Why I Can’t Post On Time

Post On Time FEATURE

If you’re a regular reader of Wait But Why, one thing you know for sure is that posts will not show up when they’re supposed to. That’s kind of odd, and I’d like to explain a bit of what goes on behind the scenes that makes that happen.

Writing Wait But Why has made me far more of an insane person than I had ever been before (and I was an insane person before).

The starting point for the insanity is that WBW is a complete act of love. I didn’t know a “complete act of love” job even existed in the world for me. WBW is exactly what I want to be doing, in the exact way I want to be doing it, and it has gone the exact way I hoped it would go. I couldn’t ask for more in any possible way. That on one hand makes me incredibly happy, grateful, and inspired. On the other hand, it makes me totally nuts—caring about something as much as I care about this is steroids for all of my insane qualities, and it introduces new insane qualities I never even knew I had. Let’s go through them:

The number one culprit is my perfectionism. I’ve always been a severe perfectionist, but WBW brings together a special cocktail of elements that exacerbate this problem to a ridiculous degree. For one, blog posts are one of those terrible matches for a perfectionist, because no matter what you’ve done, they can always be improved. I could spend a year on a post and it would still have room for improvement. Amorphous, subjective, creative projects are utter hell for a perfectionist mind. This quality of mine would have fit beautifully with a linear job like accounting. My perfectionism would have gone ballroom dancing with my accounting work every day forever. Amorphous creative projects—especially when they’re acts of love that you care about—are on the complete opposite side of the spectrum, where my perfectionism is in a constant state of inner resistance, in a constant boxing match with my desire to produce and ship work. Not pleasant.

On top of that, we’re in the incredibly fortunate position to have a lot of readers. This on one hand makes me outstandingly grateful. On the other, it puts a ton of pressure on the situation in two ways: 1) Knowing how many people will read the post is a mindfuck. It’s exhilarating but also terrifying, week after week. 2) They’re all gonna leave they’re all gonna leave they’re all gonna leave they’re all gonna leave they’re all gonna leave they’re all gonna leave. This makes the perfectionism 100x worse. If I’m doing a post I know can be really good, I begin obsessing over trying to make it an A+. Not an A minus. Not an A. And this isn’t really a healthy or productive obsession with a blog post, because again, it’s not always clear what an A+ would even be or how to get there. Sometimes I work on a post for hours and hours only to have made it worse.

And it’s exactly when a severe perfectionist is doing an amorphous creative project that he prides himself on, where the pressure’s on, that a little monkey we all know comes out to play. This is where the monkey thrives, because knowing I can’t make a post perfect and also needing to try to make a post perfect is such an unpleasant paradox of a work environment, that an escape is highly desirable.

Wait But Why posts all take over 40 hours to do, many take over 60, and some have taken me over 80 (a huge amount of that time is in research, mulling, and structuring). So traditional Dark Playground procrastinating isn’t as big of a problem as it might be with a smaller project—there simply isn’t the time (or, put more accurately, enough of the scent of panic is in the air 24/7 that it keeps my Dark Playground time at bay). But the IGM is a pro. He’s more of a pro at what he does than anyone is a pro at anything. He sees that he’s not going to be as successful at luring me into the Dark Playground as he would in a more classic, “two weeks to write a college paper I know I can do in eight hours” situation, so he adjusts. “Okay, Tim is oddly determined to be ‘working on his post,’ so let’s figure out which parts of the post he really needs to start working on to be on time and which parts he’d like to have more time on but realistically cannot afford to spend more time doing”—and he discovered research and outlining, bingo and bingo. Monkey wins.

The thing about research is A) it’s the most fun / least hard part of the post-writing process, B) you could always do more, and C) it’s not always clear what you’re even looking for—if you’ve ever been on a Wikipedia or YouTube spiral, you know that research begets more research. One article can quickly turn into five new tabs open on my browser, added to the queue. I often have over 100 research items open in tabs simultaneously. This isn’t dicking around—I’m an expert on nothing, and my job each week is to become a mini-expert on a new topic. I don’t have to know everything, but I have to know a lot more than you. The problem is, where do you draw the line? When are you enough of an expert to stop researching? Monkey wins.

Outlining/planning, on the other hand, is both the hardest and most important part of the process. And it’s the one part where I can sit there determined to make progress, and make none. I can stare at nine documents of notes, research, and brainstorming for 12 straight hours and finish no further ahead in the process than when I started. Perfectionism is in full force here, and the monkey knows it.

It’s in these two phases that more time is spent than should be.

On top of those two usual suspects—Perfectionism and the Monkey—there’s a third, shadowy character fighting with them in the same direction, one who shows his big head in times just like this. He’s the Social Survival Mammoth, and he comes storming into the room in a full wailing frenzy, usually around 4am, when my brain is at 20% caliber, and he shows me mental images of a full Fenway Park and reminds me that there will likely be more than that many people reading this post—the post that’s just not working—and it’s horrifying. Not haha horrifying in a fun way—like really scary. Putting out a bad post to a stadium worth of people is severely embarrassing.

So everything I’ve described up to this point is a one-directional force—the force that makes things take longer. Now comes the equal and opposite force: the Panic Monster.

Since Wait But Why started, the Panic Monster has been my lawful wedded wife, my lover, my boss, and my eternal nightmare.

The Panic Monster knows that a lot of WBW’s most loyal readers are checking the site on Tuesday, checking again on Wednesday, checking again on Thursday, and that it is completely unacceptable to not have a post up when those readers have been told to expect one. Like, completely and totally unacceptable. I feel immense guilt about this every week.

So here’s what happens each week: Perfectionism, the Monkey, and the Mammoth are a team, all fighting to make posts take longer. The Panic Monster, the just-invented-right-now Guilt Ostrich, and the just-invented-right-now Your-Readers-Are-Gonna-Leave-Forever-If-You-Keep-Doing-This Sea Lion, are screaming back, “You cannot miss another deadline—you CANNOT.”

And let the games begin.

What ends up happening is the three “longer” forces, who are very powerful, are able to overpower the “shorter” forces to an extent—which is why posts are always late—but the “shorter” forces become stronger and stronger each day until the balance tips and they overpower the longer forces, which is why posts are published, ever. Some people have suggested that I just take the “New Post Every Tuesday(ish)” tagline off the site—their logic is obvious: “You never post on Tuesday, and sometimes posts really need more time than a week, so stop embarrassing yourself and just take it down.” But what that would do is it would send both the Panic Monster and the Guilt Ostrich home, leaving only the YRAGLFIYKDT Sea Lion to fight the three heavyweights on the other side. The Sea Lion is powerful, but against all of those three, outmatched. And the result? I’d post about four times a year.

So my apologies for the lack of predictability, and I figured the least I could do is be transparent about what’s happening on my end while the readers who care most are checking the site each week, not knowing what to expect.

  • Rena

    Tim, as much as it pains me to say this, YOU NEED A VACATION. Away from the internet, Google, Wikipedia, Youtube to refresh.
    This perfectionist behaviour is verging on neurotic undertones and it looks you coud really do with a deep breath. We’re not going anywhere 😀
    Okay, so a post doesn’t appeal to us? We wait for the next one. Or read an old one. Some of us do refresh WBW on an hourly basis on Tuesday but you know what – THAT’S OUR THING. That’s what we do. You’re not contractually obligated to dance every Tuesday for 30 minutes or so.
    Relax (and check your BP while you’re at it….) 🙂

    • Keep up with the neurotic perfectionism, Tim, your best work comes from it

      Your intentions are noble, but you really have to understand how a brain like Tim’s feel from inside to know that your advice will have no effect whatsoever. Tim does what Tim does.

      Telling Tim to just relax and stay some days away from Wikipedia is like telling the Pope not to worry about shitting in the woods.

    • Chad

      No vacations. I expect a post every week(ish) until the day you die.

      • hahahaha…

        Haaahahaha… Priceless comment ;-P

      • It may be possible

        Well… he may take vacations, as long as he goes to odd places and writes about them while traveling. I would not disapprove that.

  • Lisa

    Hi Tim,

    I am a loyal reader, who checks your site every day from Tuesday throughout the rest of the week until you post; however, I feel bad that you feel the need to validate yourself to your readers. I appreciate, and enjoy, your top of the post comments when you are behind, because they are almost equally as amusing as your regular posts, especially the one with the babies in it. I think that you do a wonderful job, and you should just ignore all of those haters out there that are hating on your time table. Your posts are very entertaining, but nobody will die if we aren’t able to read your funny insights on time. So you just keep doing you Tim!

  • LL

    Honestly, I love your posts. I love your dedication. It’s obvious you put so much effort into making something so complicated easy to digest and memorable. I keep coming back because I ENJOY reading what you write. Please don’t worry about it so much.. Your readers are not entitled to anything. No one out here is sending you some kind of pay check or paying taxes that go into supporting you. I think many people forget that other than your shop and donations, you’re really doing this for you and you’re SHARING with us your opinions and perspectives. So thank you so much for putting in the time and effort. Take it easy though 🙂

  • Jason

    I found this to be unbelievably interesting and well-written. You should dedicate a weekly post to your experience as a blogger. I think a lot of people would love it.

  • The Mammoth

    Well hi again, my friend

    • Allison W

      *shoo* Mammoth, go hang out on a wonderfully soft t-shirt in the WBW store instead, andI will purchase you for x-mas.

      Tim, my patience is INFINITE, and if you never write another post I will be sad, but I will never be frustrated when you miss an artificial deadline that you created for yourself. Infinite patience my friend, infinite.

    • Hoi Ying Chan

      Dear Tim, having read your WBW Behind The Scenes, I find my jnitial reaction to your late posts kind of short-sighted. (though the disappointment was real) Like one reader pointed out, you should probably see it as a compliment that your site has vastly become a part of my daily/weekly routine. In between posts I ponder about the life subjects you raise. I don’t read other science/political/life hacking blogs. And my disappointment is MY thing 🙂

      I can’t even start to imagine the amount of hours that goes into your research and the all nighters you pull trying to write a story that is understandable. (It sounds like a PhD, only unpaid?) It’s good to realize that you’re all doing this for free, in your free time, with entertaining AND educational value. No WIKI page can beat that. I’m already grateful.

      I hope you can find a good balance between feeding that bunch of zoo animals of yours (as I do think they contribute to quality – I think it’s good that they never really disappear) and getting devoured by them.

      Please don’t get demotivated, even with 4 posts a year I’ll keep coming back, keep doing what you’re doing!

  • Mauler

    F#uck your logic TIm, I understand that you have explained it so explicitly, rationally and also emotionally at the same time, but you really do miss a point. WTF! I don’t even know what the point is, but I’m sure, maybe I just miss that out too..

  • Eliza

    I am a definitely one of the readers that checks multiple times on Tuesday, then Wednesday, etc etc!

  • Jason

    Tim- I can only speak for me, but I think you’re being way too hard on yourself. WBW posts aren’t like my paychecks: I can live with them not being delivered on time. They’re not even like my daily news searches, which I rely on to not seem like a dummy when conversing with other people. They’re an excellent and enlightening–but not necessary–addition to my day, regardless of what day they end up being posted on. I check on Tuesday, am slightly disappointed when nothing new is there, and then forget about it until the next day.

    I think your readers know you work incredibly hard on them, and they are incredibly appreciative when they are posted. It’s a nice thing we got going here; don’t let the many monsters in your head tell you otherwise.

    How about: “New post every other Tuesday”?

    Looking forward to diving into the religion one!

  • Dave

    Tim, I can’t tell you how much I respect the fact that you care so much about these blog posts which we, your faithful audience, can read at leisure and for free. It’s your commitment to quality, along with the engaging manner in which you describe the information within, that keep us coming back, not the potential for the post to fall on a certain day. I know, on my end, it’s easy for me to say “Chill. We’re not going anywhere”. However, I feel I speak for the majority of your readers when I say it.

    We look forward to your next post, whenever it may be, secure in the knowledge that it will be worth the wait. And don’t feel that, the longer we wait for the post, the better we expect it to be. The I Took So Long This Post Has To Be The Best One Ever, or the ITSLTPHTBTBOE Wombat, doesn’t actually exist. However, the Oh Look A New Post On Wait But Why Is Up! What A Pleasant Surprise!, or the OLANPOWBWIU!WAPS! Fluffy Bunny, is in full effect. Listen to the bunny. He knows what he’s talking about.

  • Loyal reader

    Tim, it makes me sad to think that writing these posts are bringing you so much pressure. We want you to be happy, healthy, and not go even more insane. We all love you. It does get a little frustrating when a post doesn’t come when we thought it would, but your loyal readers would not leave you just because of a bad post. We would not leave you just because you post late. We know you care about WBW, we care about WBW. I wish I could help lol. Maybe when you are struggling through a post and it’s 4am, just remember you have a ton of cheerleaders(us) cheering you on to finish the best you can bc we all believe in you!

  • David H

    Hey Tim,

    Listen, I’m sure I’m like a lot of readers in that we have a strange relationship with you: we’ve never met you, but somehow feel like we know you. And even without this well-written, thoughtful, insightful essay you posted on no sleep, we never thought for one second that you don’t take this seriously or that you don’t care.

    Take it easy on yourself. This is a wonderful thing you’ve got going. I’ve been hooked since the first post I read nearly a year ago (binge-reading all the previous posts in the period of a week). As others have said, we’re not going anywhere, even if you posted every seventh Tuesday.

  • Tough guy

    Everyone on here is being lovey dovey and telling old mate Timbo that he should take his time and not be so hard on himself. Well I say that’s BS!
    From a psychological perspective I understand the need to recieve positive reaffimations, and that’s ok. Just remember that diamonds are created under pressure, be a diamond Tim!

  • Blog Reader

    Wait But Why is awesome. As a highly neurotic person myself, this post read like a diary entry. I 100% understand where you’re coming from and won’t tell you to change, but I hope a word of caution is not out of line. To keep your Guilt Ostrich at bay, remember some of us are still regularly checking Hyperbole and a Half. And if you want to see what neuroses and guilt did to an excellent blogger, check out http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/.

  • Ang

    Tim – it’s ALWAYS worth the wait, don’t let aggravated readers get you down, we love your thoughtful and well researched/written/collected posts

  • Miguel

    Late? I don’t think so. The way I see it, you’re a full FOUR DAYS EARLY for next Tuesday.

  • Karla from Mexico

    Tim, your blog is perfect as it is. I’ve subscribed and I would lie if I said that I am not eagerly waiting for your post in my mailbox every Tuesday… However, when it doesn’t come, I sincerely think it is because of all the hard work it needs to deliver such high-quality articles… So I am patient… and I prefer to wait a couple of days more to get the same level of quality that you’ve deliver to us all so consistently.
    So I thank you for being so committed to this, but please don’t be stressed… or you will STOP eventually and WE DO NOT WANT you to STOP.
    I forwarded to my boss (60 year-old smartest lady I’ve ever met) your article about Irak. I briefed her a little bit about the trip you made and the writing. She loved it.
    After a week, I went into her office and there she was at the website reading the Unhappy Y Yuppies article, and she said “God , this guy is addictive!” So now I will be religiously forwarding your posts to her.
    Don’t be so harsh on yourself. Defeat the mammoth!

    Karla from Mexico.

  • Kam

    I check WBW everyday too! Even though my email hasnt alerted me on any new WBW posts, i still check anyway..just in case. 🙂 It’s just because I look forward to reading your posts so much! WBW is actually the only blog i religiously follow. I love it. So yes, i do get disappointed when posts are late and all that, but you know what? It’s just me being impatient… I understand there is tremendous amount of work put into one post and I really appreciate it! Thank you! 🙂 And once you publish the new post, ALL IS FORGIVEN!!! It’s ALWAYS, ALWAYS, WORTH THE WAIT, TIM. So as long as you don’t stop posting, I won’t leave. 🙂 Thanks for the hard work and for all the info you share with us. You make us mini-mini experts too. 😉

  • Zoe

    You’re doing us all a favor by writing things we enjoy reading. We are not even paying you to do this. There is no reason to feel guilty.

  • Yelena in DC

    So you know when you open your google analytics and you see those 50,000+ returning visitors every Tuesday, Wednesday and so forth… that view your page just long enough to read that there are no new posts and leave. But then you see you have these other visitors that have impossibly long timestamps for how long they’ve stayed viewing your page (like so long that you’re pretty sure they don’t turn off their computers without your webpage running in the background…) well I’m the loyal reader that falls into that second category. Your WBW tab is always open at home even though I usually read your posts at work (so it’s open here too.) Heck, I have even saved some of your better material as PDFs so I can read them again offline on the plane! Having said all that, my point is… we (WBW readers) are a deeply dedicated bunch, undoubtedly growing in numbers every day. You have a unique writing style and a genuine voice that has us grinning like idiots (at brightly lit boxes) and actually laughing out loud (in silent rooms) all the while pumping our brains full of knowledge we failed to grasp in our ordinary lives before you came along. We are a generation of instant satisfaction seekers and it’s a damn miracle you can even give us so much material as consistently (or not) from one person! Your introspective observations always hit the nail on the head. And even though you are already above par than the rest of us, it is a relief that you are not as perfect as you strive to be. It’s actually your inner struggles and outward cynicism that give depth to your posts and keeps readers coming back. If you were without struggle then, I don’t know, but we’d have some uncanny valley feelings towards you or something and not be as nearly entertained as we are now.

    Clearly whatever you’re doing so far is working for us but since no one wants you to have a breakdown, or just 4 posts per year, maybe you need to research some solutions to the more stressful parts of the problem! Not that you’re asking for advice but you should “play to your strengths and outsource your weaknesses.” Of course I don’t know if that would require a hired third partner down the line that gets you and helps with the outlining/planning phase or you’ll just luck out and find the same traits in the girl of your dreams that will help in that area while simultaneously providing physical amusement for the procrastination monkey 😉 Either way, we all wish the best for you! Just so long as you struggle on occasion and give us entertaining posts as a result of that struggle. We will be here to read it even if it takes a decade.

  • chris

    Hi Tim,

    You already have an easy solution to this problem for any reader that obsessively checks your site looking for new posts. Step 1. Sign up for your newsletter. Step 2. Assume new blog post won’t always be on Tuesdays. Step 3. Wait for email that new blog post is out. Step 4. Read new post.

    Easy as pie.

    Also, you are awesome and your posts are worth the wait. Relax! And, finally, thank you – your work is most appreciated.

  • Loyal as Loyal Gets

    Thank you for this bonus post! Hope to see the Guilt Ostrich in cartoon form soon!

  • el_monty

    “a glimpse into a brain you’re happy not to have”
    Actually, as other commenters have also said, my brain works exactly like yours. That’s probably why I like WBW so much: I feel so identified when I read you. Many of the same things that go through your mind go through mine too, only you know how to express it so much more clearly (and entertainingly). In fact, soon after I started reading WBW, I started to suspect that what was going on behind the scenes was EXACTLY what you just beautifully described, for the simple reason that I know that that is what would happen to me if I tried to do what you are doing. I also suspect that many of my fellow readers share these thoughts and feelings.
    Just rest assured that we are not going to leave, even in the (completely hypothetical) case that you write a weaker post, or two, or more. We are your loyal fans, you’ve already won us over, and we are subscribed to your RSS, so we don’t even need to check the page, we’ll just wait for that notice to arrive and we’ll come flocking!

  • danceofjoy

    Tim, so i neurotically refresh my browser ever hour on Tuesday… and i’m from Kenya.. so we’re obviously in different time zones and it should be apparent after the first check that nothing will have changed in the next hour… but no need to be so hard on yourself. We love your blog and are not going anywhere. We appreciate the amount of research that goes into each and every post and we appreciate you. You just post when you can… it’ll be worth it. But four times in a year is unacceptable!!! But you know… no pressure… okay, maybe just a tinsy winsy bit 🙂

  • Dr Lemus

    Stop worrying about any reader leaving. Even if you write crap about nothing on a monthly basis…we’re all hooked. Worst than heroin addicts. So chill and post whatever you want, whenever you want. We won’t leave. Just don’t let the stress get to you…then we risk you stop posting all together…and I’m not sure what a bunch of addicts will do without their fix.

  • Yelena in DC

    Seeing as how we come from the same generation of instant satisfaction seekers, it is a damn miracle to me that you have it in you to give us so much material consistently (or not) from one person! You have a unique writing style and a genuine voice that has us grinning like idiots and actually laughing out loud all the while pumping our brains full of knowledge we failed to grasp in our ordinary lives before you came along. Your introspective observations always hit the nail on the head. And even though you are already far above par than the rest of us, it is a relief that you are not as perfect as your strive to be. It’s actually a blend of your inner struggles and outward cynicism that give depth to your posts and keeps us coming back. If you were without struggle, then, I don’t know, but we’d have some uncanny valley feelings towards you or something and not be nearly as entertained as we are now. Clearly whatever you’re doing is working for us but since no one wants you to have a breakdown, or just 4 posts per year, there has to be a solution to the more stressful parts of the problem! Not that you’re asking for advice, but your should “play to your strengths and outsource your weaknesses.” I don’t know if that would require a hired third partner down the line that gets you and helps with the outlining/planning phase or you’ll just luck out and find the same traits in the girl of your dreams that will help in that area while simultaneously providing physical amusement for the procrastination monkey 😉 Either way, we all wish the best for you! Just so long as your struggle on occasion and give us entertaining posts as a result of that struggle. We will be here to read it even if it takes a decade!

  • Glykeria

    I admit to checking first thing on Wednesday morning ( I live in Greece) your blog and then Thursday and Friday but I’ve never felt pissed that a post is not yet come up (as far as I remember, most are on time.) That makes me only look forward to the new post like Christmas or something and here I am, the minute the mail notifies me, procrastinating at work. But you’re so worth. You’re so SO worth it! Keep up the great work, it’s just perfect and it leaves us wanting for more, but please take care because we want you to keep writing (haha so unselfish)!

  • libmonster

    Please don’t start being punctual – this type of article is worth any wait. Your readers are not a collective panic monster. You’re a little awesome privilege that falls into our mailboxes like a surprise $20 bill. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • thinkingaloudinLA

    Wait? You mean these are supposed to show up every Tuesday? Who knew?

    Checking for a blog all day Tuesday – as opposed to discovering an email as a delightful surprise when you get around to reviewing your emails that are non-mandatory and non-work related – suggests that “Tuesday – Checker – Complaint” comments be redirected to the “Why I Procrastinate” blog.

    Seriously though, nice work!

  • Bernard

    I am grateful that an interesting person like yourself has decided to make this blog. I think many of us think that we’d love to have a blog like this. I know for sure I would but a stadium full of ppl like us would never start it b/c they’re not you Tim. So kudos to you for sticking with it an entertaining us every Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday-Friday? ish.

    TBH I have a busy life and although I often go to webcomic sites expecting prompt updates I haven’t really expected that as much with this one. Sure I’ve been annoyed at times when I don’t see a post for a while but that only reminded me how much a part of my weekly routine you had become and how much I enjoy these posts. So if you have folks who are frustrated and annoyed I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that in its own weird and possibly passive aggressive way, it is a compliment to you sir and your talent at keeping us entertained and informed on so many important life issues 🙂

    My point is, keep up the good work and don’t be so hard on yourself. Hire an assistant or a monkey to help you with your posts or see if there are any guest bloggers that you can have on here for days/weeks when you need time off. I’ve seen other folks doing similar projects burn themselves out and I know there is a stadium full of ppl who would hate to see that happen not b/c they care so much about you but b/c we’re all selfish and want to be entertained by the madness between your ears.

    For me, I’ll just keep waiting for the email that I get when a new post is made and be surprised and thankful that this week that happened on Friday 🙂

    Cheers Tim, you’re a weirdo but a very fun one!

  • Mathilda

    Tim, I love you, that is all. Now go to sleep.

  • d

    hahah! This was the longest way ever to basically say “coz I is Jewish, innit”

  • Gernot

    Hunger is the best cook

  • K

    “…a number of the normally super-patient, understanding readers have spoken out…”

    So, we get some awesome and *FREE* posts every once in a while, and some people actually complain when the posts don’t arrive in sync with their tea break? You should do a post on absurd first world problems and include this case 😉

  • Dirk Jan

    Tim, you’ve posted a winning streak in your “odd things in odd places” posts. I think this will easily be enough to have your loyal readers check WBW for the next half year 😉
    If I consider myself the average WBW reader your audience is of the caliber master student at ETH and we keep coming back because this seems to be among the most intellectually stimulating websites/blogs on the internet. Your ‘not perfect’ appears to be good enough to our standards. Keep up the good work! 🙂 (seriously, if anyone knows a blog of similar quality please let the WBW community know)

  • Helene

    Dear Tim,

    I just want to say from my end that I love that you never post on time. Ever since I read your procrastination post all those months ago, I enjoy a good chuckle every week when you’re running late (I especially liked your serial killer bit). It’s a likeable and relatable little quirk and I still get to enjoy a great post in the end.

    So I’m greatful for your IGM, even though I know you aren’t 🙂

    PS My phone and I are having a stand off right now and it doesn’t want to post this comment. As a result, I’m getting a bit aggressive and I may have accidentally commented twice. Sorry …

    • Helene

      Also “greatful” is a deeply embarrassing typo.

  • Nick Hughes

    Regardless of the day of the week, I enjoy reading your posts because I can relate to all your wit. I too went to college and consistently wrote brilliant essays- but only while undergoing a late night/early morning panic attack. I feel like sometimes the creative genius/mad scientist inside of us only comes out in the manic-panic state brought on by the feeling that there is not enough time. The truth is that there is plenty of time- all the time in the world- but we convince ourselves that time is, in fact, running out. I think we all secretly enjoy this adrenaline rush or else we would not do it to ourselves again and again.

    For example: I don’t ever have to be late for an appointment… ever. I could always just leave my house a little bit early, drive calmly and safely, and then arrive with time to spare and with a big smile on my face. Yet, for some reason I always put off leaving the house just long enough so that I am forced to drive to my appointment with an unsettling sense of urgency. There’s no reason for it, accept that, deep down, I must actually enjoy the rapid heartbeats and high blood pressure and that terrifying feeling you get when you don’t know if you are going to make it through this time. Its the same reason that some people ride roller coasters or jump out of airplanes on purpose- it’s actually really fun.

    My advice is to relax and breathe- you must be doing something right if a stadium full of people are reading your blogs. A small waiting room full of people read mine. The next time someone calls you a slacker, explain to them that, contrary to appearances, you are actually a thrill seeker/adrenaline junkie and that they should probably get out of the way because you are on one hell of a ride.

  • EM

    Tim, I know exactly what you are talking about. The Panic Monster, the perfectionism, the guilt and stress over self-imposed deadlines made public, the excruciating pain of creative childbirth, everything. Here is what I want you to hear:

    You have won me as a reader for life. Your posts so far have been so interesting and so enriching that I will come back to your site regularly just to read them again and again. Even if you never post another damn thing for the next six decades, as long as this site is up, I will be here thinking about how smart and funny and open-minded and insightful you are as a writer, thinker, and traveler every single time I come here. Anything else you write is just gravy. You owe me, a loyal reader, absolutely nothing. It’s not my permission to give, but I give you permission to take as long as you need to midwife out whatever it is in your brilliant head onto the mute, unforgiving screen. I will still be here when you finish.

    I bet a lot of other happy readers feel exactly as I do. We are thrilled to have found you and we’ll be roaring in the stadium no matter what happens, whether you produce a total turd (not true of anything you’ve written– I bet even your rough drafts have an obvious nugget of brilliance) or even nothing at all. When I come to your site and see an altered deadline at the top of the page, I just smile fondly thinking thinking about these charming psychological quirks of yours. It is a gift those of us who share them that we have found a kindred soul in you.

  • Marc

    Change the “every Tuesday-ish” to “every 10days-ish”. So, you can have more time and the readers will not exactly remember which day the post is supposed to be posted.

  • Jeff

    The whole posting on time thing wasn’t an issue until I made my way through ALL of your content (which is all borderline suspiciously fantastic), but yeah…I think you are making good decisions with respect to balancing all those animals.
    The sea lion had me crying laughing.

  • Vysakh S

    The Sea Lion does not need to worry coz we ain’t going anywhere, Tim. There is genuine quality in all your posts, so it doesn’t matter if you always can’t keep up with a deadline. It’s worth the wait. I’ll take this moment to quote Catwoman when she said, “You don’t owe these people anymore. You’ve given them everything.”

    And I know you would in-turn quote Batman’s reply to that: “Not everything. Not yet.”

  • Guilt Hamster

    Now I feel guilty because, as a reader, I am part of what is exerting so much pressure on you. Maybe I should go away…

    • Anonymous

      Don’t make him feel bad 🙁

  • Fan

    We’ll never leave you Tim, we love you and WBW too much.

  • Ravi


    We are not going anywhere. We will be here till ETERNITY.
    So, stop worrying and RELAX.

    • Delly

      don’t chase away the yragtlfiykdt sea lion. Tim needs him 😉

  • Tim B.

    Sooooo, you’ve basically explained the answer to our question: “Wait? But why?”

  • Milla

    Love your posts regardless the day or frequency they are posted. Don’t let it become a torture or at some point you’ll start to resent it and eventually quit 🙁

    take your time, we’ll be here 🙂

  • Amy

    I just wanna give you a hug! I know how you feel and spent most of my college days battling the monsters you mentioned above. Perfectionism and procrastination are a bitch!

    In my case as a reader, I don’t log on every Tuesday w/ baited breath refreshing to see if a post has been added. Though, I consider myself a regular reader in that your site is one I continually find myself visiting. But it’s more like this: Read an interesting article on your site one week – go about my life – then maybe a week or two later when I have a free moment, I think “Oh, let’s see if there is anything interesting up on Wait but why!” and then usually I am rewarded. If not, I go on to buzz feed or some other IGM playground.

    It’s really not a big deal if there isn’t a post up. (Though, I was pretty worried when you hadn’t posted the Iraq article. I wasn’t sure if anything bad had happened while you were over there, so it was a relief one that one was posted!) I still continue to visit & really REALLY enjoy everything you put up. It make my life richer learning about the things you’ve put so much time in to research & share w/ us.

    Keep up the good work & don’t let all that crazy perfectionism get you down!

    • Mike

      I couldn’t have said it better, Amy! I fully agree on this comment. Take note tim, don’t lose your marbles 😉

  • Mike

    I’d rather wait days or weeks and read a quality post than you forcing out a not-as-good post just to make the deadline. I think most people will understand that it takes a lot of time and effort to create these postso, please, don’t worry about it.

    Keep it up !!

  • Josh

    I never mind when a post is delayed, I just go and read something else that I fully expect to be not as good or engaging as what I’ll read on this site when the post does eventually get published. This is a testament to how good your posts are vs the hugenormous amount of garbage out there on the interwebs.

    I don’t feel frustrated in the slightest, as I know it will eventually come around and all good things are worth waiting for.

    Put those monsters to bed Tim, you’re doing just fine.

  • Tycho

    I can’t tell you how many times i’ve come to your site and had your posts tell my story. I first found WBW through “Putting Time in Perspective” across one of my many rovings across the internet but “Why Procrastinators Procrastinate” and “How to Beat Procrastination” describe me to a T and move me immensely to this day.

    I am glad you named the Guilt Ostrich (I definitely have one) and the YRAGLFIYKTBUYM Sea Lion (which I do not have but understand (I think mine is a Your-Students-Are-Going-To-Hate-You-Forever-While-You-Simultaneously-Torture-Them-And-Teach-Them-Nothing Sea Lion (YSAGTHYFWYSTTATTN Sea Lion))). I don’t understand how and why my own perfectionism mixes with the ADD tendencies, but it helps to know I am not the only one fighting the good fight. I do appreciate your valiant (if flawed) effort to post every Tuesday-ish and think there is something gained by putting out roughly 52 posts a year, rather than 4 (though I do still enjoy the products of CPG Grey, who’s perfectionism often wins out).

    I have 26 tabs open (in this browser), I haven’t even read the post yet, I knew you feed the IGM before I opened the tab to visit, I have students to teach (their HW isn’t written yet) in 8 hours, you actually posted four days ago but i’m just getting to it now, and I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for fighting the good fight, and helping remind us all that we are mortal and human and flawed and perfect all at once. Keep up the good fight, know that it is appreciated, and i’ll read it next Tuesday(-ish).

  • Takes Me Ages To Get Round To Reading Your Posts (and am catching up)

    I don’t think Tim has time to read this, so I wont say anything

  • Katherine

    Tim – you are awesome. Your posts are awesome. I kind of check your blog obsessively, and I get super excited when there is a new post, but I don’t question my loyalty to WBW when there isn’t a post. WBW is amazing and usually the highlight of my workweek (hah!)

  • Andy

    This is my favorite blog in the world. That said, get over yourself. I have season tickets at this Fenway Park, but my life is not sitting in a seat waiting for the next game to begin. It’s all on Tivo, or whatever recording metaphore you like. If I don’t catch it the first day, I’ll get to it. If I want to re-read some (and I do), there’s the archive. I love when a new one comes out, but it’s the quality I come for, and for that I can chill until it’s ready.

  • Stephy

    Hey Tim,

    I always appreciate quality over quantity, and as a fellow perfectionist procrastinator in a creative field, deadlines=meh.

    The amount of research, time, and LOVE you put into all your posts is what keeps me coming back.

    I, and everyone else in the world, need to learn more stuff. And the best way to do that is to read more intelligent stuff,
    cuz, really, lately, the Internet seems to seriously tilt toward devolution of our species.
    Don’t even get me started on “journalism” in it’s current, under-researched, dumbass state.

    From a person who’s barely old enough to remember when “The Discovery Channel” actually encouraged curiousity, “TLC” ACTUALLY stood for “The Learning Channel”, and “The History Channel” ACTUALLY taught me something of historical breadth and significance….


    And, for the record, even if you only did post 4x/year, I would never leave you. You’re an awesome, talented writer.

    I’m STILL blown away by your “Odd Things In Odd Places” series. THAT WAS SERIOUS JOURNALIM!
    The Iraq one in particular is one everyone needs to read, since it’s clear that almost no one in charge seems to understand how the different groups involved in that conflict got to that point. I’ve linked so many people to that post. Riddiculously good.

    Anyway, please please please keep on posting awesomeness. Don’t freak about the Tuesday thing, okay? <3

    • Niamh

      what Stephy said

  • The Larch

    Tim, don’t beat yourself up. I think (to pretend there’s anything like a consensus among us) we understand that you don’t have to be administering your logical joy pellets to us, just as no one has to really do anything creative, and it is your decision to take off the lid and, by god, put those logical joy pellets into the empty dish. Your brand of LJP’s can only be synthesized by you, and is what keeps us in the cage, waiting day after day, whimpering, because we’ve come to depend on the LJP’s and…
    Never mind. Don’t read this.

  • Hi, I’m a fairly recent follower of your blog, but I’d like to say that I enjoy it very much. I particularly enjoyed your posts about procrastination and the mammoth. Your insight into the cycle of procrastination was pretty powerful. I found myself agreeing with everything you had to say about it and thought the way you explained it was spot-on. (I even printed a picture of the path through the Dark Playground to help remind me to keep on track.) As a life-long procrastinator, I totally get where you’re coming from in this post. Without the pressure of people’s expectations, you’d never get anything done, but those expectations cause a lot of stress and discomfort. There are a lot of us out here that get it. We understand. We won’t go away that easily because your posts are worth waiting a little extra time for. Keep up the good work and we’ll keep reading it.

  • alex

    To refer to the why we secretly hate cool bars post :
    The wait probably makes us want the article more …
    In an other point of view however, you could say that you posted in advance for next week’s post ! tada !

  • wobster109

    Oh dear. It’s alright. I’m in my own dark playground and always happy for one more thing to check.

    How about taking it easy with some presidents’ last words? It’s a scope-defined, non-spiraling, fixed-path topic. It won’t get you 100 tabs deep. 🙂

  • Caroline Szymanski

    Tim, we will NEVER leave. No matter what you post, no matter how imperfect or horrible to read. You got us convinced you’re something like a genius-looking-inside-our-brains – and we’ll always come back and see if there’s more of that.

    • maximkazhenkov11 .

      Pssst! You’re chasing away the Guilt Ostrich 😉

  • Steven L

    Hey, Tim. You might want to think about having two projects going at once, say, one full-blown super-intense article like the fermi paradox or the religion for the nonreligious one, and one less-intense one like birds or penguins or dinosaurs or presidential hairdos or whatever. Maybe, one or two weeks in a month could be intense posts, and the others could be more relaxing.

    As much as I do love the intense stuff, I definitely don’t want to lose out on the lighthearted looks at retarded animals and such. Maybe you could do something on world dictators next? That would be something.

  • boso

    THANK YOU, thank you, thank you! This gives me so much insight in my own perfectionist igm-inhabited mind.

  • boso

    Also: I can’t keep up with the reading. Reading a WBW post basically takes a whole day: I need to take a break in the middle to process, I have to write a comment, a couple of emails to friends in which I explain how the post changed my way of thinking or should change theirs, and explore the subject you wrote about further online. I actually get perfectionist in reading your posts. I still wait for the perfect circumstances in which I can finish reading the Iraq post.

    What I mean to say: if reading WBW takes so much time, writing it will be a hell of a job. An amazing job, thanks 🙂

    • ctmany

      I have this problem with so much of my online media & information consumption! Tim even alluded to this himself when he talked in one of his posts about YouTube and (I believe) Wikipedia spirals, where you are researching a topic, but that leads to 5 more tabs being opened on your browser!

  • DaveC

    I’m a professional procrastinator myself.. I was going to post a kind hearted message of understanding – letting you know that I don’t mind when you miss a deadline because at the end of the day I enjoy the final product.. but that might weaken your Panic Monster, Guilt Ostrich and YRAGLFIYKTBUYM Sea Lion… so…

    If you don’t stop missing dead lines we’re all going to stop reading and you will feel guilty and hate yourself and the panic monster will come back with a vengeance when you realise you have no money to pay for food or rent.

  • P


  • wobster109

    I would LOVE to see a YRAGLFIYKDTSL plush. 🙂

  • Elizabeth J.

    That you rarely, actually, post on Tuesday despite your tag line is a sweet “thing” about this site. I find it endearing.

  • Aryanna Anderson

    I would rather have less frequent, high quality posts than more frequent, shitty posts. I like when you make thought provoking posts less often because it gives my brain time to think about it throughout the week. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is: take your time and as long as your posts continue to be fucking awesome, it’s not a big deal if they are a little late.

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