Yesterday I finished my series of blog posts telling you why I think a student in the field of biblical, theological, or religious studies should not maintain a personal blog (see the links below). As I noted in the introduction this is a bit hypocritical of me. When I applied to work in the admissions department at Western Seminary it was my experience with blogging and social media that opened the door for me to spend three years learning about administration in a higher ed setting. Though my seminary unabashedly dedicates their time and resources to being an institution that trains pastors I was able to find people involved in the areas of study that interested me outside of our student body because of this blog and through it. When I was first introduced to the man who would become the primary supervisor for my doctoral studies it was my blog that a friend was able to reference in order to gain me an audience, otherwise I would have been an unknown wildcard. This blog has been my greatest networking tool.
That said, it has been distracting at times as well. I have been guilty of almost all the things against which I wrote in this series. I’ve upset people with my blog and many of those times it was because I wrote about something that was outside my limited expertise. I’ve wasted time writing too many blog posts or becoming too immersed in a debate in the comments. I don’t know that I didn’t prioritize my writing. As a MA and Th.M student I have not written anything publishable (though I do have the foundations for some things that may be publishable, someday), so I think blogging has been a good thing for me in the sense that it has kept me writing anyways. In the near future I will need to scale back more and more though as other forms of writing take priority. Finally, as far as I know, this blog has not cost me any opportunities as relates to furthering my education or finding employment. If it has I don’t know about it and it is possible that those other opportunities may not have been the best fit.
Each student must try to envision their future goals and ask whether blogging contributes or distracts from them. It can go either way. It can help you become a better student and it may make you into a better educator, or at least a candidate for a teaching job. It may make you a worse student and it may hinder you from reaching your full potential. To end this series let me give a few pieces of advice to the student who is considering blogging:
(1) Don’t be obsessed with it. Blog once or twice in a given a day at the most. Don’t feel like you have to blog each and every day. Maybe consider taking weekends away from blogging. I’ve found that my blog receives far less readers during the weekend.
(2) Remember: it is a blog post, not a essay. Blog posts can be a paragraph long. Blog posts can be something as simple as linking to a few things you’ve read recently. A blog post can be the equivalent to an entry in an annotated bibliography. Save the essays for later, for other venues. Honestly, most blog readers (including myself) have short attention spans. Long blog posts don’t get read as much as short ones.
(3) Use blogging to enhance your skills as a writer, but don’t let all your writing become blog posts. Keep some things for yourself, for later.
(4) Consider joining a group blog. This allows you to blog less without losing your audience. Find a few others who are also students. This way you all can practice writing, you all can enjoy the fruits of blogging, and none of you have to be fully responsible for the blog’s “success”.
(5) Limit blogging about too much personal stuff, whether family problems or political views. I’ve shared my life on this blog, sometimes too much of it. Be cautious here.
(6) Think twice before hastily and/or angrily responding in the comments section or writing a polemical blog post. No, scratch that: think about several times before doing such a thing. If you’re angry, remember, blog posts rarely solve major world problems last time I checked. I have yet to see my blog bring some mouthy personality to repentance. I have seen my blog spoil my attitude for the day and get me into debates that don’t matter a week from now.
(7) Listen to your mentors and supervisors. If you Master’s level advisor tells you that the person who you want to be your doctoral supervisor is a person who despises blogs, well, then consider not blogging. If you want to become a tenured professor someday and you think blogging may hurt those chances, then evaluate your priorities: do you really need a blog? If you are afraid that blogging may cost you in the long run consider either (1) writing notes in a program like Evernote every day to get your writing practice or (2) blogging anonymously.
I hope some student out there finds this advice helpful!
– #1, ruining your public reputation
– #2, offending potential educators/employers
Well thought out, sagely advice. Great series!
My blogging lays the foundation for future works (books), I plan to take various blog articles and rework them for chapters in a book I plan to write. Sometimes the setting inspires you more, for instance when I have a open document in front of me I feel intimidated. Especially when that document is supposed to be for a article, book chapter and so forth. I feel free when writing blog entries like it is not official with time restraints.
I understand, completely. Nothing can kill me writing creativity like a blank, white, boring Word.doc with the blinking space reminding me that I should be writing. Blog interfaces do have a way of getting me to write in draft form in a way that a Word.doc does not.
Your purpose certainly shapes what and how you blog. My goal is to develop a searchable open-notes database that is not linear, does involve essays, and is open to review by others. It is not the popular view of a blog, but that doesn’t make it invalid. If I change views, or expand knowledge of a subject over time, I simply go back and add a section to a previous blog post and/or link to a new page if I have that much new material to share. I live in a fairly isolated area for the academic study of religion, so it’s a way to give myself proper check-and-balance on my views from others. I have enjoyed casual blogging in the past but, you’re right, now that I’m more actively involved in research and study, I didn’t want that kind of image associated with me. I deleted the old blogs and moved on.
Where I live in San Antonio, TX, there are not many people engaging the field of biblical studies and the institutions here don’t promote it (the closest would be Baylor University up in Waco and Rice University and several others in Houston). I use my blog for the same purpose as you in that regard.
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