Gus Van Horn Turns Three!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Well. Now it's three years in a row that I arrive at the celebration of my blog's birthday tired and not quite in a writing mood. Fortunately for me this time around, I wasn't up until 3:00 in the morning the night before, although I do find myself putting off some blog maintenance I had in mind, sort of like on my first blogging anniversary. (I will be updating the list of favorite posts and sidebar links some time soon -- just not today as I'd hoped.)

Unlike on those previous two blogiversaries, though, I have been thinking more about blogging, my writing career, and life in general this time around. Indeed, as I glance back at those other two blogiversary posts and the post that started it all, I am struck by how much I have changed as a writer, as a thinker, and as a person over that time.

I began blogging for several reasons, the central ones being that I want to pursue a career of some kind in opinion writing (be that on the side or full-time), but that I was unclear how best to proceed. The friend who, over a sociable pint, first got me to consider blogging, provided an important part of the answer. People have been discovered and managed to achieve national prominence through blogging since the rise of the medium.

Experience and the gradual accumulation of knowledge that comes with it are providing the rest of the answer. I argue from a perspective that is just now gaining greater prominence culturally and in the public debate. The upside is that I'm getting in on the ground floor. The downside is that there will likely not be, even in the best of circumstances, a rapid rise to fame: Most people do not necessarily want to hear what I have to say. In addition, I have learned, I think from Scott Adams, that success even for someone more mainstream does not come overnight. If I recall correctly, he labored for about a decade before Dilbert became a household name.

It is with that as a backdrop that I have been thinking lately about how blogging will fit into the picture of my pursuit of a writing career, including the question of whether to continue at all. (Coincidentally, I was thinking hardest about that very question the morning that news of John Cox and Allen Forkum's decision to stop cartooning struck me like a lightning bolt from my feed reader.) Writing daily takes time and energy, even when it comes easily to me, which, fortunately, it normally does.

The question is: Am I gaining enough value from my blogging to justify the expense? Monetarily, no. Or at least not yet. But as I have watched my audience slowly grow in numbers while continuing to be of high quality, I have received encouragement as a writer. In fact, some people I hold in very high regard either follow this blog or have told me personally -- without my asking -- that they like my writing. Furthermore, one doesn't occasionally get links out of the blue from the likes of City Journal if one isn't doing something right.

Indeed, over the past year, although my output of formal writing has been low (and very frustrating for me), I am undertaking two projects (and may participate in a third) that stand to further my writing career in one way or another, be that improving my approach to writing to the point that I will more consistently produce publishable work, making myself known to a broader audience, or even perhaps getting paid to write something for the first time. All this has been during a year that has been exceedingly busy with no signs of slowing down, but during which I still managed a fairly regular posting schedule.

I would have to say that this year has been difficult on a daily level, but exciting in the long view. Both have been due to my blogging, as has my discovery of a possible answer to my dilemma about whether and how to continue. As I have mentioned quite frequently lately, another blogger, historian Scott Powell, introduced me to the work of productivity guru David Allen, whose methods I have adopted and which have begun bearing fruit for me in the form of a mother lode of time recovered from each day -- and a lower stress level. I have realized both simply by changing some of my work habits according to his suggestions. I now spend less time blogging, but have managed to continue what I regard as an output level sufficient to maintain the value of this blog for myself and my regular readers.

Whether I will be able to continue blogging at my normal pace and pursue these other writing-related projects remains to be seen. David Allen's methods are slowly revolutionizing the way I do almost everything. Thus it is possible that as I continue making my approach to project management more efficient and continue to internalize this new way of working, that I will be able to maintain the amount and quality of output here to make this blog continue to be worth my time and effort.

In summary, this blog gives me, as a writer, value in terms of practice at research and writing, feedback, and networking. I must continue blogging to continue seeing these benefits, as well as a few others I have just thought of, but don't have time to elaborate on. It is not producing income for me or getting me published, although it could do these things eventually. It does cost me time and energy, but I may find that I have more of both than I think (and can use each more efficiently) as I integrate David Allen's techniques into my work habits. In the short term, I am going to continue blogging in order to continue to reap its benefits and in part just to see whether I can. This blog started as an adventure and continues to be one!

Last but not least, blogging has introduced me to an ever-widening circle of really good people, several of whom I have had the honor to meet personally, and it has led to my renewing several old acquaintances, including that of an old friend I had a falling-out with some years ago. This has been the greatest boon of all, and I would like to thank all of you, as well as the rest of my readers.

As an activity, writing is a strange mixture of the solitary and the social. You have all made that second aspect of it very worthwhile to me. Because of that, I will never regret blogging as a person, regardless of where I eventually take it as a writer. Thank you very much for stopping by.

-- CAV

PS: Very last and way far from least, the blogger (pictured at right) thanks his wife for her tolerance (and indeed, support) of his constant blogging, and especially for her (cough) feedback whenever he asks her to listen to him read a post he is especially proud of!

I am the luckiest man in the world and love her very much.


: (1) Minor edits. (2) Made feeble attempt to claw my way out of doghouse by adding a postscript after reading this to my dear, beloved, and very tolerant wife!


Mike N said...

I am quite glad you will continue blogging and look forward to visiting GVH every day. That said, good luck on achieving your writing aspirations.

johnnycwest said...

Gus, your thinking and writing are always clear and entertaining - yours has become one of my "must read" blogs every day. My interest in many other blogs has risen and fallen with my level of disgust and frustration with the ideas from the schools of disintegration and misintegration. Of the Objectivist blogs I follow, yours is the most consistent for content and style. A big thank you for your efforts - they are appreciated by many I am sure.

Galileo Blogs said...

Congratulations on your three year anniversary. I really look forward to Year Four. Keep up the good work.

In the roughly a year that I have been a regular reader of your blog, I have noticed your writing go from very good with a lot of excellent thrown in, to excellent nearly all the time, with some truly brilliant insights thrown in.

I enjoy it very much and hope you are able to keep it up. If you don't, I will take solace by picking up the book or other writing you have pursued in its stead. However, my preference is to have both!

Burgess Laughlin said...

One of the most important lessons I learned from time-management readings is: Keep it simple.

As a result, my to-do list has only four main categories:
1. My highest value, my work.
2. My next highest value, my leisure activities.
3. My next to the next highest value, my friends.
4. Necessities -- the sometimes dreary things I must do, if I am to achieve 1 through 3.

Staying focused on the first three has brought me happiness. Doing the fourth has kept me out of prison (failing to pay taxes) and in excellent health (boring acts like daily dental hygiene and a very lean diet geared to my medical history).

Four is just the right number for my limited mental "bandwidth." Calling them up from memory--which is easy when there are only four--helps set a context when I am trying to make a decision, especially one that has long-term consequences.

I wish you well in your decisions.

Burgess Laughlin

Martin Lindeskog said...


All the Best,


Jim May said...

You seem to be at a similar crossroads to myself, except that I have yet to employ David Allens' methods, which I am doing first to facilitate everything else.

As evidence of my still-crappy time management "skills": my old blog, Seerak Colony, which I eventually abandoned due to a combination of hypersomnia/DSPS and a highly variable, often very demanding career. At least you've been able to keep your going!

I'm hoping you can stick it out with blogging, as you are a few steps ahead of me on a very similar path, and I can learn from what you experience as you go.

One idea I've had about how to maintain a steady blogging output -- key to building readership -- is to "bank" essays. Write stuff out -- the stuff that's in your head right now, bugging you to write them -- but don't post them straightaway. Write them when you have downtime, or when you get on a "hot streak". That way you have them to post during slow news days or when you are away; IIRC Glen Reynolds uses an auto-poster to queue up posts which then appear every few hours while he's offline. It spooked a few of his readers at one point while he was away at a conference, until he explained it.

Rick "Doc" MacDonald said...

Gus, as a fledgling objectivist and a long time conservative, I am truly happy to read that you will remain online sharing your wealth of knowledge with us. You've got me running in directions that are producing sweet tasting fruit and I am the better for having found your blog. No matter your future decision, you have made a difference and I thank you, sincerely, from my very selfish heart. [smile] Congratulations on reaching 3 years! [hand salute]


Joseph Kellard said...


I'm happy that you've decided to continue blogging. For various reasons, I've stopped subscribing to TIA Daily, and so I've turned to reading various Objectivist blogs instead. Your blog is one of a handful that I try to read every day.

As a writer by profession, I can certainly sympathize with your pausing to weigh the pros and cons of blogging, and whether it’s worth it to continue. I’ve been writing opinion pieces for more than a decade now. In the early days, after starting and writing a quarterly newsletter for about a year and a half, I tried to write a weekly opinion column or essay for what became a weekly email newsletter. For the most part, I succeeded.

But once I changed professions and became a full-time journalist, however, things really changed. I found that, after sitting at a computer writing all day, coming home and starring at a computer to write even more eventually took a heavy toll on me. For a few years, I tried writing a periodic column for the newspaper where I work, but, as you wrote in your post, most people at work, namely my publishers and boss, did not necessarily want to hear what I had to say. My left-wing publishers, and my pragmatic, conservative boss, put the clamps on my column writing, particularly after I wrote one reluctantly calling on readers to support Bush over Kerry in 2004.

On top of all this, I’ve never been able to successfully reconcile my writing with two other important values: a social life and romance. At 41, I’m still single, and now more than ever I’m looking for my true love. For many years I loved reading, studying and writing so much, that I just put these values aside, or, to be more accurate, I pursued them much less aggressively that I should have. Both writing and finding friends and a girlfriend have never come easy to me. I’m basically introverted, and so talking to the ladies has not been my forte. But if, as a man, you want to meet a woman, then you’d better lean how to get over your insecurities and find the courage to open your mouth. So I constantly had (and have) this tug-of-war going on between my love of writing/reading and my love of women. I’ve found that, because it’s largely in my control, a writing career has come relatively easy; but finding the right woman has proven much more difficult.

Anyway, until I meet the love of my life, and assuming she and I are compatible and we marry, and until I get that well-paying journalistic job (almost an oxymoron) that will make me much more financially secure than I am, I don’t see myself putting in the time, effort and energy that I once did to produce ever-improved opinion columns and essays—my true love.

In the meantime, I do what I can, here and there, to pump out an occasional HBL post, opinion piece, letter to the editor, and blog post, and maybe I’ll read David Allen’s book and find it as fruitful as you have. Also, I’m happy to see that you, too, are trying to work through your own individual “issues” with your writing, and that you will continue to blog.

Keep up the great work.

Rational Jenn said...


You have been a blogging inspiration to me personally and I'm happy you've decided to continue with it. (You know, purely for selfish reasons.)

Congratulations on your anniversary!

~Rational Jenn

Monica said...

Gus - I've been enjoying your blog for about two years now. I'm surprised you're only three! Keep at it. Your ability to pull together all sorts of information into one coherent post is an impressive feat.

Inspector said...


Looks like I'm a little late to the party here (it's my "weekend" now so I keep up less frequently), but congrats!

I don't know if I can top the praise I've already heaped upon you, except to say that you deserve every bit of it, as well as the high esteem you're held in by so many here.

And as someone who has very similar goals to you, I have to say that I'm rooting for you man!

All the best, and keep up the good work,


Myrhaf said...

I wish you many more birthdays. It's tough pursuing various values and keeping progress on them all, but that's life. Then there's the "negative focus" factor Allen Forkum mentioned in his going away post -- the day to day look at today's politicians can be dispiriting and you need to balance that with other things. You and Noodlefood, from which I've been banned at commenting because I still participate in the Forum, are the most comprehensive Objectivist blogs, the places one goes to get the latest.

Darren said...

Congrats Gus, and I'm glad to hear to hear that you're continuing your blog. Your blog is one of my favorites. I especially like the mix between the longer, more in-depth posts on specific topics, and the quicker Daily Roundups that hit a number of different topics. Your posts are always one of the first I hit on my RSS reader!

SecFox HQ said...

Congratulations on hitting the 3rd anniversary! Your writing has improved, sure, but it was always first rate in my book.
My best thoughts to you on your continued endeavors...


Wolfgang said...

Gus, maybe you should proceed Don Watkins AXIOMATIC or something like that. I would subsribe ...