Priorities

Life changes are tough. They sneak up on us when we aren’t looking and change the very ground beneath our feet and we suddenly discover ourselves constantly falling over and not knowing why until we stop and look around.

I have discovered myself standing on alien terrain, not quite Dorothy in Oz and not quite John Carter on Mars, but far enough from where I thought I was that I’ve had to stop and reassess. I might have been here for quite some time without even realizing it, because when I am focused on something, I have been known to lose sight of both the forest and the trees.

I’ve been focused on writing, and more specifically, on writing in the setting of community, and suddenly I look up, and I’m somewhere else, and I’m someONE else.

I’m starting homeschooling my five-soon-to-be-six-year-old son in earnest in a month. I haven’t sat on my couch on a rainy day and read a book in five years. I haven’t pulled my guitar out of its case in about the same length of time. I haven’t had the oil paints and canvases out. I haven’t planted a single flower or turned a spadeful of dirt. And I’m tired.

I have been doing something tremendously valuable during those years, something that has been a cross between a passion and a mission to me. I have been paying forward for the good that writing has brought to my life. I have been sharing something that I love beyond words with a whole lot of wonderful people who share the same love. I have been building a place where people who love writing can get together and support each other; this matters, and I am proud of what I managed to accomplish.

But I have also been dropping twenty hours of my time a week into this project on a good week, every week, and on bad weeks when something goes wrong, thirty or more. One week it was almost seventy. That was a REALLY bad week, thanks muchly, FeaturePrice. I’ve been doing this seven days a week most weeks since some time in 1997, and the workload is getting heavier, not lighter.

I have had to deal with a lot of crap along with the wonderful things, and that wears. It wears even more when I take stock and realize that, because it is simply the nature of a project of this sort to generate crap along with wonderfulness, as long as I do this, there will be crap. Little nitwits with bad attitudes, liars, manipulators. They probably make up between .5% and 1% of any community, but they have really big mouths. When those mouths get going, they drown out everything else.

This last Jackass Parade was the event that made me stop and take stock of where I am. But we would have ended up here sooner or later even without it.

My priorities have become homeschooling, family, deadlines, friends. There is no room in there for a minimum twenty hours a week of site maintenance, membership debugging, password fixing, link checking, interface redesigning, post answering, rule-and-bylaw development, cool community idea creating, argument mediating, software testing, feature adding, and crap shovelling. There certainly isn’t time in there for thirty or forty or seventy hours per week of such things.

Zette is taking over administration of the community and all of its peripherals, effective immediately. We’ll be moving ALL of the cool site stuff — chat rooms, forums, research index, Broegga, member bio pages, community calendar, member weblog links, anything I put together specifically for the community — to a new Jatol-hosted site, fmwriters.com, which will already be paid for with the 35 GB per month for a full year. Registration of the new name used most of the rest of what was in the fund — I paid for some of it out of my pocket so it didn’t use it all.

My personal site — my weblog, my writing articles, and my chapters — will stay at hollylisle.com, which I’ll pay for myself.

While the split allows me to actually pay my own way without getting benefits from donations for my private site that were intended for a community in which I am no longer a fully active participant, it is not an entirely altruistic move. For now, the community will still be mine, but Zette will run it for me. As long as people in the community treat Zette well, I’ll drop in as I can and say hello and visit chat when I can, and things will continue to run as they ran before — my rules, same basic management, but with everything going through Zette, not me.

If there are problems severe enough to make Zette throw up her hands, however, things will change a lot, and very fast. Because if Zette quits, I either have the choice to shoulder the workload again, or drop the whole thing. I’ll tell you in advance what my decision will be. I’ll drop the whole thing. My name will come off the community that same day — there is no one else I’d trust with my name without my constant presence except for Sheila, and when I asked both of them if they’d take FM off my hands, Sheila declined. Without Zette, the doors have to close until someone else who is qualified to run it can be found. But there’s more than that. Without me associated with the community, all of the software that runs it becomes invalid. I’ve checked, and the licenses are non-transferrable. Unless I am associated with the community, it cannot get upgrades, patches, or bug fixes for most of the software that runs it. I own the licenses to the chat room, the forums, the index, the community calendar, and the member bios, and I cannot sell them or give them to someone else, and without a BIG infusion of new money to buy all-new licenses for these things, they will have to be shut down. With Zette there, it’s still my community. Without Zette, it won’t be.

With the community on a new server, it will be very easy for Zette to shut features down without affecting all the links and such on my personal site. Like I said, the move is not entirely altruistic. I think throughout the last five years or so, I’ve demonstrated my good intent toward the community, though, so I’d like a pass on this one.

I want to thank those of you who have been the good in all of this — every single one of you who came here to write. Thank you for ‘getting’ the purpose of the community, for ‘getting’ paying forward and showing that writing is a craft and a profession to be shared and loved. Thank you for writing, for not being a bunch of talkers and posers, but for using what the site offered to actually produce. You are an amazing bunch of people, and I’m glad you’re here, and I want to continue to be here with you, albeit in a vastly reduced presence. This place was for you all along, and so long as the .5% or 1% don’t screw things up, it will still be here for you.

Write. Hang on to your dreams, make them live and breathe and walk, pull each other up the mountain. What you’re doing matters. Never lose sight of that.

By the way, the domain fmwriters.com is ours for the next ten years, paid. I have faith that the community can be around that long, and still be wonderful enough to warrant a name domain name renewal for ten more years when the time comes.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

17 comments… add one
  • Michael aka Highnside Aug 5, 2003 @ 19:40

    Wow! I’m sad and yet I can totally understand. You have given so much to this community. One thing I’ve learned is nothing stays the same always. Priorities, values, missions are constantly in flux. Some slower then others, but those are often the ones that sneak up on us and surprise us the most.

    I’ve 4 children of my own. Three raised, one starting high school this fall. The don’t successfully grow up on their own. I can understand your priorities here.

    I want to personally thank you for the inspiration as well as so much sound advise. You are truly a professions!

    You are in my prayers, both for your continued success in writing and your personal and family life as well!

    God bless!

    Michael

  • David Stone Aug 6, 2003 @ 3:19

    Holly,
    I wasn’t at all surprised by this message. I’m more surprised that you’ve held out as long as you have. I understand your motives, and I support you totally in this decision.
    In the time I’ve been coming to FM you’ve given so much of yourself, both to the community as a whole and to me personally. You certainly need, and deserve, the opportunity to focus on more personal matters.

    I hope things go well for you, Holly. See you around the site.

  • BJ Steeves Aug 6, 2003 @ 2:32

    At first glance, I was a little shocked when I saw this announcement, but a few seconds later, I realized that I wasn’t as suprised as I thought I would be. I some how "felt" that this may happen after this last "episode".

    I know that this, in some ways, was a hard decision to make. I have a LOT of respect for what you have done here with the site, with the help you have given to the site members, and most of all, for you personally. A lot of time and effort has been invested in the community. I’m glad that you will still be involved in the site.

    As always, if I can be of any help and it is within my power to do so, you have only to ask.

  • Jessica Aug 6, 2003 @ 2:24

    Thank you for all you’ve given.

    Having you and this site has made a huge difference to many people. To me you gave confidence and knowledge, both invaluable.

    Enjoy your new freedom (and maybe write more books :-))

  • Jabronie Aug 5, 2003 @ 23:32

    Thank you. I will always be grateful for the inspiration and hope you gave me and many others. Take care.

    God Bless,
    Jabronie

  • baka_kit Aug 5, 2003 @ 22:31

    Holly,

    FM has become a big part of my life over the past several months. During this time, my writing has taken a few big steps forward. Between forums and colums, Think Tank and Word Wars, there’s always something here for what I need.

    None of that would have been possible without your vision or your generosity. And I want to thank you for all of that. You’ve been more generous with your time and money than anyone could possibly expect.

    So if you need to take more time for yourself, I understand. I’m even trying to look on the bright side (more time = more writing = more books).

    But all joking aside, I’ll miss having you around all the time, weighing in on topics, starting discussions, and just generally being a presence.

    Take care of yourself–you deserve it.

  • Jim Woosley Aug 5, 2003 @ 22:06

    Holly,

    While time and circumstances haven’t yet allowed me the chance to do everything I would like to — with the writing, with the site — you and your example have always been an inspiration to me, ever since I heard you read the cover blurb for Minerva Wakes.

    You have never given up on your dreams, and you have always stood up for what’s right.

    It’s time now for us to not mess with the Mommy. 🙂

    Thank you for bringing me in on the "Bounce" as a guest editorial, and thanks for allowing (or tolerating, as the case may be) my many posts here since then. I guess those comments, for good or ill, have been my contribution to the community, and I hope its made your day a little brighter. (If not, my real name is Smithers and I maintain a POB in Barrow, Alaska 🙂

    I also hope that the FM community will stand together for years, and that you will continue to participate as time permits. And I thank you for keeping your site separate.

    You are inspiration personified. I may not always march in the same direction — but you have, and are, also helping me to never give up on my dreams. And while writing has always been an important dream to me, it’s never been my sole dream, or even my most important dream, and after an too-long vacation, I’m tying to come home to both.

    Thank you again, dear friend, and good luck with your writing and with your home schooling. And good luck to Zette as she takes over administration of the community.

    Pay forward.

    Respectfully,

    Jim

  • Maloy Aug 5, 2003 @ 21:50

    As a newcomer to the site, let me first thank you for the wonderful articles. They contain many useful tips for the aspiring writer. Also, thank you for your participation in the forums. Your particular manner of cutting through the BS to the core of the matter often has me holding my sides to keep them from bursting (weak stomach muscles). Good luck with the home schooling. I only regret that the latest covey of dung-birds brought you to your senses. Your ignorance was our bliss.

  • cherylp Aug 5, 2003 @ 21:41

    It’s kinda nice knowing someone else will be handling the reins, isn’t it? Does it feel like a huge mountain you didn’t know was there just rolled off your shoulders?

  • Greg Scalise Aug 5, 2003 @ 19:46

    You’ve done so much to help others reach for their dreams, so it’s only fitting that you take some time to reach for some of your own.

    Running any web site isn’t an easy task, and I suspect the difficulty rises exponentially with the number of users. I wouldn’t have lasted one year dealing with all the crap you’ve dealt with, much less five.

    You’ve earned a break, I think.

    You planted the seed at FM, and under your guidance, it’s grown into a strong, healthy sapling. Now it’s up to us to continue caring for FM, so that we can continue paying forward to those writers who are yet to arrive there.

    Thanks, Holly, for starting FM and giving so much of yourself.

  • Michael aka Highnside Aug 5, 2003 @ 19:40

    Wow! I’m sad and yet I can totally understand. You have given so much to this community. One thing I’ve learned is nothing stays the same always. Priorities, values, missions are constantly in flux. Some slower then others, but those are often the ones that sneak up on us and surprise us the most.

    I’ve 4 children of my own. Three raised, one starting high school this fall. The don’t successfully grow up on their own. I can understand your priorities here.

    I want to personally thank you for the inspiration as well as so much sound advise. You are truly a professions!

    You are in my prayers, both for your continued success in writing and your personal and family life as well!

    God bless!

    Michael

  • Charles/Okamihatsu :-) Aug 5, 2003 @ 18:32

    Holly,

    I’m shocked at the change of hands but I understand what it is to be overburdened. Too much is simply too much. You have to live, too.

    This is for you, lady –

    Thank you for all the times you answered my curiosities, for the Mugging the Muse book (that I still look back into regularly), for your five (six?) biggest mistakes (that I’ll do my best not to perform), for constantly sticking up for this community (and when the need is there, excluding a troublemaker or two), and finally, thank you Holly for always being you. Everything I’ve read that you’ve written has your, let’s call it, resonance on it. Sometimes it’s harsh, sometimes it’s beautiful, but it’s always up front and honest. Keep that powerful resonance and write, lady, write!

    And thank you for all of the times your words brought me higher.

    God bless,
    Charles 🙂

    P.S. Back to writing my WIP… 🙂

  • Writer in the Wilderness Aug 5, 2003 @ 18:14

    Thanks.

  • Bob Billing Aug 5, 2003 @ 17:43

    Do what you must, follow your own dreams.

    Remember that we love you for what you have done.

    And remember also that when you look up at the stars you are seeing the suns that will burn in the skies of the worlds your children will inherit.

    Be brave, Holly. The world needs you.

  • Rick Aug 5, 2003 @ 17:38

    Holly, while I’m sorry that you feel the need to do this, I understand completely. I can’t imagine not having the luxury of sitting down with a good book once in a while, and while we may want you around as much as always, you have to do what’s right for *you*.

    I’m glad you’re going to follow your priorities, and I hope you get a lot more done before. You have my best wishes possible with wherever you go and whatever you do. Through FM, you have truly touched my life.

    I’m glad you’ll still be around.

  • Jean Aug 5, 2003 @ 17:38

    I’m mildly stunned, but I shouldn’t be. You do have to take care of yourself and your family. You also need to recharge. Stay in touch, and I’ll look forward to "seeing" you around.

    Now I have another site to bookmark. My links line is getting too full! 🙂

  • Lori Aug 5, 2003 @ 17:22

    Wow…I’m so glad the community is still going to be up, but I hope I’ll still see you around, Holly.

    Will we have to re-register and everything? Will the forums be cleared? (<--stupid questions, stupid girl asking them) Gosh…I hope everything works out. I’m glad you’re not leaving entirely, Holly! I’d miss you!

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