What Do You Write When You Can’t Speak?
Sorry for the blogging silence of late. I’m going through some difficult personal stuff, mostly relating to career (er ministry in my line of work) issues.
In addition to that, I had a case of the old blogger’s writing block start a few weeks ago. It was triggered by having to do some more academic writing which isn’t conducive I find to blogging (and vice versa). But then I noticed it became something deeper–a real question of finding the drive to do this thing at all. So instead of trying to find something outside of this block to try to inspire me, I think I’ll just go into it, if you dear reader would like to follow (and hopefully not find it too narcissistic).
Looking for some way through this and having lost some (most?) of the fire, I came back to the rationale for why we started this merry band of bloggers–the idea of conversing differently in the blogosphere. Before I go any further I should say that while this isn’t intended to be a direct response to Helen R. nor worse by far be Helen bait, her criticism is there in the back (middle?) of my mind and is influencing what I write.
I get what she’s saying and I’ve been guilty of it at times. I’m not minimizing it (or maybe I am you decide). Still the opposite–and by far in my experience the much greater trend (at least in political blogging)–has been the soul-crushing experience of deadened perspectivism. By that I mean everyone has their identity, their team, their ideology, their niche, their sub-niche, their sub-team, and sub-branch of the ideology. Some issue arises and then everything is simply reactive from that point. Your side has to have the right solution/answer to that problem, you immediately jump into the fray armed for that proposal. The other side has rebuttals. You have to deconstruct their rebuttals–or as is more likely, simply avoid anything of value they may be saying and fire at some other hole under their water line never noticing the rising flood within your own political acquatic vessel.
The alternative to that alternative (i.e. the first position) is what Helen calls the gushing. It’s a problem. Depending on your pov, maybe not as bad a problem. But her response hit a nerve for a reason.
I’m not seeking a half-way house between those two addictions. Some kind of tidy in media between the two ways of this medium. No Via Media for the Medium. [I’ve already got enough of that in my church life as an Anglican thanks very much].
I would like something else that would simply bypass those twin failures. For awhile I tried innovative policy blogging (or what I thought was innovative policy anyway). Something that would by a true transpartisanship not some cut the difference bipartisanship now common in our legislative fights. Maybe I’m a cynic but I just found that no one–the readers, the commenters, the other bloggers–is really interested in that.
So that option died. Then I ended up in some weird attempt to be a kind of trickster blogger, like the Fool in Lear, the wise one who hides everything through a strange mocking voice while secretly feeling very deeply. Secretly (though not to the true hearer) deeply wounded by the violence and insanity that swirls about him. Willing against his better judgment to follow the crazy king into the woods of this blogging world.
I think this latest block for me has been the end of that persona as well. And I don’t know what comes next, if anything. But I still have this desire that would be neither the gush but would not be the anti-gush perspectivism of a Helen. For that to me is just the inverse of the same proposition and is still held to its brutal logic though perhaps she is simply more honest than I am.
On the other hand I desire a way that isn’t the common rut of this medium and of our political discourse writ large. I desire it but it doesn’t come. Like God.
This isn’t a backhanded shot at my brother members of the League. Nor is it some less than totally transparent apologia either. It’s not really a matter of blame. Like The Fool running into the storm–does it make any sense there to talk about blame? Undoubtedly as mortal e-flesh we have fallen short of the glory of our stated goals.
Civility is a nice thing. I use nice there purposefully. But I’m still desiring something more than nice. Which is why I analogized it to God since God is not nice and yet God is attractive to me. We’ve achieved some civility via the League protocals I think, I hope, and that’s to the good. Saying that is not trumpeting ourselves to the stars. It’s you know like nice.
To flip the script on Aligheri for a sec: It’s not that I’m lost in this dark wood because I’ve lost the straightway path. It’s that the straightway path (the common path) is the problem. I’ve lost it on purpose. The straightway path of this medium is one wide and broad and therefore one leading to a kind of communicative perdition. I feel not exactly saved by being in this dark wood, this place where I can’t speak, and even if I could no one is there to hear. I feel something else that I don’t know a word for. Not so strong as saved, but something more than just feeling justified in my damnation (and therefore not held responsible for my actions/thoughts).
Possibly whatever that feeling that I can’t name is is related to the desire that I also can’t name. Possibly.
Who knows–maybe this has been nothing more than a fraudulent narcissistic ploy to blaze my own niche and play the game, to become some “deep” blogger or some bs like that.
Maybe. Maybe a part of me. Probably a part of me. For Fraggle’s Rock sake…I don’t know.
Still this desire burns in me for this other way. To journey in company with other pilgrims on that way.
For my part, I define “nice” as “incapable of causing offense”.
In my mind, it’s nowhere near a compliment.
If you have been thinking about something, wrestling with something, snickering about something, kvetching about something, then post a sidebar. If that deflates the thought and lets you get back to the daily work of life, mission accomplished. If, however, it’s not like lancing a boil but scratching one of those sub-dermal spider nests and you pick at a thought and then a million little thoughts fly out, make a bigger post.
I’ve always seen blogging as one of two things:
1) Primal Scream Therapy
2) An attempt to sharpen oneself with others who are attempting to sharpen themselves.
(Rarely does 3) an attempt to change the minds of those on the fence actually happen, I’ve seen… I’ve seen (and felt) seeds planted (and I like to think I’ve planted a few myself) but the whole “whoa, I’ve been thinking about this thing all wrong!” insight rarely happens due to a single, or even series of, posts).
Come here to vent. When that is not enough, come here to sharpen yourself. You may, eventually, be pleased to find that you’ve changed the minds of others. You may even be pleased to find that you’ve changed your own.Report
I find that #2 often leads to #3 but not necessarily in the direction the fellow combatants intended. I see my own blog as a sort of personal diary of the evolution of my opinions. When you find you can’t write persuasively on a subject, sometimes you realize that it’s because your opinion is crap.Report
Kyle Cupp had this great post awhile back where he talked about the temptation to comment on things we know little or nothing about:
“Much to my disappointment, I notice that I, on occasion, passionately hold opinions about matters of which I have little to no knowledge. On these occasions, when I come upon a view contrary to my own, I almost instinctively draw my sword, raise the banner, and launch a thousand ships, ready to battle in a fit of Homeric rage. Of course, my opponent has but to breathe the slightest breath in support of his position, and my sword is shattered, my banner is torn, and my fleet is lost to the stormy sea. I retreat and seek shelter in the labyrinths of Wikipedia or Google, hoping against hope that I might find some posthumous support for my uninformed opinion.”
I find that is the greatest peril of blogging. It’s easier to quote from an article and throw in a few semi-witty, but basically uninformed paragraphs of your own rather than write only what you know. Limiting your subject matter means sacraficing traffic or boring your readers with the same subject over and over, but I think ultimately it makes for stronger writing. Anyone can include a few buzzwords (intelligent design, sarah palin, etc) and drive traffic, but what are we adding to the discourse? It’s the DaVinci syndrome. We all want to be Renaissance Men when most of us are really just mere mortals with a particular skill set.
What i will say Chris as a word of encouragement is that when I made the decision to limit my subject matter a month or so ago my readership initially dropped but it is slowly returning. I attribute it to more passion for what i am writing and also better writing because i actually sort of know what I’m talking about now. And the best part is that it’s far, far more rewarding.
The beauty of the League is that you all can all have different approaches and still get your messages out there because of your heavy readership. It’s not like my tiny blog and my 50-100 hits per day. Scott and E.D. are the ‘frequent bloggers’ who keep the new material rolling. Mark seems to be taking the ‘thoughtful, less frequent approach’. Freddie seems to like being the guy that kicks the hornet’s nest. Etc. And you can play your own role.Report
I always think of you as the League’s Foreign Policy blogger, Chris. Ah well. Despair is common to this medium, I think. I write as much as possible to stave off the despair. 😉Report
In all fairness, I use the term “despair” loosely.Report
Forgive my presumption here, Chris. I don’t know you. But…
1. You’re expecting too much out of your search. You’re not going to find the place where everything feels as you always hoped it would. Observe more but compare less. Listen more but expect less.
2. You should leave the ministry. Everyone good eventually feels like you seem to be feeling. And everyone good eventually leaves, and does more good by giving up on the institutional contortions and focusing that emotional energy on the good that comes from being themselves.Report
Willybobo – Chris just joined the ministry. You can’t go telling someone just beginning at something to leave it!Report
I know that, E.D. And I realize what a horribly sh*tty thing that is to say to somebody. Though what I say probably rightly does count for much to Chris.
Still, I don’t take such a thing lightly. It’s just that after you’ve just joined something is the best time to leave something, if that something was a mistake. In my experience, the hardest thing in life for smart people to do is listen to their intuition that they’ve made a mistake and act on it. Instead we turn things over in our head, try to look at from different perspectives, seek counsel from others, come up with reasons to the contrary. And because we’re smart, we come up with pretty good arguments to the contrary. But these always stop just short of alleviating that nagging feeling that it was a mistake, and so the question inevitably resurfaces at a time when the consequences of dealing with it have become even more daunting, even more gut-wrenching and pain inducing. And so we don’t fire that person we should have, or end that relationship we should have, or shut down the business that’s not quite making it, or walk away from the job that does quite suit us.
Look, clearly I’m reading way more into this than I have license to. Chris’ writing and anguish just sounds so much like my Dad’s diary around the time he should have left the ministry (five years before he actually did), or my best friend’s before he left, or my Dad’s best friend’s. All of them are absolutely convicted that leaving was the right thing, and that their only regret was that they didn’t do it sooner.
I don’t presume to have much of a clue about what’s right for you, Chris. But I do hope in any case that you’ll be spared that regret. All sympathy and courage and love to you.Report
Gotcha. Wasn’t sure if you knew that or not, is all…Report
“does” should be “doesn’t” in those two spots.Report
thanks for the care but this is really about the blogging stuff/writer’s block. Or voice block I guess it is. The other thing with my work is a source of personal stuff right now but it is what it is. And it’s slowly getting clarified.
You’re right, I ought to just go back to foreign policy blogging. And maybe let go of that desire.Report
I don’t know. I guess I’m either reading you wrong, or I find “that other desire” a bit on the cryptic side. You should just write what you fancy writing about. Whatever it happens to be at the time.
Of course that’s easy to say until you run up against writer’s block….so….
…the other option is to write against something. Sometimes it’s just good to take an oppositional stance.Report
Hope it’s OK to wish a minister “good luck.”
Good luck, Chris.Report
Not to be off topic but whoever decided that for this site youtube links would open on top of this page, even when option-clicked, (the Fraggle Rock one on this page doesn’t work – when I cut and pasted it into another tab it said the video cannot be viewed in my country, what the Fraggle?) has made the most worst decision ever in all of human history since the beginning of time.Report