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Entries in Blogging (33)

Thursday
Jan102019

I have something to say, but I'm not Wal-Mart

This was one of the best articles I have read about bloggling lately, "The Present and Future of Christian Blogging."

The author says this:

If we think of the Christian blogosphere like an industry, with individual, personal blogs as small businesses, then the ministry blogs are the Wal-Marts and Speedways and shopping malls; they exist, in a sense, to get as big as possible and (in the process) put the other guys out of business.

I think the author has hit on the real "problem" with Christian blogging: it is increasingly seen as an "industry." That is why big name blogs have more influence. They have funds to create a big platform. Smaller bloggers don't have the resources to do so. 

Further in the article, he alludes to the fact that big organizations like TGC become our spiritual authorities. Red Flag. Is that a healthy situation? It not only means people aren't looking to their local churches for authority, but their failure to do so takes the pastor off the hook to be that authority. How many pastors now direct people to articles on TGC for help? I have a lot of respect for that organization, but I'm not going to give it my ultimate allegiance. And here's another thought: how many pastors take their lead from TGC? From men (and occasionally, a woman) they don't know?

It seems to me that this is an Occam's Razor situation. People stop blogging because other matters have taken over their lives. We need to remember that life should not be lived online. There are other (and  many better) venues for writing. Personally, I have benefitted more from submitting my writing to a professor for evaluation than the unnamed masses who may or may not know much about me or my topic. How about the fact that people don't want to spend a lot of time online? How about the fact that the person who blogged daily ten years ago is now caring for an elderly parent and chooses not to use that as fodder for a blog?

I have been blogging for a long time, and I often have ideas about things. But I am not Wal-Mart, so I am a voice speaking into the wind. The only way for me to gain any kind of audience is to be put on sale by one of the blogging Wal-Marts. And that means my product has to withstand the judgment of that vendor. But I don't want to tailor my writing in order to get a mention from some big blogger. That feels like "selling out" in some way.

In the real world, the prevalence of Wal-Mart and big-box stores means very valuable small businesses get knocked aside. That analogy in the blogging world is apt.

Saturday
Jan052019

From a long time, anonymous blogger

I'm always interested to read people's thoughts about blogging. Like all social media, it has contributed to some quite profound changes in public discourse and what people think about communication in general. Tim Challies had an interesting article about the matter yesterday.

I have been blogging since 2015. I have not blogged every day, but when I first began I blogged frequently; too frequently, in fact. Looking back, I probably should have been doing something else; like taking care of my house, my kids, and my husband.

When I was blogging the most, I likened it to a group of people talking over the fence with her neighbours. It was fun. We had a selection of blogs we wanted to read, and we shared information, fun, and spiritual edification. It was a much softer, friendlier kind of blogging. I think when it became evident that one could have some kind of "influence" with a blog, it began to change. Eventually, the more fun, communicative kind of blogging was seen as vapid or ordinary. The big name blogs began to become more important. We began to measure ourselves against those bigger groups. We began to think that if we couldn't draw the crowds, we had nothing to say. In the past few years, the blogging that I first knew is fading. But I think there are a couple of things at the heart of the reason why people quit.

There is nothing new under the sun. In the years I have been blogging, I have seen issues make the rounds. Whether it is the The Elephant Room or the Emergent Church (remember those days? Do you ever hear about it now?), the idea of debate is always there. And some debates simply re-assert themselves in different forms. We may not be debating about the Emergent Church anymore, but we are talking about "woke" Christians and Social Justice Warriors. Some very good things have happened as a result. I think the dialogue about domestic and sexual abuse has been a good thing. But after a while, some people simply get tired of constantly talking about the issues. I am deeply concerned about such issues, but there comes a point when I survey what my feeds are offering me, all I can hear is "yadda yadda." There is a time for silence. And we all need a little more of that.

People's lives have moved on. For those who blogged regularly when their kids were small, teenage years and young adult years don't afford the time, and they definitely change what is suitable to talk about online - although, one could make an argument that talking explicitly about our kids online is probably never a good idea. For those of us who don't make a living or contribute to a platform with our blogs, other things are more important to us. Seminary has interrupted my blogging. If I become a grandmother, if given a choice will I want to snuggle a sweet, downy little head or write a blog post?

I don't normally have a verse for the year or a word for the year, but this year, quite unconsciously, I have adopted "focus" as my theme for the year. I want to focus on what is important. Blogging and social media in general can be a huge source of discouragement and distraction. I don't want to let that interrupt what is most important to me and what God has placed before me. I want to be discerning about what is worth more than a second's thought and what is going to be ultimately more enduring.

The question which is always in the back of my mind is this: how important is blogging? If there was no blogging, would we all shrivel up and die? If our favourite blogger suddenly stopped, what would be the ultimate loss? These things need to be in the front of my mind, otherwise I will take myself and this medium more seriously than I should.

The days of the over the fence chatting seem to be gone, and I'm sad about that. They were fun while they lasted.

Wednesday
Apr252018

Cooking, midwifery, and now blogging

When I was working on my degree in history, I took a course on the history of women in Canada. One of the more interesting things I learned was how the "professionalization" of various things changed women's work. Specifically, I read about how the standardization of cooking measures and the changes in medical practices affected women.

For the grandmother type who used a "handful" of this or a "pinch" of that, standardization of cooking was probably unintelligible. It also made teaching her granddaughters how to make a cake a challenge. Especially after the First World War, there were education programs that focused on home economics. In L.M. Montgomery's book, Rilla of Ingleside, at the end of World War I, the main character, Anne Shirley's daughter, is contemplating going on such a course. Technology always helps us, but it also means that things become more complex, and often, professionalized.

The same thing happened with midwifery. Today, there are many more midwives than when I had children. In fact, having a midwife was not an option for me when I had my children. At one time, that was the primary way of bringing a child into the world. Once medical practice began to become more organized and doctors' care more available, midwives, especially the ones with no training, became obsolete. A couple of years ago, I read the novel The Birth House, which was set in 1917. This was about this kind of transition.

Though blogging is not nearly as important an activity as midwifery or cooking (and we could all do quite nicely with out blogs when it comes right down to it) I see a similar occurrence. Tim Challies' article today deals with the topic of why Christian blogs aren't what they used to be. I want to suggest that it is in part because the big parachurch blogs have "professionalized" blogs, and the regular, ordinary blogger rather unnecessary.

Organizations like the ones Challies mentioned in his article tend to establish a standard, whether it is intentional or not. Women, especially, who have little time to read a lot of blogs, may prefer to read the ones written from the "professional" platforms. That means that the regular, ordinary voice is seen as not nearly as relevant or necessary. Blogging has become less about fellowship and more about information. I would suggest also that it has become more like journalism than anything else. The way bloggers race to be the "first" to comment on a juicy story has made me often think of reporters trying to "scoop" one another. When Rachael Denhollander gave her victim impact statement, everyone wanted to be in on the story, and now, every other woman and her dog wants to be writing about such issues. I don't think that Christian blogging is even about doctrine and theology as much as it is about cultural aspects. Someone always sets the trend, and we follow. And that means fewer "ordinary" blogs.

I loved the old blogging days. It's different now, and I never though there were be a day when I was indifferent toward my own blog, but seminary has offered me writing venues that are simply better for the kind of writing I'm interested in. But now that school is out, I like to keep cranking out sentences. I still like the voices of the ordinary, and in all honesty, I don't often read what comes from the big name bloggers. But I do regularly read  my favourites, the ones I've been reading for years, my friends; and I don't mind if they're not professionals.

Tuesday
Feb272018

The Evangelical Christian reading world is not the whole world

I probably shouldn't be taking time to think about the question put forth by Tim Challies yesterday. With only a little over six weeks in the semester remaining and a whole lot of work yet to do, I need to keep focused. However, I did spend a little time thinking about it yesterday, and maybe I'll think about it some more when I have more time. 

The title of the article and the question posed assumes a particular view: "Why Aren't Men Reading Women Writers?" Clearly, in general, that isn't true. All over the world, and throughout history, men have willingly read women writers. What is meant by that question is that in evangelical Christian circles men don't read books by women writers. And likely, considering the original question, coming from a writer named Jen Pollock Michel, the men come from more conservative -- and likely, complementarian-leaning -- circles. 

I was curious about what are the reading habits of those outside these evangelical Christian circles. What are they like among Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, or even in more academic circles? Is it true that men are not reading books written by women in those environments? I don't think the situations are similar. I suspect the question "Why aren't men reading women writers" would not be asked some places. I recently picked up a book that I'm positive men have read: Paul and Gender, by Cynthia Westfall, who is a professor at McMaster Divinity School. Of course men read women writers; it's just not the same in some circles as it is in others. 

Furthermore, these concerns are confined to Christians in North America (and possibly the UK; I don't know) who have access to books and time to read them. I have friends who are missionaries in PNG, and I'm sure they know nothing about this situation, and they probably don't care. It is interesting how easy it is to assume that our situation is the situation, when in reality, it's only a very small slice.

The answer to that question does lie in the publishing industry and what people will buy. But the fact that it must be asked at all has something to do with the place from where it originates.

Monday
Oct162017

Blogging may be dead, but . . . 

I have been blogging for twelve years. No, I haven't blogged every day, and I am not well-known. But I've been here. If one of the young women of my acquaintance asked me advice on how to begin, I'd be willing to share some counsel. These bits of advice reveal that I'm largely out of sync with things, but this is where I have arrivied twelve years later.

Get Educated

Learn how to construct a sentence. Learn some basic grammar rules. Learn the difference between its and it's. Learn that the possessive form of "I" is "my" not "I's". Proof read and correct mistakes. If you have the attitude "it's just a blog," then why blog at all? Good writing mechanics is the easy part.

Further to that, research what you write about. This may mean reading beyond the internet. It may mean that your post doesn't come to fruition for a week. Or two. If you're really serious, consider listening to podcasts or lectures from seminaries which are available for free. Get a user-friendly systematic theology. Start with something simple like Packer's Concise Theology. Just learn. Keep learning. Use blogging as a reason to learn. Learning has a way of making us humble. When we see how little we know, we feel it. Humility is a valuable tool in good writing.

Sleep On It

One thing about online communication is it tends to be like journalists all rushing after the scoop. When something controversial comes up, there is a rush to see who can respond first and with the most insightful commentary. That is too bad, because sometimes, insight only comes from sustained thinking. At the very least, think about it for more than an hour. Especially if you're really charged up about something, slow down. Passionate writing isn't bad, but if we're too charged up, it might sound obnoxious.

Beware of Controversy

Controversial topics get visits to a blog. There is a feeling of community when everyone bands together to commiserate or complain. That should be the minority of blog content. If all we ever write about is that which is complaint-worthy, how are we demonstrating the hope that is in the gospel or the beauty of the Word of God? I've read a lot of blogs over the years, and some I've given up on. The ones I continue to read don't provide a steady diet of controversy. Part of being a good writer is knowing how to write about anything. Consistent controversy really narrows what we write about, and can ultimately make us boring.

Be in the Word

Being in God's word regularly, and in deep ways, transforms our thinking. It is the Holy Spirit speaking to us. Without that regular diet of God speaking to us, it will influence our thinking, and in turn, our writing. There is only so much time in a given day, and if we spend more time online reading blogs and less time in the Word, we may very well have a great understanding of how to write a blog post that attracts readers, but we may be spiritually poorer for it.

Take Care of Your Kids

There are a lot of parents (especially women) with children who blog. Blogging takes time and attention. Don't rob your kids of time with them so you can get a post up. I did that more than I should have. Am I the only one who ever did that? I doubt it. There were times I know that my kids were speaking to me while I was at my computer writing and I didn't even really hear what they were saying. I'm sad about those times. I have adult children; trust me, they remember the times we seemed to be ignoring them.

Confrontation is not a spiritual fruit

I have come across a lot of confrontational bloggers over the years. I guess some of them are called "watchbloggers." Some are more overt than others. Some disguise their "watchblogginess" with better writing. But I still find them wearisome if that's all they ever do. I avoid those kinds of blogs now. There is nothing wrong with speaking truth or identifying error, but if that is all a blogger produces, eventually I stop reading altogether. There is a very fine line between holding strong views and just beng a harpie. Learn to write incisively about your topic, not go at people with all guns blazing.

Get someone to edit your writing

The blog world is filled with men and women who write without any real accountability. And they may have a lot of readers. Just how responsible are we for what we say on our blogs? It's a worthwhile question. Get someone to read your writing before you post; someone who can be honest with you. I wish I'd done more of that. And be humble if that person cautions you about something.

Write with grace

In your learning (see above), understand what grace is. And use it in large measure. I am not always gracious, but I know grace-filled writing when I see it, and I'd rather read that than anything else.