BLOG, or DIE. Author Bio
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
A little here + a little there = no burn out

This week a couple of our fellow bloggers posted some very personal and intimate thoughts about suffering from burn-out and taking much-needed breaks. My friend and co-author Eric Wittenberg is a perfect example of someone who took his passion for a subject and successfully applied it to a second career. Eric may be the “hardest working man in the history business” and his self-induced sabbatical is very much deserved. Many of us around the blogosphere, who author books, give lectures, lead tours, and even volunteer with the NPS do so in addition to the rigors and requirements of daily life. Sometimes we are lucky enough to incorporate our interests into our careers (*hint on my upcoming announcement), but in most cases we pursue these endeavors in our “free time.” Why? Because we love preserving and presenting the legacies of extraordinary citizens and soldiers who came before us.

Sometimes the privilege of getting “paid to play” can backfire. There was a period in my last year of working with Baseball-Almanac that I could hardly watch a baseball game. I was so sick and tired of sports after writing about it for 6+ years. It took some time for me to be able to enjoy the game again. I still get burned out about halfway through the regular season and don’t get serious about watching it again until the postseason starts (as a Yankees fan that usually works out). As a longtime resident of Fredericksburg, I am completely surrounded by hallowed grounds and historical sites. That said there are days when the last place I want to be is at a museum, or on a battlefield. Other times I am extremely grateful that both reside within a short drive. Both subjects are near and dear to my heart, but they can also get on my nerves.

My own source of enjoyment in giving tours comes from the camaraderie that I share with attendees. Let’s be honest folks, the Sunken Road and Jackson Shrine have become a “been there - done that” to me, but every time I walk them, I do so with someone different. Therefore I get a whole new batch of conversations, questions and insights. My visitors keep things fresh and thankfully I have yet to spend a bad day on the battlefield. I don’t think I’d be able to say that if I gave tours every day.

The same can be said with my published works. The thrill of seeing my byline or book on a shelf is tempered, and I actually enjoy the research part far more than the writing. Perhaps that is why I have been speaking on the subject lately. The process is where I find my own personal satisfaction, not the product. When this all becomes work, and by “work” I mean the kind that you don’t look forward to doing, I’ll find something else to do. I won’t be able to do this (pardon the term) ‘half-assed.’

Over the last few months I have become more aware of the warning signs of burn-out. My recent website update was done intentionally in a way to require far less time, effort, and updates. Other than adding the occasional essay and lecture to the archives, I won’t have to touch anything in the foreseeable future. My blogging is also far more infrequent than it used to be and I am enjoying my time away from the keyboard. With two books on the catapult waiting to launch, I have no intentions of authoring another in the near future. I still have the upcoming Kirkland film and a 2010 talk on Jackson’s Valley Campaign to keep me busy. I’m doing another short piece for Mort Kunstler’s latest print, but that’s it. A few jobs, spread out over long periods of time. Nowadays, that’s the way I like it.

My point today is that we historians (whether professional and amateur) must always be careful not to allow our interests to become obligations, or our passions to become painful. I like to believe that the reason our collective works are of the caliber and quality that they are (whether we are authors, or rangers, or teachers, or guides) is because we love what we do. When we don’t love it anymore – we need to step away and recharge the batteries.

There is so much more to life than the study and pursuit of history. It has taken me years to realize that.

Make time to enjoy our time.
Don’t waste it in lieu of another’s.

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 11:50 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 23 September 2009 12:36 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Website and Blog facelift

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 9:20 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 22 September 2009 12:31 PM EDT
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Saturday, 19 September 2009
Presentation posted

I just uploaded the transcript from my lecture on research and writing that I delivered to the Pittsburgh Writer's Project. READ HERE

This weekend I also had the privilege of getting a sneak peek at Clint Ross’ upcoming film on Richard Kirkland. (As co-producer, I get to do that.)  There is still the end section on memory, as well as some animated maps and post-production/SFX work to be done, but it is looking spectacular and I am very pleased.

All of the commentator segments came out great and Clint has done an incredible job of assembling the pieces to tell the story of the “Angel of Marye’s Heights.” This includes appearances by award-winning storywriter Megan Hicks, National Park Service Ranger Donald Phanz, local CW historian John Cummings, as well as Camden S.C. historian and author of "The Long Role" Joseph Matheson. Clint has also intermixed some great period photos, music and dramatic recreations that will grab the audience's attention.

He plans to complete the 30-minute film in time for a December 12 opening here in Fredericksburg. We will be holding an event at the National Civil War Life Museum in Massaponax to raise money for the foundation and the movie will be both on permanent exhibit and shopped around to TV networks. Stay tuned for updates on this project.

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 10:23 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 21 September 2009 4:04 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Why hallowed grounds are hallowed.

Tip o’ the hat to our friend Ranger Mannie for reminding us why preservation matters. For everyone out there who used the “get over it and move on” argument in regards to the Wilderness Wal-Mart, here is a story (w/ photos and video) about the remains of a soldier being found last October at Antietam. Wanna’ bet they find some bones when they start digging around the Wilderness area? We can only hope that the job site is doomed like that house in Poltergeist.

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 10:05 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 16 September 2009 10:07 AM EDT
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Monday, 14 September 2009
America's Game

Here is a link to an article in The Free Lance-Star about the 1859-era baseball tournament that I helped to organize, but couldn’t attend. Next year, Spotsylvania County hopes to hold an even bigger 1860-era event.

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 9:17 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 14 September 2009 9:55 AM EDT
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