January 15, 2008
I Got Nothing
We're closing in on one month since our last Behind the Books post, which anyone will tell you is a cardinal sin of blogging and an outright scandal for a multiple-contributor blog such as this one. But when you have nothing to say, what can you do?
I'll tell you what you can do. You can raid the archives.
InterVarsity Press is a "backlist" publisher, which means that we publish for the ages. Or, if you want to state it in less visionary, more practical terms, we rely on books selling well beyond their first year to keep our program running. That's led to our IVP Classics series and fiftieth-anniversary editions of more than one of our publications, among other things, but it also affects our outlook more generally. We seek input from our forebears as we project forward with our publishing program; we recommend books from decades past to speak truth into contemporary concerns.
In that spirit, I hereby buy us a few more weeks by reposting an entry from our sister blog, Strangely Dim, originally posted in spring of 2004. Enjoy!
It was bound to happen. You write five hundred words a week and eventually you’ll run out of things to write. I’ll call it writer’s block, demon oppression, whatever, but I’ve got nothing, and I’ve got 464 more words to go telling you about it.
You come to regard yourself as a deep thinker when you spend as much time as I do putting your thoughts on paper—or more accurately, committing them to digitized memory. (Nice move—eight fewer words I have to write.) And so, when you can’t think of anything, you come to pretty much an identity crisis: If I don’t have this, what do I have? If I can’t do this, what can I do?
When I first toyed with the idea of a weekly column, I was on fire. I kicked out four months’ worth of mini-essays in a couple of weeks. Several months later I started posting them online, and the thrill of that new horizon spurred even more frantic typing on my PC and scribbling of graffiti script on my PDA. But several months after that, I find myself struggling to move beyond a witty headline. Even this confession buys me only a measly seven days—then I’m back to scratching my head and doubting my calling.
They tell you to always write something, to keep writing no matter how frustrating or exhausting or absurd the experience or the end product is. The newness of writing wears off dreadfully quickly, and when your dash becomes a walk, you either keep walking or you get nowhere. Strangely Dim is my exodus, I’m coming to discover. Inevitably, it seems, it has become pretty much a long walk.
I could carry the analogy forward, but I can’t figure out what the golden calf would be. What’s the quick payoff that would make giving up on Strangely Dim when I run short of ideas sound like a reasonable thing to do? Even the golden calf cost something, after all. Gold doesn’t come cheap, and before the Israelites had a calf to worship, they had to throw all their gold in the fire. What could be worth my doing something stupid like that?
I guess it boils down to three possibilities: (1) I’m stroking my ego by maintaining Strangely Dim, and I ought to take advantage of my lapse of imagination to walk away and not look back; (2) I’m trying to protect my fragile ego by using this lapse of imagination as an excuse to quit, and I need to suck it up and keep going; (3) my ego has nothing to do with this, and there’s really little consequence to whether I keep writing Strangely Dim or stop doing it, so I might as well do what I really want—which is to keep writing and keep posting. Strangely Dim, for all the work it’s caused me, has always been a gift, a luxury item I could never have acquired without someone else’s generosity (like the gold the Israelites carried into the desert), and one I can hardly see myself casting aside so frivolously.
Hey, look at that: I made it past the five-hundred-word mark! See you next week.