Year One: Reflecting on Practice

I read Clive James’s Cultural Amnesia a few months back – it’s a good read, because even though it’s some 800+ pages, it’s split into short little sections – he basically starts with a famous person and goes on a tangent for half a dozen pages. So it’s very approachable. Anyway, he’d periodically take a dump on dusty ol’ academia, which got me wanting to write a reflective piece on how/why I operate the blog. This is post #100 (not counting a little interlude notice), which means 100,000 words over the course of the year. It’s a nice achievement. It’s also a good opportunity to talk a little bit about what I’m doing. Feel free to give it a miss if you just want regular content – the schedule continues as per usual. 

So I graduated from university at the end of 2015. I moved into full-time work, and I thought I’d better have something to keep me mentally active – basically to keep me writing and reading and thinking and learning. I didn’t want to lose the habits. That’s the practical premise behind the blog, from that perspective. I’m aware that theology and video games are an odd mix – people have pointed that out to me this year – and that’s totally fine. The people who frequent each community could do with more exposure to sensible ideas from the other. There are probably some people who don’t want anything to do with the Other Lot, and that’s fine too. I don’t really care. As long as there’s merit to the premise (which I think there is), and as long as somebody’s getting something out of it (which I think they are), I’m happy.

When I write here, there are a few guiding principles I try to stick by. By and large the writing is unpolished. It’s not great stuff. It’s passable, and it’s usually grammatically correct, but it’s not top-of-the-line fully polished material. I didn’t want that. This is a space for experimenting – it’s meant to be a mess. I still want to find a better theme for the blog (I’m not happy with this one), but as far as the style of the writing goes, yes, it’s meant to be a bit of a mess. The emphasis for me is quantity over quality.

Of course, each article is only a thousand words long. You’d think if I was after quantity I’d write something longer, no? No. Longer posts mean more research, deeper and more specific arguments – they mean a level of quality that I’m not interested in right now. Quantity of ideas implies breadth over depth. Ironically, that results in a smaller word-count. It might seem counter-intuitive, but it makes sense. Two posts each week, usually two different topics. I started off carrying one topic over multiple weeks, but I abandoned that pretty quickly. Nobody wants to be told they have to go back and read a ‘Part One’ – and to be honest, if I’m not able to condense my ideas into a thousand words, I’m doing a shit job. Sometimes I’ll summarise the previous week’s argument in a paragraph, and that allows me to progress with ideas that can be spun out in a second direction – that’s the workaround I prefer.

So the first rule is quantity over quality. The second rule is accessibility. I wanted to write something that people were able to read. Part of that ties into resisting large articles – nobody has time for a 5,000 word article from some asshole on fucking WordPress. These are meant to be low-key, easy to access articles – because you’ve got no guarantee that I know what I’m talking about. As a reader, you’re taking a risk reading my stuff. I appreciate that, and I want to optimize the format so that a) I’m not wasting your time and b) you’re able to get something out of each post. I wanted anybody to be able to walk away from a post thinking ‘Well, that’s a mildly interesting new idea.’ That’s my rationale.

I also want to be accessible to people who’re new to either field. I’ve been reading a lot this year, and – look, let’s be honest, academic writing about theology is some dense shit. There’s not necessarily a nice learning curve. I decided I wanted to help with the learning curve – which is why I’ve gone through and summarised various ideas that different writers talk about. I haven’t touched on every idea – I haven’t even touched on every big idea – but hopefully there’s enough there that you feel like you could approach one of these authors and have some idea of what you’re in for.

The other thing is that, by and large, this is experimental. I’m toying with ideas. It’s not about laying down a comprehensive framework for the Christian faith or the formal analysis of digital narrative – I’m just fucking around. It’s a real scramble from week to week. Again, that’s partly the quantity thing – breadth over depth – but also it’s about learning. I’m not really interested in definitive statements at this point. I don’t know enough to evaluate them; I don’t know enough to make them. So the blog’s about learning. It’s about introducing new ideas and getting to grips with them and seeing how they act in different situations. This again ties into the accessibility thing – if we’re just having a workshop on Augustine’s theory of evil, you don’t have to commit to anything to read the blog. You just have to learn about this new idea.

The same goes for the video games – I don’t want to be one of those writers who throws around bold claims and controversial opinions. There’s still a few in there, I’m sure, but by and large my primary focus is on learning about new experimental ideas – and then taking those ideas and running with them. The discussion of The Walking Dead in light of The Grasshopper, for example – it’s taking a framework and applying it to a foreign situation and seeing what comes out in the wash. That way, again, it’s about allowing people space to learn instead of taking a partisan position and alienating everyone who disagrees with me. Again (and I cannot reiterate this enough): I’m just some asshole on the internet. I don’t expect you to give a shit about my opinions. I want to produce something that’s valuable to you regardless of your opinions. To me, as far as the internet’s concerned, that’s the distinction between the gold and the dross.

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