I shut down this blog for the last few months because I was increasingly reseed for time and just phoning it in. For me to write you a good entry, I have to have a good idea, look for the data, look for the data some more, find something like the data but not really at all, download the data, wrangle the data into excel so it makes sense to me, wrangle the data further so it makes sense in a graph to me, chuck that and try to make a graph that makes sense to you, write about it while keeping an eye on the word count so I don’t natter on too long, and post it.
The worst thing I ever write was my masters thesis between 1997 and 2000, because I was tired of it by the time I got done writing it. There was no fire in it. Some of the things I wrote for my second masters were close contenders. I wouldn’t say I’ve unlearned procrastination through discipline and rationally choosing the right path. More like repeatedly licking the electric fence and getting the hint over the course of decades.
I learned to write on the web, which rewards brevity and wit, not cross-references and exegesis. Those of you who have known my hands since 2004 know that my writing was very irregular back then, in frequency, matter, and grammar. I was in a job I hated with people I loved, and writing was a release. Even my longest screeds were brief by the standards of this blog. It was during that time from 2000 to 2005 that I taught myself planning, by reading lots of books. I was driven to imitation by all that reading. I began to think I could write a better book, to fill in the gaps..
Then I went to grad school for second time and tried to keep all that inspiration and joy from the books alive in the face of some very dry material. I was mostly successful. I didn’t get how to get a job after that that would keep me as creative and busy as school did. So I got a job I hated with people doing things I hated. Many of them were nice people, and I still have an easy time taking to them, but I did not have any fire in my work. I started the book in 2008, since I figured I had no hope otherwise. I chucked it in 2012 and expanded the new book from one chapter that still interested me: the chapter on transportation.
I started this blog in the year that I decided to get laid off, while writing the book. By the time I actually did get laid off I was sending my brief to publishers, and I knew what I wanted to do with my iife: research, write books, and never work on road projects again. Still, getting laid off was more about panic than joy, and that was a miserable time in many ways.
I had been blogging here for less than a year when I got laid off, and I wanted to make no sign that anything had changed. So I kept at it, on schedule, twice a week, while applying for jobs and revising the chapters. I found a publisher, UIT Cambridge/Green Books, and am under contract with them to get this thing edited and back to them so they can publish it. There are over 100 figures. I apparently like making figures.
So, in order, between 2013 and now, I started this blog, got laid off, Took the GREs for the third time*, found a publisher, started school for a PhD in transportation planning, got a job that I love with people I like, submitted my book draft to the publisher, got the edits back from the publisher, have been working to get them back to the publisher as close to perfect as possible**, and started my last semester of classes before I have to convince a committee that I have taken enough classes (while working a full time jobs and editing a book).
There was no room for this blog, and it was a danger to getting the book done. I finished throwing*** my fingers at the keyboard for a class Friday, and I spent Sunday editing it. I found philosophically horrifying but cleverly designed to get us cub PhDs into the spirit of close reading, but at least I went through my real anguish with the subject a couple of weeks ago, and could get to the mechanics of wiring the thing. I am glad to have that behind me, so I can restart this blog
* Perfect score verbal, nothingburger in math, and pretty good in writing.
** With ample help from my wife, who is a great editor.
*** And I mean throwing