By Way of Introduction

by Dan Simpson

Recently, I was talking to writer and friend Molly Fisk about starting this blog—more thinking out loud than anything else. “Blogs seem to offer so much,” I said—”deadlines, a forum without the scrim of overwhelmed and underfunded publishers, the potential for two-way communication. But does the world really need one more blog? Won’t I just be another of the millions of voices hollering into a bottomless canyon?”

Molly hardly paused. “Ever since cave men started drawing pictures on underground walls, humans have felt the need to express themselves, to take something inner and put it outward, without guarantee of audience or response.”

I like writing because it helps me know my heart and mind better. Of course, one can keep a journal for that purpose. The world doesn’t need to see everything that helps me learn something about myself. Yet, even in published work, if the poet doesn’t learn something about himself or herself through the process of writing, even if it’s nothing more than what kind of poet he or she is capable of being, what’s the point? As Robert Frost famously said, “No surprise for the writer; no surprise for the reader.” Likewise, if the writer of memoir comes to no deeper understanding of life through writing, then the time spent writing has been wasted.

To publish your own work, to put it onto the wall, requires a certain kind of arrogance, I suppose. You have to think it will be worth something to others.

Blogging, it seems to me, provides a place halfway between the private journal and the finished, fully-crafted, printed work. Writers have always needed this halfway house, but they used to get it from writing letters. In a world of tweeting, texting, and email blasts, we still need some intermediate forum for working things out, even if it turns out to be letters to a world which doesn’t necessarily feel the need to read or respond.

In that sense, it can be a little like praying.

I used to work as a church musician. When attendance in mainstream, urban, Protestant churches began to plummet, we church people had conversations tinged with desperation about how to “get people in the door.” It felt like trying to sell a product. What was the church down the street doing that we weren’t? Should we drastically change the worship service? Should we stop using the organ and start playing guitars? Should we go super-informal? Should we act more like the business world? Looking at online tips for starting a blog gives me something of the same feeling. I found they mostly addressed getting hits and making money.

I might do everything wrong. The tips say to carve out a small niche. While I plan to keep my focus more or less on living wide-awake, that could manifest itself in thinking about art, politics, and the spiritual life—all huge topics. The tips suggest it’s best to post something every day. I expect once or twice a week to be more like it. I hope that blogging can nourish the rest of my writing life without taking it over.

I like experiments. I like feedback. I like having this wall to write on. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you’ll keep coming back.