What Has Been Going On

Hi there!
It’s probably been a while—maybe a very long while—so I thought I should start with a little update on what’s been going on since we last ran into each other. If I’m going to be blogging more often, this is a kind of a cheating way to start since it’s basically the newsletter I just sent out to the Mailing List (link below) but maybe that’s a good way to remind you it exists, too. So… Here’s the story.
On March 27 of last year, Television Without Pity was suddenly and abruptly closed down by Bravo, who’d acquired us in 2007. In that seven-year stretch, a lot of us had moved to other jobs and other sites, but I really loved the “new” TWoP and the direction it went: I get bored pretty easily and I don’t like having the same conversation more than once, so I was happy to see “snark” for its own sake sort of dying off. A move I still think makes sense, as quality in entertainment grows and that ‘90s culture of complaint slowly loses steam.
I have my own theories about the site’s traffic decline in the last year or so of its life, but none of them have to do with the Bravo/management side of things. And in any case, it didn’t bother me much for my own sake: Leaving TWoP was something I’d been planning to do for its entire lifespan. “I’ll leave when Battlestar ends” became “I’ll leave when Gossip Girl ends” and so on, but in 2014, at the end of the site, I was still writing about like ten shows. It was because I loved those particular shows, and I loved writing about them, and because I was scared to think too hard about what I would do instead.
So I was in the shower when my dear friend Heather Anne Hogan texted me about the news of the closure, and still standing there in the altogether when the server push came through with our email about it. I got back into the shower, because that’s where I do my thinking, and decided what the next move should be.
A few hours later I was in talks with Gawker Media, discussing various options for my placement, as the news of TWoP’s shuttering started to spread. Between fielding emails from other sites, putting together intent letters and getting to know the GMG employees, and eventually flying to NYC for a final meeting, I don’t think I slept more than four hours a night that entire month. But by April 21 I was ready to go, as the editor of a brand new TV-focused sub-blog (vertical) and a freelance budget you probably would not believe.
That week I toured the East Coast, staying with friends and making contact for the first time with a lot of my favorite writers across the web. It was the happiest and greatest week of my life. It was also the happiest I would be for the remainder of 2014, but I didn’t know that yet. In any case the site, Morning After, was up and running May 1. We wrote about television.
It was not the most fun I have ever had in my life, but I’ve got optimism on my side; and when that runs out I have bloody-minded stubbornness on my side, and when that ran out they put me on antidepressants for the first time in my life—and so when the parent company had its semiannual shakeup the week of Thanksgiving, including the usual assload of firings (some very public, others very quiet), I was relieved. It was not a good fit for me, in a lot of ways, and I think that’s sufficient to say. But I took a lot of positives away from the experience and used up my six-week runway—my contract extended to the New Year—trying to make the most of it.
The first quarter of 2015 was spent discerning exactly what I was interested in—writing, specifically self-publishing, focusing on fiction; getting over my conception of myself as a “company man,” as some kind of soldier that wants in from the cold—and what I was not interested in, which was: Ever writing about media again in my life. (Of course, at that time we were still being assured that Kabletown would keep the TWoP archives up and running, which seemed dubious and is now, of course, moot.)
While I may think startup-culture’s obsessive need to reinvent and recycle is silly, and only leads to better mousetraps—which is to say, stronger traps—I can’t deny that I am very grateful for at least one insight: That while I may have gotten certain conversations past the point of kneejerk pessimism and “snark,” it is an animal that won’t really die. Everybody feels bad about herself at some point, and other people’s entertainment is the easiest target there is to help with that.
Watching a group of intelligent people slowly reinvent the wheel is painful enough, but knowing the process is just going to end up with them realizing a nice long walk feels better than whatever you have when you’re done making that wheel? I can’t do that again, ever. So then, what do you do? You walk. Walk the walk, stop complaining, get your back straight and your chin up, and walk.
Now, the question became, what is the dream. Because obviously you figure out what your dream is, and then go do that. You get in the shower and decide what you want. For me, one year and several breakdowns ago, that was Gawker: I have such a feeling toward and respect for those writers, and to the bright rhetoric of their stated principles, even now. So I already did that one. I needed a new one.
Was it blogging? No. There’s already an Awl and a Toast anyway, which are the only two ways I can see that going, so that doesn’t interest me. 
Was it conventional publishing? Maybe; I mean, the only people I tend to love more than lawyers is editors, publishing people. And you can’t deny that approval from the establishment feels delicious, especially if you are basically a wild thing to begin with.
But that didn’t feel right either, it didn’t feel like putting my money (or lack thereof) where my mouth was: Part of what made me feel good about myself, for that twelve years at TWoP—a third of my life, let’s not forget—was demonstrating in action what I was telling people to do in my writing: Trust, have faith, build your new machine in the bones of the dinosaur, put your music on Soundcloud and your novels on Smashwords and your heart in your hands and so on. Jump.
One year ago today I was sitting in my room in the Hotel on Rivington—a terrifyingly sexual place, by the way—having some 4 AM wine with the person who would be my managing editor. And when she asked what I would do, if I could do anything—and she already knew me well enough to add, “besides what you’re doing”; knew me well enough to know how much I throw my loyalty around—I said I wanted to sell my fiction. “You mean, get published?” No. I want to sell my fiction. She nodded. “Oh. There’s got to be a way to monetize that.”
I mean, it was right there in front of me: What was about to happen, what would happen after that. That one conversation was everything I needed, if I’d known.
So now my burns are salved and my bones are knit, and I don’t really remember the last year of my life very well. I made more friends than enemies and finally have a list of things I don’t want to do, which I’ve never had before. I learned that blind faith is not, in and of itself, a deal with the universe.
Which is only to say, the “blind” part wasn’t ever necessary; which is to say it only makes the other part harder. And that’s where we’re at now.
Over the next few months there’s going to be a lot of experimenting. The recap collections are doing really well—I think people are really responding to the revisions—and the novels are selling okay as they roll out. I have some serial novels ready to go. 
Regular blogging has got to be a thing again, which means less conversations at Facebook probably. If you want to help out and nothing on the Available List interests you, let me know what would. I’m grateful for any guidance or suggestions you have, since you’re the point of all this. Facebook, tweet, Tumbl or Pin: Whatever you want to do, if you want to get the Mailing List and the website back out there. I love nothing more than being talked about, which is why I do so much of it on my own behalf. Otherwise: You can comment here or just write to me, I’ll be inordinately thankful either way. I mean, I already am.

Love,
Jacob


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