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.

48 comments

  1. AymzeeMcQ says:

    I’m listening!!!

  2. Kathy says:

    Kent, I’m here and I value your insights. Thank you.

  3. Debbie Pearson says:

    I’m here and hope you continue!!

  4. Jeff Reed says:

    I’m listening too!

  5. Charlotte says:

    I’m here.

  6. neely says:

    Hi Kent,

    I enjoy keeping up with your posts and love the fact that I get an email once in a while letting me know that you have posted something new. Sometimes I don’t get the email for a few days after the post, but it’s a great way to keep up when I’m so busy with everything else.

    I have to disagree with your statement, though, that our gifts are what we create, and not the lives we live. I think our lives are our gifts, and what we create is simply a way to share with others this gift, that is, our
    lives. The responses you received on why your dog blurb got more responses than others you have written is telling, as well as the responses to why people would like you to continue blogging. We read your books, which are awesome, but it is that connection with you as a “regular” guy, and I maintain, your life as a gift, that interests and moves your readers.

    I also think this is why your books are so relevant to your readers’ lives–often you write about your personal experiences and tie your interpretation of them into your view of the broader world. We learn from them, not because we have necessarily had the exact same experiences, but because our stories are all similar in one way or another. So although the scenes and characters may change, we can relate. And we are moved. And we are given the opportunity to view our own experiences through a different lens, and perhaps, (for certain, in my case), we move through the world a little more thoughtfully, a little more generously, and a lot more kindly.

    That, Kent Nerburn, is a gift! 🙂

  7. Laurie Howard says:

    I enjoy checking in on your blogs. I hope you will continue to express the things that you feel are important to share. I am a sporadic blog reader but yours is one that I come back to now and again. I do hope you will continue, I truly enjoy your insights on life, they give me things to think about and apply to my own life.

  8. Leigh says:

    Kent, your blogs make my day when you write them. Your writings are the roots that I tangle my feet in when the storms of life try to pull me away.
    Because of you, I have something to write, the courage to write it, and most importantly, the quiet faith that it will touch someone someday in the way that your writing has touched me.
    I am here.
    Leigh

  9. Edna says:

    I’m here.

    My childhood friend, Erick, gave me your name when we were talking by phone. During our conversation, I told him I was using the text of Chief Joseph’s 1879 speech “An Indian’s View of Indian Affairs” in a course I teach on leadership. He said, “You must read Kent Nerburn’s book on Chief Joseph.” I’ve read two of your books since then, and next is your Chief Joseph book.

    Your writing resonates with me. About the blog, though, if it isn’t flowing, maybe you need to step away for awhile. Whenever you do write, though, I’ll look forward to reading it.

  10. Lisa says:

    I’m listening!

  11. Elaine Smith says:

    Good afternoon Kent, I would just like to say how very much I enjoy hearing your thoughts and I do not need to know your private family moments or suchlike, but I DO need to know that you are still there for those of us who care…you are a sane man in an insane world methinks! Please continue blogging because I feel you are a genuine guy, and it would be a great shame not to know even a little about what’s on your mind. I like the way you unravel ideas, examine them and identify issues and introduce new ones, all as if you were sitting in front of me having a cup of tea and relaxing in front of the fire. Just like a good friend or a caring neighbour. Thanks for your time,

    Elaine (a divorced mum of 2 boys, based in rural England, who loves your books and shares your passion for Native American people and their lives).

  12. jim says:

    i think that perhaps you sell yourself short. Even when you ”ramble” you are giving something to those of us that read your blog. Some of us cannot articulate, some of us cannot write what we feel, some of us are not gifted in the way you are gifted. Ex. when you wrote about ”Mr. Jones and global warming and this crooked predsidency…usually I get really angry when reading their crimes, but when Kent Nerburn writes about it, I feel a calmness that perhaps I can DO something besides get angry. You articulate, you calm, you incite thought and action and you educate. I do not want to know what you had for breakfast or the color of your underwear. I do not even want to KNOW YOU per se, I just like your writing and your thoughts. Through your words perhaps I feel I know you a little, but would never presume to really KNOW you. I just feel like you are a friend far away. Don’t Stop. The End.
    Peace
    Jim

  13. Peter says:

    I’m here too…

  14. Anna says:

    I’m listening, too, and I totally agree with what Neely stated so beautifully.

  15. Wendy says:

    Kent,
    You are not shouting into the void…I’m here too. It is always refreshing for me to receive the email that you have new news to share.
    Thanks!

  16. Deb says:

    I’m here and always grateful for your messages. I am listening to Small Graces now. I will listen over and over. Since I am not a writer and don’t know how and what motivates the published writers like yourself to write…..I just hope that you will follow your heart. When you are moved to write in a blog fashion, so do it. You have a loyal following. We will miss you during your absence but will trust life’s precious moments have you doing many other wonderful and necessary things. I feel this way even using email for long communication. Sometimes I participate, sometimes I observe and sometimes I am absent. Whatever you give, tiny or large, few or many words are greatly appreciated. Feel the freedom of writing to an appreiciate following, as your own personal desires dictate, and not of our expectations of you. We don’t want to lose touch so whatever it takes to keep you on board in some fashion works for me!

  17. Carole Hunmphrey says:

    You know I’m here, and always will be, but it wonderful to hear that others value you as much as your family does!

  18. Marcia Faust says:

    I, too, appreciate your thoughtful commentaries and hope you will continue. We’re out here!

  19. Deborah says:

    I am also here and hope very much that you will continue.

  20. Kim Corbin says:

    Blog on, Kent! 🙂

  21. Dave says:

    “Ours is a time when people of good faith yearn for such guidance.”

    “But if we humbly accept our part as a gift and play it well, we will have done our small part to help create the symphony of God’s voice.”

    “We must have faith that the seeds we plant in another’s heart will blossom into something good.”

    A few of your own words from “Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace”, which I hope will encourage you to continue this. I do not have the gift of such words but it was indeed a gift when I was first introduced to your writings in “Letters to My Son”.

    Take care.

  22. John says:

    Kent,

    We are listening. Thank you for giving of your gifts. Checking in with you is a refreshing moment in a rapidly changing and often crazy world. I hope that you keep it up.

  23. Wade says:

    I’m here and thank you.

  24. Ruth says:

    I’m new, but I’m here when you are inspired and available. You are a kindred soul… I look forward to thoughtfully gazing through the window of insight you provide.

  25. Debby says:

    Hi Kent…I am always here and so excited whenever there is a post from you. That does not mean that you need to feel any pressure to write on a forced rhythm of regularity…it just means that when you do write, it is a lovely addition to the day. Thank you for how your words in book and blog have impacted my life, and the lives of those I have passed them on to.

  26. Mrs O says:

    Yoohoo.

  27. Jane says:

    I would miss you, Kent. I met you at St. Martin’s Table in the fall. Your thoughts never fail to have an effect. I am happier knowing there are good people like you in the world. Thank you.

  28. Joanna says:

    I’m here, and I’m glad you’re in this world.

  29. Chuck says:

    Your writings are part of what fills a spiritual void in my life. Whether in my recovery or my seeking meaning in all this, what you have shared in your “homiletic” books helps me in my journey. Please continue with your blogs and “keep in touch”.

  30. Keith says:

    Your writings capture the eternal now of this universe and so become an opening from spirit to my life. So I would like it if you continue writing in you blog, not with a feeling of pressure that you must be here regularly or often, but rather when you feel the words are asking to be sent out.

  31. Barbara says:

    Kent,

    Thank you for helping me find perspective, as when I first read your books, and keep perspective, as when I listen to your thoughtful ramblings. gratefully, barbara

  32. Claudia says:

    I am here 🙂 Write what you can, when you can and if you can…we shall be checking in. Peace, claudia

  33. Cass says:

    I’m here. : )

    Never even heard of you until this evening — stumbled across your blog in the middle of the night. You have articulated, though, the thoughts I too have had, regarding what to reveal and what to leave hidden. It’s a strange realm, this “blogosphere” — neither mass-media, nor private conversation, yet having attributes and implications of both.

    Thanks for writing. I hope you continue….

  34. Gary says:

    Mr. Nerburn,

    I recently picked up, “Neither Wolf Nor Dog”. I’m nearly finished reading. It is amazing. I found your website with the desire to learn more about you and your other works.

    I remember visiting my grandfather in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (Keweenaw) and hearing him berate the local Native American population, especially on the subjects of fishing rights, alcoholism, and government support. He would point out bumper stickers on the cars of other like-minded individuals that said, “Save a fish, net an Indian”, and “Corn, what you call Maize”. At 7 years old I remember being uncomfortable with his characterizations. At some unconscious level of understanding, I knew there was more to the story. Thank you for giving voice and form to that understanding.

    There are good blogs having the effect of encouraging deep thought, and bad blogs meant to distract, divide, and communicate talking points to faithful followers. I consider your blog to be of the good type. I have to believe that whatever time you can spare to keep up the blog will yield positive results.

    I look forward to reading more archived blog entries and the responses of other people. What I have read thus far has made me feel less isolated in my thoughts and feelings about the wider world, past and present. It is so easy to be discouraged given todays focus on immediate gratification and materialistic accumulation.

    Thank you.

  35. Sheila says:

    I first found your “Letters to My Son” a number of years ago, and immediately felt that you had spoken for me more eloquently than I could myself. I have shared your work many times with those I care most deeply for.

    Although we have never met, in the odd way that celebrity in its varied forms lends itself to, I count you as a friend. I do so because your writing touches my soul in rare and profound ways, reminding me to seek the beauty inherent in each moment of life.

    I am forever grateful for your efforts.

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  38. Dear Kent,

    I have stumbled on you when I was googling for a phrase to describe how I feel for a photo I uploaded for flickr, a photo sharing website, which I entitled “Father and Son”.

    I would like to say that those golden thoughts that you shared with us had resonated, awaken, our own thoughts to the subject you are “rambling” on.

    Its like listening to our own thoughts, only gentler, calmer, more experienced, beautifully made, reassuring, affirming like a father or could I say, like Jesus, or how I imagine Him talking to me when I pray.

    And what Neely beautifully said, how you live your life and sharing, not the details, just its color, sound, silhouette is really a gift.

    Thank you.

  39. I’m just starting to read “Neither Wolf Nor Dog” and I’m in the middle of reading your book on Chief Jospeh and the Nez Perce – both truly remarkable books!!
    Today I punched in your name in Google and found your blogs- what a wonderful surprise!! Very nice to see your observations and viewpoints-I think many of us as Americans feel the same way as you.

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  41. Ileana says:

    Kent, I’m listening. I stumbled upon your cab ride story and it really touched me, thank you for sharing. I’m glad Zen Moments led me here to your blog. what Neely beautifully said, how you live your life and sharing, not the details, just its color, sound, silhouette is really a gift and I really hope you continue.

    Peace,

    Ileana

  42. Just read your post about the woman in your taxi. We just brought my own mother home for hospice. Seven kids surround her with love. 26 grandchildren delight in her smile, 5 and counting great children will never know the wonder of the woman who gave me birth and nurtured my life.

    I can’t imagine being alone in the world. Thank you for being with your hospice-going neighbor. May God bless you today.

  43. Chris Martin says:

    Hi Kent, I ran across your blog while looking for information about a book written by Common, the rapper made controversial by Fox Noise. I signed up for a blog for the first time ever here this morning. I look forward to more and hope to read one of your books. Thanks for making yourself present here. Chris

  44. Mitch says:

    I’m late, but I’m here.

    With a letter, you reach one person. That’s wonderful. If you become famous, some dusty historian might pick up your letter and print it in a book and distribute the book. That’s wonderful, too.

    Write a book, and it lasts until the last remaindered version sells or decays.

    With a blog, your thoughts are out there. People who have never heard of you might stumble upon some of your thoughts a hundred years (or more!) after you set them loose. And your thoughts may set hearts a-quiver in ways that you’d hoped would happen, but never imagined would.

    I can’t wait to read more.

  45. Cheryl says:

    I found you today. Your thoughts have captured my interest. I am seeking. That sane, mindful, spiritual voice in this crazy world. Giving me confidence that goodness is not lost.

  46. Alitza says:

    I’m here. I read the taxi driver piece some time ago, and my son-in-law just re-introduced it to me. I was glad to discover that it wasn’t just a feel good urban legend!

  47. Linda Moberg says:

    This is my first visit to your blog. I have just read for the 1st time your account of that wonderful early morning cab drive for the little old lady wanting to visit her past so she could go on to her future at the hospice. You were and are a man of considerable love for those around you and not wanting anything in return but to know that you have touched someone’s life. You did that and more for her. I could hardly read it for the tears streaming down my face. Although I am not a writer I love reading of true things that happen to others. I have my own little stories, but nothing such as that. I was brought up to respect others and do what I can for someone who needs you. God bless you! I will continue to watch and see what you have next. I read that story on Facebook from a friend and am so glad I did. Thank you for sharing it with others. I know that she is smiling on you each and every day. Remember when you see the sun that she is letting you know how much you mean to her and others you may have lost along the way. Keep writing and we will keep reading.

  48. Susan says:

    Despite my preference for direct meetings, I’m perfectly content to encounter you and your thoughts in blog form. I hope you’ve created the portal and exchange of ideas you imagined. It seems that you’ve established your accessibility to readers who respect your privacy.

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