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
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
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.
Sad to see go Justin.