Every day, it seems, I find myself looking up words and their etymologies, trying to get at the root of what something I've just read means. Sometimes it's a word in the Bible, and I end up wading my way through ancient languages I've never studied, searching for clues. Other times it's just words from daily life that suddenly pertain to some matter I'm struggling with or considering. Often the word has changed over the centuries; I find such words particularly fascinating—particularly when, as is often the case, the word's current meaning is at odds with what it once meant. Some of these word studies find their way into my writing projects. My goal is to post new words weekly, sometimes brand new material and sometimes excerpts from my books.

06 January 2007

My Struggles as a Blogger

Okay, here's the problem. Audience. I hated my last attempt at blogging, which was—I tried in vain to escape the problem by lamenting it at the end—preachy, teachy, and obnoxiously self-congratulatory when I got to thinking about it and did not really solicit anything but encouraging remarks from kind friends and acquaintances and former students of mine. Which remarks—don't get me wrong—I do cherish. Immensely. But something in me senses that this is not what a blog is supposed to be. So, I'm starting over. I'm not going to give you, as I promised in my last failed blog, a summary of all the wonderful instruction I have to offer on the subject of writing. I know you're sad about that.

Instead, I have thought and thought and come up a new plan. I will write about my ongoing struggles. I was reading someone's blog in which the writer questioned whether struggle and growth amounted to the same thing. I think they do. So, that's what I plan to write about. My current questions about and objections to and general ruminations and research on matters of faith. The usual stuff of my writing—just rawer, less processed, potentially more wrong and cranky and rude than I let myself be in my essays. I invite you to intervene and commiserate and/or set me right.

One more thing about audience and blogging. I find myself saying "you" a lot more than I see the word used in others' blogs. I keep worrying about what you, my readers, might be interested in reading here. This may be my problem as a blogger. It seems that blogs are generally these places that are totally about the writer but that everyone in the world can read. I don't know how to have that sort of voice—how to be that intimate so publicly. Perhaps one of you can give me some pointers. I fear, too, that even if I could figure out how to do it, I would feel as though I were in one of those upsetting dreams in which I am naked in some public place, like the median of a freeway. So, for now at least, I'm letting myself dialogue, clothed, with an imagined—and also clothed!—audience. You, gentle readers, in your snug bathrobes. The result is that my blog voice may sound more like the narrator of a Victorian novel than most, but bear with me. I will figure this out.


Spring said...

Glad to see you back! I figured the blogging thing wasn't working for you when you went a few weeks without posting.

I've been blogging almost every day since I graduated from college (May 2005), but I'm not sure I have any pointers for you (though I'm not quite sure if you are looking for pointers).

If you go back to the first few entries on my blog (www.xanga.com/springmore), well, I think they're pretty much the same as they are now, which is kind of upsetting because it means I haven't really been growing. However, I have learned a few things recently from professional bloggers (my favorite is www.dooce.com--check her out!):

1. Even if you don't have anything to say, blog every day. This one is similar to Anne Lamott's advice that if we want to write, then we should write, every day, as much as we can. And most of what we write will be shit, but some of it will be okay. Also, the best way to have a large audience is by keeping them satisfied. Most of the people reading your blog already know and like you, so whatever you want to write that day will be good enough. Plus, the good thing about blogging is that the tiniest anecdote can be an entire entertaining entry.
2. Writing is not blogging, and blogging is not writing. (I sense that you learned this one quickly.) I confused the two for a time, but I've since then learned the subtle differences.
3. It's best to keep each entry focused on one topic, similar to a raw essay. I started out blogging whatever came to mind, but over time (and this is the one single way I've grown as a blogger over the span of 20 monnths), I began to put more thought into my entries, sometimes cooking an entry for days in my mind before writing it.
4. It always helps to be tongue-in-cheek.
5. Try your best not to make apologies or disclaimers. This one is similar to plain old writing. Write what you feel and don't worry too much about how your readers will receive it. Or, if you are worried about the tone, perhaps you should change something.
6. Similar to #5, don't apologize for not posting. It's okay. We already forgave you.

Unlike you, blogging has always been easier for me than writing not in spite of the audience but rather because of it. I truly, truly hate sitting down to a blank Word doc. It feels too vaccuumy. But when I open a new entry on my blog, I can see the faces of the poeple I'm writing for/to, and while it sometimes limits my topics (and my language--I have to keep the cuss words to a minimum because every single one of my in-laws is a regular reader), it helps me set a tone for my entries.

Anyway, gosh, you don't need my advice. I'm YOUR student. But since I've got 20 months of blogging on you, I thought I could help out in my own piddly way.

I'm halfway through your book. Love it. I spent two hours in the tub last night with it.

Spring said...

Also, I never know how to spell vacuum.

Katy said...

It's kind of intimidating for me to comment on your blog. I've tried six times to write a comment, and now I'm giving up and admitting that I don't have a decent piece of advice. Probably because I'm used to YOU being the teacher, similarly to Spring.

Spring's a good blogger, though. She's much better than me. My friend Craig's blog is also wonderful: clocktower74.blogspot.com.

Julie said...

PROF KIRK! I was surprised to find this, just because of the things you've mentioned in your post and things you've said in what we call real life. Nice to see you here.

I bought your book tonight. I've read almost half of it thus far, and it's been joyful. You reminded me of something I've known for awhile--that it all wouldn't mean too much without the struggle. Christ made a lot more sense (and was much more precious) to me after I lost him and had to sort of grope around for awhile. My lostness was the point, I think.

What did Julian of Norwich say? "Love was his meaning"? I think so. I've been mulling over that for a few years.

I am so privileged to be one of yours, Kirk.

Love you,


Julie said...

p.s. I hope you change your mind about the writing advice. Love Me

Ann said...

Blogging has been hard for me at times -- in the beginning I had a hard time figuring out how much was appropriate to share. I was used to writing somewhat confessional essays, and I didn't realize that what I shared in those types of essays might not be appropriate for the internet. I don't update my blog everyday. I am considering starting, but I do at least once a week. This is a more liveable goal for me.

I think the most beneficial thing for me about having a blog is being able to write for an audience. It is incredibly motivating to have faithful readers. It's also been FANTASTIC for keeping in touch with friends from college -- friends I otherwise wouldn't have kept in touch with, like several of my English-major friends who I enjoyed being with in college and learning from but never grew close enough with to call every once-in-a-while. I am incredibly thankful for this connection. I also met my boyfriend over my blog. I know that sounds a little scary and weird, but we did have mutual friends, and he went to JBU for a year before transferring. He read a post I wrote about St. Augustine entitled, "Christian Bookstores and the Absent Augustine." If you would like to read it, my blog is www.xanga.com/anniferathonn. The entry date is April 28, 2006 (and no, I don't know that by memory. I had to go back and check it.)

My blogging voice needs a lot of work, but I think the nature of a blog is to be somewhat laid back and approachable. I agree with Spring, however, that one ought to pick a topic to write about rather than constantly making boring "I did this today." I think there is a place for I-did-this entries, but only every once-in-a-while and then just to remind people that I am only human :).