I’m not dying.
To the best of my knowledge, and the knowledge of two surgeons and one hematologist, I don’t have cancer. Though I did have a cancer scare. I bring this up only to say that said cancer scare – or the very small, outside chance of cancer in my immediate future – has nothing to do with this decision.
I’m putting the brakes on the Page of Reviews because, in most ways, it has served its purpose.
I started writing this website in 2009 because I thought I had lost something as a writer. A previous project of mine turned sour – very sour. It was the kind of project born of the limitless ambition (and arrogance) that comes with being a recent university graduate, intent on making himself the second coming of Christopher Hitchens. It was also the kind of project that alienated people I thought were friends. Granted they turned out to be little more than emotional baggage, but who can know these things at the time.
Nonetheless, I wanted…needed something in my life to help me find some footing. And the truth is this, I started The Page of Reviews without any intention of it running for nearly six years. I thought it was a lark that would last me six months, at most. Then a stranger, now a friend, called Matt Moore came along and offered me something unexpected: legitimacy.
You know the rest of the story. This website has been my personal brand since before I cared about things like personal brands. People who I would have otherwise never met now know me and my writing because of this website.
Beyond the vanity of feeling like I’m part of something bigger, I’ve used this website as my forum for arguing that a critical and thoughtful discourse is important to building a meaningful popular and artistic culture. And yet, I look at the work I’m doing here of late and there’s one word that comes to mind: safe.
This website is my kingdom. The only editorial voice here is my own. There’s a freedom in that. There’s also something else, though. It is a notion I couldn’t properly express until I came upon a line of dialogue in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: a person shouldn’t train alone, because then they are practicing their mistakes.
There’s no one here to challenge me. I can read critical theory books until I drown in praxis, but it won’t offer me a voice – save for my own insecurity – that says, “Adam, this idea could be better. Fix it.”
I heard those voices this year. They came from writers and editors who I respect (and often stand in awe of) telling me that my work shows promise. Someone even went so far as to say my work is good. But those voices are going to be few and far between if I spend most of my time splashing about in the tide pool.
My finite writing hours are spent doing the same old things, over and over, to the point where they have become rote. When I do come across an interesting idea, I’m afraid to develop it past 800 words for fear of breaking the limited attention spans people dedicate to blogs. Granted, selling long form writing – even for exposure (sigh) – is no walk in the park, but I feel I owe it to myself to have the chance to write bigger or different things, rather than doing the same work out of a sense of inertia.
I love this website. I love writing it, and I love you people for reading it. But I can’t have the freedom to do something new while working to twice or thrice weekly deadlines here. I need the freedom to do a twelve-part, one-off podcast, for example, without worrying that it will get in the way of writing the Page of Reviews. I need space to make mistakes without putting them to the public eye to appease a self-imposed production schedule.
In short, I need to know if I can do better as a writer. It could be I’m as mediocre as I’m afraid I am, and a year from now I’ll be right back here with nothing but a year’s worth of ignored/rejected pitches, essays, and short fiction to show for it. But I’ll never know if I can do better if I don’t make the effort.
So it’s not the end. It’s not goodbye. So long as I live, I’ll keep the Page of Reviews online, but the days of new content are coming to a close – unless I fail spectacularly in my attempt to grow as a writer. For the time being, www.adamshaftoe.com is my new home base online.
I’ll still be checking my Page of Reviews email every day for the next year or so. And I’ll still be rambling about this, that, and the other thing on twitter. So, honestly, it’s not good bye. With any luck, the best is yet to come.