Signing Off

After nearly three years and more than 5000 posts, I’ve decided to pull the plug on daily blogging. I think describing what went into this decision may be useful to other activists, so it’s with this lengthy post that I’ll conclude my daily blog.

To explain why I’ve decided to stop blogging, it makes sense to tell you why I started blogging in the first place. About three years ago I was facing a remarkably challenging time. I’d spent the past decade or so trying to make it as a full-time book writer. My intention was to write some of the most rigorously researched, polished writing in the field of farmed animal protection.

I’d gotten off to a successful start with my book Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating back in 1997. Enough so that I put two years into researching, writing, and publishing its follow-up: Meat Market: Animals, Ethics, and Money. The fact that Meat Market didn’t take the world by storm was enormously disappointing to me. But more than that, it forced me to face up to the fact that I’d given a career at book writing my best shot, and I’d failed to make a go of it.

So: what to do next? Above all else, I wanted to find a way to support myself that enabled me to spend most of my time advancing the cause of animal protection. And I wanted to give this work more than just my time, I wanted to give it most of my mental energy—my best hours out of every day.

Since I didn’t view myself as a good fit for working in a nonprofit, my options were limited. Very limited. For the better part of three months, with money going out much faster than it was coming in, I spent my mornings thinking hard about my life and jotting down my thoughts and ideas. This process led to my decision to start blogging daily at Vegan.com. My idea was that perhaps I could grow a substantial audience of vegan news junkies, who would appreciate snarky, well-informed commentary.

Within just a month or two it was clear I’d found something I loved, and that my audience was quickly growing to a size that could support my full-time efforts. I found blogging to be challenging in the best possible way. There’s nothing I care more about than farmed animal protection, and this writing gig offered an extraordinary opportunity to deepen my understanding of how the food politics and animal advocacy movements intersect.

Over time, I’ve amassed a well-informed and passionate audience. Just this morning, during a break from writing this, one of my readers emailed me: “You’re like our vegan CNN – the headlines to keep us abreast of everything.”

So why quit now?

One reason is that writing this blog means immersing myself, every day, in distressing material. There’s an emotional cost associated with writing about animal cruelty, because good writing never happens without giving your subject careful consideration. And when your subject pertains to suffering, and you’re carefully considering it all the fucking time, your day-to-day happiness can take a big hit. To put it as succinctly as I can: writing this blog makes me sad.

Perhaps the bigger reason I’m ready to move on is that I’m increasingly aware that my daily blogging carries an enormous opportunity cost. The time I spend here requires my most careful thinking, and my day’s greatest expenditure of mental energy. Although I often finish blogging by noon, the person I am for the remainder of the day isn’t as smart and focused as the person who writes this blog each morning.

Over time, I’ve had the growing feeling that I could find ways to make a far greater difference for animals, but figuring this out will require many weeks of sustained and undistracted attention. And so, it’s time to take the leap.

I’m leaving without having any idea what’s next for me. My next project is figuring out my next project.

Success is a trap, and it’s scary to leave something successful. Of all the thoughts that factored into this decision, here was the clincher. I asked myself: is the 2011 version of Erik capable of dreaming up a way to do animal protection on a far greater scale than what 2008 Erik was capable of envisioning? I am betting that the answer is yes.

One of the many gifts this blog gave me was a daily routine. I’d never before had a set schedule where, an hour after waking up each morning, I’d sit and work for a few focused hours. There’s a real sense of satisfaction that accompanies figuring out your optimal productivity rhythm, and scheduling your work-life around it on a daily basis.

So, while my daily blog is now finished, I’ll be using the same discipline to figure out what comes next for me. I know that whatever I end up doing, it will involve working much more closely with other advocates. I would love the opportunity to connect with you to further your advocacy work. If you would be so kind, I’ve created a simple form here where you can give me your contact information, and some basic background on whatever work you currently do.

For the foreseeable future, I’m unlikely to publish anything longer than 140 characters, so I hope you’ll follow me on Twitter. And if you subscribe to my blog by email or RSS, I hope you will stay subscribed. When the time comes that I’ve figured out my next big project, I’ll post details. I’ll also post occasional updates on improvements I’ll be rolling out at Vegan.com.

For those of you who are sad about the end of my daily blogging, please know that one of my goals here was for my perspective to rub off on you. I hope this blog has given you the ability to evaluate vegan-oriented news from a deeply informed perspective, and to frame the issues in ways that inspire change. To the extent that you’ve learned those skills, I’ve already accomplished my purpose here.

Finally, I want to thank everyone who has ever helped keep this blog going by making a donation, or who has made a point of making Amazon.com purchases through Vegan.com links. I feel so privileged to have been given the opportunity to spend several years of my life offering daily coverage of vegan issues, and I’m forever grateful to every single person who enabled me to keep writing.