Sometime late in 2019 I started thinking about what it would be like to act on something that felt pretty outsized: What if I were to share my stage with people who could use more eyeballs on their work? I called it “The Dave Grohl Effect,” after a rocker who regularly invites people from the audience up on stage to perform with him, and began putting out feelers: What did my close friends think of this? How about my professional friends? I was scheduled to publish a book in September of 2020; could I maybe manage to literally share the stage, and invite people up with me?
Everyone seemed to think it was possible. I started booking venues.
And then the pandemic. Everything pivoted, and so did I. Mid 2021, I took my Dave Grohl idea and moved it online and a new publication was born. I called it Reads & Eats. I set up a budget to pay the writers, and a Trello board for organization and everything.
But this post is not about that. This post is about what it’s like to have to say goodbye to a thing, because on Thursday night I shut down Reads & Eats after not even a year. Here’s what happened:
I got busy.
Yep, that’s it. Nothing earth-shattering happened; I didn’t suddenly get tired; I didn’t suddenly run out of ideas; I just ran out of time. And since I realized that, a couple of months ago, it became increasingly urgent to me to parse out exactly what it means to run out of time. In my case, it looked like this:
First, I stopped being able to dedicate as much time to the project as I wanted to. I couldn’t promote my writers; I couldn’t fulfill the remit of every single issue (which also served as my monthly newsletter, announcing where I’d published and where I might be teaching).
Second, I stopped having enough energy to pay attention to the artwork. I used to make a watercolor for every issue, either for my own essay or for the guest writer’s essay, and that somehow made each issue feel less special.
Third, I stopped being enthusiastic about the ideas I did have. I’m still interested in exploring what certain American foods mean to me–mac and cheese; Cheez Its; takeout Chinese–but when I thought about the deep thinking it would take to produce a quality essay that would mean something to both me and my readers and provide a good-enough counterpoint to my guest writers’ work, well, something wasn’t quite clicking.
So I made the decision to pull the plug. But even after I’d written the final e-mail that would go out, I still balked. Did I really want this to go away? Reading people’s submissions; working with them on essays to make them the best they could be; writing something that would appear in tandem for every single issue; presenting new perspectives to folks who might have never otherwise been introduced to them…I really didn’t want to go.
But it really was time. The idea that I couldn’t give the work as much attention as I wanted to was obvious.
I’m glad I’ve been able to really examine what I mean when I say “I don’t have time.” This experience of noodling over that will stay with me far into the future. It does feel a little like quitting. It feels more like the right thing to do.