Why (Not) to Blog

Over six years ago, I started a blog. Little did I know where that blog would bring me. In the years that followed, I dove into biblioblogdom, engaged in the controversial issues, participated in memes, and even wrote up a blog carnival. But the blogging world offered much more than this. Through blogging, I met some of my best friends, connected with people at what is now my doctoral institution (UCLA), and found my way into the Student Advisory Board for SBL.

I was most active on the old blog in the last year of my M.Div. and the coursework period of my Ph.D. program. In other words, when I was most interested in finding my academic voice and exploring the intellectual options available to me, the blog was my outlet. My participation in blogging trailed off as I dug deeply into what is now my dissertation topic, feeling like I had so found my niche that I didn’t want to reveal too much of it too soon. Finally, for various reasons, the blog simply went dark.

On occasion, I’ve gotten disappointed looks from my fellow blogging compatriots who despair at those who don’t have the endurance to stick around. One more blogger who bit the dust. For their sake, and kind of for mine, I’ll share some reasons I’ve had for not blogging:

  • Discovering Original Ideas Offline. For the past several years, I have been working through the process of finding original ideas. As much as I like the idea of collaborative research online, young scholars need to protect their work. As a recent example with Mark Goodacre has highlighted, it’s not simply a matter of getting your ideas stolen, but also having your ideas prematurely and asymmetrically pummeled.
  • The Race for Blog Popularity Makes You Stupid. At least, that’s how I felt when I was trying to be a contender in the popular blogs and made it into the top 20 biblioblogs a couple times. In order to get more viewers, one is tempted to post quick, shallow bits on something in the news.
  • Professionalism? When you’re a grad student, the big question is how search committees will perceive anything they find about you online. If you’re writing a blog that could be interpreted as a stupid and perhaps even apparently narcissistic drive towards blog popularity, then are you really someone worth hiring? On the other hand, I do believe that having a foot (even just a toe) in digital humanities via blogging is a positive thing.
  • Not Much Blogging Discussion of Method and Theory in the Study of Religion. I would rather have a discussion with the blogging community about the implications of Jonathan Z. Smith’s work for the New Testament and Christian origins, but it seems we’re often talking about some awful thing that John Piper or Mark Driscoll said about women, or how Rob Bell just blew the lid off things by suggesting there is no hell or that maybe Christians shouldn’t judge gay people, or how great a new biblical commentary is. (If you have any recommendations for good blogs that spend time dealing with method and theory, please share. I only know of a few, and they’re not all that active.)
  • Fatherhood. When not working on my dissertation, or teaching, I’ve often been busy with my son, Declan, who is currently four years old.

But I have missed blogging, its benefits, and community. I also seem to have a little bit of time to become a (sporadic) blogger again. I have decided to raise the blog from the ashes, resurrecting its title, but leaving its past contents largely in the past. So, here I am. I’m back. I’ll be reflecting on some of my current favorites in scholarship, on teaching, conversations with my son, and will dabble a bit in the hot items of the day (just not in a narcissistic way, of course). I look forward to striking up new conversations with you all!

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Posted in Personal Reflections
  • http://www.andyrowell.net/ Andy Rowell

    Good post. I too have slowed down with the advent of dissertation, kids, and Twitter.

  • http://www.andyrowell.net/ Andy Rowell

    Good post. I too have slowed down with the advent of dissertation, kids, and Twitter.

    • http://patmccullough.com/ Pat McCullough

      Thanks, Andy! Yeah, the platforms have changed, too. That’s something I didn’t put in the post. One of the reasons I haven’t been blogging is the fact that I’m Facebook friends with many of my blogging friends. It’s just easier to chat stuff up on Facebook. I’ve tried to get into Twitter on multiple occasions, but it just hasn’t worked for me in the long run. I’ll probably take another stab at it now, but I’m not that optimistic. One thing about the blog is that it provides an avenue for thoughtful, longer form reflections that you can’t get in FB and Twitter.

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  • http://twitter.com/brianleport Brian LePort

    Welcome back.

    • http://patmccullough.com/ Pat McCullough

      Thanks, Brian! And thanks for keeping things going. You have more stamina than most of us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin1880 Kevin McGinnis

    I recently let my blog die for a number of similar reasons. My biggest concern was writing at a level that I felt comfortable with having a search committee read. I have a lot of great ideas, but most of them are half baked and putting them out there in that form is scary. Not just for the job reasons, but also for the idea theft reasons. Granted, only 5 people read my blog, but still.

    Not being engaged in DH is a bit disconcerting, though, for a number of reasons, and I’ve missed the outlet, too. I’ve thought about reviving it, but I’m really not sure what I would want to write about, so I’m holding off for now. I’m curious to see what your revived blog will look like, especially because I agree with so many of the things you say above about how the blogging community can get distracted by issues that are far less interesting or important than the ones that should be of most interest to us, imo.

    • http://patmccullough.com/ Pat McCullough

      I would love it if you revived your blog along with me, Kevin. You are the kind of blogging conversation partner I would hope for! :)

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