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Slogging and blogging, and a vote for Robert Redford over Britney Spears

It has been good to hear from some of you about the wisdom of continued blogging. I was asking the question as a general issue — there is a proliferation of white noise in the blogosphere, and I was wondering if others were questioning where this all is heading — but folks quite rightly saw it as a bit of self-doubt on my part as to whether or not this is something that I, personally, want to continue to do.

The answer to the second question is, “I still don’t know.”

You must remember that there is a false, or, at least, artificial, intimacy created by email and the internet. Who among us has not gotten into trouble by writing too much, or too quickly, or with too much emotion when something or someone raised our hackles or fantasies? This sort of immediate response potential takes away the reflective, considered nature of a well-thought out letter, and it takes away the real, human interaction of either a phone call or, better yet, a face-to-face meeting.

A friend of mine who is the best businessman I know simply will not use email and eschews phone calls in favor of direct meetings. It seems like a throwback way to do business, but I see the wisdom of his approach.

Anyway, I look upon blogging as a way to connect, but not as a way to broadcast my own personal life. It is a small portal through which ideas and thoughts about life can pass between good people, and that’s what I want it to be. I’ve long been a proponent of the wise saying of a famous wizard: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” I am a writer; my self is in my writings, but my writings are not the sum of my self. If my thoughts are of value, then I’m humbled and honored that folks would give me their time. But I have every intention of remaining behind the curtain. The world needs more Robert Redfords and Meryl Streeps and fewer Britney Spears and J-Lo’s. In terms of celebrity status, I am but a mouse among such elephants, but the issue is the same: our gift is what we create, not the lives we live.

However, having said that, perhaps the most important comment to me thus far was one that indicated that few writers offer themselves in the way I do in my blog. I want to be accessible and human. I think that is important, because there are many false presumptions about writers and the writer’s life, and most of them run towards the fanciful and overly-honorific. Real writers are, by and large, very ordinary folks who, for whatever reason, like to be in the background of their books. There is a new breed of book-maker (I can’t bring myself to call them writers or authors) who see a book as nothing more than a package through which to sell themselves or their ideas. To them a book is “value added” to their primary task of promoting themselves and their ideas. They trumpet themselves as “spiritual teachers” or “gurus” of one sort or another, or at least operate in that mode even if they don’t identify themselves in that fashion. They simply think they have something that you ought to know, and they’re willing to share it with you for a price, either in workshops or some other venue.

I don’t want to become one of those folks. Even when I do my smaller, more homiletic books, I do so with an eye to moral complexity, not moral oversimplification. It is life’s big questions, not life’s easy answers or trumped up systems of self-betterment that interest me. My writings will not make you richer, thinner, more powerful, or more popular. They will not give you rock-hard abs. What they will do is give you a window through which to look at life in a thoughtful and, hopefully, insightful manner.

If my blogging, however episodic, can augment this task, then I’m willing to cautiously and tentatively continue. And that is what I am weighing at the present moment.

To those of you who suggested that it should not be hard to commit a few minutes a week to continued communication, I can only say that you are both right and wrong. If I were a different person, you’d be right. But, consider this blog you are reading: I am sitting here, going on and on, when I should be out in my writing cabin working on the book that will pay the mortgage and the electric bill.

Since blogs don’t pay, and I’ve not figured out a way to make them do so, I have to weigh the value of indulging my own long-winded tendencies against the more prudent course of writing books that help meet the basic obligations of life. It is just part of the “realpolitik” of life.

To conclude this random ramble — there have been several moments during my grizzled blogging career that have seemed especially apt and valuable. The first was way back when I was trying to help get a gravestone for Tyler and all of you were able to participate in that experience. The second was when the Red Lake shootings took place and people were able to contact me through my website and also get the viewpoint of one who was close to the experience.

And I should add a third: when people whose lives were truly affected by my writings reached out to tell me of those moments. Such touches ratify the writer and gratify me as the creator. They are wonderful human moments, made possible by this open conduit of communication.

It is such moments that have kept me blogging, because I never know when such a moment may come again.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that I’ll stay the course on some level. What I’ll try to do is write with clarity and purpose about those issues that concern me, whether social, spiritual, or political. You won’t find out what I eat for supper or whether my wife and I are going to take a vacation or if my kids and stepkids are walking a reasonable and hopeful course in life — at least, not unless talking about these illuminate a broader issue of importance. If I have nothing meaningful or insightful to say about issues that concern you, or about which I think you should be concerned, I’ll simply stay behind the curtain.

But I do need to hear from you periodically just to know that you’re out there. In fact, if you’d just check in by leaving a quick comment at the end of this blog — just an “I’m here” to let me know there are folks out there — I’ll find out whether or not I’m shouting into the void.

Thanks for staying with me. In my next blog I’ll share with you some of the lessons I just shared with several hundred aspiring elementary and middle school writers at a wonderful conference for young authors.

Until then, let me hear from you. I want to know if you’re out there.


moral outrage and peripatetic dogs

Here’s an issue for you, and I mean it seriously. You obviously need not respond, but it bears some reflection:

I can write about the criminality of car companies avoiding responsibility for near fatal crashes, and I hear almost nothing. I can write about a war that is maiming young children and leaving them homeless, and I hear nary a peep. But write about a dog that runs free and the floodgates open.

Why is this? Are we touched only by those things that brush against our own reality in a palpable way? Do we despair of having an effect on issues that are too large and abstract for us to feel any responsibility for change, and thus feel them less keenly? Or is it something altogether different?

Any of you have any thoughts you want to share?


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