What Do You Write When You Can’t Speak?

Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

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14 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    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

  2. 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

  3. E.D. Kain says:

    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

  4. willybobo says:

    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

  5. willybobo says:

    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

  6. willybobo says:

    “does” should be “doesn’t” in those two spots.Report

  7. Chris Dierkes says:


    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

  8. Bob says:

    Hope it’s OK to wish a minister “good luck.”

    Good luck, Chris.Report

  9. hoponpop says:

    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