A Farewell from Justin Tadlock

Around three years ago, I was at a crossroads. I had spent nearly my entire adult life and most of my professional career within the WordPress space. However, the responsibilities of being a solo theme/plugin shop owner were like a boulder upon my shoulders that I could no longer hold up. After 11 years in the business, I was ready to throw in the towel.

My work was my life, and my life was my work. I was not sure if I even knew how to do anything else. I briefly considered returning to South Korea for another year-long stint teaching English as a second language. But, I had already spent years rebuilding my life and relationships back in my home state of Alabama. Plus, I was not prepared to say goodbye to my cats for that long.

The only other practical experience I had was gardening and farming work. I have spent many summers working watermelon fields and hauling hay under the heat of the Alabama sun, and I have piddled around in my own garden over the years. However, I was not in a financially stable position to start my own farm. It was too risky a proposition at that stage in my life.

I was also not quite ready to let go of WordPress. There was more that I wanted to accomplish, but I still faced the reality of needing to move on from the place I was at or find some way to get more joy out of the work I was doing.

It was not until a few months later that the writing position for WP Tavern opened. I was hesitant about it at first. I figured I had the credentials and experience to do the job, but daily writing, editing, and publishing would be unlike anything I had taken on before. Sarah Gooding, who has been the best colleague anyone could ask for, convinced me that I should pursue this job.

It turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen to me.

As I got into the swing of things and began to find my voice, I was once again genuinely happy to be involved with the WordPress project. Since I have been here, I have rekindled the flame I once had with our beloved platform.

I have made wonderful friends along the way. It has been a blessing to have the Tavern and its readers in my life.

Today, I am ready for a new challenge. I am stepping down from my role as a writer at WP Tavern.

No, I am not ready to start that farm just yet. Y’all cannot get rid of me that easily. I will stick around the WordPress community for a while, but today is not about my new role. It is a celebration of the Tavern.

I have published 647 stories and written 857 comments as of this post. I can only hope that, somewhere along the way, I have made an impact in some of your lives or work.

As I leave, I have one request: be kind to one another.

I believe we all want WordPress to be successful. We might have different opinions about how to make that happen. Sometimes, those ideas clash, but if we all treat one another with respect and have constructive discussions, things will work themselves out.

To our readers, thank you for going on this journey with me.

There are two remaining questions I want to answer before closing this chapter in my part of that journey. Feel free to continue reading. Otherwise, thank you for making it this far.

Writing About WordPress

Written text on a spiral-bound paper notebook with a pen lying on top of it.
Photo by David Chandra Purnama.

Someone messaged me a week or so into my employment at WP Tavern about writing for WordPress. They wanted to know how they could become a writer on WordPress-related topics and one day work in the field. At the time, I did not have a great answer to the question. Maybe I still do not, but I will take a crack at it.

We might as well start with the advice of one of the most prolific writers in modern history, Stephen King. At the end of The Stand, one of my favorites from him, he answered this same question, and it has always resonated with me.

When asked, “How do you write?” I invariably answer, “One word at a time,” and the answer is invariably dismissed. But that is all it is. It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China, if you will: one stone at a time, man. That’s all. One stone at a time. But I’ve read you can see that mother— from space without a telescope.

I think he may be wrong about seeing the Great Wall from space (Where’s a fact-checker when you need one?), but it is still generally sound advice.

I have been writing about WordPress for 17 years. Sometimes on my personal blog. At other times, I have taken one-off jobs. And, of course, I have written 100s of posts here at the Tavern. What has always helped me is sticking to topics I am passionate about. There are days when the job can be a grind (especially during slow news weeks), so you must love what you are doing to sustain any sort of career in writing.

I have a B.A. in English with a secondary concentration in journalism. However, my education merely provided a solid foundation. It is not a prerequisite for doing the job.

No one can teach you how to build those habits necessary for a sustainable career. They are too personal, and you can only figure out what works by practicing.

No one can give you your voice. That is a discovery that only you can make, and writing is a discovery in and of itself.

My advice to would-be writers is to give National Novel Writing Month a shot this November. It is a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I have won twice and hope to do it again this year. I guarantee that you will figure out everything you need to know about yourself as a writer if you push yourself through the challenge. It is OK to fail. Just dust yourself off and try again if you have your heart set on it.

To the person who asked this question: I am sorry for not remembering your name. It has been over two years, and my memory is not what it once was. But, I hope you are reading now.

Spilling the Beans

Coffee Beans. Photo by Chuck Grimmett

There is a question I get asked. A lot. Some of you probably already know what it is and have, perhaps, asked it or some variation of it yourself.

Does Matt dictate or control the content that we cover?

Since it is my last day on the job, I might as well let readers peek behind the curtain. And the answer is no.

Sorry to let down our conspiracy-theory-loving readers, but the truth is just not that juicy.

I always joke that I have only talked with “the boss” a handful of times while working here. That is pretty close to the truth (I have not actually kept count).

From the day I arrived until today, I have had complete independence to thrive or fail by the result of my work. It felt like our small team had been left on an island to fend for ourselves at times. We must go through the same channels as other publications for information and have never been given special treatment.

This level of autonomy is vital for journalistic integrity.

The WordPress community will always need a publication where its writers have the independence to do their work without conflicts of interest. The Tavern has always been that place, and I do not expect it to change going forward.

I appreciate that our readers have trusted our team to perform this job. It is a responsibility that has not been taken lightly. I am proud to have contributed in at least in some small way.


112 responses to “A Farewell from Justin Tadlock”

  1. I’m going to miss seeing all your great content on here, Justin. Wishing you all the best on your next endeavor and I’m glad to hear you’re not leaving the WordPress space.

    Don’t worry, you’ll start that farm when the time is right!

  2. Justin, I am really sad to see you leave the Tavern. I have particularly enjoyed your observations on WordPress and a bit of life thrown in the mix. I’m sure your next step will be another creative venture in the life you are building. Best of luck.

  3. Best of luck with all to come! Moments of change like these are equally incredibly scary and overwhelmingly exciting — at least in my experience. I was even anxious reading this. I bet pushing the publish button took a moment. it’s all uphill from here!

    “The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.”
    – Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

  4. Justin, you brought skills I didn’t have and covered topics I didn’t have the breadth of knowledge or experience to bring to the forefront at the Tavern. Your contributions are memorable and I’m glad you got the opportunity to write and publish in front of the massive audience that the Tavern provides. Best of luck to you in the future and dammit, send me some Alabama white BBQ sauce and a slice of mulberry pie.

    • You have got to come down to Alabama to get the white sauce fresh. Now, that mulberry pie was something else. It was both my first time eating and making one. There’s a single slice left in the fridge. Think you can make it down here in the next hour or so and split it?

      But, seriously, sometimes it’s more about voice than skills or knowledge. You had your own unique voice that brought us all here in the first place. Never discount what you built up for the community. We were here because of you.

  5. I have referenced a lot of your articles for WP pieces I write but it’s my first time to comment.

    Thank you for everything you do – appreciate your posts because you break down things simply. And TBH, reading your name often on the byline makes me feel like I know you.

    Best of luck!

    • Well, maybe we’ll get to meet up at some WordCamp or another down the road and get to know each other for real. Never hesitate to reach out if you just want to chat WordPress.

      Come on back to the Tavern and comment in the future, too. Sarah Gooding’s posts are always worth reading. And, Nathan Wrigley’s podcast has been great since he’s been here.

    • Edited to just keep it a little more family friendly. :)

      But, yes, I agree with the sentiment. I think that one of the problems we face in this fast-paced, social-media-dominated era is that we do not often enough step back and collect our thoughts. A 5-second tweet is easier than a thoughtfully written blog post. Plus, that dopamine rush when you get the likes…But, really, I want to see more folks in the community dusting off their blogs and just writing about WordPress from time to time. It usually forces you to think things through a bit more.

  6. Justin, congratulations on an amazing run! Your (and Sarah’s) ability to produce great content day after day is admirable.

    Whatever is next, I hope it brings lots of joy. I can’t wait to see what you do.

    Thanks for all of the great work and inspiration!

  7. Thanks for your insightful and measured coverage, Justin. I couldn’t possibly count the number of times something you’ve written here has helped to nurture and mature my own thoughts about WordPress post–5.0.

  8. I still remember the day with Hybrid Framework that you created and we learned a lot from that. It was fun exploring WordPress like that. And when you started writing for WPTavern, I was surprise. But then I realized that this was probably another thing you did really well!

    We’ll miss you at WPTavern. Your posts are insightful and have a huge impact on the WordPress community. I wish you luck and success in the next journey!

  9. Justin, as I mentioned to you recently, an article you wrote last summer realigned my outlook on the future of WordPress. That article catalyzed the ideation and development of Frost, the excitement I currently have, and indirectly brought me to my current position at WP Engine. I have no doubt you will do great things in your new role, and I wish you nothing but the absolute best. Thanks for all you have done, and all you will do. Go get ’em!

  10. Thanks, Justin, for all your columns and the responses to comments. Good luck with your new projects, and maybe someday even that farm!

    Popping open a virtual beer in your honor at this end of the bar. . . .

  11. Wow! Been reading your work ONLY for the past few months and found it quite enriching. Got to know about WordPress ‘ins and outs’ and the transition towards Full Site Editing through your persistent writing. Thanks for everything. I also hope the rest of the team (including new writers) will ensure WP Tavern stays updated on current and upcoming news.

    And hey, best of luck with your new adventures. God bless.

  12. We will miss you Justin Tadlock! I have really enjoy your passion for WordPress and have learned a lot from this blog that has helped me to grow as well.

    It’s true that it’s best to always write about something that you are passionate about. That’s a piece of advice that I will always value and appreciate when blogging .

    Thanks for your hard work and all the best with your endeavors going forward!

  13. WordPress without Justin Tadlock. Blimey!

    I knew of you before I knew anything of “the boss”. Thank you. You were one of the most important people in getting me started in the web building malarkey.

    Wishing you all the best for the future.

  14. You will be missed, Justin. You have set a great example of how a writer in an open-source space should be. Your articles were a great inspiration to play around Gutenberg and FSE to build new sites.

    Congrats on the move and all the best for your future endeavors.
    Hope to see you around :)

  15. Oh, you’re leaving WPTavern. I’m sad to let you go. But happy for your future adventures. You’ve been an outstanding contributor to WordPress and helped people learn about Gutenberg.

    I want to say special thanks to you as you always supported and shared about the products that are new but worth sharing, unlike other places where the content is mostly sponsored, and paid and they neglect supporting new talent.

    Thank You & Good Luck!

    • A lot of your work served as inspiration for what I was doing here. I’m the one who should be thanking you. If there was ever a day I needed to find something to share, I’d just ask “What has Munir been up to lately?”

      Keep doing what you’ve been doing. I’ll still be following your work.

  16. Thank you for your inputs for the WordPress community o/ Your articles have been really good and interesting to read. It was really interesting to see that you actually answered really deeply when I emailed you about some issues about different things. All the best for your next adventures o/

  17. I did not expect you to go so soon. I thought you would stay here (with Sarah) for a while and guide us with your articles until, let’s say, the Block Editor and FSE are commonly used. Sad to see you go, but I fully understand why, after reading the post. Good luck, Justin!

  18. Being at a crossroads and a bit of a writer (in Polish though) myself I find your post inspiring. Thank you. I appreciate the fact that WordPress is not just a piece of code, but also a community.
    I’m just a user, not a developer, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Admittedly I hated the blocks initially. My observation about other block haters is: —Don’t worry, people come through phases, like myself.
    Another observation I’d like to share here is that perhaps more writing should come from an ordinary user perspective. Much as techne is a great subject on its own, it will not come and miraculously instill itself in the minds of those willing and will not implement itself to leverage social issues or just your personality. WordPress has all the ingredients to cover more of the spectrum down the line. I mean WordPress as a community of concerned humans.

  19. You will be missed more than I can say. You writing has been informative, thoughtful and, perhaps best of all, a deluge!
    Thanks for all your hard work. Wherever you go from here, they’ll be lucky to have you.

  20. Wait! What? No!

    Seriously though, all the best and good luck with whatever you find yourself doing next and many thanks for your informative articles, opinions and critique over the past 3 years. Man, I bet that time has flown by when it’s something you’ve loved doing.


  21. Thank you. I’ve been following along since the beginning and this has quickly become my favorite source for all things WordPress. Sorry to see you go and hope you enjoy where life is taking you. I just wanted to pass on my thanks and appreciation. God Bless.

  22. Back in my teenagers I wanted to have a blog to publish mixtapes. That’s when I first used wordpress.com and created What You See Is Not Even Close Of What You Get (wysinecowyg.wordpress.com). Despite the awful name and a grammatical error (a friend of mine told me it should be “Close To”), I used a theme that I was totally in love by: Saga.

    10 years later I’m a frontend developer learning to love the wp community, following all the news from this so-called wptavern, when I discover that the famous Justin Tadlock is the author of that theme!

    Thank you for all your contributions man. Good luck on whichever you are going for next :)

    • It’s hard to believe it’s been so long ago that I was working on the Saga theme. It feels like yesterday. If you want to know a secret, it’s still one of my favorites.

      Thank you for giving it a try all those years ago and for your continued support today.

  23. Best of luck! It’s been great to read and learn from your articles. What counted to me is you said both what something is and what you thought about it. The good and the bad. That honesty kept me coming back for the next article. It has helped me be better at using WordPress.

    Thank you!

    • Thank you for saying that. One of the things I always tried to do, particularly with opinion pieces, was to look at the topic from different viewpoints. If I was writing about something in which I had a generally negative opinion on, I would try to find some positives. If I had mostly a favorably opinion, I tried to point out areas where a project could be improved. Sometimes, I fell short of doing this, but it was a rule of thumb I attempted to follow.

  24. I’m sad to see the Tavern lose a great writer, but super excited to see all that you accomplish in your next role! Thanks so much for all the value that you’ve poured into the WordPress community all these years! Best of luck in whatever comes next! 🙌

  25. You will be missed Justin. I started following wptavern since gutenberg launch. Found your articles good learning resource and reference point for Gutenberg development. There are many articles which I still use as a bookmark for refering things related with WP.

    Many many thanks for all those great writeups and best wishes for your future endeavours.

  26. Thank you, Justin, for how much you’ve given us. Gutenberg has been exciting but intimidating, but your patient and clear tutorials breaking aspects of blocks down have been so fun. And empowering. Best wishes to you in your new endeavors. Your area has a rich past history of agricultural coops, maybe you can get capacity building and community at any existing ones. 🤗🌷❤️

  27. I know lots of people have appreciated your writing in recent years Justin – I’ve always found your work considered, enthusiastic & insightful.

    At times, you were a much needed light during stormy Gutenberg waters – and for that I think we’ve all been thankful.


Subscribe Via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

%d bloggers like this: