Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Good-Bye Stephen Den Beste

One of the most creative thinkers in the world of weblogs is folding his tent. Too bad. He is not the first, but he may be among the best. When a guy gets published in the Wall Street Journal he's no piker. I will miss reading his essays.

USS Clueless - Thanks for all the fish: "I'm finding that it's quite a relief not to receive a constant flow of email griping about everything I post. No matter what I write, and no matter what I say, there are always people who either think I was wrong, or think that there were things I left out and should have included. I've been putting up with that for two years, and I guess I'd gotten used to living with a low-level throbbing headache all that time."


No one had any idea in the blogworld what the real reasons were that he stopped blogging.
Turns out he has an incurable, degenerative, hereditary disease.
This from Rishon Rishon... copied from a comments thread at Euro Pundits

You can forget it. It's not going to happen. I've been suffering for years from a genetically-caused degenerative disease. For the last year or so, the only way I was able to continue posting was by taking increasing doses of very powerful stimulants. (Understand that they were palliative; there's no cure or treatment for the underlying disease, and no one knows what causes it. The only reason it's known to be genetic is because it is found in family lines. In my case it was my father's family.) Those prescription drugs have serious side effects which I put up with in order to be able to keep writing for the site. But as that year went on, my enjoyment in writing for the site drained away. It's entirely possible that there were thousands of satisfied readers who enjoyed what I wrote, but I never heard from most of them. 80% or more of my email consisted of kibitzing, criticism, and other forms of ankle-biting. "Ignore them" someone said, but that's easy for you to say. Ignoring one or two such letters isn't too hard. But when it goes on like that day after day, week after week, dozens of such letters each week, I reached the point where writing posts became a duty, something I had to force myself to do, not something I looked forward eagerly to doing. Instead of looking forward to the process of writing, I cringed about the negative email I was guaranteed to receive in response. As to that purported majority who may have liked what I was writing, I did occasionally hear from them. Such letters usually begin like this: "I've been a reader of your site for a very long time, and have long enjoyed what you've written. But now I'm writing for the first time because I've found something I can criticize." That's not helpful when it comes to encouragement.

The only reason I wrote was because I enjoyed writing. But as time went on, I enjoyed it less and less. It almost seemed as if there was an organized attempt by my readers to try to ruin the experience for me, by assuring me after each and ever post that I'd done a lousy job of it. I tried several times to write posts explaining to my readers why the mail I was receiving was draining all pleasure from the writing process for me, but it never did any good. And as time went on, it took progressively larger doses of the drugs to make it possible for me to write, which meant increasingly greater side effects from those drugs. Finally, at the end of July, I'd had enough. The writing had become a chore, a burden. Everything I posted reaped a flood of critical email telling me all the things I'd gotten wrong, and collectively that email robbed me of any trace of pleasure I had gotten from writing in the first place. Meanwhile, the side effects from the drugs had gotten so serious that I decided it just wasn't worth going on that way. Why should I make that physical sacrifice for a group of people whose only purpose seemed to be to tear down everything I wrote? So I stopped taking the drugs. Without them, I could not write, not as I had been, not about the subjects I had been writing about, not in the depth I had been writing. The result was deep relief. There was no longer any feeling of obligation to write, no compulsion to do so even when I didn't want to. The ankle-biting mail declined to nearly zero. Most of the side effects of the drugs went away. (Alas, some of them seem to be permanent.)

I feel a certain pride in helping to establish the "essay blog" as a legitimate form, and helping to inspire others to take it up. Glenn Reynolds performs a critical function and I have nothing but respect for him, but if the political blogosphere had consisted of nothing but Glenn-clones, it would never have had the political impact that it ended up having. But I can't participate in it any longer. The only reward I ever got for doing it was personal enjoyment, and an incessant flood of critical letters took that away from me. In the mean time, I would have to make a significant physical sacrifice if I once again took the drugs which made it possible for me to operate at that level and to write in that way. Several commenters here say they miss my writing, and I'm both flattered and grateful for that thought. But they don't know how great a price I'd have to pay to begin again. I'm sorry, but it's too high.

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