I didn’t realize I hadn’t written anything here since September until I read it in a post by my brother Kevin. I would have responded earlier, but I’ve been kind of busy lately, as Kevin well knows, since he’s been making me busy. Specifically, I’ve been buying a house, starting a company, and trying to hire a coworker while doing the excess work I need a coworker to share at my day job. Before explaining why I think Kevin is only half-right about his theory that bloggers are looking for better jobs, I should probably explain some of that.

Let’s start with the house. Kevin and Jackie came to Denver last November and stayed with Jessica and I for a couple weeks while they looked for, and until they could get into, their new apartment. While walking their dog around the block, they noticed the triplex just behind our current rental duplex is for sale. I think Jackie jokingly said something like “we could all buy that and move there.” After talking about it a bit more, it didn’t seem so ridiculous. So we started looking at different multi-unit housing for sale around Denver.

I don’t even know how many places we’ve looked at by now, but it’s a lot. We just made our first offer on a place yesterday, and we should get a counter-offer in another hour or two today. The specific house we’re offering to buy is… wait for it… the one just behind our current rental. We’ll know soon if we’re buying that or continuing to look.

So now the company. While Kevin and Jackie were between jobs, and to a lesser extent since they’ve both found jobs around Denver, they’ve spent a lot of time helping out with Playing Here. As a result, the site is crazy busy now, which means it takes even more work to maintain. So now we need more people to do this work, and — lacking volunteers — we need to pay these people. To do that, we need an actual company with a tax ID and limited liability and a business bank account and whatnot. So now we have all that as Make Data Make Sense, LLC, as well as a vague business plan for sustaining and growing the site. We should know in the next six months or so whether or not this plan will work out.

So I’ve been looking at houses and working on Playing Here most nights and weekends. By day, I continue to work as a web developer at The Integer Group, which I can’t link to without disclaiming that I didn’t make the website. Since I last wrote here, I’ve lost two part-time coworkers, which sucked because I’d only been less than six months and suddenly I was responsible for everything web related. But I’ve been working on some fun projects and it looks like I’ll have another co-worker or two soon. This will be my first experience as the senior member of a team, so that should be interesting.

So back to Kevin’s suggestion that bloggers are looking for better jobs. I think that’s only true to the extent that people looking for better jobs have time to write, either because they’re unemployed or because they don’t have enough interest in their current jobs to spend any more time than necessary on that. Bloggers are just people who have time to write. I wrote about this about 4 years ago (back when I didn’t bother with capitalization) in because i have ample free time. Specifically, I said:

what makes bloggers more elite? having computers for one. and having free time to read and write. heck, having electricity. what doesn't make bloggers more elite? doc's suggestion that "it doesn't take ample free time" is simply not true. it does take ample free time.

I still think that’s true. And while people looking for jobs is one group that has ample free time, other groups include professional writers (e.g. Doc Searls) and students. I started blogging as a student, but I continued blogging through my first several jobs out of college, up until this one. And while I do like my current job more than any previous job, I also liked my previous job more than any before that. I wasn’t really looking for this job when it appeared, so that’s not why I kept writing.

But why did I keep writing then and stop just recently? I think there are several factors, but the main one is that I wasn’t as busy when I was writing as I am now. But with everything making me busy promising to come to some resolution relatively soon, it looks likely I’ll be less busy soon, so maybe I’ll start writing more again, even though I still won’t be looking for a better job.

 

One of my university professors told me a secret about how he would decide how much homework to give his students. The secret was: it doesn’t matter. Students will complain that any amount of homework is too much, and then they’ll find time to do it. A student with only one class and very little homework will somehow fill her schedule such that the very little homework seems to be taking too much time, but is still possible to complete. And a student with five classes all with extensive homework will somehow clear her schedule such that the homework seems to be taking too much time, but is still possible to complete. Time is magically elastic for university students.

When I worked in an office, I would go to work in the morning, then back home for lunch, then back to work in the afternoon, then back home at night. During those trips, I occasionally imagined how much more time I would have to do things I should be doing more often (e.g cooking, reading, exercising). Four trips a day at ten minutes per trip, plus time packing up and unpacking on each end, must be at least an hour of every day I spent in transition.

Now that I’ve been working from home for a while, I have almost no time lost in transition. Yet I notice the extra time hasn’t materialized. I can now work in the kitchen, and somehow I still feel like I don’t have time to cook a good meal for lunch. My time appears to be just as elastic as it was when I was a university student.

Where does time go when it stretches? For a full time student, I think the time goes primarily to socializing. When your friend invites you to go somewhere and you don’t have pressing homework, it would seem rather unlike a student to decline the invitation. And a university is full of friends inviting each other to go places. Socializing is a black hole, endlessly sucking in all student time not otherwise attracted to a mass of homework.

For me, the black hole is web work. I try to restrict myself to close to forty hours a week for my full time employer, and though I almost never reach that goal, that’s not really the problem. My time sink is largely freelance work. When someone offers me money to work on an interesting project, it just seems odd to decline. What would I even say? “No thanks. That sounds interesting, and I like money, but I’d rather read books and cook better meals.“ Maybe I should say that, but I don’t.

Your black hole is what you won’t regret. When your university friends come back from the bar, and you’ve just spent a few hours making sure you understand the subject really well instead of just okay, you’re going to regret the missed opportunities at the bar. But they won’t regret the missed studying. And when that really neat website launches after I turned down the opportunity to work on it so that I could learn to make Pad Thai instead of Mac and Cheese, I’ll be regretting the missed opportunity on the web, but I don’t yet regret the Mac and Cheese.

So it turns out time is elastic for everyone, not just students. And we all just choose a different black hole to suck it up. Some day I hope to be the kind of person whose black hole is the simpler things in life: good food, good books, health, a sunny day. But right now my black hole is interesting web work. I don’t need more time, and most likely you don’t either. What’s your black hole, sucking up all your free time? TV? Books? A sunny day?