About a year ago, I returned home from summer retreat with my students to find out that my wife had started a blog. “Hmm” thought I. Coming after a few months of mulling over whether to start one myself, I took it as the sign I was looking for. And so my little Reformedish blog started. Roughly 220 posts later, I’ve realized I don’t quite think I knew what I was getting myself into. I could not have predicted the joy, the stress, surprises, and blessings that have come with setting my hand back to the plough. When my little WordPress anniversary notification popped up, I figured it’s as good a time as any to review and reflect on some things I’m grateful for and lessons I’ve begun to learn through the writing experience.
Writing Can Be Addictive – Early on I had difficulty thinking of things to write. I would sit, ponder, mull over the various ideas I’d had bouncing around in my head during all of the silent years leading up to the blog, but it was still a struggle to crank out a post. Over time, though, the more I wrote, the more I realized I wanted to write about everything. Nowadays I find myself writing maybe a third of the ideas that come into my head, or commenting on a fraction of the passages I find worth interacting with. I’ll tell myself I’ll take it easy one week, only to find myself writing a couple of extra surprise articles I didn’t think I had in me. I don’t know that this is always a positive thing, but still, it’s something I’m learning.
Editors Are Great – One of the great blessings of the last year has been coming on staff over at Christ and Pop Culture. They introduced me to the world of writing with an editor. A good editor will save you from yourself at your worst moments as a writer and encourage your best. I’ve been sharpened by their input, corrections, and averted a couple of train-wrecks. Actually, it’s not just editors, but a writing community in general helps if you can get it. That’s one of the reasons I’ve loved writing with the crew over at CaPC–it’s really a collaborative effort. Also, the two or three guest pieces I’ve had over at Mere Orthodoxy have been some of the most helpful I’ve had as a writer. Matthew Lee Anderson is a brutal, savage man who will rip apart your work in the best way possible.
Projects Are Good – I started my Calvin Comments project a couple of months ago and it’s been a beneficial discipline for me. Setting a long-term writing project helps you develop your attention-span as a writer, strengthening your ability to focus in a a subject or thinker in order to penetrate deeper than the easy, initial observations.
Popularity Is Unpredictable – There are occasionally times when I’ve had a sense that a piece would do well and I’ve been right. For the most part, I’ve been totally surprised by the reactions/non-reactions I’ve seen to various pieces. The ones I work hardest on, love dearest, and pour the most of myself into, might get a yawn, while the quickie-post is my biggest day of the week. Go figure.
Write Clearly and Expect to Be Misread – I’ve had a few experiences online that have taught me you need to write clearly on the internet. You should write clearly in general, but people’s reading habits online can be kind of sloppy. We skim, read bold sections, italics, and the title and cobble together a general idea of the argument. Because of that, it’s best to set out your arguments, if you’re making an argument, as cleanly and unmistakably as possible. You also should expect some people to still not understand what you’re saying. It’s just a thing. I’m realizing that if you can’t take that, you’ll never survive.
This Too Shall Pass – In a few days, everything will be forgotten. This applies both to the praise and the controversy. By the grace of God, I’ve had a few pieces do surprisingly well. That’s cool for a day or two. Don’t get too elated, though. It’ll be forgotten quickly, as the internet rolls on. On the other hand, I’ve managed to get plunged into a couple of full-blown, this-is-a-real-thing, interwebs brouhahas. These were fairly unpleasant. One in particular landed me at the center of some uncomfortable attention, misunderstandings, and a whole lot of stress. But, as I found out, this too passed and was forgotten in short order. It’s very important to mind every word you write, for you will give an account one day to the Lord, but still, if you don’t make it a habit of being dip, it’ll be okay. Hopefully.
Idolatry Is Still Stupid – Getting your sense of identity and self from writing is, like every other form of idolatry, very stupid. It’s also very easy to fall into. Time and time again I’ve had to remind myself that good page-views or bad page-views do not determine my worth or standing as a child of God. If I live for the affirmation of good comments and shares, it inevitably won’t be enough, or the negative criticisms I receive will be devastating. No, before I’m a writer, I must reckon myself a child of God. Any other approach is spiritual folly.
God is Unpredictably Kind (Again) – I’ve always known God is unreasonably kind, but in the last year, he has surprised me with a number blessings I don’t deserve through the writing process. In the last few months he gave me the opportunity to: go to a couple of conferences I never would have gone to; meet some very kind people I never would have met otherwise; have the privilege of writing for websites I never would have imagined ever being noticed by; and rediscover a passion I’d let lie dormant for a number of years. I don’t know what the next year of writing holds, but I am so grateful for the year he’s given me so far. Here’s hoping the next one’s just as fun.
Finally, not that I’ve accomplished some big thing, but to all those who’ve played a part in this, whether reading, praying, commenting, or just generally supporting me: Thank you. For what it’s worth, It’s been big for me, so thanks for being a part of it.
Of course, as always, any and all glory ultimately is God’s alone.
Soli Deo Gloria