Blogging is difficult for me, especially when it comes to doing so on a regular basis. I’ve generally told myself that this is simply because I am a Busy Adult With Many Important Things To Do, and at least to some extent lately this is true enough: I’ve had a lot of huge things going on (all good, thankfully!) in pretty much every area of my life over the last year, and those have claimed a large degree of my time.
But these are special occurrences, and the truth of the matter is that my difficulty writing is anything but. Upon digging beneath the superficial excuses I make for myself, the reality, I find, is that my difficulty in writing largely stems from two perniciously interrelated factors: perfectionism on the one hand, and fear of vulnerability on the other.
I am an academic by training, and my first language when it comes to writing is that of the research paper. Blogging is a rather different type of writing, but every time I begin to type a post it seems to end up veering decidedly toward the tone and scope of writing that one would find in a journal. (My two-part exposition on the definition of magic, one of the few posts I’ve managed to complete for this particular blog thus far, is a prime example of the trend.) In part, this is because I want to explore topics in depth, and it’s difficult to do that in a shorter format such as a blog post. In part, it’s because many occult practitioners tend to embrace mythos so enthusiastically that they at times gleefully throw intellectual rigor out the window–and I have very strong feelings about not sacrificing historical or factual accuracy even as I plunge myself into the stream of myth and magic. In part, it’s simply a matter of habit: the research paper is what I’m used to, and that’s how my writing most naturally flows. However, there is another part that stems from fear. Fear of leaving something important out. Fear of not being perceived as credible. Fear of not having anything worthwhile to contribute. And, most especially, fear of writing from a place that is personal and confessional, that requires me to bare a part of myself.
Again, I’m an academic when it comes to my approach to writing. While discussion of theory, of symbolism, of ritual–of all the intellectual, social, psychological, and historical dimensions of spirituality–comes naturally to me, I am unaccustomed to writing from a personal, confessional standpoint. I do not, generally speaking, write about my own experiences with spirituality, with its meaning in my life. And yet it is these experiences that first kindled both my personal and my academic interests in religion. Growing up in social surroundings that were largely unfriendly toward any mode of religion that departed from conservative Christianity, I found myself unpopular among my peers in my early teens even for espousing the liberal Christian views that I held at the time. I learned from these experiences that it was not safe to share my personal spiritual views with others, that doing so would be met with censure and scorn. And yet this spiritual drive was a huge part of my life, something that demanded engagement and expression. Given that I engage with ideas and emotions most easily by talking about them with others, remaining entirely silent was an unpalatable option at best.
And so from that point forward, I did not make myself vulnerable by discussing my own spirituality. Instead I danced about it. I studied the subjects that are most meaningful to me, but I rendered them safe to discuss by talking about them in the abstract, in the impersonal sense. In reality, they are anything but abstract or impersonal for me. They are, as Paul Tillich would say, matters of ultimate concern in my life. And as long as I continue to sterilize my writing in this way, to remove any trace of myself as a participant–as one who walks in the myth, who encounters the sacred, who prays and worships and weaves magic–then I will never write anything other than research papers. I will continue to sacrifice the voice of the poet for that of the literary critic. While both voices are significant in different ways, the literary critic is in the end rarely engaging on any widespread level. Critique is important, but in the end it must have something of substance upon which to reflect. My challenge lies in getting past the critique to the substance.
So there you have it. With this post, I’m issuing myself a challenge to stretch beyond the bounds of my comfort, to relinquish the safety of the impersonal and make myself vulnerable in order to share myself more fully with those around me. And hopefully, in the process, to make my writing more frequent, more digestible, and more engaging. Hold on, folks: this just got personal.