It’s not that I’m too busy — at least, no more than usual — or that I need to focus my attention on the start of the academic year. I’ve generally found that blogging is more often in conversation with teaching, research, and my other professional activities than in competition with them.
Nor is this like the month off I’m likely to take in January, when I’ll be teaching a travel course in Europe and I’d rather spend my spare time visiting Chartres than promoting the book that will have just come out.
No, it’s gradually dawned on me this month that, for three somewhat related reasons, I need to put the The Pietist Schoolman on the shelf for a not insignificant chunk of time.
1. It’s getting too easy to lose sight of why I’m blogging.
When you first start blogging, you don’t have an audience. Just the hope of one. (And your mom.) But it doesn’t matter: you’ve set objectives for yourself that have little do with how many eyes read what you’re writing.
But inevitably, if you start attracting readers, you start caring more and more about how many views, shares, likes, retweets, etc. you’re getting. You start predicting what will be read rather than contenting yourself with what should be written. And in my case, you put off switching to a reduced blogging pace far longer than you should have because you are worried that less new content will mean less readership.
I’ve come to recognize that this is happening because I created a telling contrast. This summer I’ve had the chance to start a blog from scratch, to write without the slightest expectation that anyone else now living cares how the students and alumni of a small Baptist Pietist junior college complained about military chaplains. And it’s working! I’ve had just over 600 page views at Bethel at War in ten weeks of blogging — the equivalent of four quiet days here — and enjoyed that blogging far more than most of what I’ve done this summer at The Pietist Schoolman.
2. I don’t have enough to say right now.
It’s not that I think I have nothing to say at present about “Christianity, history, education, and how they intersect.” D.G. Hart’s post yesterday reminds me that I still want to follow up on the Conns’ critique of Christian higher education, and I’ve got at least one more open letter in me. But as I wrote earlier this summer, “the format [of blogging] tempts you into thinking that there are thoughts that will never be thought unless you think them, and words that will never be said unless you say them.”
I’ve realized in the last two weeks that even if I have something to say, I’m not sure I have enough to say at the moment. I’ve watched the events in Ferguson, Missouri and recognized that I could churn out a post, but not one that needs to be written. I have no particular expertise, no special perspective, no real wisdom — at least, none that isn’t already widely available from those more knowledgeable, insightful, and wise than I.
It’s time to leave this field fallow for a season. In other words…
3. I need to listen more and speak less.
Twice in recent months, I’ve made much of the virtue of listening. Not only have I called my discipline a “ministry of listening,” but I’ve lamented that the availability of tools like WordPress make too many Christians think that they’ve been called to speak prophetically, when the vast majority of us have actually been called to listen for such voices.
So blogger, heal thyself. Stop listening for applause and tune your ear to less comforting noises. Slow down and read for the sake of reading, not simply to assemble links posts. Chew on ideas; don’t say the first, second, or even third thing that comes to mind.
In the meantime, if you come here for posts about World War I and World War II, I will be writing about those topics at Bethel at War. (And I’ll continue my irregular contributions to our department blog.) Otherwise, enjoy the fine blogs listed on my “Recommended Links” page, and I’ll hope to see you back here in a month. Thanks for reading!