fantastic amount from the comments on my posts, enjoyed the arguments (most recently the great discussion following Warriors Against Claptrap). I’ve had the pleasure of exploring chemical stories that fascinate me – from the poisonous nature of the precious metal gold to all the chemical mischief-making in the Gulf of Mexico.
I’ve met, admired, and even envied many of my fellow bloggers here – for their stylish way with words and their commitment to writing blogs that matter. And they do matter – they illuminate science in breathtaking and wonderfully diverse ways. I’ve loved being a part of that.:
The wrinkled sea below her crawls
But, of course, things have gotten complicated at Science Blogs, following the PepsiCo sponsored blog fiasco. Yes, Sb management has worked extremely hard to learn from the basic mistake: when you sell credibility, you basically lose it.
Yes, it would have been great if management had figured that out in advance. And yes, to give them great, Sb management has been working really hard to make things right in the aftermath.
But, as I said, writing for all its communal nature requires a comfortable solitude. And for a journalist-blogger like me, that means I write from the self-respecting corner of my life, the place where I work really hard to get it right and am proud not only of the product but of where it appears.
And I just haven’t been able to do that at Sb these days. It’s like trying to write while sitting in a chair with a broken leg. There are lots of ways to write about science – funny or serious, investigative or literary – but it has to be done from a solid platform of mutual respect between writer and reader, blogger and blogging home. I can’t write the stories I want to tell when I’m worried about the integrity of the chair I’m sitting in – and my own integrity along with it.
She watches from her mountain walls
I’ve been traveling so much for my work with the World Federation of Science Journalists and next year’s meeting in Cairo that I missed the initial protest and walk outs. I’ve never believed in after the fact hissy fits and I wanted to take some time to think it over.
I listened, talked to people, read some amazingly thoughtful discussions of the issues raised by the Sb crisis in context of science blogging, its role and its directions. One of the best posts to evaluate the need for change (also a farewell to Sb) – is the recent one from A Blog Around the Clock:
As we all know, writing is thinking. During this same period, I’ve tried to actually write a post. I got interested in the homicidal use of household bleach but couldn’t make it work. I wrote almost an entire post on the annual dead zones in the Gulf (not related to the BP spill but to our continued, heavy-handed use of nitrogen-based fertilizers) and ended up depressing myself.
I realized I couldn’t stay – couldn’t write without constantly testing the chair legs, couldn’t hold onto my self-respect as a journalist blogger, couldn’t keep the curious alchemy of writing for fun and fascination that makes me actually love my blog and what I’m trying to do with it.
And like a thunderbolt she falls
The trouble with building a post around the poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, is that you end up with a vain-glorious line like the one above. And in my case, with some serious mixing of metaphors – chairs, cliffs, not good. Of course, the poem isn’t a perfect fit anyway. If you know “The Eagle: A Fragment” – you know that the bird is all male and all power. This is a Victorian poet, after all.
But I’ve always loved its sheer power (Tennyson is so much better in short bits) and as I thought about my decision, I liked that step-off-the cliff kind of image to leaving, free-fall into something new and different. I’m talking to a couple other blog networks about moving Speakeasy Science to other collaboration location and I hope to do that.
But until then, I’ll be posting at my old home.
Hope to see you there. The chairs are good, promise.