The birth of this new website has come at the same time as a big transition in my personal life. That is, I'll be starting seminary full time in the fall working towards my Masters of Divinity and going through candidacy for ministry.
These last few months, I've been taking one class. That alone has been a task, so I can only imagine how eclipsing a full-time schedule will be (I have to say though, as intimidating as it is, I kinda can't wait).
I haven't been to 'school' in 20 years. This vocational shift in midlife has been a big one for me. Professional ministry isn't just a career, it's a vocation. It taps down into the root of one's identity and involves a whole swarm of people, committees, and boards.
That being said, this discernment process (where we holistically take into account our lives as we 'discern' our call) has helped me reflect on this blog of mine. Where do I want my work here to go?
Looking back at the last few weeks/months, I notice a bit of a scholastic/theological streak in my writing (trust me, I don't plan or 'strategize' these things, they just happen). I've been doing my weekly 'Layman's Lectionary Series' which has been great. People have seemed to like it and - being a biblical virgin prior to this last year - it's forced me to engage the texts.
(You might have noticed, but during the Holy Week of Easter, there were lectionary readings every day! My lectionary posts take some time to do. On top of everything else going on, it wore me out!)
So, yes... Probably due to my enthusiasm for this new vocational path (I tend to obsess about things), I've adopted a fairly heavy theological tone in this blog. But then I realized something...
I don't know if I want my work here to be an extension of seminary. I want to keep my research papers at school and I need this blog to be something... else.
It's taken me some time to make a certain distinction - something that's helpful to any blogger out there...
See, most blogging advice that I've seen teaches you how to be a 'content expert' (aka a 'business blogger' or 'content marketer'). You have a niche in the market and you create content to fill that niche. You might have a little about yourself in there, but the blog is more of a 'how-to' and a series of lessons that portray your expertise, foster trust, spread awareness, and (eventually) make sales.
Makes perfect sense, in a way, especially if you're selling products and services, which I tend to do sometimes (because, ya know, bills and stuff). And I wish I could be like that.
But as much as I've wanted to, I've never been able to adopt that more removed and professional tone and style on this blog that the thought-leading experts suggest.
This worried me for some time. It's made me question the validity of my work. I long thought that I needed to step up my game and be more of a 'content expert' in a certain topic. But every time I try to do that, something inside me resists it.
This discernment process has helped me make a distinction about something essential to this blogging journey. The questions I've been asking myself have gone something like this...
Is this an 'expertise blog' or a 'creative personal blog'?
Zooming out, this seems to be the two main 'types' of blogs. For the longest time, I didn't know the latter qualified as a 'type' at all (even though those are my favorite kinds of blogs to read). The thing is, the former one is the loudest online these days as everyone seems to be a 'thought leader' of sorts (especially on Medium where I hosted my content the last 4 years before moving back here YESTERDAY!).
As I enter seminary, the more specific question for me has been this:
"Is this a 'Christianity blog'? Or is it a 'personal blog authored by someone who identifies as a Christian?'"
To both of the above questions, the answer for me proved to be the latter. Resoundingly so. I'm a creative personal blogger. This blog is an extension of me and, as I say on my about page...
This blog isn’t (and will never be) some form of ‘virtual church’ (an oxymoron, in my opinion). Rather, it’s my public journal and scrapbook of sorts that will follow me around even if I someday end up driving a garbage truck for a living (it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid, so please don’t feel sorry for me if it happens).
When I remove myself and start to get too niched down in one area of expertise here, I get claustrophobic. I have to keep it creative - even random. If this blog becomes an extension of my seminary work where I write heavy theological and scholastic documents, my brain might break.
I need to be more relaxed here. Tell more stories. Allow myself to be off the cuff. Attempt poetry more. Cuss when I need to (we're all adults here, right?). Share more personal photos instead of those stock photos from Unsplash (as beautiful as they are).
That's how this blog emerged years ago. Even though I loved my professional work, I needed a creative outlet that integrated it but also let me escape it in a way.
And so, if you're on this blogging journey yourself, I hope you can learn from my toiling. Make this distinction sooner than later.
Are you someone who wants to remove yourself and let your topic be the focus? Or is your blog an extension of your life in all of its complexities where you'll share yourself in a more vulnerable way and have your topic of sorts play more of a background role?
Maybe it'll save you some time and mental/creative gnashing of teeth.