what would I write about?
The world is chaotic. Crazy-making. Even frightening.
What if someone told me that my next blog post would go viral, no matter the topic or content? What would I write about if I knew my words would be viewed and maybe read by 10,000, even 100,000, people?
This question has been wandering around in my mind for the last few days. I attribute this to several things. Gifted with some time to read, reflect, and write this week, I have found myself pondering the purpose of my wordsmithing. Do I write to express myself? To create? To live out a calling? Or do I write to stir the hearts and minds of readers, to make a difference of some sort?
I write for all of these reasons and more. I also write to connect a yearning within myself to yearnings within potential readers.
And the world is chaotic. Crazy-making. Even frightening.
Because the world is all of these things, none of the above reasons for writing are adequate. If I could write a blog that was fiery or clever or beautiful or lyrical or philosophical or something else enough to catch the attention of readers I do not know and will never meet, what would I want to say to them? Do I have anything to say—to wordsmith—that speaks to the chaos and uncertainty of our times?
Blogger Nicolas Cole quoted a mentor about some writers’ desires to “go viral”: “They want fireworks. They don’t want to build a constellation.” Some readers and publishers prefer fireworks, too. I understand that. I have read viral blog posts that amaze, astound, and inspire. I respect the writers of those posts and admit to some amount of envy. I want to be a good, even great, writer, but I don’t think I am one of those writers who crafts posts that go viral.
Maybe the gift I have to offer—the gift all of us have to offer—to most situations is consistency of authentic and generous presence. This is what writing and blogging and my life as a professor are teaching me. My friend Sam comes to mind as an example of consistency of presence. He shows up for people. I see him everywhere—at celebratory events, city-wide gatherings, one-on-one lunches, countless committee meetings, funerals. Sam shows up and his presence matters. Over time, I have grown to count on Sam’s presence. Respect him for it. Cherish it and him as prophetic and vital parts of my community.
Perhaps the way I can become a consistent presence as a writer is to keep writing. Perhaps the way I can respond with wisdom to the uncertain and too often frightening realities of our times is to show up over time with the most substantive and honest words I can muster—and then back those words up by striving to be a consistent, caring, and authentic presence wherever my daily journeys take me.
This summer I went to quite a few minor league baseball games in my city. Friday nights are fireworks nights at the baseball park. One Friday night, I was walking to my car as the final fiery waterfall filled the evening sky. I stopped to watch, and as the glittering lights faded, I noticed behind the smoke the glow of a cluster of stars.
Fireworks can be breathtaking and awe-inspiring. Fireworks are also momentary. In our chaotic world, much of what we thought was reliable or certain has been shown at best to be fleeting and at worst to be undependable. Perhaps a stabilizing message I can express across my lifetime—including across my life as a writer—is the hopeful and mysterious promise of the stars.
So, another blog post ends. Tomorrow I will attempt to write again. And again the next day. My aspiration? To create a constellation of words, images, poems, and stories that offer a steady presence of wisdom-seeking in an uncertain world. And when I push “publish,” I will go out and try to embody the words I write.