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Back in the Saddle

I’m back.  This post gives the story of what happened, what I have in the pipeline, and invites you to contribute to the return of my blog.

The Back Story

It’s time to restart this blog after about three months on an unplanned hiatus. I got hit by several factors in late December that basically conspired to take me offline.  No, I wasn’t stalked by OSA or anything like that. Here’s what happened:

Burnout: I thought that the Daily Digest would be an easy way to build a readership base and would buy me time as I started the deeper research projects that I had intended to be the main focus of the blog.  It quickly turned out that despite the help of some generous contributors (Aeger Primo stands out among many) who monitored the forum sites, I was spending 3-5 hours per night putting the piece together. In most cases, I was cranking out 1,500 to 3,500 words, which is considered pretty impressive by the standards of a full-time novelist, though I’m merely a part-time capitalist. Needless to say, doing this between four and seven nights per week took over an unsustainable chunk of my personal time.

I was thrilled by the comments I received on the late December draft piece suggesting some 2014 predictions.  I got enough comments to fill almost 70 pages in a Word document. Out of respect to the extremely thoughtful insights from you, the readers, I tried to integrate all the comments faithfully into a final predictions document.

This turned out to be far more challenging than I had expected, but I persevered as best I could, because I have believed that this blog is as much a community effort as it is a place to showcase my own thinking about Scientology.  As you can imagine, trying to integrate that much material into an already long and overly unwieldy piece added considerably to the feeling of burnout that I experienced.

Life happens: For a variety of reasons, several areas in the rest of my life became more demanding at the same time as I took on this overly ambitious project.  I got squeezed with even less time to work on the blog than I had had previously, just as the number of hours I needed to produce work up to my standards had increased. The details don’t really matter, but some were positive, some were stressful.  Nothing by itself was especially dramatic to be worth detailing.  It’s just life, but it hit all at once.

Seasonal depression:  Around mid-December, I found myself sleeping far more than usual, going to bed earlier and waking up later.  I also found myself uninterested in a lot of things that are integral parts of my life.  Only after the beginning of the year did I realize I was in the grip of a major seasonal depression.  Those of you who live in the upper Midwest or in the Northeast know that this winter has been one for the record books, and that many people have been suffering from symptoms similar to what I’ve experienced.

One of the key hallmarks of depression is the inability to initiate tasks. While I’ve been keeping up on reading Tony Ortega’s blog, Mike Rinder’s blog and other sources, the pace of my ideas has slowed, and my ability to sit down and instantly crank out a post (or even a comment on Tony’s site) was greatly impaired.

I must thank those of you who missed me on The Underground Bunker and contacted Tony in late January and early February asking about me, apparently in sufficient numbers that an annoyed Tony got in touch with me to make sure I was OK.

I finally started to feel better after various sorts of medical attention, including visits to the evil psychs, sun lamps, vitamin D supplements, and a whole host of other things.  A recent getaway to sunny climes with great friends also really helped (though alas, Supermodel #1 was unable to break away to join me).

For those of you who are recently out of the Church of Scientology, depression is real.  Scientists can hook people up to an fMRI machine and observe the different brain chemistry of people in a depressive episode versus healthy people while doing the same tasks.  I tend to make my occasional depressive episodes worse by thinking that I’m smart and have high energy and drive to succeed, meaning that I deny that I’m in trouble until I’m hopelessly mired in quicksand.  I’m also stubborn and failed to listen to those around me who were concerned that I was sliding into a funk.

The good news is that I am starting to feel more myself than I have in a couple months, and I’m finally ready to get back in the saddle.

What’s Next?

I would love to hear from you regarding how I can shape the reincarnation of this blog to give you what you would love to see as long as I can figure out a way to do it without burning out again.  Among the features on tap:

  • Predictions (at last): I will be putting out the final 2014 predictions, but in a one-at-a-time format, rather than in a single giant piece.  I think breaking up that unwieldy monster into manageable chunks spread out over a couple weeks ought to work.  The process of wrestling with this enormous post reminds me, by the way, of a great Spalding Gray monologue about his first attempt to write a novel, called “Monster in a Box.”
  • Interviews: On my recent vacation, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to numerous former Scientology members, who shared generously of their time to relate their experiences with the cult and with the tech.  I got wind of the Goldberg family’s disconnection story that ran in last weekend’s Tampa Bay Times, and I had a chance to interview other people about how they have managed to avoid a similar fate. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.  I’ve also talked at length with several old-time auditors who have left Scientology, and now have a much better perspective about why many of the old-time public got enough value to stick around in the cult until the organizational insanity became too much to bear.
  • Numbers: Mike Rinder has published a few interesting document leaks in the last few weeks including aggregate donation amounts for several OT Committees at a couple orgs. When I slice this up, it could give us a revealing look at current IAS donation levels and insights into other financials. My recent interviews have given me a sense that the cult’s membership decline is accelerating in the wake of GAT 2, and could accelerate further in the wake of the Goldberg story.

I need feedback from you on whether the Daily Digest should be revived, and if so, what you like most and what I might be able to eliminate to save time.

I am, of course, open to any other thoughts you may have about what I can do to make this blog great.

How You Can Help

This is a cooperative effort.  I welcome thoughts and constructive comments by e-mail at johnpcapitalist (at) gmail.com, and hope to continue to have a lively and high-quality discussion in the comments once again.

Daily Digest: Many of you have found this to be extremely valuable. Any thoughts on what’s most important here and on how I can pull this together in an hour instead of 3-4 hours per day would be most welcome.  Certainly, tips of stories I might have missed would be welcome.  And I’d love to have volunteers help with individual parts of this document.

Hiring help and investing in developing stories:  If there are a sufficient number of contributors who are willing to pay a modest amount per month via PayPal, I can hire a research assistant from one of the many schools in the area to come in and do some of the grunt work of putting stories together.  I could thus reasonably commit to having a story a day at the very least, and avoid the burnout that took me off line for the last couple months.

If I attract a big enough contributor base, I could incur some expenses that would let me expand breadth and depth of coverage greatly, such as allowing me to attend Ideal Org openings, travel to news events such as the Monique Rathbun trial, and to do in-person interviews so I can publish video in appropriate cases and do higher quality work.

If you find my work to be valuable enough to contribute $10 per month, please let me know, either via e-mail or in the comments below. If you think that a greater or lesser amount works best for you, I’d love to hear it.  I would like to get a sense of what percentage of the unique visitors would be willing to contribute in order to explore the possibilities that having an income from this blog would open up.

I would never go to to a subscription model behind a paywall, but a regular stream of contributions from the blog would allow me to hire consistent research assistance and would give me the ability to invest in stories.

If you have experience with Web business models (“freemium,” etc), I’d love to hear from you via e-mail on strategies to make something like this work.  

Scientology Daily Digest: Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Due to scheduling issues, there will be no Scientology Daily Digest for Tuesday, December 11.  Stay tuned for a double feature tomorrow.

Although Hubbard was a science fiction writer of a particular sort, and although this blog is focused on that which Hubbard spawned, I can’t promise that tomorrow’s post will qualify as a Science Fiction Double Feature. To which I say, “Damn it, Janet!”

Although Hubbard was a science fiction writer, I can't promise that tomorrow's post will qualify as a Science Fiction Double Feature.  To which I say, "Damn it, Janet!"

Site Problems

I have been experiencing site problems.  I am reinstalling WordPress from scratch and will get things back up as soon as possible.

Updated 15:44 ET to add: The core reinstallation appears to be working, with all posts and embedded images back up and running, and Disqus reintegrated into the site.  It will take me a while to recover the formatting in the themes, which I may leave undone anyway because it could have been a theme problem that was causing me all this grief.  In the meantime, I think it’s safe to stick your toes back in the water!

–John P.