With Under the Surface now in production, life’s easy. I just sit back and await accolades and income the book will surely generate…
Sounds nice. Here’s the reality I'm learning about book authorship: Each day brings new surprises, like stray cats on a doorstep. Today I wonder whether it’s more difficult completing an index for a book, or advancing my quest to become adept at social media. I concurrently wonder how much time I should budget for each of these tasks along with the others that I fear falling behind in. The primary task of the day, however, is feeding the blog. The blog often gets hungry, and the bigger and more successful it becomes, the more feeding it requires. It can tolerate some (but not too many) leftovers – scraps cleverly reheated and spiced up with some original perspective. It can also get by on the occasional bites of processed informational nuggests generated from institutional sources, if they are newsworthy enough. (Often they are not).
Most of all, though, the blog thrives on original home-cooked entries. I’m constantly choosing new ingredients, and as even as I write this, I have the window to my online networks open for a look at the ever-present cornucopia of evolving possibilities in the never-ending shale gas epic. The New York DEC’s dilemma dealing with 40,000 comments on the SGEIS review on which shale gas development in New York depends; Governor Cuomo's comments that suggest there will be no fracking in the Empire State during the next budget cycle; the home rule cases making their way through lower court systems that will decide government control over drilling; the price of natural gas in the wake of market gluts; the EPA’s investigation in Dimock, Pa. There are stories overlapping on federal, local and state levels, and the possibilities and permutations are endless.
The routine of creating blog entries is not that different from the pace and demands of the daily newspaper reporting that I’ve done for most of my career. Old time reporters were trained to “feed the beast” several times daily – and the manic rush to do just that often shaped their personalities and public personas. Of course, current newsrooms are even more dialed into immediacy, with a constant, rolling deadline to serve the all-news-all-the-time culture.
I admit, I have to knock of a little rust. I got away from this pace while I completed the 300-page narrative for Under the Surface, a task that required marathon sessions “in the writing chair” with blinders on to everything but faithfully developing story lines and framing the technical and personal aspects of the shale gas boom in the journalistic context of the story. During the year I wrote this book (following several years in the field covering it as a reporter), one day was not very different from the other. In the morning I wrote from my den, making an occasional calls to sources or taking breaks to read up on technical information or developing news accounts. My afternoon routine was a repeat of my morning, except I was seated in a chair at a local Starbucks or library.
Now, my post-writing, pre-publication routine is all about multitasking, and reentering the accelerating pace of the daily news cycle. There’s still the gathering of information to be done from places, authorities, tipsters, and documents. Here I face a compressed deadline, however, as I spend other working hours developing an acumen for all the various social media platforms, and their applications. These days, my typical morning goes like this: write, phone, surf, email, surf, tweet, network, write, tinker with blog design, update social meda platforms, check blog traffic, tweak blog, write, check email, reply to email. During the afternoon, I repeat the process at Starbucks.
There is an unexpected advantage to my social networking education, however. My 10 year old daughter, recently noticing that I was checking my laptop during parts of the day usually reserved for family, looked over my shoulder and exclaimed: “You have a Twitter account?” Her voice was filled with admiration. As a parent of two soon-to-be-adolescents, perhaps any newfound experience I take from my social networking call of duty for work will pay bonuses on the home front.