Training in Righteousness
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Entries in Blogging (26)

Wednesday
Oct082014

Ten years of blogging

Ten years ago today, I wrote my very first blog post. The reason I started was because I liked to write. I had no real aspirations. It was just for the writing, and for the possibility of interaction with others who liked to write.

Things have changed in ten years.

When I began, I was a homeschool mom with three kids at home. Now, I am an empty nester. That's a big change. My circumstances have changed, and with it, some of my interests.

When I began blogging, it was okay to post recipes, and quizzes that asked, "What Pride and Prejudice Character Are You?" Now, recipes are for food blogs, and the quizzes are for Facebook. Blogging was more friendly back then. Some days, it seems far too serious for ordinary folk like me.

When I began blogging, it was okay to write 1,000 words. Now, I think people have trouble with 500 word posts. 

In 2004, Facebook was not open to public use, and Twitter was still two years away. One heard about blogs by reading blogs. It's much easier to promote a blog now than it was then.

When I began blogging, I had been a parent for fifteen years. I thought I knew a lot about parenting. I discovered I had a lot yet to learn.  

What's stayed the same?

Controversy still sells.

People still know how to beat a dead horse.

Grown men and women still conduct themselves online in ways that, if their children did so, they would be in trouble.

I'm still not a fan of stereotypical "women's ministry" content, whether it's a blog or a book.

The Advantage of Being Unknown

I have not made one dime with my blog. I have not built an impressive platform. I have not become famous. I have not become a "speaker," or had a book published. I am still just a simple bible teacher, wife, mother, and member of the body of Christ. I have a modest readership, and I'm very thankful for the small numbers who read here and occasionally reach out with a word of encouragement or a comment. Once, I was seriously thinking about packing it in, and I got an email from a reader thanking me for blogging. My husband reminds me regularly that one reader is enough to keep on writing.

Being unknown gives me freedom I wouldn't have otherwise. I like blogging without others having expectations from me. It means if I want to knit in front of British crime dramas instead of blogging, no one is going to care. If I choose to post a recipe rather than comment on the latest controversy, the blog cops won't come a-knocking. No one is waiting for me to make utterance, and that's a relief. There is a tremendous amount of responsibility to be someone everyone is waiting to hear speak. I don't think I would like that responsibility. My primary vocation is my family, and I'm grateful that nothing seriously interferes with that.

A Gift

Ten years with no substantial reward? By the world's standards, my blogging effort has not proven to be fruitful. Maybe even in some Christian blogging circles, I'm not successful. Perhaps. But I have been given an unexpected gift: friendship.

I have a group of blogging women who are my friends. Some of them, I've been fortunate enough to meet in person, embrace, share a meal or a cup of coffee with, and have fellowship that ended far too soon. I can turn to them when I need prayer and counsel. Two of those ladies I have known since I began blogging in 2004. When two years is like a thousand in blogging years, how cool is that?

There are other people I have met through blogging, some who have been brave enough to allow my husband and me to come to their homes. That is what I have loved about blogging: the connections I have made. I have no monetary success, no fame, no audience who waits with bated breath for me to speak. But I have friends, and that's a gift. 

In 2004, I wondered if there were other women who were serious about theology and doctrine. One of the suggested names I had for this blog was "The Purpose-Driven Dissident." That was how I felt; like I was always in the wrong place, saying the wrong thing. I probably was saying the wrong thing, but I was not alone in my search for like-minded women. When I began The Upward Call, I did not know that I would find such women through blogging. I did not know I would find other women who felt like they didn't fit, like they were on the fringe. I didn't know I'd come to see that sometimes, the fringe is a good place to be. I'm thankful for these past ten years of blogging.

And this post is over 500 words; if you made it to the end, I thank you.

Thursday
Oct022014

Perhaps the blogging audience has changed

In the last few weeks, there has been a bit of discussion about why women's blogs become inactive. Sarah Beals had what I think is the best comment on the matter. I remember thinking when I read the posts surrounding this matter, "Men who blog probably have someone cooking and cleaning for them, that's why they're blogging." 

I've been blogging for ten years. Next week, it will be 10 years since my first blog entry. Things have changed. I could write a post about said changes. But I won't. Many of you know what they are. One thing I know that has changed is the what the audience expects.

Social media and the reality of a blogger becoming published has collapsed the distance between the reader and the writer. We can tweet at our favourite authors and for some, become Facebook friends. All of a sudden, we're blogging alongside "professionals."  The run of the mill, ordinary female-authored blog  feels like she is writing among the one with the PhD, the MDiv, or the one with two books published. While we should not compare ourselves, it is inevitable. That would be like me playing a game of tennis with Venus Williams and not comparing my abilities. I think a lot of female bloggers stop because of insecurity. And yes, that is something we must learn to get over. I think, though, that with so many professional blogs, the audience expects the writing to be professional, and that's intimidating for a blogger who isn't blogging to build a platform or promote a book, but is just doing it because she likes to write.

Years ago, before standardized measure came into vogue, our great-grandmothers cooked with the "cup of this, pinch of that" approach. After the turn of the 20th Century, domestic work became systematized and organized, and schools began offering courses on household management. I'm currently reading the journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, and her cousin was involved in such a course. When something like domesticity becomes professionalized, anything other than the standard comes across as insufficient. Great-grandma's cooking was indeed very good, but it was so old fashioned and not as good as the professionally produced food. I think we little bloggers may feel that way about our writing, and it makes us apprehensive.

Writers write for an audience. If we write only for our own amusement and our own eyes, what is the purpose of putting it online? We want to share. To never consider our audience seems a bad approach to writing. For some of us, we don't stop writing because we're not getting thousands of readers; we stop because we perceive we are not even in the conversation. 

For all of our talk about loving the ordinary, and realizing that God sanctifies the ordinary life, I'm not so sure we all like to read about the ordinary lives of others. We like to hear about famous ordinary people. For me, I love to read about ordinary. There are a handful of blogs I've been reading for years and I read them regularly. I like to hear about their regular lives. We're friends. Perhaps that is what has changed in blogging, and why women pack it in: it's not as friendly.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a rather random entry about odds and ends. One of the comments was from someone who said she felt like she'd had a cup of coffee with me. I like that. And I wonder if there is still an audience out there who likes that. If you are out there, we'd like to know.

Wednesday
Feb192014

Is the blog a good medium for everyone?

I was writing the other day, working on a post where I have a particular word limit. I did what I always do: I wrote way more than is allowed and then edited the thing to get the word count down. I find that much easier than writing too little and then struggling to fill in the gaps.

Later, I went to read someone else's blog post and it was very long; much longer than you'd expect. But it really needed to be, because the writer was talking about a very complicated issue and it required more than the paltry amount of words that blogs seem to allow these days. 

The post I was working on involved study of history, and history is always complicated. No historical figure or event just pops up randomly. It is always a matter of numerous things intersecting with each other. Sometimes, even 1,000 words isn't quite enough.

I like researching things, and I like soaking myself in the topic. I like knowing a subject well. I like studying for my Sunday school lessons well enough so that I only have to glance at my notes. Sometimes, I don't think the blog is the best medium for someone who is like that; at least not if she wants someone to read it. And let's be honest, here; why bother writing in a public medium if it's not with the intent to have someone read it?

I think it's wise to know our strengths and weaknesses. It is not my particular strength to be funny. Some people write with ease, expertly inserting those dry, sarcastic (in a good way) quips, often bringing in some rather vague pop culture references that some people get and some people don't. I enjoy a dry sense of humour, but I can't replicate that. Generally speaking, when I generate laughter, it's when I'm actually serious.

Neither am I the kind of person whose prose borders on poetry and makes people cry on their keyboards. Nope, can't do it. I like my prose with prose and poetry with poetry.  As a few friends and I were contemplating yesterday, I'm kind of a wet blanket. I'm a hard-working wet blanket, mind you, but soggy nonetheless.

I don't know as if the blog is the best medium for everything. I enjoy reading articles that are short and interesting, but I don't think every topic can be condensed to 500 words. I often wonder how much misunderstanding is perpetuated because we try to keep it so short. No, we can't say everything in a blog post, and if we try, people get bored and leave. When we don't say everything, there is an inevitable flurry of debate in the comments box, and we all know how productive those comments boxes are (sarcasm intended).

All of this thinking reminds me again how blogging is a very different sort of writing than other kinds. My daughter is a PhD student in English. There is a lot of writing. When I told her what I was writing about and how long it needed to be, she looked at me wide-eyed and said "Is that all?" I don't think a blog would suit her needs even if she had the time to write one.

This October, I will have been blogging for ten years. A lot has changed. I'm still trying to figure out what is the best way to use this medium.

Saturday
Jan042014

Valuing encouragement of those who know us

Back in the early days of my blogging, one of my favourite blogs was Pyromaniac, the blog of Phil Johnson. This was before it became a group blog. I appreciated (and still do) Phil's incisive writing and passion for the gospel. 

Phil used to do something called "blogspotting," which was basically to link other people. One morning, as I checked my site stats, I noticed visits coming from Phil's blog. My stomach lurched, and my heart sped up. What on earth was this? My first thought was, "have I said something stupid?" I am not a funny person; generally when people laugh, it's at me.

I don't even remember what it was, but it was, of course, all in good fun. I have been blessed to have met Phil and his wonderful wife on a few occasions, and I can tell you they are the warmest, kindest folks you'd want to meet. At the time, though, I was actually quite terrified of him. It was, though, a little boost to a nobody blogger like myself.

A few years ago, I wrote a letter to my favourite aunt. She and I used to do this often at one time before email and cheap long distance calls. I know she loves letters, so I wrote her one. When I saw her the following October, she told me that she loved my letter, and that she had not only read it several times, but taken it around to my other aunts and uncles and read it to them.

"You should have been a writer," she said seriously.

That was one of the most precious things I have ever been told. 

My aunt is not a writer, although she knows what good books are. I admire her a great deal. I am indebted to her for all she taught me about domestic issues, about being a newlywed, and what hard work is. When she commented on my writing, it was like my heart sprouted wings.

It is flattering when other writers whom we respect encourage us in our writing. On the occasions that it has happened to me, I have felt both thankful and a little scared; scared because I don't ever want to become prideful, and I know my own heart. I also don't want to find my sufficiency in the praise of men. However, it is a blessing and an encouragement when someone we admire compliments our writing. Who doesn't like to get a link from a blogger we respect?

At the the same time, we need to value and be grateful for the encouragement of those who know us. When my husband likes what I have written, that means a lot to me. When the bloggers I consider friends like what I've written, it's the icing on the cake. It's not that I am seeking a carte blanche endorsement of everything I write. But the folks I consider good blogging friends are theologically solid; I can trust their judgment. The added bonus of us knowing each other makes their encouragement and support valuable, indeed.

Having "big" name bloggers can increase your traffic exponentially. But it is a fleeting high; after a few days, the numbers go back to normal. We need to be careful about placing too high a value on such things. I have a small readership; you won't see my name on any "Top 100 Blogs" list anytime soon. But I have some good friends who read here regularly. And I have an aunt tell me I should have been a writer. I'd say I'm very blessed.

Wednesday
Nov132013

Things you probably shouldn't blog about

I've probably already blogged about them.

I've determined in my head to blog less about personal things, but I could not help but laugh when I read an old post this morning, and was reminded of this. Other woman bloggers will appreciate this. Sometimes, when we read blogs or visit social media sites, we're tempted to believe other women have perfect lives, perfect homes, never lose their tempers, never do anything foolish. Well (not that I think for one minute anyone has concluded those things about me) here is something that the perfect blogging homemaker would probably leave from her repetoire.

I was expecting child #3. In fact, I was big enough that when I  contemplated getting down on my hands and knees to wash my kitchen floor that afternoon, I wished I had a mop. I used Pine-Sol. I don't know why, because it really stinks, but that's what I used. After measuring the amount into my bucket and filling it with water, I put the measure cup aside, and set to work. I was busy for the remainder of the afternoon.

We were having small group at our house that night, and prior to that, our pastor and his wife were coming over for dinner. I made a chicken dish, and I also made a broccoli and cauliflower side dish with a creamy sauce. 

We sat down to eat amid lots of chatter. Our pastor and his wife had no children of their own, so they liked talking to ours. As I was eating my vegetables, I was surprised at the flavour. This wasn't how I remembered it from having made it on previous occasions. In fact, it was downright awful. I couldn't figure out what it was, but it tasted terrible. I looked around the table and saw others eating. The kids weren't really eating, but that wasn't surprising; they never ate well when we had guests. I especially looked at my husband to see if he had noticed something. Nothing was said, and we finished the meal, cleaned up and waited for the rest of the people to arrive.

As my pastor was talking later that night, it hit me. Pine-Sol. Yes, that was what the funny taste was.  I felt my stomach lurch. Clearly, I had not rinsed the measuring cup out in my haste. I had used Pine-Sol laced milk and fed it to my pastor and his wife. And on top of that, I had fed my unborn child that concoction. As visions of the death of my pastor and birth defects in my child rushed into my head, I discreetly slipped from the room and went to read the label. There didn't seem to be any warnings about it being toxic. I drank a few glasses of water, and wondered if I should say anything.

After I gathered my wits around me, I calmed down, realizing that the amounts were small enough to simply ruin the taste of my food. It wasn't, after all arsenic. My pastor and his wife lived, and my son was born healthy and with a great Apgar score. Ironically, the pastor turned out to have some really interesting ideas about the inerrancy of Scripture, being slain in the spirit, and the extent of the atonement. He was fired about a year later. I'm pretty sure it wasn't the Pine-Sol's fault, though.

This is the kind of story that would relegate me to the category of "mommy blogger." I don't know if that's a disparagement today or not.

I'm happy to say that since that night, I have never used Pine-Sol again.