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  • Yehoshua Paul

2020 - Three More Stops

2020. China launches the world’s first driverless bullet train, a NASA intern discovers a rare circumbinary planet, and thanks to some very weird math, I’m publishing my 100th post on this blog (apologies to Iran, Australia and Puerto Rico for cherry-picking positive news).

100 posts is a good opportunity for recollection so this week I am going to:

  1. Take an opportunity to reflect on what was

  2. Share a bit on what is currently going on with my life

  3. Make an important announcement regarding future plans

“There is no point in using the word 'impossible' to describe something that has clearly happened.” (Douglas Adams)

In October 2018, I had a random discussion with Avichai Halevi, one of my closer geek friends, about the geeky tradition of creating a series of themed posts for counting the Omer. This gave me the idea of creating my own series that would revolve around history, authors, books, and of course the Omer.

Fast-forward to January 2020. I have reviewed 62 years, authors and books, written 99 posts on my blog (30 in Hebrew, 69 in English), and acquired over a hundred followers (hate that term). I’ve also added several rare books to my library, discovered several amazing writers and learned an insane amount about the twentieth century, and I’m only at 1962! (boy, do I feel young).

As a result of this blog, I’ve now added 870 books to my reading list, discovered several amazing Facebook communities, delivered a lecture at the iCon convention, and mustered up the courage to write my first fanfiction story. I wouldn’t have been able to do it though without help.

Credit for the blog’s success goes to several people:

  • Ziv Wities, one of my oldest friends. His constructive criticism helped me polish my posts and refine my writing style, and his ongoing editing and moral support has been absolutely amazing.

  • Tammy Paul, my wife. She built the website for me using Wix, and for the past 16 months has been reviewing my posts and constantly reassuring me that yes, they are actually good.

And of course, there has been non-stop positive feedback from my followers (really hate that term) and in the Facebook communities where I share my posts.

It hasn’t been easy though.

My living room on a typical week day

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” (Ray Bradbury)

When I first started working on my Omer posts, the average amount of time I spent writing each post was roughly 4-5 hours, and I was able to average 6 a month. My post-Omer posts now take around 12-14 hours to write, and I now try and maintain a weekly schedule (which I’ve pretty much abandoned over the last month). For obvious reasons, it’s a lot harder.

Why such a big gap?

  • Hebrew: My early posts were mostly written in one language, which I later partially translated. These days I write in both languages and that takes more time. It’s easier for me to write in English and that’s also the language my closest friends and family speak. My target audience is mainly Hebrew speakers though so I translate everything I write.

  • Research: I used to introduce my early posts with a list of half-random facts that I felt gave a nice taste of each year. IMO, there were too many times these lists ended up being more distracting than informative. Therefore, I now focus on 1-2 events and attempt to weave them into a story that I can connect to the book. This takes more time, as I have to review the entire year, select the events I’m going to focus on, and then research them. I also end up spending more time writing, rewriting and editing these sections to get them right (and they’re still far from perfect). The end result though gives me a much better intro.

  • Media: Initially, I only wrote plain text posts. After Tammy built me a website, I went back and added images and links to every post. Doing them in both languages takes me roughly 2-3 hours.

  • Facebook: Copy-pasting everything to Facebook in both languages, making sure everything looks okay, and then sharing to all the various groups is another hour’s work.

All of this adds up, and that’s not including the time I spend actually reading the book, and the time spent researching the books I want to review. The end-result is something, I can definitely feel proud of, but not something I can maintain for long-term on a weekly basis.

So how have I been managing until now? I have a laptop and I write on the train on my way to work; before the clocks shifted, I wrote on Fridays; I also usually spend 2-3 nights a week writing in the evening, instead of working, and this worked for a limited period of time. However, it’s been tough, and at some point the universe (AKA God) had enough and sent me some signals to get my priorities straight.

In November, two family members were hospitalized, I had a wedding, a doctor’s appointment, and a deadline in the same week that Gaza erupted. However, I published on time, and scheduled the next post for two weeks giving me plenty of time to recover. A few weeks later, my daughter was sick for three days in the same week I had a work deadline and I didn’t have the energy to apologize again so I just pushed things off until I was ready and then published. However, those were just the big things.

I launched this blog because it was something that I enjoy doing. I write because I want to write, not because I have to write. Sometimes this distinction gets blurred, and lately it’s been manifesting in problematic ways.

Examples:

  • Post-Shabbat cleanup that gets pushed off for several days so I can finish my blog post and then catch up with work.

  • Prioritizing writing over snuggling with my wife and watching a show together.

  • Not being able to focus on smaller fun projects because I have an obligation to publish

  • Rushing through a book I want to read slowly because of a deadline

I think the final straw was two weeks ago when I arrived home after spending 45 minutes in the rain waiting for a ride. Instead of going up to my office and starting work on my 1962 post, I decided to switch to pajamas, snuggle up in bed, read a book and get an early night’s sleep. My self-imposed deadline is no longer serving its purpose, and therefore it’s time to officially say goodbye, but that’s not the only thing that is changing.

I'll be working in this building

“The future depends on what we do in the present.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

On February 02, I will be starting a new job at Tufin. I will be joining a team of awesome technical writers headed by the amazing Jeff Klein. It’s going to be a big change in many ways, and this will require me to adapt in many good ways. During the first several months, I will be spending a lot of time learning the position and juggling my work-life balance in order to keep everyone happy. I will also be doing my best to work hard and impress the new team. I do not want Sefer HaOmer to conflict with that goal.

It’s not just the new job though. It’s also the infrastructure I am working on. Sefer HaOmer was originally planned as a limited series of 49 posts. I am now in 1962 and no longer focusing on the Omer, but the name of the site and Facebook page have remained the same, and it’s confusing. I’ve been talking for awhile already about the need to upgrade my site and change the name and I think it’s time I focused on that (after I’ve fully integrated into Tufin).

I’ve got a lot of ideas bouncing around in my head right now, and some skills I want to learn. I can’t focus on them, adjust to a new workplace, focus on my family (and the state of my house) – and also write weekly blog posts. Therefore, it’s time for me to put this journey on pause – in a few weeks.

I plan on writing three more posts for this blog – 1963 (already read), 1964 (nostalgia) and 1965 (major landmark). Hopefully, I’ll be able to get them all published by the time I start at Tufin (vacation in between jobs will help). Afterwards, Sefer HaOmer will go on hiatus while I adjust to my amazing new position and plan the next steps of my journey.

Until then #thejourneycontinues

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