After more than four years, we have decided to shut down Ward Six.
Writing this blog, and reading your responses to our posts, has been a great experience, and we're going to miss it. But maintaining Ward Six has increasingly caused more anxiety than pleasure, and it's time for us to move on to other projects.
The primary reason for this decision, of course, is time. Our professional lives have become more demanding over these years, and we want to devote as much time as possible to our fiction, not to mention our family and friends. Something had to give.
There are other reasons, though--less important, perhaps, but more immediately compelling. For one: the longer we remain in the business of writing and publishing, the more people we know. The American literary world is like a big small town, spread across the country; stay in it long enough, and you end up connected to everyone. As a result, it has become increasingly difficult to write anything that doesn't offend someone connected to us. Sometimes this manifests itself in the comments; sometimes via email. Of course this should be perfectly fine--shouldn't a literary blog offer a forum for spirited disagreement? Indeed, it should. But when those disagreements keep you up at night, when they result in emotional exhaustion, you have to wonder if it's worth it in the end.
In an ideal world, we writers could write about one another without concern for hurting anyone's feelings. Personally, we never read or respond to anything written about ourselves online--this seems like madness to us. It wasn't until last year that we even realized there is a thing called Google Alerts and that writers use it to find discussions about them; the result is that we live in a world where you can always hear when people are talking about you. There is one word for such a world: hell. It's hard to remain neutral in it.
There are other reasons we're shutting down, less connected to our emotions. John is writing more book reviews for print publications; this work is supposed to be free of any possible conflicts of interest. Carrying on dialogues with other writers here makes such impartiality hard to achieve. He will also, in the coming months, take over directorship of Cornell's creative writing program, and is increasingly conscious of the possibility that readers will interpret his remarks on Ward Six as representative, somehow, of the institution he works for.
But the main thing, aside from time, is that internet writing is stressful. We don't blame writers, in the end, for their passionate advocacy of their own work online; the publishing industry is forcing them to do so. Publicity and marketing budgets are down; writers are asked to promote themselves, ad nauseam, on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. This isn't a good thing, we don't think. Writers should never ask other writers for blurbs: that's what publishers are for. Writers shouldn't be responsible for what is said about them online. They should put their heads down and work on their art, without regard for the vicissitudes of commerce.
But that's not the way the wind is blowing. We receive many requests each month for quotes, and are sent a lot of galleys, and we find ourselves having to tell people over and over that Ward Six is not a promotional blog, but a labor of love.
Unfortunately, lately, it has become more labor than love. We are proud of the fact that we have never run an ad on this site, have never made a cent from it. But it's time for our labor to be directed elsewhere.
We've made a lot of friends here, and look forward to keeping in touch with them. And we won't be disappearing from the internet. So you'll be seeing us again before long.
Until then, you have our profound gratitude and affection.
John and Rhian