Perhaps it’s because maybe a half-dozen times in the past two years I’ve forgotten to click “publish,” or maybe everyone gets this, but WordPress started giving me daily prompts when I open the new post screen. Everyday blogging questions such as whether you’re where you’d thought you’d be last year at this time, or what’s your favorite holiday food, or talk about your father or a father figure in your life (a loaded suggestion!). I appreciate the thought, but I do strive for some measure of depth here. Believe it or not, many of my posts are metaphorical, written about something that’s not the “obvious” subject of the mini-essay. (Often when people criticize me it’s because I’m posting metaphorically. Or maybe I just don’t know what I’m talking about.) In any case, there have been times when a writing prompt might’ve been useful. I haven’t used any, though.
Writing is a strange avocation. These days many people make some kind of living as self-published authors. The internet offers ways to minor fame—in some cases major fame—for anyone who has the time to put into it. There’s always the question, however, of what to talk about. This blog began, back in the days when I was fresh out of teaching religious studies, as a place where I could discuss the Bible and culture, or, more broadly, religion and culture. That in itself limited the appeal. People are fascinated by religion but really don’t want to read about it. So it was that initially I had many followers—particularly among the biblical bloggers set—that eventually dropped off when I began writing about secular subjects. Mostly I tend to focus on books.
There’s an irony to that as well. As much as the internet helps some of us learn about books, it’s also a place that has diminished them. Many people focus on social media to the point that there’s little time left to sit down with an actual book. Interestingly enough, none of the prompts that WordPress now sets for me daily, has asked about what books I’ve been reading. Perhaps books are the natural enemy of the online world. If so, I seem to be caught between worlds. I set aside time each day for reading, offline. For those of us who write, reading is our food. It often gives me the prompts I need for writing daily blog posts. Even the days that I miss aren’t for lack of content—they’re simply forgetfulness because non-reading events crowd the rest of life. It’s no wonder, then, that I try to engage others by asking, what books have you been reading lately?