This is just a post in which I explain to loyal readers and to myself what’s on my mind about how I want to focus my blogging energies in the future. I promise nothing of substantive value for those not interested in me or this blog. So, if that’s you, feel free to skip it! It’s just a house meeting.
When I rebooted my mostly neglected, rarely updated, ambling personal blog as Camels With Hammers in 2009, I was a huge fan of Andrew Sullivan’s staggeringly busy blog and I emulated his approach to blogging. I would aggregate everything interesting I came across and I would pour out thousands of words of my own writing about atheism and philosophy. I had a ton pent up in me to get out. I churned out 1,196 posts in the first 150 days before beginning to lose steam. Most of it all was barely read by anyone. (For a fuller telling of the blog’s early days, if you’re interested, see this post about that.)
Since that time I have been a fairly consistent writer. I have had some periods where I have fallen behind because I was overwhelmed teaching 7-9 university classes or where hot starts to summers posting sizzled out by August as I just burned out and put to much pressure on myself. But through it all I have managed to stay prolific to a degree I’m really proud of, often during very hard semesters, and have produced a huge quantity of personally gratifying philosophical essays, that make me feel quite at peace that my views on a wide range of issue are written down somewhere, easily linkable should ever I want to reference them. I have thought it through and I have written and published at least one essay (and often many) that I am very proud of I have every single month stretching back to when I received my PhD in May 2010. That is a very satisfying streak to accomplish for me.And it’s a great feeling to know this large archive is read daily and not wasted.
At the turn of the year, I left adjunct teaching behind to focus full time on trying to make a living as an independent philosophical practitioner, teaching my own online classes, providing philosophical advice sessions to people, doing freelance writing, doing a podcast, and blogging. Initially I also had a crazy idea of putting a book together by stitching together, editing, rewriting, and further developing some of the massive amount of material I have generated for the blog.
Needing to make as much money as I could, I hoped to start addressing current events, aggregating links from around the internet again, offering brief commentary on more topics, and generating a solid 8-10 posts a day like when I started. I hoped that would boost traffic. But I also wanted to put out a substantive essay every day.
But as relatively easy as it sounds to just whip out a handful of small aggregated posts, I just can’t bring myself to do it. Even seemingly simple posts with just a little writing and mostly cutting and pasting can take a half an hour. And it’s sucking my time staring at the computer screen thinking I should be doing it when I really should be attending to my research or moving on to the next substantive piece of writing. And I also feel pangs of frustration, because I don’t even want to aggregate small things when they are going to bump the substantive writing I’m passionate about from the top of the page.
And when I look at my traffic and when I look at what posts get shared the most, I realize that no one really cares for me to be a journalist or an aggregator of other people’s content. The atheist community has a fantastic daily newspaper already in sites like Friendly Atheist, Butterflies and Wheels, and What Would JT Do.
People read and share my writing when I have something substantive to say. Eventually I do reference other people’s ideas or current events stories but it’s usually when I am digging in writing a bigger, more ambitious piece and assimilating and responding to other stuff in that context. So that’s what I’m going to stick to.
And, as Libby Anne’s wonderful success at her amazing Love, Joy, Feminism blog has shown me, it is possible to just focus in on one solid, meaningful piece of writing per day, written within your wheelhouse of specialization, and have an ever growing readership.
So, I’m deciding to liberate myself by imposing on myself a one Camels With Hammers post per day rule. I’m giving myself permission to write one substantive thing and then go focus on something else the rest of each day as soon as I am done. I am going to allow myself the time to do the reading I want, spend extra time prepping my online classes and my podcast, and write substantive articles for other outlets, like my weekly Empowerment Ethics blog, my monthly Secularite column, and or for friendly sites like RichardDawkins.net.
I am also going to revive my plan from the summer to rotate my Camels With Hammers topics by the day of the week, so that I cover all the major areas I like to focus on reliably. I have found that the regularity of the Empowerment Ethics schedule I have set has been very enjoyable for me. Knowing the beginning of every week I have an ethics article to write, orients me and gives me some structure. So much of my procrastination in life is caused by having too many things to do that I can’t pick one and freeze. So I hope assigning a topic for each day will help with that problem (and not create its opposite–reluctance to do what I am obligated to do so that it’s no longer fun and spontaneous!)
I hope soon to release episodes of The Hammering Out Ethics with Dan Fincke podcast on Sundays. And, in addition, I hope to regularly write fictional dialogues analyzing controversial topics and to engage in written debates with others, and publish them on Sundays. I may even start spotlighting excellent comments from the week on Sundays and making Sundays a day for running guest posts. Essentially I want Sundays to be a day for multiple voices on Camels With Hammers.
Mondays will be days to focused on something atheism. Atheist activism, defending atheists, criticizing atheists, doing counter-apologetics, atheist consciousness raising, discussing hot topics related to the atheist movement, discussing ideas for constructive non-theist communities, working out what might be called distinctively “atheistic philosophy”, etc. This is, at its core, an atheism blog and Mondays it will focus on that.
Living Well Tuesdays:
My main priority on Tuesdays will be to practically apply rigorous philosophical thinking to help people live better, happier, and more ethical personal lives. I look forward to reviving my Philosophical Advice column and I intend to make applying philosophical categories and reasoning skills to real people’s everyday dilemmas the blog’s signature Tuesday feature from now on. Learn more about the series and find links to all the posts in it here. Submit your real world struggles you want advice on to camelswithhammers at gmail dot com and I’ll keep your name confidential if I write a post with my suggestions. Some Tuesdays I will alternate the “Philosophical Advice” column with fresh posts for my “How to Live Happily” series. I may also develop a series that will be something like “Better Know A Virtue” to explore what different virtues entail. Sometimes personal reflections that seek meaning in my personal experiences may feature on these days too.
A big part of my goal with this blog is to simultaneously work out my technical philosophical views in novel ways that are of use to other seasoned philosophers and to educate and challenge those less experienced in philosophy. On Wednesdays I want to regularly deliver a post of straight up philosophy while remaining accessible to lay readers. Sometimes this may mean posts that are more education focused, other times the posts will be more about attaining novel philosophical clarity. Usually the topics will be related to moral philosophy since this is my favorite area of philosophy. But any number of times, I may opt to discuss a different philosophical subject that is on my mind.
A couple times in the spring I wrote posts that garnered a lot of attention and rejoinders from theists. And I dropped the ball on getting back to them in a timely fashion with follow up posts. I realized that theists may not enjoy this blog most of the time. They may even be outright put off by it. But sometimes they are here and willing to engage. And I want to really dig into issues with them. In the summer, I resolved to make Thursdays a day for addressing theists. The first two posts in the series were very well received and some theists expressed excitement. Then I dropped the ball. I’m picking it back up! For Theism Thursdays, I may write counter-apologetics, write about my frustrations with theists or religions, fisk a pro-theist article from another blog, or write a reply to theist comments on my previous week’s foray into engaging theists. I may also do open thread debates with theists in which I let theistic readers raise any topic and for the day I promise to respond to every theistic post in that thread.
Interpersonal Ethics/Social Justice Fridays:
Since the very first week of Camels With Hammers, social justice has been a very important part of what this blog has been about. As far as I have always seen it social justice is a sphere of applied ethics. I want to take a day each week to write about matters of pressing, urgent importance to how we treat one another. The posts on social justice will be, as mine have always been, a mixture of topical, philosophical, and polemical, with some posts being tilted more heavily towards one or the other of those things and some posts being exclusively just one of those things. Not all posts on these days will be about social justice. Some will be about other ways we need to be good to one another that go beyond just not mistreating the marginalized. Occasionally this will drift even into posts about difficult dilemma cases in applied ethics generally.
I always want to write more about Nietzsche. My preferred method of both teaching about Nietzsche and writing about him is to take a given text of his work and explicate its meaning, situate it within my framework of his larger project, and riff on my own ideas related to it. I know a lot of people were excited I was going to do this in the summer. I’m going to try to get back on the horse with it again now. And continue to submit to me your challenges to write on particular sections from Nietzsche that (at least prima facie) seem to contradict my own ethical views or my own general interpretation of Nietzsche’s philosophy. Some have already submitted suggestions and I’m still keeping them in mind, looking forward to addressing them.