In the age of the image, of Instagram, of Pinterest, words still count. In the age of Twitter, there’s still value in a word count about 20. Of course I’m going to say that, because I have a blog. Blogs may be the dinosaurs of the tech savvy age, but let’s face it, dinosaurs lasted for a very, very long time (take note Ken Ham).
I have a Twitter account, but to be honest, apart from linking my blog to it, it’s pretty much dormant. For me, it’s the blog or nothing. That presents some problems, not least of all for my lovely wife Jill, who is a far more private person than I, and often feels a little confronted by what is a fairly public process.
In 2012 I was a sporadic blogger with about 6000 reads for the year. In 2017, with a commitment to writing more often, and dealing with some topical matters that got widespread attention, it’s a quarter of a million reads.
My blog has led to numerous other writing requests, republication requests and speaking engagements around the country. It’s a little confronting at times because you realise that when you press “publish” it’s out there.
Granted that’s still not a huge readership (not Taylor Swift figures yet) compared with the committed, viral bloggers of this age, but as a side gig for a pastor, who is not particularly tech savvy, and whose focus is theology, culture and church, I’ll take it. People are reading what I am writing. If they were not, then I guess I’d stop.
So what did I learn from blogging in 2017?
1. Writing Clears My Head:
I often have people ask how I write so much, so quickly. Many assume that it takes up an inordinate amount of my time. It doesn’t. Writing is my thing. It clears my head. I generally write in the morning so that I can get on the with the rest of the day. That’s just me. For some people writing is like pulling teeth. For me it’s just that think that the day needs before it gets started, along with a run, prayer, Bible etc. Oh, and a shower.
2. I Write Like I Speak
I don’t have a writing style and a speaking style. It’s the same thing. And that means that sometimes my writing is not as clear as it should be because I tend to write a blog post as I am thinking things through. But a blog is not an essay. It is not a PhD proposal. The pushback I get about my writing is that I don’t say everything, or more particularly, the one thing that someone wants to me to say. To that end I would say, a blog is not meant to do that. Up to one thousand words is enough. Any longer and it starts to meander.
If people complain too much about what I have left out I just say “Hey, write your own blog.” A bit rude perhaps, but that’s the point of having a blog – it’s my thoughts, not yours.
3. It’s Hard Not to Interact with Naysayers
I’m learning more and more to leave what I write without having to respond to everyone who comments about it. This is especially true of Facebook. What I find on Facebook is that when someone shares the blog link a lot of people make a lot of single line statements pointing out the obvious problems in my work. Generally they’re of the opinion that they can sum up in one line what I cannot sum up in one thousand words. They can’t.
The hard part for me is not responding it all of these. Go on, try it, I dare you! Put your stuff out there and then sit on your hands when people respond! I’ve had to learn to not respond. And I’ve had to remind myself that my justification is in Jesus, not in what people think of me. That’s still a work in progress, and given that I have a sarcastic streak, I have to be careful not to be ungodly in responding to people.
4. My Best Posts Are Instinctive
When it comes to “art” there’s no getting around the blood, sweat and tears. Self discipline in writing is the norm. While that is true, I have found that my gut has produced my best, and most influential writing. I have a sense of something that I start to articulate; something “burns” so to speak, and I write it. It’s on those occasions, rather than the sitting down and writing because I have to, that I get the most response. It’s like, for a brief moment, I am verbalising what many people are thinking, but have yet to put in to words.
There’s something about that which makes me keep writing, some sense of je ne sais quois, that makes me sit down again the next day, and the next.
5. Some People Read What They Want to Read
The vast majority of feedback I receive is either positive or instructive. I appreciate the feedback that I get from people because my blog really is a discussion starter, rather than the definitive word on anything. If you’re going to put words and ideas out there, then you’d better be prepared for people to either knock them down, or use them as a foundation for their own building. So that’s a real positive.
Perhaps the primary negative is that some people read what they want to read. So I get people who say “What you’re saying is…” and then what follows is some contorted, or plain wrong, interpretation of what I have written. I know that I write pretty plainly, so when that happens all I can assume is that people take their pre-conceived ideas and squeeze my blog posts through them, extracting what I actually mean, and leaving them with a husk of their own interpretation. Blogging has shown me that people do not read what is on the page!
But generally that’s not been happening. Which tells me that words still communicate meaning effectively. We’re not all completely bound by own experiences. We manage to see true things truly, if not fully.
So, in conclusion, thanks for reading in 2017. It’s not always easy. It’s often confronting. Often I take a deep breath before writing or publishing, especially when writing on some of the more inflammatory topics we’ve been dealing with in our culture and our church this year.
I don’t think these topics are going to go away. In fact they’re going to become more inflammatory before they settle down. They’re not the only things I write about, indeed my first blog post in 2017 was about the death of my father on January 2 (is it a year already since he died!) but the point of a blog is to present bite sized chunks of thinking for people who need clarity on, or information about, a current matter. And that’s why I’ll probably keep blogging in 2018.
Thanks for reading it and responding to my blog in 2017, and I hope I can write well enough in 2018 to encourage you to keep reading it.