by Ben Howard
A year ago today I posted a rambling 300 word post about why it was important to talk about theology and pop culture. Later that day I posted a longer, even more rambling post about the importance of the show Community. I've never read either post in the last calendar year and, to be honest, neither should you. I'm sure they're quite terrible.
Nevertheless, those two posts launched On Pop Theology and today we're celebrating the one year anniversary with our 291st post. Obviously, a lot has happened between then and now. So in celebration of a year of writing I want to share 10 lessons I've learned from my first year of blogging.
10) Writing is therapy.
I've heard this a lot and it's kind of cliche, but it's also entirely true. Over the past year, I've used this space numerous times to process complex and competing emotions. Yesterday's post, where I literally talked to myself, is probably the most obvious example, but I've also worked through issues of identity, tragedy, frustration and anger in posts here. Thank you for indulging me, I hope they helped you too.
9) Famous people are people too.
It's easy to forget that the people on TV and the people in movies and the people who write books and sing songs are actually real people. It's easy to project a lot of emotional baggage onto them and make them "mean" something. I've written about a lot of celebrities, I even had one write back, and it's made me more conscious of the fact that just because someone has a high profile, it doesn't mean they stop being a person.
8) I have no idea what people like.
If you've blogged yourself, you know that it's a rush when one of your posts becomes popular. As a result, the chase for page views can become intoxicating and addictive. I've had periods where I chased popularity and the lesson is I learned is that I have no idea what's actually popular. I've worked hard on posts for days that fall flat, and I've written posts in 20 minutes that explode. I really have no idea why some things are popular and others aren't so I've started to listen to the following advice...
7) Embrace your weird.
My friend John sent me a link to a lecture a few months back. The speaker was talking to a group of video game designers and his advice to them was that instead of searching for popularity or trying to "be creative" they simply needed to embrace their weirdness. This is the advice I've started giving to contributors and it's advice I've tried to heed myself. If you want to write about obscure Austrian poets, do that to the best of your ability. I mean, we spent three days talking about an obscure basketball player and atonement theory last week. Weird is good.
6) It's okay to be wrong.
If I went back and read everything I've written over the past year, I'm sure I'd find some posts that I don't quite agree with anymore. Guess what? That's part of life. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." A thoughtful, honest inconsistency has allowed me to learn from my mistakes. In one post, someone said they thought I was being racially inconsiderate. I didn't intend to be, but through conversation I made a friend who has lead me to some excellent resources on racial issues that I didn't know before.
5) Don't take yourself too seriously.
Everybody needs to laugh and be silly. Reality can be a rough, messed-up place and sometimes the only appropriate response it to laugh at the absurdity of it all. Certainly, there are times to be serious and humor can be difficult if used in the wrong ways, but we could all use a little more laughter.
4) It's fun to create with friends.
If I had to run this site by myself, I'm pretty sure I would've stopped a few months back. While I love writing and trying to be creative, my favorite aspect of this site is working with my friends to record the podcast and write posts. My favorite memories of the last year have all involved creating things with my friends. If you're one of the 29 blog contributors or one of the 16 voices heard so far on the podcast, thank you, I love you, and you're amazing.
3) You can have real friends on the Internet.
It's crazy I know, but I love how many people I've gotten to know through the blog and Twitter. Nothing beats a good old-fashioned friend in the same city, but Internet friends you're pretty awesome too. I have yet to meet most of you, but hopefully we'll cross paths somewhere along the way. Thanks!
2) The grind is worth it.
Blogging is fun, but it's also a grind. For a while, I would beat myself up if I didn't post for a day or if I missed my deadline (which I am currently in the process of doing), but once I freed myself from my own hang-ups and restrictions a lot of that stress fell away. The grind really is worth it. I can tell my writing has improved, even if it still has a ways to go. I can tell that writing is shaping the way I view the world and is even, I hope, helping me to be a better person. It can be rough and it can be frustrating, but it's worth it.
1) Doubt and vulnerability are more useful than anger.
I've written or outlined a lot of posts while angry or frustrated and I inevitably go back to them when I've calmed down and find myself disappointed in the approach I was planning to take. Righteous indignation can be necessary and trust me, I'm not short of issues that raise my ire, but I've learned that vulnerability and doubt are far more valuable tools for conversation. Righteous indignation may be useful to rally the troops, but it is limited in its strategic usefulness. This is the most important lesson I've learned from blogging and one I want to work on more in the next year. I want to write with more humility and less arrogance, more vulnerability and less rage. I want to write that way because I think it's just a better way to be.
I'd love to hear your favorite memories from the last year, whether you're a contributor or a reader. What have you learned? What do you hope to see in the future?
Ben Howard is an accidental iconoclast and generally curious individual living in Nashville, Tennessee. He is also the editor-in-chief of On Pop Theology and an avid fan of waving at strangers for no reason. You can follow him on Twitter @BenHoward87.
You can follow On Pop Theology on Twitter @OnPopTheology or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OnPopTheology.
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