Tuesday, January 29, 2013

because celebrity bloggers ought to blog

In the fall of 2004 two things coincided that led to a remarkably rich and prolific (for me, anyway) period in my writing life. It lasted about 18 months.

The first was an incident that shook me deeply. That's pretty much all I will ever say publicly about it, except that it did not involve my family nor did anyone die.

The second is that I audited a class in Celtic spirituality at Bangor Theological Seminary that semester. We were asked to write a personal essay every week. When the class stopped in December, I kept writing. Prior to that I'd written a narrative essay for the editor's column in our diocesan newspaper six times a year, so the weekly deadline radically changed how long an idea had to percolate around in my brain.

To share the work, I started a listserv, publicized it a bit, and emailed a new essay to residents of heidoville every Friday. (I adjusted the population of heidoville each week as new residents moved in.) I also created a website to archive the essays. Eventually, I transferred all the essays - some 60 or so -  and some newer ones I wrote as a monthly columnist for Episcopal Cafe to this blog. The world was changing and paying to host a website seemed silly.

In February 2006, I started a new three-quarter time job at the Genesis Community Loan Fund while remaining a quarter-time communication consultant with the Episcopal Diocese of Maine. With the new schedule, Friday writing went out the window. Plus my two sons were in middle school and required a whole lot of carting around each day. For a year or two, I was able to deliver for the Cafe but then I returned to the Diocese full-time as Canon for Communications and Social Justice. Over the past four years, I've written an essay only when it has put a knife to my throat and demanded it be written.

So I've never been a blogger, really, or certainly a celebrity. I'm just someone looking to hang essays on the web for free.

There's a scene in the Coen brothers' film The Big Lebowski when one character - a German nihlist complaining that his friend's girlfriend sacrificed her pinkie toe in order to obtain ransom money that isn't, come to find out, forthcoming - wails, "It's not fair!"

Now the Coens know that nihlists bickering and arguing over what's fair and what isn't fair is funny stuff, (especially when they're complaining to an unsympathetic John Goodman.) If you care about nothing, you pretty much forfeit the right to complain about injustices you suffer.

There were elements to the incident of the fall of 2004 that still strike me as deeply unfair. The outpouring of words that started then was the timely collision of a deeper-than-normal dreaminess on my part driven by intense reflection on the incident and the rigor of a weekly assignment for my seminary class.

Extreme dreaminess plus discipline plus Friday mornings to work in quiet equal, I think, what Flannery O'Connor called - having borrowed the term from the French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain who borrowed it from Cicero's writing on rhetoric - the habit of art. 

Frankly, I fear the situations and emotions that are intense enough to send me to a place of such dreaminess. However, as I look back on that body of work, it seems a fair price. No one died, after all.

I'm not sure what it would take - what igniting spark of emotional turmoil, what chunk of free time, what enforced discipline would be enough to launch another wave of writing for me?

Turning 50, my twin sons off to college, and a reading public that demands a weekly essay?

It's impossible to say.