Sunday Night Journal — October 7, 2012
What to do? What to do?
I said that to my dog Andy a little while ago, by way of remarking on his confusion and indecision. He is a Bichon Frisé--and no, as I know I've said here before, I never wanted a cute little dog--he came to us more or less by accident. (I started to say "wimpy little dog," but he's actually pretty brave--just the other day he challenged a dog that towered over him and must have weighed seventy pounds, as opposed to his twelve.) And the breed is genetically disposed toward a very strong need to be with people, even stronger than for most dogs. His main activity is to seek my wife or me and settle down to sleep as close to us as possible, preferably in physical contact. He's visibly distressed when we won't stay put. Before I sat down to write this my wife and I were both going about different activities, going to different rooms and perhaps sitting down for a few minutes, long enough for Andy to get settled, then getting up and going somewhere else. Finally he was trotting anxiously back and forth from one to the other of us, with a slightly frantic edge, unable to decide which of us was more likely to be still for a while.
Anyway, it occurred to me that "What to do?" is the right title for what I had planned to say today. I'm often in a state of mind similar to Andy's, going back and forth among things I want to do, and finding myself unable to stick with any of them for very long.
I've got to make a decision about the future of this blog. "Not again!", some of you will say. "He went off on that tear a few years ago." Well, yes, I did. And those who were reading then may remember that I gave up the Sunday Night Journal for a year, with the intention of focusing on other projects, and that I resumed it after that year because I hadn't made much actual progress on any of them. For a while after resuming the SNJ I made it a weekly chapter in a memoir. For complex reasons I stopped doing that, although the memoir remains a live, if rather neglected, project.
The memoir, in fact, is one of the reasons that I find myself again at the same place I was at in December 2009. (Question for grammar experts: is that sentence grammatically correct?) Without boring you with a lot of details, I have to say that it's become clear that I really must cut down the amount of time I spend online, and that includes the amount of time I spend on this blog.
I've given serious consideration to the possibility of doing away with it altogether, but I don't think I'll do that. The reason I'm discussing this out loud, so to speak, instead of just deciding what to do and then doing it, is that although I don't have a lot of readers, I really value you, and the conversations we have here. And there is good reason to believe some of you would miss the blog if it weren't there.
At this point those are really my strongest reasons for keeping it going. I've written enough here over the past eight years (it will be nine in January) that I don't feel the urge to keep producing material as strongly as I did. I could live without that now, but I really don't want to lose the talk. I've often wished that I had a neighborhood bar where I could have a couple of beers and some conversation with similarly-minded people--not identically-minded, but similar enough for good talk. I don't have that, and this serves a somewhat similar purpose.
I've read that blog readership in general has declined over the past few years, and I think part of the reason is Facebook. But although I'm on Facebook, it's not nearly as good a place for conversation as a blog, at least for me. For one thing, it just doesn't work that way. Everything flows into one feed, so that a topic appears, and may get a few comments, but soon is pushed way down or off the page. Just as important, for me, is that Facebook is a place where I have to practice the traditional caution in talking about religion and politics. I have Facebook "friends" with all sorts of views, some of them quite different from mine and held quite heatedly, and I don't want to find myself in unpleasant and unproductive arguments. But nobody comes here unless they want to, and so this entirely public forum seems more private.
I'd like to know what you think. Two things are pretty clear to me: I do want to keep the blog going, but I have to spend less time on it. So I can't continue the Sunday Night Journal as it is. Among other things, attendance at an Anglican Use Mass in Mobile has seriously reduced the amount of spare time I have on Sundays. And I think that I won't write as many lengthy serious pieces as I have done, at least for a while ("lengthy" in blog terms meaning more than 500 words or so)--not weekly, anyway.
Would it be better if I post something brief quite frequently, preferably every day or close to it, or that I publish a single weekly miscellany? Or perhaps more substantial posts, like the typical Sunday Night Journal, but at greater intervals? How about subject matter? Should I stick with my original books-music-movies-through-Catholic-eyes theme? Or have more posts on current affairs? I'm sometimes tempted to start another blog devoted entirely to politics and associated matters. I would probably have more readers if I did. But I suspect it is, literally, a temptation: I don't think it would be good for my mental health, possibly not for my soul, because I'd stay even more agitated about that stuff than I already do. And anyway, doing that would probably be even more demanding of my time, because the controversies of the day come and go fairly quickly, and if you don't write about them right away you might as well not bother. Also, I really would rather write things that might still be of interest five or ten or more years from now, which is not true of very much political commentary at all.
I do plan to continue the SNJ through the end of the year, by the way. It's sort of a compulsion.
Hi Maclin. I would certainly miss the blog if it weren't here. Why not keep it as it is minus the SNJ since that is probably the biggest drain on your energy?
I just ditched FB the other day, mostly b/c of the tension betwen public and private. The great thing about this blog is that the conversation is so much better than one can get just about anywhere online.
"Social media" could almost be called "anti-social media." But that is probably just a reflection upon the very great divide in our society along the lines of morality. (Roughly, between those who believe in the Ten Commndments and those who don't).
Posted by: Louise | 10/08/2012 at 04:16 PM
And it's such a drag, generally speaking, not to be able to have a good conversation about important matters without the astonishing heat coming from those whose ideal (even if they don't realise it) is to destroy Christian morality and Christianity itself if possible.
I now take my little boys to playgroup, where instead of finding new friends, I get to overhear horror conversations about IVF and divorce. Yuck. And this has been my "social life" outside of the Church since I was 16. It's very taxing b/c I am sanguine in temperament and very sociable.
Posted by: Louise | 10/08/2012 at 04:21 PM
"as it is minus the SNJ" could work.
Or just post a short thing here once a week, and comment on Janet's blog?
The other thought that comes to mind is: to touch politics is to touch pitch.
Posted by: Paul | 10/08/2012 at 04:51 PM
I’ll take you and the conversation here any way I can get it. So do what works best for you, short pieces or long pieces, politics or no politics. Just please don’t close up shop.
Posted by: Marianne | 10/08/2012 at 05:20 PM
I agree with Marianne. I enjoy everything you do. The music commentaries are perhaps the most interesting, but you've written some wonderful pieces on theology - for instance, the theodicy piece using your dogs as illustrations. Even one blog of 500 words a week on anything from books to music to theology would be fine with me.
Posted by: Grumpy | 10/08/2012 at 07:55 PM
It's really good to hear a vote of confidence. I thank you all. I'm thinking that I'll probably go with Louise and Paul's "as it is minus the SNJ." At least I'll try that for a while and see how it goes. Interesting that you say the music ones are the most interesting, Grumpy--they're the most fun to do.
I'm working late tonight so will let that suffice for now, except to say Louise, I really sympathize. And that's another good reason to keep the blog going.
Posted by: Mac | 10/08/2012 at 09:11 PM
It's not an objective opinion, of course. I fairly much think the same about politics as you do, Mac, so I don't learn much from your pieces on that. But I've bought a couple dozen of CDs on your recommendation in the past eight years. It's revitalized my interest in modern music. But the theology ones are very good as well.
Posted by: Grumpy | 10/08/2012 at 10:07 PM
Your movie pieces are great, too. Even the Bergman ones ;)
Posted by: Marianne | 10/08/2012 at 10:27 PM
A couple of dozen CDs?!? Cool!
Sometimes I seem to have to get some political vexation out of my system. As if it were going to change anybody's mind.
Couple of movies coming up soon, Marianne, which I'm very interested in hearing other people's opinions about.
Posted by: Mac | 10/08/2012 at 10:42 PM
Well, same as Grumpy about the music, and Marianne about the films. I always agree with you about the politics, but it's not especially good for me to get into it. On the other hand it's nice to know someone else is sane in that regard.
And by all means comment on my blog. ;-) You and everybody else.
Posted by: Janet | 10/09/2012 at 08:17 AM
Mac, this is a terrific blog, not only because of what you write but because of the people who congregate here. I don't know of any other place online where I can find insightful and interesting writing about things that interest me and an absence of nasty feeling in the comboxes. It really is a homey little space you've created here, and I for one would miss it if it were gone.
Posted by: Craig | 10/09/2012 at 09:02 AM
Yes, Craig. I was saying the other day that the comboxes here are almost unique. On most blogs, the commenters either just talk to the host of the blog, basically ignoring the other comments, or they snipe at each other. We have a nice little community here and I would miss it a lot if it was gone.
Posted by: Janet | 10/09/2012 at 09:08 AM
Thanks, Janet and Craig. It pleases me greatly that the atmosphere is what it is, but y'all have as much or more to do with that as I do, and I'm really appreciative of that. And like I said, I'm at the point where I would miss the community as much as the blogging itself.
There are some folks who used to comment here frequently who aren't around anymore whom I miss: Ryan C, antiaphrodite, and others. (Speaking of anti, she has shut her Tumblr blog down and I haven't heard from her for a while--say a prayer for because I think she was having some difficulties.) I was sorry to see the other day that Haloscan, the commenting system I was using when the blog was at Blogger, has made those old comments unavailable. There were some great discussions there.
And I will certainly continue to comment at The Three Prayers, Janet.:-)
Posted by: Mac | 10/09/2012 at 09:58 AM
OH NO! Does that mean the Brideshead discussion is gone?
Posted by: Janet | 10/09/2012 at 10:22 AM
Janet, it's not letting me comment on your blog. It won't let me move down to anonymous.
Movies: I don't know whom to blame. I ended up marking about 15 essays on Broadway Danny Rose and 40 essays on Sling Blade. I never want to hear that story again!
Posted by: Grumphy | 10/09/2012 at 10:30 AM
It's working for me. It must have something to do with your browser.
Have you tried the URL option? You can just put your name and leave URL blank.
Posted by: Janet | 10/09/2012 at 11:25 AM
It won't give me any options.
Posted by: Grumpy Ex Pat | 10/09/2012 at 12:04 PM
I'm glad you worked it out.
Posted by: Janet | 10/09/2012 at 12:59 PM
Janet, yes, I'm afraid it may be gone. I'm not completely sure, though. I noticed that the links from posts here to Haloscan comments disappeared. If I can find my Haloscan credentials and log in, I might be able to extract things. It's possible they may still be visible from the old blog pages, if one could track down the individual posts.
Posted by: Mac | 10/09/2012 at 01:26 PM
I can see the old blog, but the comments aren't there, and they were there a couple of weeks ago.
Posted by: Janet | 10/09/2012 at 01:48 PM
I'd be sorry to see the SNJ go, but if it means that the rest of the blog stays, then I'm ok with it. This is a breath of sanity on the internet!
I still think you should put your memoirs into book form some day.
Posted by: Rob G | 10/09/2012 at 04:35 PM
Kind words indeed--thank you. And the memoir project is definitely not cancelled, just a temporary (unless I die too soon) victim of my trying to do too many things.
Posted by: Mac | 10/09/2012 at 08:53 PM
Yeah, I see, Janet.
That's a shame. Well, I'm sure I have my Haloscan credentials saved somewhere, maybe all is not completely lost. But I'm thinking that even when Haloscan was working right it didn't have provide any way to download comments in bulk.
Posted by: Mac | 10/09/2012 at 08:58 PM
I can't tell you how many times I thought about printing out those comments. I could kick myself.
Posted by: Janet | 10/09/2012 at 09:09 PM
Well, don't give up *all* hope yet. Just most of it.:-)
Posted by: Mac | 10/09/2012 at 10:29 PM
The sheer variety of FB is fun - one guy posts that he is delighted that NZ voted for gay marriage, the next guy posts that he ate at Chick-Filet. And so on. It's fun, but it's true that it's achieved by most people avoiding substantial comment.
It also, as Mac says, feels much more public than a blog. Someone from work recently 'friended' me, and I was thinking O Shit! Because, I can't not confirm him, and it means anything I say is public knowledge at work. I mean, obviously it was already, with 240 friends, but I didn't want a friend who works down the hallway from me. The absurdity of it is that of course he almost never speaks to me.
Posted by: Grumpy | 10/09/2012 at 10:35 PM
I loved FB and I miss it quite a bit. There were people there I'd really like to keep that bit of contact with but b/c we're in such different circles/countries, it's not going to happen, realistically. Nevertheless, I felt I had trouble working out the whole private/public thing there.
Posted by: Louise | 10/10/2012 at 07:27 AM
I just hardly ever say anything controversial there. The few times I did, I was sorry. Of course, I do link to blog posts and sometimes I think, "Well if so-and-so sees that, she won't be happy."
I have a separate Fb account for work people.
I like the privacy here, too.
Posted by: Janet | 10/10/2012 at 08:03 AM
I've had exactly the same experience, Grumpy.
Posted by: Mac | 10/10/2012 at 09:22 AM
I pretty much follow the same policy as you, Janet. Now and then I'll get into some controversy and I'm usually sorry. I did venture a disparaging remark about Bill O'Reilly and Jon Stewart the other day, but I hoped that since it was an equal-opportunity offense I could get away with it.
Louise, I thought about your struggles with this last night when I was reading Orwell's Homage to Catalonia. He talked about the factions (all on the Republican/anti-Fascist side) getting to a point where they could not agree to disagree, where you couldn't disagree with a man and then have a beer with him. It's somewhat that way here where politics is concerned, and I gather also there. Political disagreements are now manifestations of disagreement on bedrock foundational principles.
Posted by: Mac | 10/10/2012 at 09:37 AM
I'm the last person in the world from whom you should take advice on successful blogging, but here goes.
I check in only infrequently -- less than once a week -- so periodic grab-bag posts of miscellaneous items would suit me fine. But you have many regular readers for whom the first rule of blogging -- Keep It Coming -- would probably be the only satisfying format. You're obviously part of a lot of people's daily routine and that sort of demands daily blogging. Sorry, but it's the price of being loved.
Re your grammar question: Did anybody else have an elementary school teacher like one of mine, who -- when asked where someone or something was at -- always replied "Right behind the at"?
Posted by: Jeff Woodward | 10/10/2012 at 10:51 AM
With that in mind, I guess my sentence is wrong. But "at the same place I was" somehow didn't sound right. Actually, now it does. Don't know what was wrong with me Sunday night.
Yes, I think you're right about the "keep it coming" thing. I know I tend to be that way. If there aren't at least two or three posts a week on a blog, I'm liable to get out of the habit of visiting it.
Posted by: Mac | 10/10/2012 at 01:01 PM
I completely understand needing to cut down on the internet--that's one reason why I rarely comment any more. I would read all-except-the-SNJ, but if it were up to me I'd prefer SNJ-only, because those are my favorite posts. I do love listening in on the conversations.
Posted by: Anne-Marie | 10/10/2012 at 10:19 PM
Of course there's nothing to stop me from trying it both ways, and seeing which works better. I'm always glad to hear someone likes the SNJs. I'm sure I'll still find myself compelled to write more-than-a-couple-of-paragraphs pieces, just not on a regular schedule.
Posted by: Mac | 10/10/2012 at 11:11 PM
I think that might work well. If you just wrote something longer when you really wanted to and not just because you had to.
Posted by: Janet | 10/11/2012 at 08:05 AM
It's the feeling of obligation which makes things difficult. Honestly, once I feel *obliged* to write something, do you think I can (or want to) do it?
Posted by: Louise | 10/11/2012 at 08:02 PM
Somehow I keep missing comments that happen between bedtime and mid-morning. Yes, Janet, the "had to" is getting old, but, Louise, the feeling of obligation is almost necessary to make me write. Otherwise my laziness tends to take over. Oops, I just made a racist remark about myself.
Posted by: Mac | 10/11/2012 at 08:26 PM
Oops, I just made a racist remark about myself.
Posted by: Louise | 10/12/2012 at 09:03 AM
SNJ is the best.
Posted by: Grumphy | 10/12/2012 at 05:31 PM